Samsa Traditions in Bishkek

I have always admired the “one cook, one dish” tradition. To paraphrase food critic Anthony Bourdain, this is the tradition where one lone artisan, or family of artisans, makes the same wonderful dish year after year, generation after generation, and by doing so, forms a close identification with the dish that ensures it is always […]

The Customs and Culture of Traditional Beshbarmak in Bishkek

This past weekend, I checked out a restaurant that offers 12 variations of one of Kyrgyzstan’s most beloved dishes. What might that be, you ask? Here’s a hint: It’s noodly, meaty, and eaten with the hands. If you guessed beshbarmak, you guessed correct. Beshbarmak, which literally means “five fingers” because of the way it’s eaten, […]

Fortune Telling in Bishkek

Recently, a colleague and I went to a yasnovidyashi, a Kyrgyz fortuneteller (the name actually translates to “Clear Seer”), for the first time. Why? We’ve never done it before, we were looking for a new experience, and we were curious to know more about these infamous women of Bishkek with the “dangerous” reputation of hypnotizing […]

A Chechen Journalist on the Chechen Diaspora in Kyrgyzstan and Being Chechen Today

In Bishkek this past week, Chechen journalist Kamila Zhabrailova talked to SRAS students about the history and culture of Chechnya, the Chechen diaspora in Kyrgyzstan, and her attitude towards the Boston marathon bombings. The Tsarnaev brothers are of Chechen descent and had spent some of their childhood in Kyrgyzstan, meaning that this was an especially […]

Up Close and Personal with a Manaschi

A Performance and Interview with Nazarkyl Seydrakmanov This past week, SRAS students met with one of Kyrgyzstan’s most famous manaschis, Nazarkyl Seydrakmanov. Manaschis are Kyrgyz professional storytellers of the Manas epic poem, the longest epic poem in world history. During this meeting, Nazarkyl discussed his personal life story, the artistry of his craft, and gave […]

Mad for Manas in Talas

There are few essential things to know about Kyrgyzstan. One of these is the country’s folkloric hero, Manas. You might recognize the name from the Manas Transit Center, the supply center for US troops fighting in Afghanistan. That transit center is named for him, as are quite a lot of things in Kyrgyzstan. Manas is […]

Kyrgyzstan, A Love Story II: Immigrating to America

Read part one here. Living on opposite sides of the world, it would seem unlikely that I, a small-town American girl, would even meet my future husband, Rakhat, who is from a small village in Kyrgyzstan. However, as it happened, Peace Corps volunteers lived with his family while he was growing up, inspiring him to […]

Kazakhstan: An American Gains Fresh Perspectives

Explaining the motivation to leave one’s homeland, comfort zones, and, ultimately, established identity can be a difficult task. When the proposed destination is considerably less comfortable than one’s accustomed conditions, explaining becomes even more difficult. Catch phrases like “life changes,” “new adventures,” and “fresh perspectives” can only shed so much light on your intentions – […]

Kyrgyzstan, A Love Story

During the spring semester of 2008, I decided to study abroad in the rustically beautiful country of Kyrgyzstan. Many would be surprised at my exotic choice of destination (which is actually increasingly popular among SRAS students). However, what really set my study abroad experience apart from the ordinary was me. For I was not only […]

Sheep Guts Won’t Kill You: A Guide to Seeing the Kyrgyzstan that Most People Don’t (Part II)

This is the second of a two-part series. Read part one here Naryn: Work the System Some people I talked to suggested that Naryn was the most Kyrgyz of all the provinces. Most of the country’s Uzbek population lives south of this province, and the Russians tended to keep to the northern areas. In fact, […]

Sheep Guts Won’t Kill You: A Guide to Seeing the Kyrgyzstan that Most People Don’t

I’m an anthropologist. Actually, I’m still a year of fieldwork and a dissertation away from getting my Ph.D., so that makes me an anthropologist-in-training. In September 2007, I will move to Central Asia to study the ways people think about things like their ethnic group and their religion, and how that affects their participation in […]

Culture Shock: A Kyrgyz in the States

One of the greatest advantages of studying abroad is the experience of culture shock.  It teaches us that even our most basic assumptions of “how things are” do not always hold true and that cultures can exist, and even prosper, while holding assumptions that shock and bewilder our own. It is often only through this […]

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