I wrote this a little while ago, just never finished it..
My 10th day in Naryn is coming to end and the sun is slowly setting while its last soft sunrays are gently touching the mountain tops. Mountains are what I mostly see, wherever I go in town, even right now, as I am sitting on my sofa looking out of the windows from my apartment on the fourth floor of a stereotypically soviet apartment block.
This is my third weekend in Naryn – a small mountain town in Kyrgyzstan, where I now live. As for the basics: Naryn is a town with about 40.000 people, located at an elevation of 2.044m and on both banks of the Naryn river which cuts through the breathtaking Tian Shan mountain range. A 5-hour drive away from Bishkek – the Kyrgz capital - it is also on the main road over the Torugart Pass to China.
I decided to come here when I got an offer to be a German lecturer as part of a program by a German foundation. Overall, we are a group of 45 lecturers who are sent to mostly remote places in Russia, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Caucasuses and China to teach at German departments at local universities and to realise projects related to German-speaking culture and to foster international understanding. The deal is a mixture of teaching German and receiving training in project management so that we are well equipped to carry out large- and small-scale projects.
Central Asia is not particularly new territory for me, as I have already lived a year in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. However, the more I travel here, the more I realize and get to know the differences between the different ‘stans. Obviously, there are similarities, such as the music, the crazy taxi drive(r)s over a mosaic of potholes in the roads, haggling at the basar, the problems related to electricity and water, corruption, similar cultural misunderstandings, the food, clothes, and so on. At the same time, Tashkent is a capital and fairly westernised in comparison to a small town like Naryn. I am extremely curious to learn more about Kyrgyzstan and its people, and I believe that Naryn is a pretty good place for that.
Naryn really isn’t a town – it’s a village, just a big one. When I wake up, I hear a rooster. When I leave my apartment block, I sometimes see cows. From one end of town to the other, it takes about 7min by taxi, and even then you are already surrounded by chicken and sheep. It’s mainly one big road called Lenin Street (uliza Lenina), and there is a little theatre, art gallery, museum. And that’s it. I never expected there to be more, but as much as I researched, talked to my counterpart and my predesseor before I got here, I simply could not image what life would be like.
And now I am here, trying to find my role, tasks, routine and daily life in a town in which there is only one Russian, maybe a few Turks and Japanese guys, and four Americans. Well, I stick out – a lot. As I walk down the street, people stare at me, sometimes say “Hello” (in English), “where are you from” (in Russian), “Hi Baby” or “sexy bitch” (in English, which – in these moments – I wish I wouldn’t understand) and “Beautiful girl” (in Russian). The first week, I was extremely uncomfortable, but as time passes, people are starting to recognise me. There is one lady at the basar who already knows me and my shopping habits, so she does not only say hello with a big smile, but also starts pointing at the tomatoes or cucumbers, which I usually buy.
Speaking of the basar – there are no proper supermarkets here, just tiny little stores in which you have to tell the sales person what you want – for me, that’s always a bit of a challenge, although my Russian is getting better, and in particular my knowledge of how to say stuff that I regularly need in Russian is steadily growing. However, shopping here can also be a challenge when it comes to buying things that you haven’t bought before – even though there is a little bit of order in the basars, it is generally quite a chaotic place. It took me about 5 rounds in the vegetable and fruit section to find bananas, 10 rounds to find basil, 10 rounds to find a guitar, and I never found zucchini (but I know they have it!).
I am teaching at Naryn State University at the German department. We have about 30 students and I have 3 colleagues, although one of them is pregnant and about to have her baby soon, so there will only be two left. Aruuke, Nazgul and I get along really well – both of them are really nice and warm people – slightly distanced sometimes – but I guess it just takes a little time for the ice to break. My students: well, it’s hard to say. Some of them are really motivated, some hardly speak a word of German after three years of studying it. Don’t ask me how that is possible, I don’t know (I have some ideas, but I will write a longer blog post on that another time), but it is giving me a hard time sometimes, knowing, that some of my students don’t understand a word of what I am saying. It’s a bit of a stretch, and I am still in the process of deciding of how to deal with it. Obviously, having fairly weak students limits my possibilities of organising projects immensely. However, I have a few ideas.. also, more on that another time :)
Overall, I feel quite comfortable - I am surrounded by nice people, I really like my apartment and I have a phenomenal view out of my window :)
Some impressions of Naryn...
|On the main square|
|Uliza Lenina right outside of my door. Moo.|
|The street down my house (just off the main road)|
|What would a post soviet small town be without a statue of Lenin?|
|Home sweet home! I live on the 4th floor.|
|At the basar (it was already past 6pm, thus a little empty.. you can see the stalls on the right hand side though)|
|Walking through Naryn|
There are lot of things I still need to process and put into relation as well into context for myself. In the next weeks, I will try to put it into words to post on here. Generally, I would also like this blog to be a collection of articles, pictures and videos with curiosities from Central Asia and Kyrgyzstan in particular.
In this spirit: More soon! :)
In this spirit: More soon! :)