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Ned Meyer: I am vegetarian and this is my biggest problem in Kyrgyzstan

A Sociology Professor Ned Meyer came to Kyrgyzstan in 2004-2005 through university exchange between the University of Kentucky and the Kyrgyz National University.

I just knew that Kyrgyzstan was a former Soviet country that was spelled funny. The strangely spelled country that was a part of the former Soviet Union. I knew little about it, but I know geography quite well. Yes, I did research it before coming here.

Ned Meyer

— Why the spelling was interesting for you?

— It is very different: K-Y-R- G-Y-Z-S-T-A-N. People do not know how to say it.

— Why did you decide to stay here?

— Because it so different from America. And I needed a change in life as often happens when someone reaches the age of 40, and I also grew up in the state of Colorado, which looks very similar to Kyrgyzstan with the mountains. I love the mountains. I love the natural beauty.

I have made a lot of friends here, and have always felt very comfortable and at home.

Ned Meyer

If I did not make friends, I would not have stayed.

— What surprised you in Bishkek and Kyrgyzstan when you came here for the first time?

— Oh, it is so different. Everything from the Cyrillic alphabet to, you know, I can not really explain it other than it is opposite from America. I do not even know what surprised. It was more just so strange, so different. There is not one thing....

— What was the very first thing that impressed, surprised you in Kyrgyzstan?

— Your mountains. No question, it is just the mountains.

— There are mountains in Colorado, are they different?

— Yes, there are. But you have one of the biggest mountains in the world.

— Do you like to go to the mountains?

— I go to the mountains by car, go walking and hiking. I can not ski. I do not have good knees, so I can not.

— What in Bishkek and Kyrgyzstan reminds you of your hometown?

— Not much. I mean, now you are becoming more a sort of ‘westernized’. The mountains remind me, because I lived in two states Colorado and Kentucky. But there is not anything that reminds me of Kentucky, except for the horse culture, horse racing industry. But culturally, no.

— Do you like our culture?

— Here is my biggest problem with Kyrgyzstan and culture: I am vegetarian. You do not have many vegetarians in Kyrgyzstan. It is my biggest problem.

— What national dishes do you like?

— I am a vegetarian. I like manty with pumpkin. I am, it seems, the one vegetarian in Kyrgyzstan. I would like to be invited to a Kyrgyz feast. It is interesting, but I do not like vodka. I do not drink vodka or cognac.

— But we have a vegetarian plov, for example...

— The problem I have is that you sometimes do not understand vegetarian, so there is broth made of meat. People do not understand, so I am a strict vegetarian. I cook myself.

— What do you miss in Bishkek or in Kyrgyzstan?

— I miss American bad, what is called, junk food, like chips, certain snacks. I miss my friends yes; it is just personal. But if someone is an expat, it is not about missing friends and family. We can keep those emotions down.

— What is your favorite place in Bishkek?

— It is Erkindik boulevard. It is peaceful, nice, especially in the autumn.

— What is your favorite place in Kyrgyzstan?

— It is Ala-Archa national park, may be. I mean it is close, just go into the mountains. I do not have any favorite place. I can not travel like I used to because of health problems.

— What has fascinated you in close acquaintance with the local population?

— It is hospitality. People being hospitable, friendly, welcoming.

— What has disappointed you?

— The people buying too many cars. It is traffic, people needing to buy a machine. I do not like it. Traffic jams.

Everyone wants to have a car, there are too many cars.

Ned Meyer

I am worried about the air in Bishkek.

— How long are you going to stay in Kyrgyzstan?

— I do not know. I am ok here.