First Week in Balykchy

It’s been just a week since we’ve arrived but it feels like at least a month.  So much has happened we probably could have written a blogpost every day but for now a brief summary will suffice.  Since the first moment here, Taylor and I have felt incredibly welcomed.  The family is terrific, the house is nice by American standards and amazing by Kyrgyz standards, we’re figuring things out at work and Balykchy is much nicer than we expected.

Our family speaks quite a bit of English, especially our grandmother and little brothers.  Jason, the previous volunteer that lived here, told us Grandma had been studying here dictionary to brush up on her English for us.  They’ve told us many stories and our conversations are mixed between English and Kyrgyz.  It’s certainly not the ‘total immersion’ method of learning but I hope for us it will prove to be a great way to improve our language.

Taylor helping the family make strawberry jam
Taylor helping the family make strawberry jam

Eric helps tie the sheep's legs together
Eric helps tie the sheep’s legs together

Our family, mostly Aziza Eje, makes awesome food.  We’ve had many of the classic Kyrgyz dishes but they are generally spicier then elsewhere which is great. On our third day we slaughtered a sheep (detailed post coming on that for sure) which was really interesting. That day we had Besh Parmack which is the national dish.  Generally it’s not my favorite but this was actually pretty good.  I mentioned I liked ribs so lamb ribs found their way on my plate.  We also had a sausage made from the heart, liver and onions as well as a crazy dish made from intestines wrapped around slices of the stomach and lungs, both were much tastier than I expected.

Taylor working on some chicken parmesan for dinner in the winter kitchen
Taylor working on some chicken parmesan for dinner in the winter kitchen
Site-mate Jake visits
Site-mate Jake visits

Work is interesting and I’ve mostly spent the first week getting to know all three offices and my counterparts.  NGO Danko is my primary organization and we’re discussing a photography class I could start and maybe some basic website building.  This is the organization I knew the least about before we came here and I’m really excited about the possibilities.  It’s a small NGO and I should have a lot of input on the direction we go. NGO AVEP is the organization the previous volunteer worked at.  They’re very advanced and I’ll be picking spots to help.  They focus mostly on vocational education, especially agricultural and tourism related topics.  I will learn a ton from working with them and should have opportunities to travel around Issyk Kul & Naryn oblasts.  Lastly, the Tourism Information Center is an off-shoot of NGO AVEP.  It’s a very small and young organization that needs a lot of help to figure out their role in this growing industry.  We haven’t had many discussions yet but I’m excited to see what we can do there.

Awesome sky on one of our many evening walks
Awesome sky on one of our many evening walks
One of the public (uglier I hear) beaches in Balykchy
One of the public (uglier I hear) beaches in Balykchy

Balykchy itself is really interesting.  Taylor and I have been taking walks every day and are finding many interesting spots.  The city gets a really bad reputation that I think is pretty undeserved.  There are parts that are ugly, especially from the main road but immediately upon arriving we were pleasantly surprised by how nice a lot of things were.  Located on the lake (a huge lake) it has several beaches that look nice.  The mix of the beautiful lake, abandoned factories and snow-capped mountains make it a uniquely beautiful place.  We’ll definitely have a long (likely several) posts coming up as we explore more.

That’s it for now!

The son of a family friend that comes over often
The son of a family friend that comes over often

One Reply to “First Week in Balykchy”

  1. Sounds like you are settling in nicely. You are so much braver than I would be regarding the food. I love to eat, but am no where near as adventurous as you two are! Makes me wonder if Burgerville will have the same appeal when you get home!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *