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Teacher from Turkey could not fall in love with Bishkek and is glad to leave

An English teacher Halil Umit Helvacı came to Kyrgyzstan four years ago. He is from Izmir city in Turkey and goes home each July. He has parents and an older brother there. It was the brother who advised Umit to become a teacher. Umit Helvacı came to Bishkek through an exchange program and started working at the Kyrgyz-Turkish Manas University, where he teaches English to students.

«I like my work, it is interesting. In general, I live comfortable life in Kyrgyzstan. Prices are low and the people are mostly friendly. But I really miss Izmir, my parents, my brother. My contract comes to an end this year, and I will return to my native Turkey,» Umit told joyfully.

Umit Helvacı told 24.kg news agency why Kyrgyzstan did not become a home for him for four years.

— What surprised you the most in Bishkek when you arrived?

— It took me about a year to get used to Bishkek’s lifestyle, sound of the Kyrgyz language, and the people. I learned Kyrgyz quite quickly. It is 40 percent similar to Turkish. I also mastered Russian, but not perfectly. My ex-girlfriend was a Slav. So I know a few common phrases.

I can keep a conversation in Russian, but only at a simple level. I can not quote Dostoevsky.

Umit Helvacı

You asked what surprised me. My answer is architecture. When I came to the city center, and this happened right after I left Manas airport, I saw many one-story buildings that have probably survived from Soviet times. The capital of Kyrgyzstan is similar to Turkish cities. I was also surprised that you have so many trees. It is like a real forest. And I really liked it.

— You, probably, have many favorite places in Bishkek. Name two or three, please.

— These are parks, Erkindik boulevard. I love walking there. I was also pleasantly surprised that you have a lot of Turkish cafes. I enjoy going there, meeting with friends, drinking coffee. It’s like a piece of my homeland.

— You have, for sure, traveled all over the country for four years. What impressed you the most?

— I really liked the mountains. I have learned to snowboard. I was on Issyk-Kul, Son-Kul lakes. Nature is beautiful, not damaged by humans. But Issyk-Kul left me indifferent. This is not the sea.

— Do you miss the sea?

-Yes, I miss it very much. The sea is open space, it is power, strength. I also miss seafood.

Fish is almost not eaten in Kyrgyzstan. People eat mostly meat with meat.

Umit Helvacı

— Is there something in the national cuisine that you are afraid to try and what can you call your favorite dish?

— I’m adventurous eater. There is nothing that can scare me. If I am treated to something, I will eat it. I even eat pig’s ears. And I consider all these religious prohibitions as unnecessary prejudices and remnants.

God does not care what we eat. The main thing is how much we believe.

Umit Helvacı

My favorite dishes are shashlyk and manty. I also like soup, but I don’t remember its name. There is a piece of meat, one large potato and chopped carrots in it.

— What has fascinated you in acquaintance with the locals? Do you have many friends here?

— Yes, I have enough friends. Most of them are my compatriots, but there are also Kyrgyz. They are very nice people, friendly and open.

There are exceptions, of course. I noticed that people here do not like the Turks, and I came across aggression.

Umit Helvacı
Quarrels did not develop into a scuffle. I tried to explain that a person was wrong and should not hurt me. I’m not doing anything bad to anyone. But I mostly meet good people.

— What else did you not like?

— Dirty streets. I myself saw young boys and girls throwing garbage out of car windows. It is very ugly. They also walk and spit. Why do you make the place where you live dirty?

I do not understand it. You also have a strange way of driving. Sometimes, taxi drivers scare me by their maneuvers on the roads. Kyrgyzstan is a very beautiful country with hospitable people, but Bishkek never became my home.