Toktogul – The Kyrgyz Language

It still looks so Russia It is the first chance for me to get acquainted with one of the Turkic languages. Kyrgyz, as well as Kazakh, Uzbek, Turkmen, Turkish, and Mongol are Turkic languages. The first five are quite close each other, but Mongol is completely intelligible to other Central Asian Turkic speakers. Some linguists put Korean and Japanese in the Turkic language group, due to similarity of word order and agglutinative verbs. But newer linguistic classification, as what I believe, has thrown away the two Oriental languages out of the group. Before getting confused, please notice the difference between ‘Turkic’ and ‘Turkish’. The Turkic languages family is a group of languages with similarities of grammar and word forms, which includes Turkish and most of Central Asian languages. Books for learning Kyrgyz in English language are quite difficult to find even in Kyrgyzstan, and I was lucky that I met two Peace Corps volunteers who lent me the grammar book. For me, Turkic language experience was very fascinating, full of formulas, and I read 100 pages of grammar rules in 2 nights, and used to wake up full of linguistic formulas in my head. The Turkish languages have similar word [...]

November 14, 2006 // 0 Comments

Toktogul – An Old Friend from Toktogul

The school children of Toktogul Her name is Manapova Satkynbu, but everybody in Toktogul knows her as Satina or, more properly, Satina Eje (‘eje’ in Kyrgyz means elder sister). She is 53 years old and she is one of the village’s most famous teachers. I met Satina in my previous visit to Toktogul in 2004 in a very accidental encounter. Satina then invited me to stay in her house, where she stayed together with her only son, Maksat. I spent nice days in the quiet village with the family and two American volunteers, Rosa Bowman and Jason. This time, after two years and a half passed, I come again as a visiting friend. I arrived in Toktogul after a grueling journey from Osh, in four different public transports. The drunk woman of Toktogul Life in Toktogul has not change too much. I was lost though, as I completely don’t know any direction here. Today is Sunday and the village is completely deserted. Frustration of life can be observed from Kyrgyz’s most common scene: a drunken old lady lies down on ground next to the main street, after some bottles of vodka. She sleeps like Indian homeless, peacefully. I thought she [...]

November 13, 2006 // 0 Comments

Osh – Goodbye Tajikistan

Finally… the truck. And a new country Maybe it was because of the falling stars. When I woke up very early, about 7, as I couldn’t sleep at all the whole night, I saw two trucks were having custom check in Khurshid’s border post. These were trucks owned by Kyrgyz drivers from Kyrgyzstan. My Kyrgyz host helped me with a negotiation (‘chakchak’ in Tajik) with the drivers, and they agreed to take me as far as Sary Tash for 20 Somoni. Sary Tash would be the first Kyrgyzstan city to be approached from here. I was not the only passengers of the trucks. There was already an old Kyrgyz man with his family. The trucks were taking sheep and yaks. The drivers didn’t have document to transport these animals to Kyrgyzstan, so the numerous checkpoints along the road had to be really fuelled by money to smooth up the way. This is the way the business done. Tajikistan’s Pamir region is famous of its animal products, raised by the Kyrgyz and Pamiri Tajik herders. Animals are brought from the mountain areas in GBAO to the bazaar city of Osh in south Kyrgyzstan, where they may gain profit. Then to return [...]

November 4, 2006 // 0 Comments

Kara Kul – Get Me Outta Here!!!

It;s beautiful. It’s surreal. But I wanna leave! I really regretted to refuse yesterday’s offer to take the truck lift to Kyrgyzstan. My Tajik visa is going to expire tomorrow (November 4) and I just found on Fridays (like today), transport is extremely difficult. The day is very cold and windy. I have to stand next to the main road, waiting for any vehicles. The first truck passes at 12 and it was full of passengers. The next two hours there was no vehicle at all passing the highway. Khurshid takes me to local stalovaya (canteen) and asks the girl to give me the best food. Khurshid promises to treat me, ‘a poor spion (spy) without money who has to travel on trucks’. I asked how much. The girl said, “Beker! Beker!” I jumped as I was surprised. This happened to be a fatal language misunderstanding. In Tajik Persian, the language which I understand, it means ‘no penis’. I explained to the girl that I had, but she only speaks Kyrgyz, and doesn’t understand my Tajik. Later I understood that it means ‘free of charge’ or ‘no cost’ in Kyrgyz. Khurshid laughed and ridiculed me, “I paid already with my [...]

