Thursday, February 28, 2008

Samsy (more quick and cheap eats)

Samsy are the Central Asian version of Indian samosas. They are not nearly as spicy as their Indian cousins, however. They come stuffed with a choice of lamb, chicken, cheese or mushrooms. I usually get the chicken ones. At 15 som a piece they are undoubtedly the cheapest prepared food available in Bishkek. This morning I ate two while walking to work in the rain.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How do I get less lecturing and more learning in my classes?

On Friday the Chairman of the AUCA Board of Trustees, William Newton-Smith gave a talk on "The Idea of the University" here. One of the things he stressed is that there should be "less lecturing and more learning." I agree with him and would love it if I could find a way to practically implement this goal. One of the recurring problems I have found teaching is getting students to actively engage in class discussion. When they do speak they inevitably ask good questions or make pertinent comments. The problem is that not enough students do this often enough. So I find myself lecturing when I think the students would actually learn more if instead I facilitated a discussion between us. Now one of the problems may be that English is not the native language of any of my students. But, I think there is more going on here. Any comments or suggestions on this matter would be most welcome.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Citation Bibliography Update

I have been updating the list of academic works that cite my writing during the last two days. The list is now up to 90 works of which 45 are books and 45 are journal articles and book chapters in collections. Most are in English, however, the list includes four works in German, three in Russian and one in Italian. Many of the citations are quite recent. A full eight of them are from 2007 and twelve from 2006. My first book is now over ten years old and still being cited in the literature.

Gril' (more fast food in Bishkek)

This is the second entry in my series on fast food in Bishkek. All over Bishkek there are stands selling gril' or whole rotisserie chickens grilled over open flames. The chickens are marinated in some sort of spice mixture and sold with a remoulade sauce and lavash. The latter being a tortilla like bread that soaks up a lot of the greasy juice from the chicken. Since they only serve gril' in units of whole chickens I did not eat my first one until yesterday. I can not eat a whole chicken by myself. But, last night my girlfriend and I ate one together. It was quite tasty, but really heavy on the grease.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Grim Anniversary Tomorrow

Tomorrow is Red Army Day and an official holiday here in Kyrgyzstan where it is called Homeland Defenders' Day. It is also the 64th anniversary of the deportation of the Chechens and Ingush from their homeland in the Caucasus to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. I wrote a fairly detailed piece on Stalin's ethnic cleansing of the Chechens and Ingush last year. There are still Chechen communities here in Kyrgyzstan that can trace their origins back to this tragic event.

Deaf people in Bishkek

No this post is not about me personally. But, I do prefer the term deaf or more accurately partially deaf to hearing impaired. Rather this post is about the fact that I have seen more people talking in sign language in Bishkek than in any other city I have ever visited. I see people communicating in sign language here almost daily. It seems to me there must be some reason why Bishkek has such a high percentage of deaf people. If anybody has any information regarding this matter I would really appreciate it if you left a comment.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Well that did not last long

It is now snowing again. Looking out the window I see that the snow fall is pretty heavy. I knew the warm weather was too good to last very long.

Radical weather changes

In the last couple of days the weather here in Bishkek has undergone some radical changes. It is no longer freezing cold and the snow has all melted. On top of that it is now raining. The result is the formation of huge muddy puddles covering the sidewalks of Abdrakhmanov (Sovetskaia) Street. The warmer and wetter weather, however, is a welcome relief from the Arctic like climate of the previous weeks.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


The most common fast food in Bishkek is the gamburger. It is actually a form of donner kebab rather than a hamburger. The main difference is that the gamburger is served on a kaiser roll rather than in a pita pocket. A minor difference is that it is served with ketchup and mayonaise rather than with chili sauce and garlic sauce. Another minor difference is that they usually put french fries inside the roll along with the meat, sauce and salad. There are gamburger kiosks all over the city. Most places charge 30 som each. I had two for lunch today. They taste pretty good.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Power Outages in Bishkek

We have been having frequent power outages in Bishkek recently. Yesterday, the electricity at work went out. This morning the electricity was out in my flat. It still had not come back on by the time I left for work. I noticed that all of the electricity along Abdrakhmanov (Sovetskaia) between Gorky and Chui was out. I am not sure how much further the outage extended. Fortunately, I have lived in Sacramento and Arivaca so I am used to living for prolonged periods without electricity. Other people may find it more difficult to adapt to the the lack of light and other electrical services.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Birthday Arizona or Love Letter to the Homeland

Today is Arizona Statehood Day. Ninety six years ago Arizona became the 48th state in the USA. Today is also Valentine's Day, a day traditionally associated with expressions of love. Since I can not be in Arizona today I am expressing my love for my adopted state in this blog post. I hope the people of Arivaca all enjoy the holiday.

Friday, February 08, 2008

More Orange Flavored Chocolate from Mars

The other day I found another orange flavored chocolate product from Mars in Ramstor, a large grocery store near my new apartment off of Abdrakhmanov (formerly Sovetskaia) Street. For 64 som I purchased a fairly large box of orange flavored Twixels. These are small Twix bars. Like the orange flavored M&Ms they appear to be manufactured by Mars only for the Russian speaking market. I have never seen them in the US.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Volga German Settlements in Turkmenistan

This came up in my Political History of the USSR class this week and I had to look it up. The first German settlements in the Transcaspian region of the Russian Empire were founded in 1892. Some 50 families from the Volga established the villages of Krestov (near Sarakhs) and Saratov (near Ashgabat) at this time (Krieger, p. 14). In 1904 villagers from the Saratov settlement founded Kozelkov in the region of Bairam-Ali near Merv. Following this move, difficult economic and climatic conditions led to the dissolution of the original Transcaspian Saratov colony (Krieger, p. 85). The 1926 Soviet census counted 1,276 Germans in Turkmenistan of which 595 lived in the rural areas of Merv Okrug concentrated mostly in the villages of Kozelkov and Krestov and another 296 lived in the Turkmen capitol of Ashgabat (Krieger, p. 101). Much larger German populations lived in other areas of Central Asia including 4,291 in Kyrgyzstan, 4,646 in Uzbekistan and 51,102 in Kazakhstan. By 1939 the German population of Turkmenistan had grown to 3,346 versus 2,022 for Tajikistan, 10,049 for Uzbekistan, 11,741 for Kyrgyzstan and 92,571 for Kazakhstan (Krieger, table 1, p. 133). As can be seen from the census figures the German population in Turkmenistan remained quite small compared to the settlements in the northern regions of Central Asia.

Source: Viktor Krieger, Rein, Volga, Irtysh: Iz Istorii Nemtsev Tsentral'noi Azii (Almaty: Daik-Press, 2006).

Saturday, February 02, 2008

New Link

I am adding Kristina Gray's Kazakhnomad's Weblog to my blogroll. You might remember that she and her husband Ken came to visit me here in Bishkek. She gave a guest lecture on the Ukrainian Holodomor to my Russian Politics class. Kristina and Ken currently live and work in Almaty Kazakhstan.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Kyrgyzstan Now Has Coins

The other day I got my first sixteen som in loose change. The cashier gave me back two five som coins and two three som coins. I do not think I have ever seen a bill or coin in the denomination of three before.