Friday, September 22, 2006

Kyrgyzstan, London, Etc.

As I noted a few posts back, Bambino and I are heading to Kyrgyzstan next week. Described just a few years ago in the New York Times as perhaps the "world's least well-known country," Kyrgyzstan is now increasingly in the Western news (the 2005 revolution, the US Airforce base, and a burgeoning contemporary art scene that is capturing the world's attention all contributing to a greater awareness about its politics and future), but I have to admit to having had no idea where it was before I met Bambino. Here's where it is.

Now, however, I'm totally obsessed with its incredible history and culture. Part of my obsession is due to my studying Kyrgyz, which is one of the most difficult undertakings I've ever tried (there's no gender, no articles, a wonderfully subjective sense of the past tense, and it's written in Cyrillic, for which there are at least 5 letters that look just like English but are pronounced entirely differently, a whole host of letters that look like mathematical symbols, and vowel sounds I can usually only make during dental surgery).

Geographically, Kyrgyzstan is 90% mountains---some of the steepest, most ruggedly gorgeous moutains on are some photos: 1, 2, 3.

As folks who were reading my political blogging a while back knew, I'm also obsessed with the history of Alexander the Great. If you've read of his conquests, then you know of the truly terrible time his army had fighting the hard-boiled horse-riding marauders before entering Afghanistan...yup, legend has it, those were the ancestors of modern-day Kyrgyz. In fact, exceptional horsemanship is among Kyrgyzstan's points of pride as a nation. Larger festivals include an ancient form of polo called "ulak tartysh," where opponents battle fiercely on horseback for a goat's carcass:

Yeah, the goat carcass thing is bit tough for me too. But that's not the only graphically different cultural adaptation I'll be making while there. Bambino's been cooking Kyrgyz food for me for years and while I love most of the dishes (plov, lagman, manti, etc.), there's a traditional feast in Kyrgyzstan in which a guest of honor is presented with the head of a sheep and expected to take the best parts for himself (the best parts widely considered the eyes, cheeks, ears, etc.). Let's just say I suspect I'll be tasting plenty of Kyrgyz vodka during that feast (just kidding, Bambino). The truth of the matter is, I would be so incredibly honored to be presented with this plate (and there's no guarantee a foreigner will be so honored), I might not be able to eat through my tears (yes, that's my story and I'm sticking with it). A Kyrgyz treat I'm actually looking forward to trying is "kumiz," Kyrgyzstan's national alcoholic beverage (essentially fermented mare's milk). You can't get it in the US, and with the new airline restrictions on liquids, I most likely won't be able to bring any back, so I'm getting my share while there.

After a few days in the capital, Bishkek, including attending the opening of the
3rd Bishkek Exhibition of Contemporary Art, we're heading into the mountains, where we hope to do some riding and possibly stay in a "yurta" which are still widely used by the nomadic people living in the mountains. I don't think we'll get a wireless signal up there, so bloggin will be light, to say the least.

After Kyrgyzstan, we're off to London (via Armenia) where we're participating in the Year 06 Art Project fair corresponding with Frieze. Some great US and Europen galleries are included, so do stop in if you're that side of the pond.

All of this information is preface to explaining that bloggin might be sporadic at best over the next few weeks. Bambino and I hope to take zillions of photos that we'll bore you with when we get back (Ed on a horse, Ed in a Yurt, Ed eating sheep eyes, you know, the same old holiday snaps). I will try to find an internet cafe I can blog from on occassion though, and I'll continue to blog up until we leave next Thursday, that is if we get all the shopping done in time (he has a large family, this Bambino...I truly can't wait to meet them).


Anonymous Rebel Belle said...

Ed, I am so jealous I can't stand it! I absolutely love the pictures you posted. What a freaking kick ass beautiful place! I would absolutely go to Kyrgyzstan in a hearbeat. Do you need someone to help portage? I know how to ride a horse, I will drink water from a stream. And I would never deprive you or Bambino of any of the culinary eyeballs you might be so gracioulsy offered.

9/22/2006 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Rebel Belle,

Ed, I am so jealous I can't stand it!

I know!!!! I'm getting so giddily excited, I'm almost jealous of myself!

It's odd, but the image that keeps coming back to me when I think about this trip in the context of my life is the time, as a teenager, I sat on the back porch of my parent's house in Ohio, staring up at the planes criss-crossing the sky simply in awe of the lucky people in them, possibly heading for some place exotic, some place I had never even dreamt existed.

