I have many foreign friends, and one of them wrote this letter to his friends from all over the world, describing why he loves Kyrgyzstan. I read it and understood that there are so many things that I don’t even notice, simply because it’s my country and many things are too obvious to me. So with his permission I am presenting you the following essay.

Why do I love Kyrgyzstan?

By Frieder Shlecht from Germany.

Photo credit

Many people ask: Why Kyrgyzstan? When I arrived, I had only three answers

• The love for the Russian language
• The love for mountains
• The love for Chingiz Aitmatov’s books

Now I could write thousands of pages about why I love this country and in particular its people. Here is an utterly incomplete document with some colorful aspects. I promise I didn’t exaggerate:

1. I love Kyrgyzstan because of the people

2. Because of the smile on their faces

The other night I was playing table tennis in a park and next to me a girl was playing with her boyfriend. She played kind of awkward, but her whole face was just a big smile! One big smile! For more than one hour she was smiling, continuously, it seemed like forever, ever… one big smile!

I rent an apartment with Kyrgyz people, and one of my flatmates, who is now like my sister, with a heart of an ocean, gets up every morning with a big, big smile on her face!

3. Because of their shining, warm hearts

After the first cup of tea you are a friend, after the second you are a sister or brother and after the third you are forced to drink indefinitely till the end of the of the world.

4. Because of their courage to utter straight their opinion

As their ancestors used to be nomads, and as nomads used to move, they didn’t care much about telling their opinion straight (to people outside of their tribe) as they move on and do not have to deal the next day again with the same person. On the other hand they couldn’t leave their tribe easily and had to get along with the people close by. I.e. gossiping, backbiting exists as well, like everywhere.

5. How they express their feelings and confess their love and how they deal with serious problems in an optimistic way

When departing or before ending a phone call people use phrases like:

• Kiss you, kiss you strongly
• Hug you, hug you strongly
• Love you, love you warmly / a lot

Once in a while one can hear in a crowded bus, on a square anywhere this sentence loud and clearly

Sometimes over the course of one day I receive from a handful of persons confessions of love and give it back and spread it to others

6. I adore it because of the different cultures, traditions and ethnic groups

– Chinese culture and wisdom came over the centuries and left their traces;

– Chengiz Khan’s hordes crossed the valleys and mountains of Kyrgyzstan on the way to the west;

– 711 enthusiastic supporters of a new religion spread all over Central Asia;

– The Russians came in the 19th century with military, but as well with ideals and new ideas;

– Dungan, Uigur, Gypsies, Tajik, Uzbek, Europeans, Chinese, Korean and many other people live today in Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyz people were influenced by all those invaders; though they preserved their own identity too. Kyrgyz people adapted to new circumstances; though they secured their own secret. They took what they liked and left behind ballast.

7. I got inspired by the myriad of religions

As the communist preached that there is no religion, a vacuum was created after the collapse of the Soviet Union and people are striving, searching for more in life.

– One can attend Tengrianism (old Kyrgyz religion) services, mosque, orthodox churches, protestant churches, international churches, visit a Buddhist place, attend Baha’i services, visit Kyrgyz spiritual gatherings;

– Churches and other religious gatherings are places where one can find people from different kind of society, ethnic groups etc;

– One can attend a protestant church service, sitting next to Kyrgyz, Russians, foreigners, Koreans and other nationality singing together Russian songs accompanied by e-guitar, bass, keyboard and drums or observing the sign language translation. Once in a while deaf-mute people perform their way of singing… expressing the music with signs, gestures, mimics full of passion and emotions;

– The other day I was sitting on the floor with a Kyrgyz family, on the wall was a carpet with golden embroidery showing the five pillars of Islam. I was telling them a parable I heard the day before in a church from a Korean vicar. The next day I was inviting Americans, Kyrgyz and a Chinese girl to an unknown Buddhist place outside of town.

8. I love it for the manifoldness of the landscape, scenery and the nature

One can experience three different seasons in one day: green, lush spring in Bishkek, cold, harsh winter on a mountains pass, and hot, dry summer in the south.

Covered mostly by mountains one can find hidden in the mountains lakes like pearls, glaciers like diamonds, clean, clear mountain rivers like lifelines.

9. I love it for its simplicity and its availability of simple, convenient services

In less than half and hour and in an area smaller than 500 meters to walk I can manage to get a lot of things done:

I pay for the electricity and gas bill at an electronic automat. As well as put money at these automats on my cell phone and Internet account. These automats are found at nearly every corner in the city centre…

…While walking I make international phone calls from my cell phone for approximately €2 an hour to China, Europe and other countries…

…I bring torn clothes or damaged zippers to a small store, having a nice private chat and will be called as soon as the order is done…

…Next to it I buy some fresh sour milk (kind of Ayran) and have a glimpse of high mountains towards the south…

…Before crossing and buying fresh vegetables at a small kiosk, where people know each other and ask me about my friends and life…

…A little bit further I buy in a supermarket fresh prepared noodles, which only need to be put for a couple of minutes into hot water and can delicious be served with fresh vegetables. Even in this supermarket, which belongs to the few grocery market chains in Kyrgyzstan, one can have a nice small talk with the vendor…

…Afterwards I buy freshly picked strawberries and fresh, good smelling milk for making a strawberry milkshake at home…

…Before heading back to our entry of the soviet apartment building, I do some pull ups and dips on the iron bars in the playground

10. It is possible to organize in a short time a conference, a fundraising event, charity gala or any other kind of event

– In an underpass it is possible to buy both stationery supplies and obtain all kind of electronic software (controversial!)

– Right next to it one can print flyers, posters or anything else or even find somebody to design them

– Not 10m further one can scan them and spread it by email via one of the mailing lists of expats, foreign students or volunteers in Kyrgyzstan, inform everyone about news and upcoming events. Though the mailing list is not necessary as one meets anyway each other on the street or at Issikkul!

– For getting all kind of information, there exists an actual yellow pages book, or one can call and get information for all kind of services. Just last week I called the State Department for Statistics in order to get figures – on the phone I received the figures and was invited to come around and have a look in the tables and books.

11. For its location

As Bishkek is lying at a hub or junction in Central Asia a lot of people from various county pass this city. News in all aspects are passed from traveler to locals, to expats, to migrant workers, to randomly stranded people (!) This creates heaps of human resources!

12. I love Kyrgyzstan for the unrecognized significance of this country for the whole world!

Read more:
Komuz: Music of the Kyrgyz mountains
They’re special, my people: What it means to be Dutch
What is Taiwanese culture?

About the author

Nargiza is a journalism student at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She has also studied in the USA as part of the Future Leaders Exchange programme. She speaks Kyrgyz, Russian and English.