Narodni Groceries, alive and well in KG.

Narodni Groceries, alive and well in KG.

Recently, my Kyrgyz language teacher launched into a few stories about the 2010 revolution. A couple of my favorites: One of the major grocery store chains here, “Народный,” was the corporate baby of the former-president’s corrupt, mafia-affiliated son. The name translates roughly into “the folk” or “the people’s,” as in “the peoples’ grocery.” This president was overthrown in a violent revolution in 2010. To put it mildly: he was corrupt. Everyone and their mothers of course knew that Народный was the president’s son’s money-laundering outfit, so during the revolution the stores were roundly ransacked (but intriguingly, to this day it’s one of the most successful chains in Bishkek. Hmmmm). In angst and haste some poor, independent grocer put a sign outside his tiny store reading “Я с Народным” (translation (sort of): “I’m with ‘Narodnu’ groceries”) instead of what he intended, “Я с народом” (“I’m with the people”) … his store was of course torn to bits. Poor guy. But an inspiring story for grammar and spelling teachers everywhere.

Her second revolution anecdote: “People went crazy with the ransacking. For example: an old lady hauled a refrigerator out of an electronics store. But she got too tired to bring it all the way home, so she asked a young man for help. He went to the closest shop, stole a hand-cart, loaded the fridge onto it, then ran away as fast as he could. Eventually he hailed a cab, strapped the fridge onto the roof, but before he could get in the cab the driver floored it and was gone.”

The moral of the story? “That’s the Kyrgyz character. So be careful who you hire for your research assistant.” Hmmmm. I take her moral with a grain of salt, since she’s angling to be said research assistant. But what I really love about this story is that it’s the modern version of ancient Kyrgyz fairy tales, all of which involve crafty characters, cunning plans, and highly ambiguous moral outcomes. I see history in the making here.

And to close out some details from the last post(s): New Year’s was a massive ordeal, spread over 6 hours of partying that included tons of vodka, eating cold goat meat with cups of melted fat at 4 in the morning, and me being forced to sing solos of Kyrgyz pop songs like a grumpy trained monkey. Auspicious start to the new year?

The host family, in front of some Russian-induced Christmas pageantry.

The host family, in front of some Russian-induced Christmas pageantry.

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