The news stories from the NY Times and on NPR talk about the chaos and violence in Kyrgyzstan. They talk about a history of government corruption and the poverty of the former soviet republic. But they don't talk about the people.
For most Westerners, Kyrgyzstan is one of the unpronounceable, difficult to spell 'stans', indistinguishable from any other of the 'stans' and most often confused with the fictional account of a central Asian republic in the movie, "Borat."
I am fortunate to count as a member of my family a former exchange student from Kyrgyzstan who lived with us for nearly 2 years while she was studying here in the Boston area. From the moment Nurjan moved in with us, she became like a daughter to me. Last August, my family and I made the long journey to Kyrgyzstan to meet her family and attend her wedding. We spent 3 weeks touring the country, meeting its people, and learning about its culture.
Kyrgyzstan is a unique and beautiful place. Its people have long endured an arid and difficult landscape, a lack of material resources, and waves of invasions. And yet, or perhaps because of its historical challenges, the Kyrgyz people are strong and resourceful, hard working and welcoming.
I blogged about some aspects of the trip when we could find internet access, starting here.
We were there, in Biskek, in time to celebrate their 21st year of independence, in the place where bloodshed has replaced music and laughter. My heart aches for the Kyrgyz people.
I worry about Nurjan's family and friends, those who so warmly welcomed us, despite our cultural, religious, and language differences. Who plied us with nan, borsook, chai, and plov. Who laughed with us as we tried to speak a few Kyrgyz words.
They deserve so much more than to be dismissed as being an impoverished population of 5 million living in a mountainous former soviet republic. Or as a country only 'important' to the West because of an airbase. Or as some political pawn in some new 'Great Game.'
They deserve so much more.
3 weeks of photos of our trip to Kyrgyzstan: here, here, and here.