Healing Osh: journal of pain and hope

October 9, 2010

Healing Osh: journal of pain and hope

My beloved and healing Osh: journal of pain and hope

September 2010

I arrive in Osh on airport on September 27. At the meeting gate many taxi drivers look at me with hope for their service. My father waits for me. My lovely parents find me over a crowd; Father  kisses my forehead. My charming mother smiles. Ellder brother takes my luggage and we head to the car.

Last time I was in Osh on April 6, just before April 7 events. Osh was calm, peaceful , steady and modern. I sat with my company until 1 am at night in a café. No problem with safety, taxi, street lights.

At the airport I could not see Uzbek taxi drivers. On the road to home, I ask my mother whether she noticed any. She says no.Father said that I would be astonished to see the destroyed parts of Osh…..But mother says not to hurry with that, but go home instead.

At home my brother’s wife and his sweetest son meet me. I see my nephew for the first time. The 4 months old boy, with deeply innocent look andcharm. Heart melts, so fresh to this world! We eat Osh plov with garlic and Uzgen rice cooked by kelin,  and enjoy our re-union. My other two cousins come over from another house. My little presents of candies and clothes make their world so eventful and colorful and impressive. They forget about me and go comparing whose thing is better and interesting. How real and sweet beings little humans are! So direct, honest, able to shout and laugh, fight and giggle!

Next morning I join my father to go to his bus driving to Karasu big market. It is a big market of Chinese goods, similar to Dordoi in Bishkek. Father makes some 4-5 drives a day. Former military man, he is disciplined. On the road, I engage in talks with passengers. We see an advertisement on the road of Atajurt Party. I ask whether AtaJurt really can save people. A man and a woman inside get emotional and supportive of AtaJurt.

They say that this party has real men and will make them happy. I provocate them and show to the next reclama on road, of Ata Meken Party. They become furious and the woman almost shouts at me. She says leader of Ata meken Tekebaev was behind the Osh conflict. She even goes to say that Bishkek, president is guilty for the Osh conflicts and for April. I provocated them and comment I don’t like Atajurt, but Ata meken. The women claim they know the truth in Osh, and I am nothing. A big woman with short black hair looks rather determined, aggressive in her tone, and unfair. Other women in the back seat get in the conversation and say they support Party Respublica. They got off at the market with little desire to speak to us, leaving the payment reluctantly.

We return to Osh. In the town I drive through the parts of destroyed Osh. When I try to take in photos along the Navoi street, populated by ethnic Uzbeks, father says it makes no sense: houses are too many, can not capture the scale….  Near collapsed, burnt houses I see new pile of fresh bricks. People are erecting new houses. They say UNHCR gave bricks so they can get into houses before winter sets in.  Piles of trash from destruction are collected towards the road edges.

In this sunny September along the dusty roads I feel like driving through roads of Afghanistan, like scenes Americans come to some African country about humanitarian aid, from their civilized New York type homes.

Other parts of osh are fine. Area of Aravansky and Russian Consulate are safe and sound. Just 200 hundred meters away from destroyed parts you see civilization! the long panorama street of Osh. I try to see some stability. Yet, we go again to the road to Alay, near  district of Furqat. All the nice restaurants I remember from my childhood are now destroyed. They were part of a big town for me. Now skeletons of iron stand in emptiness…

Next day I go to work affairs. We work with Uzbek and Kyrgyz journalists. At lunch my uzbek partners take me for real samsa. they say “there is no comfor, but it is really delicious”. It is an Uzbek area.  By car we go through narrow and dusty zigzag roads. When we get there, It was only men, under roofed  open air place, many ethnic Uzbek men are sitting and eating samsa over tables. The owners are making the shashlysk over fume. Some men look at my typical Kyrgyz face and they seem to say “What is she doing here, who is she?”.  I want to say “See, I am here with Uzbek friend, trust me,  I am good, came with peace, and I hope you do not do any harm to me’. Then I stop thinking about it and just enjoy sama and shaqarap with everyone.

