A work-in-progress of questions, unfamiliar terms I might use, and other references I’m sure the readers are all dying to know about.
Why Kyrgyzstan? I studied French in high school expecting to move to and work in France, I studied Arabic and all things Middle East in college expecting to live and work in the Middle East. I went to work in Iraq and figured out that the Middle East isn’t the buzzword anymore and I’m gambling that Central Asia is the new black. It has religious fundamentalism, some of the craziest regimes in the world, tons of natural gas and oil, and close proximity to Afghanistan, Russian, and China. “living in a powder keg and giving off sparks”
How long am I staying here? The original plan was to stay at least a year, but I think we’re slowly convincing ourselves to stick around for at least two or three.
Holy crap, why so long? We’re trying to start a business and an NGO, and learn as much about the region as we can. I’d like to have a solid Russian knowledge, and it always takes longer than you think to learn a language well. Plus, I don’t think I could justify bringing the cat (see “Mama” below) back to the states if I’ve only had her for a year. But three years? That earns her a cross-global plane ticket.
Is it safe? Eh, it’s all relative. It’s no Baghdad, but I wouldn’t feel safe walking around by myself after dark. Political uprisings usually have nothing to do with the foreigners, but it always makes for a good excuse to rob and pillage. In fact, we got robbed.
Where else have I been? I’ve traveled to France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Jordan, Syria, Thailand, Cambodia, Iceland, Egypt, Finland, Romania, Iraq, Malaysia, and now Kyrgyzstan. I spent a semester in Jordan to study and eight months in Iraq to work.
Why Ivory Pomegranate? I made a blog in February 2009 to be a food blog and poached the name from my History of Ancient Israel class; it’s an ancient artifact and doesn’t really have a relevance to the blog.
Is it expensive there? The current exchange rate is about 46.5 soms to one dollar, but some things are surprisingly equal or more expensive to what they’d cost in the U.S. Food and services are cheap; a typical two-person meal at an average restaurant can come to about 450-500 soms, fast food can be as low as 40 soms per person. Rent is cheap; I’m paying $250 a month for a studio, but I know that $500+ can get you a palace. Consumer electronics and decent-quality clothing usually have a decent 20% markup, and don’t even get me started on how expensive a nice pair of heels can be!
Who’s “we”? Me, Kirstin, and my husband, Farrell. More on the About page.
Beta Stores: Turkish-owned supermarket that was looted during the past two revolutions, pronounced “Bey-tah Stor-res”
Narodni: 24-hour convenience store chain dotted around the city
AUCA: The American University of Central Asia, supposedly the only English-speaking university in the region, usually referred to as “Owt-sa”
Lepyoshka: лепёшка, a round, chewy loaf of bread, usually costs between 10-15 soms
Beshbarmak: беш бармак, means “five fingers” in Kyrgyz, consists of boiled sheep over greasy noodles
Shashlik: шашлик, hunks of meat and fat, skewered and cooked over a fire
Lada: my generic (and sometimes inaccurate) word for any cool-looking, Soviet-era vehicle put-putting around Bishkek. My obsession with them is growing over on my Flickr page
Mama: Short for Mamajan, my Bishkek cat
Camera equipment: Canon 7D with the kit lens and a macro lens the thieves were too dumb to notice, and a Lubitel 166B (once I find 120 film)
Yurt: юрт, a collapsible felt house used by nomadic Kyrgyz