Well, I am off to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan tonight. Much traveling, planning, and studying has gone into this trip so I feel confident and ready. Six months ago, I had never even heard of Kyrgyzstan. I would have said: don’t you mean Kazakhstan? Most of my friends still have no idea where this strange land is let alone my mom. I just tell her I’m going to Russia. To sum is up quickly, Kyrgyzstan ≠ Kazakhstan. Borat popularized Kazakhstan in the west, but they are not the same country. Completely different people, culture, and language.
Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Central Asia bordering China to the east, and Tajikistan to the south. Think just north of Afghanistan. It’s most known for beautiful mountains and horseback riding. Many call is the Switzerland of Central Asia. The majority of the people speak Russian because they used to be a part of the old Soviet Union.
Why am I going here?
I had known of Kyrgyzstan to be a beautiful country and interesting place to visit and because it has the most favorable visa policy of any central Asian country (60 day free on arrival for US citizens), I had added it to the bucket list of places to go. Upon researching about Kyrgyzstan and how I could possibly go there, I came across a place called the London School which is a Russian language school in Bishkek geared towards foreigners looking for a full emersion program. Sort of on a whim, I decided it might be fun to study Russian and so I signed up for 5 weeks of Russian courses starting July 28th through to the beginning of September. The courses were unbelievably cheap and for the cost of a few hours at a private university in the United States, I get five weeks of Russian study and a homestay with two meals a day.
My Russian is not that good, but then again it’s hard to self-learn an entire language when I have no exposure to the language in my daily life. I’ve focused on learning to read and building my vocabulary in the months prior to coming. I know a little over 400 words now which hopefully will give me a good base to get started. The grammar is quite difficult, but I find many similarities with the grammar to Spanish so I am not too worried. On top of that, the cognates are endless. How do you say minute? Minuta. How about restaurant? Restauran. Certainly much easier than Thai.
Once my courses end, I hope to spend my last 3-4 weeks traveling throughout the country and riding horses. I want to go on a horse ride for several days in the mountains, staying in yurts, and drinking goat’s milk. That is my one goal besides getting somewhat conversational in Russian. I’d also like to visit Uzbekistan if I can get a visa. They have some of the most famous mosques in the world in Uzbekistan.
I’m not the biggest fan of blogging, but I feel like this is an odd enough of a place to visit that I must try to record it as best as I can. There are a thousand of other blogs about traveling in Thailand, but I can’t really say I’ve come across many on Kyrgyzstan. So please stay tuned for updates on my struggles learning Russian, the bizarreness of Kyrgyz culture, and the beauty from one of the most remote parts of the world.