My Uzbek friend says : “These men, who are eating samsa, where do you think they will go after? I am sure most of them will simply go home. They have no job….”…. Pause…. I am sad…. No job. …. Result of the conflict…. Result when one ethnic group dominates over another, because it was afraid that it could have been the other way round if they did not preempt it…..I can not say anything, I cannot give job. I am glad at least I could help my Uzbek friends get a job, along with the Kyrgyz ones.  They have a job, they can bring money to their home and children….

In airplane back to Bishkek I sit near a man of around 50. An Uzbek man speaks Russian friendly and chats with me. He was in army in  Czechoslovakia and there was no borders in Soviet Union. He went to Russian school. He was in Bishkek last time in 1994. His children left for Russia after the conflcit and like it there. He is glad to meet such a good person as me. We speak of politics, of Russia, Tajikistan, and how dangerous the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) is, and we better start peace soonest, otherwise the IMU will take any opportunity and they are deadly dangerous since they are like kamikaze. We take good pause and agree.  IMU is really at work?! When we land, we make cordial good bye.

Osh. We left this warm and delicious town. My home province, hit by an unthinkable nightmare. To which war happened. My lips can’t dare to pronounce this word. I come back to Bishkek, another country, another planet, in order to help Osh, the place of ash and chance!….

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Noruz and politics in springtime Kyrgyzstan

March 23, 2010

Spring has started cold, yet sunny. Yesterday was Noruz. Me and my two little nieces and babysitter went to Alato square – to feel the atmosphere and eat some sumolok, traditional Noruz food. People were crowded, taking pictures in front of the “Nooruz 2010″ decorations. Most were rural people, rural youth, meeting up and deciding their days. I saw girls and guys and thought that Noruz was for them a chance to dress up and hang out in streets, socializing. For the families with small kids it was a chance to stroll, take pictures of themselves, eat some plov, sumolok.  Thus it is a huge gathering and just being free, watching and spending money…

While so many people were in the main streets I thought how could one make them political. Their mind is so different to engage them into politics, In Kyrgyzstan being political has a negative meaning., It is about being aggressive, fighting for power for private interest, and it is creting a headache…. This is the image that was produced in the last years by those in government to discredit those who oppose. In Kyrgyzstan things are very personal, around personalities of politicians, Therefore this lack of coneptual basis makes it difficult to convince masses, because people also think in terms of personalities and little in terms of principles, ideas, etc.

Last holiday was March 8. Several women politicians came out to speak about women’s social and political and economic rights, They spoke of domestic violence and polygamy increasing, They also spoke of general politics. I joined and it was a positive, nice event. Covered in the press, and on face book, and some by-standers joined.

I speak of politics because in the wake of the fast developing events in the country. In the last 3-4 months many events have shows how brutal this regime is. The killed journalist in Kazahstan, recently several websites were locked in territory of Kyrgyzstan (ferghana.ru, www.centrasia.ru, www.parus.kg). No one officially explains why / what happened… Then Azattyk (Radio Free Europe ) was off the air from the private companies simultaneously….. in radio and Tv prograns, in Bishkek and several regions… The private companies said they were pressured by some people who are related to the white house. Then paper Forum was simply confiscated without any legal papers, and its 6 staff were also taken to police department….. We have a total collapse of a legal system….

Springtime is a promise of some public moods / revolutions in Kyrgyzstan. So these media were purposefully locked off for the event of March 17, Kurultay of the Opposition. These media operationally report what is going on, who is saying what. But not on TV, only in radio. radio has less effect than TV.   Anyways. this year were have Kurultay (Highest Assembly of people, a type of democratic representation). Authorities call it Kurultay of Accord March 23 (as if admitting there is a conflict),, and Opposition holds its OWN – People’s Kurultay on March 17. As you can  see the two mutually exclude each other, so it would be probably a monologue for each of them….

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Nostalgie about Bishkek Humanities University

January 4, 2010

August 25, 2007,  former student of Germanic philology in 1994-1997, BHU

Today I came to the place where I studied 12 years ago – Bishkek Humanities University. On an August day, I stopped by and looked into my past.

The large giantic building on the Manas prospect.  The tall magnificent columns of Greek style, the generous space in front of the University, the green lawn… I walk in the long dark corridors of the University and smell the times of my studentship. These huge corridors where we waited for the results of our exams. I enter the empty classrooms, where there is not a single soul. Vacation time.