History isn't simply ancient in Kyrgyzstan, it's virtually ludicrous to discuss it in terms of centuries. We watched a PBS program about the migration of humans and they interviewed a man who represented the longest continuous habitation in one place of anyone's ancestors on earth. That man lived in Krygyzstan, and his family had been in that same location for over 40,000 years. I still can't wrap my mind around that.

9/22/2006 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger ondine-nyc said...

What an incredible trip you are going to have (except the sheep eyes part which is right out of a horror movie)!

And that looks like alot of frequent flyer miles you two are about to rack up. Kyrgyzstan kind of makes my little trip to LA and Vegas pale in comparison.

9/22/2006 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

Sounds like a fabulous trip! My eyes are turning green...

P.S. If you're in a shopping mood, I think the region is also one of the best places to buy authentic tribal rugs.

9/22/2006 01:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

I was in Armenia for 10 days last June. Take as much SPF 10,000 sunblock with you as the TSA will allow. You and I, I think we both have -- how you say -- the unkind hairlines and the fair skin.

9/22/2006 06:28:00 PM  
Anonymous jec said...

Have a great trip, Ed. It sounds amazing!!

another extremely jealous reader.

9/22/2006 10:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

So ...Bambino is actually kyrgyz??
I thought he was mexican? Or how..where...howcome does he cook kyrgyz food????

I'd love to go there but I think you're the most lucky in having someone to travel with.

Have a nice trip,


9/23/2006 12:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Karl Zipser said...

You've sold us on the romantic Kyrgyzstan. I'm keen to read what you learn in your real-life journey. Hope you can do a bit of blogging from there.

9/23/2006 07:26:00 AM  
Anonymous bambino said...

I am so exciting about our trip, and can't to see my family, it's been loooooong time, and intreduce Ed to them . It will be pretty amazing and interesting trip, will try to take as much as I can pictures.

Thank you so much for all your wishes


9/23/2006 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger Susan Constanse said...

Have a wonderful trip, this sounds so great.
I'd love to sneak a peak at what you are taking to Bambino's family.

9/24/2006 07:50:00 AM  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

How incredibly exotic! Have a great trip and I really look forward to photos and any posts you might be able to make. Have fun and stay safe!

We'll miss you,

9/24/2006 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger kurt said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/24/2006 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger John Morris said...

I see the ad campaign. Kyrgyzstan: The country you would eat an eyeball to go too.

The milk thing actually sounds really good.

9/26/2006 09:04:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Ed, if you really do eat an eyeball, make sure you get pictures. It would give you some serious street cred in Chelsea. Have a great trip!

9/26/2006 09:26:00 PM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...

This looks to be a very special trip, Edward, just the sort I adore. I'm a bit jealous, but I hope you and Bambino enjoy yourselves thoroughly. All the best.

9/28/2006 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger Aziz said...

Hello, My name is Aziz, I'm from Ciny, OH. Originaly from Kyrgyzstan. It's most amazing country. I'm really glad you like it as well. I miss my country a lot, I was there two years ago, and had lot's of fun, kumyz, and head of ship with eyeball.
Just wanted to intreduce my self and wish you good luck. Have lot's of fun, try to bring some kumyz, so your friends can try it too.
please send me some pictures when you get back.

4/13/2008 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Maksat said...

yeah this post is old 2 years ago, but not late to post some comments :)
so think you back already from Kyrgyzstan?How was the trip? how'd you like it? I really miss Kyrgyzstan, next summer going there for 2-3 months. I just want to know, is Bambino Kyrgyz or what?
and if you wanna go again to KG just let Me know, My name is Maksat I'll be happy to show you again :)
my mail

10/19/2008 09:00:00 PM  
Anonymous camilla said...

lucky,,i'm originally from kyrgyzstan
and i went there to visit my family this summer...and yea
i got the honorary head of sheep ;]...
not too keen on that
I just hope you had a great experience and wanted to let you know the way you described kyrgyzstan made me fall in love
with my country all over again.

11/30/2008 03:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Tina said...

Hey guys)) I'm also from Kyrgyzstan)) Just wanted to say that this place is really amazing! I miss the mountains ((, the food (it's organic and soo delicious) and my family >.<

12/29/2009 03:47:00 PM  

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