Ladies and gentleman, the Nomadic Theatre welcomes you to the premiere of Kyrgyz Days and Nights in four acts! Make yourselves comfortable and turn off your phones.
Osh, Islamic-Kyrgyz youth hostel
They flaked out.
As a matter of fact, it’s a good thing that they found the strength and motivation to even go out after the strenuous journey through Uzbekistan! Piotrek says it’s homey and his town looked exactly the same 15 years ago. On every corner there are second-hand shops and dumplings, they even have an animal market every week. Hania says she’s never seen an animal market back in Poland, so it’s exotic enough.
They’d happily down a beer or two, but the hostel policy says no. Therefore, without downing a beer or two, having flaked out, they remain in this position until the next morning.
Jalal-Abad, Catholic missionary house
It has been the most hard-working Christmas eve of their lives. For the last two weeks they’ve lived with Polish and Kazakh missionaries, helping out in their everyday life, which consisted of helping out in the everyday life of the local needy. And these were aplenty.
On that day, just after padre Adam had finished the morning holy mass and had fried a tower of pancakes for the parishioners, 15 Indians came wrapped in sari and wearing sandals, asking for a mass. The Indians always came to attend a mass when there was none. The Indians always came in sari and sandals just as if the Kyrgyz weather conditions in December didn’t apply to them.
Having adorned the many Christmas trees and having wrapped dozens of gifts, Piotr got down to preparing heaps of dumplings to go with the previously cooked borsch, Hania got down to baking ginger cake and then they both got down to negotiating with Witalik and Kola, the most frequent visitors of the mission. The gentlemen in very Christmassy moods with grins revealing their depressive dentition were very eager to start celebrating early. Witalik’s level of intoxication was best recognized by the fact that when drunk, he would start doing push-ups to prove his sobriety. Kola’s level of intoxication was best recognized by the depth of his philosophical disquisition that he would share with us half in Russian, half in Kyrgyz.
The visitors who followed brought more joy: reinforcements incarnated as Svieta, Nadia and Luda came carrying boxes of tangerines and candies. The girls knuckled down to laying the tables rearranged previously by Piotr and padre Adam. All in all, there was a Christmas eve for 60 people to prepare.
The door to the tiny chapel barely closed. Hania, making her debut as an organist, intoned Silent Night, having learned the first two lines by heart in Russian. Piotr sneaked away a bit before the end to rock as a Santa Claus, having mastered the question in Russian whether the kid had been good and if they could tell us a rhyme.
After the whole party reassembled, Piotr removed his fake beard, padre Adam finished the washing-up and Hania ate up the dumplings. A few minutes before midnight, padre Josef came back from his tour-de-villages scattered around south Kyrgyzstan. It was then when they saw him eat something by the table for the first time. Merry Christmas!
The interior of the missionary Ford Pajero. Out the window – mountains, gorges, valleys and lakes.
Can anyone believe that the capital and the second biggest city have no public transport connection? This is not a country for people without private vehicles. Had the ride not hitched them, our backpackers would have finished this act with sore, red and cold noses. Instead, they may stick those noses against the window and admire the route leading them through 3,000 m high passes and gaze at the sun setting over one of the alpine lakes.
Taalai’s birthday party in Bishkek
They entered the apartment which revealed all possible symptoms of sheep slaughter. Sacrificing a sheep is a mandatory element of every bigger event in Kyrgyzstan and you need a master of ceremonies not to commit a faux pas. You cannot just cut the animal up and put on the table. Each part has a particular meaning and is dedicated to a specific person. That’s why the birthday man gets the thigh, Piotr, as a male foreign guest no. 1, gets the cannon bone. Hania, as a female foreign vegetarian, gets the blade bone.
The daughter of the host is responsible for filling all the tea bowls, as letting the guests serve themselves is a terrible dishonour. The birthday man is fortunate to be the oldest one of the whole party, and it is indeed luck, as nobody can dispute what he says. The words of the elder are tantamount to law. Thus, Talaai may bluntly tell his brother-in-law how he should live his life and why not the way he’s currently living it and the brother-in-law is obliged to gratefully accept this wisdom without the right to defence.
And what do you do in Kyrgyzstan after a party? We’ll soon find out…