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 […]

How to Shower in a Bishkek Stalin Era Appartment When They Turn Off the Hot Water

Every May they turn off the hot water in all flat blocks in Bishkek for one month. Word is the reason is seasonal repairs. I believe the men in charge want their people to remain hardy. After all, the nomads on the summer pastures didn’t have running hot water either. Strangely enough, they seem to […]

Luftballons, falsche Panzer und ein deutsches Kriegslied – Tag des Sieges in Bischkek

Vom ZUM gehe ich die Straße zum Bischkeker Platz des Sieges hinunter. Es ist der 9. Mai. Mein erster richtiger Tag des Sieges in der ehemaligen Sowjetunion. “Ich möchte Panzer sehen!” sage ich zu meiner Begleiterin. Die Sonne strahlt. Die Straßen rund um das Denkmal mit der ewigen Flamme sind abgesperrt, nur der Gehweg ist […]

Sabyr Myrk! – An Annotated Collection of Kyrgyz Slang and Profanities

Inoffensive Slang зыңк [zyngk] – cool, nice, good. In Kazakh the word is зың [zyng] and is most famously used in the song “Зың, зың” about girls from Shymkent. “Zyngk” was the first slang I was told by a colleague: “You want to sound cool in Kyrgyz? Use this word!” таш [tasch] – strong, cool. Literally – “stone”. […]

How to Get a Foreigner to Teach You English

Are you young, eager to learn English and live in Bishkek? Do you want to practice your English with one of the many foreigners coming in the summer or living here permanently? Here’s how to do it! Imagine you’re sitting in your mother’s kiosk one August afternoon and he walks in. A real chet-ölkölük! His sweaty blond […]