November 3, 2006 // 0 Comments

Karakul – the Giant Death Lake

The giant death lake of Kara Kul. Karakul in Kyrgyz language means ‘black lake’. The lake itself is not black. In fact, this huge water body was deep blue when the sky is friendly, and turns to be grey when the sun chooses to hide behind the clouds. But the life is as dark as its name. There is no life at all in this huge lake. The lake has high concentration of salt. But despite of the salt, the lake also freezes in winter. The village next to the lake, bears the same name, is a Kyrgyz settlement with only one Tajik man inhabitant – a policeman. I was supposed to stay with the Tajik policeman, as it’s the only chance for me to communicate with my Persian knowledge. But when I arrived there, the Tajik man had left to Khorog. I stayed with a Kyrgyz family, an Acted-arranged guest house. They don’t speak Tajik, but the husband know little bit and can sing the national anthem proudly, “Zindabosh e vatan Tajikistan e azadi man (Long Live o Fatherland, My Free Tajikistan!)” He didn’t understand the meaning of the proud anthem though. Tildahan, the wife, is a young woman, [...]

November 2, 2006 // 0 Comments

Murghab – Life in Murghab

A morning greetings from Murghab Murgab (Murghab) was promising when it was built. It was a new Russian settlement built as frontier city of Pamir. The highway connecting the isolated mountains to the lowland towns was supposed to bring wealth to the nomadic community. Life had changed ever since. A town was built on the top of mountains. People were educated. Frontier military checkpoints were enforced. But how is life now, after Tajikistan gained independence from the USSR and civil war took place in the new country? The hope of the future had turned to be a bad fate. I had got a chance to know Gulnara, a 54 year old woman working as a primary school teacher in Murgab. Gulnara is the younger sister of Khalifa Yodgor from Langar. But the last time she saw him was 2 years ago. “It is too expensive to go there,” said her. Langar is not too far from Murgab. It is around 250 km only, but the public transport there is very rare and expensive. At present, Murghab-Langar cost 50 Somoni/pax. Gulnara’s salary is only 80 Somoni per month. She hardly manages to feed her family with that money, needless to say [...]

October 31, 2006 // 0 Comments

Alichur – Kyrgyz Community

The steppe of Alichur Actually I planned to stay for some more days in Langar, but I have heard that the transport onward to Murghab would be very difficult to get. This was caused by the high oil price, so people couldnt afford anymore to travel, and instead of going to smaller and hopeless Murghab they opted to bigger Khorog. Suddenly, even when I was not prepared yet, there was a passenger jeep going to Murghab on 27th. The khalifa told me if I didnt take this car, the next transport might be a month after. I had no choice but to leave Langar. The road continued to east along the river bordering Afghanistan. Afghanistan on that side of the river had no more motorable road as it already entered the Big Pamir area. Sometimes caravans of Bactrian camels were visible along the dirt road on that side of the river, while we were travelling in a russian jeep. World differed more than a century in the two sides of the river, which was very shallow and narrow in winter. It should be very easy to cross the border illegally here. The camel caravan must be the Afghan (Pashtun) traders [...]

October 28, 2006 // 0 Comments

Dushanbe – Tajikistan, First Impression

Just across the river border, even the grilled meat looks very different, despite of the same name, kabab. Oh, it also gets a Russian name here, sashlik. Before actually physically stepped on the country, I had heard, and seen Tajikistan when I was still in Afghanistan. It is the country idolized by many people in the Badakhshan province. It is the country of freedom, flourished by goods, electricity, and public services. It is the country where women can walk on the streets freely without fear of not covering properly. Now, I am in Tajikistan, seeing and experiencing what man of the northern rural Afghans dreaming about. But for me, Tajikistan is not about dream. According to a reference, the average salary of the people in the country was only 61.81 Somoni (US$ 19.93/month, 2005) and average pension was as low as 16.92 Somoni (US$ 5.23/month, 2005). Life cost is not cheap at all, at least in Dushanbe, compared to the low income statistics. Long distance transport was incredibly expensive, comparable to Afghanistan, as oil costs almost 1 US$ per litre. 93% of Tajikistan’s land is mountains, making it only 7% inhabited and potential for agriculture. It has distinctive four seasons [...]

October 8, 2006 // 0 Comments

Noraseri – Urdu for Dummies

Urdu is written in nastaliq style of Arabic script March 20, 2006 Urdu, the national language of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is quite an interesting language to learn, for linguists or anybody else who is curious about the culture of the Sub-continent. You are forgiven if you don’t know that the language is closely related to the national language of its biggest neighbor enemy, Hindi from Hindustan (India). Indeed, the physical form of both languages are completely different, Hindi is written in Sanskrit Devnagari script while Urdu is written in Perso-Arabic script, or Arabic script written in nashtaliq style which was developed in Persia. But the sound of Urdu and Hindi are more and less the same. In fact, in most conversations it was difficult to detect whether someone is a Pakistani speaking Urdu or a Northern Indian speaking Hindi, except when the Pakistani use more Arabic borrowed words and the Indian use the Sanskrit ancient words. The relation between the two languages is even closer than Malaysian and Indonesian, where the accents of the two dialects are quite obviously different. In other side, Urdu and Hindi relation is also comparable to Malaysian and Indonesian, as Malaysian derived more [...]

March 20, 2006 // 0 Comments