Tokmok Travel Blog› entry 1 of 2 › view all entries
February 2nd, 2010 – by: alexmaerz
I arrived to Kyrgyzstan about a week ago. With a massive time-difference of eleven hours with respect to the Atlantic coast of the United States, saying that I'm suffering from a non-negligible case of jet-lag would be nothing short of an understatement. However, despite the incidental annoyance of being fully awake and energized at 2AM and dead-tired by 2PM, I managed to get my body used to a middle-ground schedule of getting up at 4:30AM everyday in order to be in the office where I'm working by five. This actually works out wonderfully, as I can now call my friends and family in the US and Argentina at reasonable hours (for them) and I get most of my daily work done before my actual day here begins. Very uncharacteristic of me, I've been going to bed every night by 9:30PM.
Kyrgyzstan is one of the five countries that conform Central Asia. The other four are Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan. By the way, the suffix "stan" means "land of"; therefore, Kyrgyzstan means "Land of the Kyrgyz"�"I'm sure you can figure out what the names of the other countries mean.
As a former Soviet republic, the flavor of the communist era is still very much present in everyday life. Bishkek, the capital city, with its wide avenues and massive monuments, open-wide squares, and rugged governmental buildings, is a clear example of the country's past and not-so-distant legacy. Last but not least is the language, Russian, which still remains the commercial and business language in the metropolitan and suburban areas of the country.
There are a number of ethnic groups in Kyrgyzstan, the most prominent of which corresponds to the native Kyrgyz. The other prominent ethnic group are the Russians, most of them descendant of post-revolution Russian settlers.
Most metropolitan and suburban Kyrgyz are bilingual, retaining their Kyrgyz mother-tongue and being fully fluent in Russian. Most rural Kyrgyz, especially those living in the mountains, are monolingual: they speak only Kyrgyz, although some manage to get by with limited Russian. Most Russians are monolingual also: they speak only Russian.
Kyrgyz and Russian come from different language groups and are, consequently, unrelated languages. Russian is a Slavic language while Kyrgyz, being a Turkic language, retains some similarity with Turkish.
The Kyrgyz (ethnically speaking) population is predominantly Muslim, whereas the Russian population is either Orthodox or Atheist for the most part.
The country pretty much has no tourism, with the exception of the area around Lake Issyk-kül (one of the largest, if not the largest, lakes in Central Asia); therefore most of the areas are "unspoiled" and one can still enjoy the natural beauty and the original flavor.
Hopefully this has served as a very limited introduction to this country. Eventually I will write more about my actual experiences. If you have questions or comments, do not hesitate to post them; I'll be happy to read them and respond to them.
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