29 11 2010

I believe that, when traveling or living abroad, it is important to hold on to aspects and traditions from your own culture while immersing yourself in and attempting to understand the culture where you are.  For that reason, if I’m able to, I try to celebrate the important American holidays when I’m abroad.  So this weekend, we had Thanksgiving in Bishkek!  We decided not to have it on Thursday, because many of the people we wanted to attend had to work until late.  Saturday was chosen as a viable alternative, and over 20 people from all over the world gathered at our apartment to participate in the traditional feast and festivities.


On Friday, after my last Russian class, I headed to Osh Bazaar to pick up the turkeys and other ingredients for my first major foray into preparing food for that many people.  I had scoped out the turkey situation earlier in the week and knew that they were sold at the bazaar.  However, turkeys aren’t super common or popular as a meal in Kyrgyzstan, so the selection was quite small…and expensive!  But, you can’t have a traditional Thanksgiving meal without it, so I bought two 8 lb turkeys, stuck them in my backpack and headed into the spice and vegetable section of the market.  Unlike the turkeys we ate for Canadian Thanksgiving, these were already dead and feathered.  Much easier preparation!


In the spice section, I picked up nutmeg, cinnamon, dill, thyme and celery seeds.  Then I wandered to the fruit and vegetable section and picked up some lemons, oranges, apples, celery, tomatoes and cucumbers.  I stopped at Beta Stores (a Turkish-owned grocery store) on the way home and bought some plastic plates and cups, because I knew we didn’t have enough at home.


Friday night, I brined the turkeys in a mixture of salt, sugar, spices and broth and left them (covered in Saran wrap) to soak overnight on my balcony.  Brining the turkey is meant to help the bird retain its moisture.  And man, did it!  But I’ll get to that in a second.


Saturday morning, I rinsed the birds and started making the stuffing.  Bread, spices, apple, celery, onion…mix ’em up with some egg and shove the concoction into the birds’ nether regions…yum!  The birds, properly violated and basted, went into the oven around noon, and then I made some deviled eggs and a cucumber/tomato salad, cut up some sausage and cheese and waited for the throngs to arrive.  We did a mostly pot-luck dinner, so the last hour before we ate consisted of choreographing the different contributions and making sure they were properly heated, making the gravy from the turkey drippings, laying out all the food, carving up the turkey and then setting the guests upon the table.  It was awesome!   The turkey was delicious (and super moist), and everyone really seemed to have a good time.  We even had a can of cranberry sauce that had been sent from South Carolina by my roommate’s parents!


After dinner and dessert (real pumpkin pie and delicious apple crumble!), we engaged in the other Thanksgiving traditions of beer and wine consumption and football watching.  ESPN America had the previous day’s college football games on; those who understood the game watched; those who didn’t mostly made fun of it and sang the praises of “real” football (soccer).  Ah, the beauty of cultural exchange.


Throughout the night, we had between 25 and 30 guests from such countries as Finland, Iran, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Germany, New Zealand, Canada, the UK, and of course, the US of A.  I got a chance to briefly explain the history of Thanksgiving and to express my gratefulness for the family of expat friends that I’ve found here in Bishkek.  And for that, I’m thankful.

Other things that have happened this week

21 11 2010

So, aside from my exciting and awesome grad school news, other fun and exciting things happened this week.


Last weekend, on the same day that I went to the ballet, I had my first official police run-in.   It’s pretty common around here to get stopped by the police and asked for your documents.  If you don’t have your passport, your registration card, or a photocopy of your passport and visa, you’ll get shaken down for a fine.  The police tend to be fairly pleasant, but still perfectly willing to take some of your money.  I explained that my passport was at the American embassy, where they were processing my registration…which is a card that you’re supposed to carry with you if you’ve lived here for more than two months.  I guess my Russian was passable enough, because they let me go without paying a fine.  Huzzah!


On Thursday I gave my presentation at KMU, which went pretty well.  There were about 20 students there, all students who are all planning to become English teachers.  I spoke for about 45 minutes, and then took about 20 minutes of questions.  The students had some good insights, and a felt pretty good about the whole things.


And then I had Thai food!  There’s a fairly expensive place in town that sells Thai food.  I’d been skeptical about going there, because of the price tag.  But it was AWESOME!  I need to avoid making it a habit, because I can’t afford going there often.


This has been a chill weekend.  Friday night, we sang karaoke, which was epic.  And then yesterday was sushi and football.  And today is homework and napping methinks.  Another week in Bishkek!


20 11 2010

What has two thumbs and got into grad school?




I heard back from George Washington University today, which happened significantly faster than  I thought it would.  AND I GOT IN!


So, yeah, I’m super stoked.  I still have 13 schools to hear back from, and I need to sort out what my top choice school is, but I’ve got somewhere to go for sure.   Huzzah!

I’m a scholar!

