Nooruz in Bishkek: Student Observations

As soon as I knew I’d be spending time in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, I asked Google about the national holidays that would happen during my stay. Google gave me a neat little list of holidays that were mostly familiar — except for one: March 21, Nooruz. Nooruz (also Nowruz, Novruz, or Naw Rúz), which means “New […]

An Oral Account of Yurt Making in Kyzyl-Too, Kyrgyzstan

Four and a half hours southeast of Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, the village of Kyzyl-Too lies nestled in a valley about four miles from the shore of Issyk-Kul, the world’s second largest saltwater lake. With a population of only around 1500, Kyzyl-Too is known regionally – and increasingly globally – as a bastion of Kyrgyz cultural […]

“Succulent Dog” and the Koryo Saram in Bishkek

It is well known that there is a significant Korean population in Kyrgyzstan today because Stalin deported Koreans living in the Russian Far East during World War II to prevent them from cohorting with the Japanese. These post-Soviet ethnic Koreans call themselves the Koryo saram. Koryo refers to Korea from the years 918 AD to […]

What Bishkek Eats for Ramadan

Well, Bishkek, it’s the beginning of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting from sunrise to sunset. This year, the holy month starts July 9th, coinciding with watermelon season in Kyrgyzstan. Ramadan also coincides with the dog days of summer, when the days are at their longest, temperatures are at their highest, and beach season at […]

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 […]

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 […]

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