How I was called the Kyrgyz N-word

Yssyk-Ata is a resort close to Bishkek famous for its natural hot springs. I had just hiked up and down the valley and was now relaxing in a pool with another German woman. We let the hot water spurting from a pipe run over our backs. A woman passed us to stand under a waterjet […]

Valentine’s Day Special: Dating in Kyrgyzstan

In summer I always notice how many young couples there are in all the parks in Bishkek. These young women and men sit or walk next to each other, sometimes hold hands, but only very rarely kiss. This probably strikes me because parks in the Netherlands and Germany don’t have that many people who are […]

Putin, Trump, Jeenbekov – Presidential Confusion in the Classroom

My students played a game of charades in German speaking club last week. They put names of famous people in a bag. In the first round, they had to describe the person with as many words as they liked, in the second with just one word, in the third with pantomime. Some famous politicians ended […]

Anti-Wedding Activism in Bishkek

Last night an activist group left messages on the pavement in central Bishkek. It reads “Don’t take out a loan for a wedding!” in Kyrgyz and Russian. Wedding parties, “toi” in Kyrgyz, are a big thing here. People try to outdo their neighbours by organizing bigger and more spectacular tois. Some people go to work […]

Plastic Bags in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstani people love plastic bags for their groceries. Most take one every time they shop. I don’t like plastic bags because I know the Kyrgyz authorities aren’t very skilled in taking care of garbage. Everything ends up in landfills, where the plastic will remain forever. I want to leave as few plastic bags and bottles […]

Just another day in Kyrgyzstan

A friend texts me her daily press review: “Fucking hell, Folke! Two deputies kicked a civil servant out of parliament because of his clothes. Didn’t even listen to his report. Today some wankers are organizing a demonstration¬†on the central square against women marrying Chinese. And some gym teacher who worked in a school for two […]

Man in Black Jacket

He’s wearing blue jeans and a black jacket and he drops a big fat drop of saliva on the pavement in front of the mayor’s office. Manas watches him, high on his horse in the middle of Philharmonia square. Do I know for sure he wasn’t born in Bishkek? I don’t. Do I think spitting […]

“We gaan je oren afsnijden!” – Vertrek uit Dushanbe

Het is kwart voor zes, ik ben op weg naar de plek waar jeeps naar Khorog vertrekken. De hostel eigenaar heeft gezegd dat ik een Landcruiser moet pakken, dan duurt de reis 12 uur. Anders langer. De straten van Dushanbe zijn nog bijna leeg. De is nog maar net opgegaan maar het is al warm. […]

Apricots, Aryks but no Arpa – A Day in Batken

When travelling by plane, mind and body don’t get the chance to make a natural transition to the new environment. The transition is very sudden. On the other hand, the transition already starts at the airport, when one joins the group of fellow travellers waiting for the check in. This morning I made such a […]

Vladivostok To Batken – Imam’s Story

After I had taken my seat on a flight from Bishkek to Batken, a tall Kyrgyz man sat next to me, immediatley shook my hand and introduced himself as Imam. He told me he had been in Bishkek to see off his nephew who had to Johannesburg to study Islamic theology. Before, he had studied […]