After a week in Karakol, here we are again aboard a crazy mini bus, heading to Bishkek.
We land at Isken’s house. This student lives in roommate with Youssuf, Tamarlan and Rustam. They welcome us for a week. Isken is 23 years old, he studied in Italy, visited a little France, he speaks English, Italian and almost French as well.
For a week, we share the apartment with them.
Since the beginning of our adventures in Kyrgyzstan, we hear a lot about “woman kidnapping”. This practice is presented to us as a tradition that comes from the villages and still seems to be rife.
One of our roommates tells us how his parents met. His mother was married at the time and in love when another man decided he wanted to marry her. With some friends, he kidnapped the woman he wanted, to bring him home. This practice is officially illegal. The women can complain, call the police. But then shame would fall on her and her family and she could never get married. Finally, to refuse a kidnapping for a woman is not conceivable. Our friend’s mother, however, tried to escape her kidnapper by calling her parents for help. They told him that the man who had kidnapped her was a good party, she should stay with him.
According to our friend, these practices are extremely common, but hidden. The official figures would be false and more than sixty percent of Kyrgyz weddings would be the result of kidnapping. The reasons are various, first the tradition is still very present in the villages. At twenty-three, a young woman must be married. Some parents may therefore consider kidnapping an opportunity for their daughter. Young men may wait a little longer before getting married, but their loved ones will urge them to start a family as soon as possible. After a marriage, the woman comes to live with her husband at the parents of this one. She must then, in addition to her work if she has one, take care of the housekeeping and maintenance of the house. This is Zara’s diary, twenty-three years old, with whom we discussed the week before. Finally, a man who marries a woman must bring a substantial dowry to her family. A kidnapping makes it possible to ignore this detail. This practice is so democratized that since our arrival in Kyrgyzstan we seem to have discussed it with all the people we met. At first, we thought we were told an old tradition disappeared, unfortunately, we gradually measure the extent of this custom.
We spend a week in this happy roommate, then we rent an apartment in the city center to welcome Blaise and Anne-Laure, two friends of Elsa, who come to spend a week with us.
After a day of some regulatory visits in the city, we leave to explore the surroundings. To move when you have more bike, we use minibuses. They leave when they are full-fledged, understand that we are often stuck between a huge chapka and a mother with her newborn. Either it is a tropical heat with the heating thoroughly. Either the driver has decided to smoke on a cigarette and keep the window open … There is ice formation inside the windows. When there are no minibuses, it is very easy to carpool. We wait, hand extended on the side of the road, and we can be sure to stop a car within two minutes. Here, this practice is very common, all Kyrgyz have no car and those who share it willingly for a small compensation for gas, which remains very small.
For the new year, we planned to go to Alaa-Too, the biggest square in Bishkek. A huge stage welcomes the “pop star” of the country. Huge speakers distribute local pop music to the four corners of the square. We get closer to the stage without any difficulty, we sing, we dance, we shout … Before realizing that a circle has formed around us, people are watching us, some do not have the look very happy. We then realize that the public is as raging as during a minute of silence. At twenty-three minutes past five, the music stops, the giant screen broadcasts a message from the president. Everyone leaves his mobile phone to film this unique moment. Midnight, fireworks. Midnight five, end of the show, everyone comes home. We had already noticed that the Kyrgyz were not hardcore revelers … but we did not expect that!
Then we go for a few days on the shores of Lake Issik Kul, literally “hot lake”, since it never freezes. We went put the tips of our toes in … we must take “hot” in all relativity. Near the lake, we are staying for two days in the Gulmira guest house. She and her husband absolutely want us to taste the national drink, the Kumis. We heard a lot about this beverage … and we dreaded it a bit. Kumis is fermented horse milk. Gulmira serves us, follows the exact replica of the scene of “Bronzés ski” when they drink the toad liquor. Gulmira’s husband drinks his glass with a big swig, we are struggling to swallow one sip. My stomach contracts in all directions to try to reject the ugly drink. Our guests died of laughter in front of the show. They must make the blow to all their visitors!