Ttimetable on the walls of the first floor, near the stairs, announcements about the procedure of getting a room in hostel, and a mandatory requirement for student to come and march on the Alato Square for the occasion of August 31, the day of Independence. …

I used to be a young girl, who looked at things with my innocent eyes and BHU was a big power, big institution, as part of the cog in the machine of the state. I was a student who would not think beyond her studies and language and literature of England. Student who cared little about how it’s all organized, and who is managing this all.  Now I look at the place as an important member of society, as a person who wants to know how the rector is, what policy, what salaries, what curriculum, what marketing strategies, what department, how do they attract teachers, etcetera.

Oh, the smell of the fresh paint! These lecture halls (актовые залы), long desks and amphitheatre auditoriums. My group 404 – Gulnara Aruunova of Jumgal, the sweet pretty friend who had a romantic character. Ainura Mondurbaeva of Qochqor with red cheeks and rigour in the English. Rahat Tabaldiev, the star boy of our class, who liked to impress the girl population with his remarks of often hard to interpret, with his ways of joking and teasing. There was Qaniet of Issyk –Kul, a baritone voice dark face big shoulder boy with stylish hair parting. There was the shy and soft spoken girl Asylgul Toktorbaeva. With her oval face and long black hair braided, and her small black currant eyes painted by a pencil skillfully.  Elvira Bobekova, Perizat, There was Aijan, the quiet and slim good girl….. Irina Chernyshova from the German group. ..

The dean Naryngul Khuseinovna, who would remind the strictness of 19th century England. She read us lectures on English Geography,  the point about the real cockneys, who collect shillings.

Garth, our American teacher from Minnesota sate, who came to climb in Kyrgyzstan. With his large deep brown eyes and curly brown hair Garth would teach us Newspaper. he would take us outdoors for class, for our amusement.  Garth taught us email, internet, brought us to National Library on Sundays, where he would take the trouble of showing us how email works, and offer us chocolates ….

Michelle Quackenbush, the American woman from Peace Corps, teaching Cultural Studies and Academic writing. Her every word, the things she used, and the letters she spelt in my writing notebook were a miracle to me. I would be so honored to get her feedback and read her answers. I was proud to make sense to her, and would write my secrets and all my personal and social concerns of my naïve soul.

Kent Mathieson, our beloved Australian teacher. The small elegant man with navy type blue sweater, and suitcase. He and his wife were so young couple then. They now have three kids in Kyrgyzstan. We watched “The Dead Poet’s Society” in his flat. He was a great and true teacher…. Kent still lives and works in Kyrgyzstan, and his son Jack becoming an adult.

Aigul Elebesova, our favorite and main teacher of English. With her loving smile, she would persistently work on our accents. …. The courses on physical culture. Our Russian energetic woman teacher who taught us to make massage on ourselves, and gave us a brave movements and athletics. …..

The cafeteria with bulochki and juices with Soviet style stakans… The lingaphone rooms. The wooden  doors near the kinozal. Alina and her dance group… Topchubek Turgunaliev, the rector of BHU who inspired me to apply there, when he visited  school gymnasium number 5. With his opera voice and charismatic intonation, he convinced me into going to BHU…. Oh, then Boljurova, the next rector, the soft spoken pedagogue woman with strictly collected hair, like Nadezhda Krupskaya.

My student years….! How BHU is dear to me! I know it is poor, its toilets are the same dark and un-modern as they were 12 years ago…. This is what happens when it is not pricate, this is the state of PUBLIC institution…. No one’s institution.

Despite that I was in many western countries – America, Switzerland,  Hungary, France, Norway, etcetera – I hold dear my two Kyrgyz institutions – the school number 5 and Bishkek Humanities University. They represent to me state Kyrgyz institutions; they are not to soviet and not so western.

I would sit with difficulty about my exams and zachets – in these heavy big rooms. 12 years ago. I would sit in classes, hungry, looking outside through the window, for something more interesting. Outside played music of Irina Allegrova – Svadebnye Tsvety….  I would think of love, of my then sad and sweet love secret, the guy I loved desperately but did not know how to hint him, shy of making a first step coz I was a girl. I would be torn out of my not-mutual love, unable to focus on the subject of the class.

Here in BHU it is still more romantic. It is a pleasant loneliness here.

Within these years I went to America, then AUCA, then Central European University in Budapest. I studied international relations, interacted with all types of European and post soviet people, saw the culture and art and learned the world processes. I went to the place of my dream –Paris. I learned French and Hungarian, and plunged into international life, as if it were so natural and logical thing for young citizens.  I saw some did not even know about Kyrgyzstan and saw my task to let them know. Budapest changed me towards more European and more conservative style. France was shiny elegant, aromatic expensive town of stylish women and men. Then I worked as a University  teacher in AUCA till 2005 on International relations subjects.

After that  came the Tulip revolution in 2005, which I joined as part of the Kelkel youth group. After the passionate heated times of patriotism and political participation, I grew into bigger mind and vision of civic patriciaption and practiced my theories on political science.

Yet I stand now in Bishkek Humanities University – so familiar and close.  Part of my life, part of my soul, part of the country. There is no market here, no west. Everything is just like it was 12 years ago. I get peace and harmony and walk outside to participate in the real life, remembering the place which gave me education.

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London feelings

April 24, 2008

Me in Covent Garden

Everytime I go abroad, I am amazed what an incognito country Kyrgyzstan is.

I feel that now I get of the world where most people (pubic ones) know each other, and create all these never ending problems, and scandals, and protests, and revolutions, and rising prices and our president Bakiev and disputes in the Parliament…..

Suddenly I go out of that orbit, and find myself in a different world. In a world that is silently and comfortably flying in the airplane, watching movies in the plane, drinking fresh coffee, becoming a global person at one moment… Then joining the busy metro life, where people are hurrying to their destinations, running, not even looking at each other, reading newspapers, and you feel like in some hypnoses:).

In London, I find myself among these high rank lawyers, judges, human right activists, and feel fascinated by the ideal world and intellectuals. I am so proud to be part of it, and engage in it. I feel inspired, driven, full of ideas and questions… I think, ” okay, here is equality law….

All all its dimensions and cases. It is a humanly inherent thing: to protect one’s human dignity – in all sense. Then why it has some problems in many countries? Like mine… Life is not equal there, It is like Sicily of Italy. Why our migrants are not treated as humans in Russia? in other countries? It is poverty… and that is what makes them go out and search for better life, and they are stopped, robbed, humiliated, killed (in Russia), and only because they are all illegal migrants. But they have the right to live, and how can we tell that to Russia? Anyways,….

I meet different people, from countries form where I would only know from map, but not real. Fiji islands, Costa Rica, South Africa. They are all quite English speaking, in contrary of what I expected.

Then I go out to streets of London and enjoy myself. So many people from all over the world. So organized, so clean, so efficient. I feel the state. I feel everything is in place here.

I feel society is organized, there is art, museums, sportsmen running on the Tower Bridge, maps everywhere available.. I feel so nice except the grey weather.

But there is some nice shine, to which I look with my face to the Sun, and peacefully watch the people passing on the
Oxford Circus and the Tower of London. In this cold weather some people are in shirts, in shorts… It is just confusing to me… While other wear gloves and coats…Then the Tower bridge opens to let a ship go through. It is fascinating…. A moment of sigh….of waiting a miracle… Really I saw such bridge first time. I was in Budapest many times, but never there was such a bridge.

Then I come to Bishkek. Suddenly it is such a warm and sunny, mountains in the distance with snow caps, and peaceful. I feel that life became so slow. There aren’t many people running, hurrying. They are standing on bus stations, small city with calm life. But I feel I went back 1 century ago. We pay buses in cash, instead of like in London; I sit on crowded bus, and feel uncomfortable and squeezed.

They speak Kyrgyz and Russian, dressed rather light spring shirts…

They are all calm and nice, but there is something that is different from London’s busy life… Their faces…. They look too personal. To familiar, and not exotic:).

My parents in the another town hear me on the phone that I came safe and well, and no longer beg me to get married. They are happy that I am happy. With my freedom. My little nieces are happy at the souvenir picture frames. My colleague speaks on the phone and wishes me to rest. I take a long sleep and adjust to home.

I came back from … from London….to Kyrgyzstan, the pocket of the world…

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