17 11 2010

I’m giving a presentation tomorrow at Kyrgyz Manas University to a roomful of students about the benefits of multilingual education and the way that I believe it can and/or should be introduced in Kyrgyzstan.  I’m grateful because having this presentation looming has forced me to really beef up my research and make sure that I know enough about the topic to even give a presentation.  I’m a little nervous, because I haven’t given an academic presentation to an audience that wasn’t comprised exclusively of classmates in a very long time (if ever, now that I think about it).


But I’m sure it’ll be alright.  Think good thoughts for me.

Culture and Research

15 11 2010

I had quite the busy weekend, which was nice, because I’ve admittedly fallen into a somewhat lazy routine in the last month or so.


Friday night, a whole bunch of us young expats (including our new friends Kirstin and Farrell) went to dinner at a restaurant that specializes in rabbit dishes and cocktails.  I had one of each, and they were both fantastic!  My cocktail, my waiter explained to me, had something to do with berries from Issyk-Kul.  There were a lot of other words involved that I didn’t understand, but the drink was delicious.  After dinner, we went to the Aussie Butcher shop and Metro Pub to continue the night.  A good time was had by all, methinks.


On Saturday, I got myself some culture and went to the ballet!  The National Theatre was presenting a presentation of Giselle with a Kyrgyz company, but principles from Russia.  Now, I’ll admit that I’m not a huge ballet connoisseur (and I had to check how to spell connoisseur), so perhaps I was missing some of the subtlety of the performance, but I was a little bit bored.  There was surprisingly little actual dancing.  Like I said, I’m not sure if that was because the choreography just wasn’t incredibly challenging or if I was expecting too much, but I was underwhelmed.  The second act, which featured just the principles and a chorus (is chorus the right word here?) of ballerinas, was much more interesting, as it allowed the principles to shine.  And there was much less plot.  Either way, I’m still glad that I went.  The theatre itself was quite lovely, and I hope to catch something else there.


Sunday, which was my Grandma Meade’s 80th birthday(!), was spent toiling away in preparation for this presentation I’m giving at Kyrgyz Manas University on Thursday.  I was asked by one of the Kyrgyz Fulbright Alumnae if I would give a presentation on multilingualism and education to a group of university students who are preparing to be language teachers.  I agreed, and it’s been a good catalyst to delve into the literature and beef up the foundations of my research.  I’m hoping to make some good contacts through the presentation, as I’m hoping to actually start on some of my field research next month.


Tomorrow is Kurman Ait (the Feast of Sacrifice), signifying the end of the hajj, so we don’t have classes at London School.  I still have some work to do on my presentation, so it won’t be a completely lazy day for me.  Gotta get my Power Point swerve on!  (yes, I just said that)

Strange Foods

9 11 2010

In my conversation class today, we started talking about psychology and different character traits.  Eventually the topic of adventurousness came up, and my teacher and I started discussing strange foods around the world.  This got me trying to remember some of the strange dishes I’ve eaten in my travels.  I decided surf the Interwebs to try to jog my memory.  Now, I don’t consider all of these foods “strange”, but I’m leaving it up to y’all to be the judge.  Here’s the list of what I’ve tried.

1000 year old eggs



Beef Tartar

Beetle (in Cambodia…and they were both pretty good!)

Bird’s Nest Soup

Blood Pudding


Butter tea

Cactus Apples



Chicken Cartilage

Chicken Livers (YUM!)

Chocolate Covered Bacon (which I’ve made myself)


Cow tongue

Crayfish (heck, I briefly worked at a restaurant called Crawdaddy’s)



Durian (I haven’t had actual durian, but I had a durian gelato in Dallas at this year’s National Scrabble Championship)

Fried Dill Pickles

Fried Green Tomatoes

Frites and Mayo (but really, is there any other way to have fries?)

Frog’s Legs


Green tea ice cream


Guinea Pig

Kim Chee

Kumys (fermented mare’s milk)




Nopales (prickly pear cactus)




Piranha (which we caught ourselves in Bolivia)




Rose ice cream




Sheep Brains








Unagi (fresh-water eel)

Uni (raw sea urchin roe)



Wheat grass juice



Anything you’d expect to be there, but isn’t?  What strange foods have you tried?

Seasons Change

4 11 2010

Okay, now it’s officially winter.


Because in Bishkek, it’s not winter until the heat comes on.  And the heat doesn’t come on until the government decides it comes on.  It doesn’t matter if it’s been below freezing for a week, or it’s been comfortably in the 50s.   And when it comes on, it comes on for the entire city at once.  And it stays on until March or so, when the government decides to turn it off.


And the heat came on today!  Which is actually quite nice because, although it hasn’t been terribly cold, it’s definitely nippy.  And this apartment consistently stays about 15 degrees cooler than it is outside.  But now the heat is on!


NB: I’m certain that in a few weeks, I’ll be complaining that the heat is still on and that it’s so hot in the apartment that we have to open windows.  I’ve been warned that that’s kind of how it tends to roll around here.  Heh.