Away we go again. This time to the Switzerland of Central Asia, home of the horse lords, and land of the yurt. For those of you that don’t know, Ryan and I are planning on moving to Kyrgyzstan come August. We have been fielding a lot of questions when this news comes up, so here are some of the top inquiries.
Where? Kyrgyzstan. Or if you want to be formal, the Kyrgyz Republic. It’s a country in Central Asia, located right around here:
So…will you be living in a yurt, eating horse meat, and drinking fermented mare’s milk? While Ryan would like this to be the reality, no. We will be living in Bishkek, a city slightly larger than Denver with all or most of the amenities. Ryan’s remembrance of Bishkek is that it’s a blend between the city life of Denver and the green beauty of Boulder (for all you Coloradans who can imagine it), with a touch of Soviet era pizzaz. While yurts and mare’s milk are close enough for weekend trips, we won’t be spending most of our time enjoying them.
Why? Well, there are several reasons. The biggest impetus for us to change up our location is that Ryan and I have been on different school schedules. More like he hasn’t been on a school schedule, but rather works all year with 2 random one-week vacations. He went home in between jobs in September, but I was working. I went home in December, but he was working. Right now, since I’m at an international school I get summers off, but he doesn’t. When an opportunity came by for us to both work at an international school, we were interested. It provides a chance to get on the same schedule and for Ryan to earn his teaching credentials for whatever comes next.
Then there’s the particular location. Ryan’s brother, Greg, has lived in Kyrgyzstan on and off, and Ryan went to visit him in 2008. What started as an imaginative conversation topic two years ago when we thought of the possibility of working there – you know, “what would it be like in Kyrgyzstan?” – has solidified into real plans. We are excited for a new language, country, new travel opportunities, and MOUNTAINS. And the biggest reason: why not? We have the opportunity and time, so why not?
You said different language. What language? In Kyrgyzstan, Russian is widely spoken, as it was part of the former Soviet Union. Kyrgyz is also spoken. We are currently studying Russian. When I say we, I mean Ryan is doing a great job at studying Russian and I squeeze in a podcast during Roxie’s walks. But we’re getting places with it, certainly much further than we ever did with Korean.
While our Korean skills consist of a smattering of random vocabulary and very little understanding of grammar and basically no ability to hold a conversation beyond, “I am a teacher. I am from America. Where are you from? What’s your name? Is there meat in this?,” our Russian has already progressed to the point that we can communicate what we want to do/need to do/like to do, what we want to eat, briefly discuss weather, talk a bit about family and friends, and plenty of other stuff. Russian grammar, though wildly complex, is at least more intuitive to us than Korean grammar.
Is it safe? We’ve gotten so many strange comments about Kyrgyzstan. Probably something to do with the fact that it ends in “stan”, but we field a lot of dubious questions about the safety of the country. We’ve had people tell us accounts of shootings and murders on the border of Kyrgyzstan, China, and Russia (Kyrgyzstan does not border Russia), questions about the presence of ISIS or whether I will have to wear a hijab, or concern over us living in the middle of nowhere in a yurt.
Kyrgyzstan is a country that we haven’t learned about in school, is often mistaken for Borat’s home country (which is Kazakhstan), and does indeed end in -stan, which Americans tend to have vaguely negative feelings about. But we’ve done as much reading and research as possible on moving there and feel confident that it is as safe an option as, say, living within 50 miles of the North Korean border.
I still make the mistake of finding random news articles with stories that usually end up being uninformed or inaccurate. And when I feel doubt, I remind myself of the unsafe conditions everywhere, like these two girls from Colorado who were recruited to join ISIS. I was nervous when we moved to Korea, but once we got here, the idea (obviously) ceased being scary. And talking to the people who live in Kyrgyzstan and love it there is just more reassurance. Don’t worry guys. It’ll be awesome.
One of the interesting things I see frequently the more that I read about Kyrgyzstan is activism, like feminist groups challenging patriarchical systems, as well as a group of young girls working for female equality and LGBT rights activist groups.
What about the dog? Really?? We love Roxie an insane amount and would never leave her behind. Before we even interviewed for the job we checked in on the requirements and paperwork required to take her to Kyrgyzstan and leave Kyrgyzstan when we are ready. Roxie is a part of our family and she goes where we go. If she can’t go, we won’t go.
If you have any other questions about Kyrgyzstan, leave them below. If you’re very interested (I’m talking to you, dear family) check out some of the blogs of others who lived or are living in Kyrgyzstan like Ivory Pomegranate, Fossil Fulbrighter, or Exploring Kyrgyzstan Dressed in Turqoise.