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Amina Ahmed about Kyrgyzstan: I am lucky to be able to call this country home

Amina Ahmed is a native of Kandahar city,  Afghanistan. The girl arrived in Kyrgyzstan in 2018. After graduating from high school in her homeland, she was looking for an opportunity to pursue her higher education somewhere abroad and found out about the U.S. Embassy-Kabul scholarship program for AUCA.

I applied in May 2018 and luckily, I got selected as a finalist. I arrived in Bishkek in October 2018 to start my exciting journey as part of the University’s prep program of NGA (New Generation Academy) at AUCA!

Amina Ahmed

— What struck you first in Bishkek?

-I have always loved nature for its ornate ability to transport the individual into a world of tranquility and transparency; the chaos of the day is easily dispelled by nature and fortunately Bishkek has this in abundance.

The very first thing I noticed about this city was that, despite being such a small city, it has many parks — each with their own characteristic which allows individuals to find their favorite because they mirror the human mind in their own special ways.

Amina Ahmed

The number of trees around the city is fascinating; the metropolis can be easily ignored and often I wander the various city walks without realizing the motion of everyday life. Nature is truly breathtaking and we need to preserve it. It just makes the environment and the city much more pleasant and beautiful. I was also struck by the fact that there is an abundance of eateries on every street — perfect for getting the energy to continue walking and exploring the beautiful city!

— What surprised you in an unpleasant way, let’s say so?

-I love many things about Bishkek. I wouldn’t say anything has disappointed me here so far, fortunately, however, I am not really a fan of the public transportation here. The mashrutkas are always overcrowded, which certainly bothers me. I prefer to walk to closer places or take a taxi, if I am in a hurry. Besides, it’s better for the environment too.

— What is your favorite place in Bishkek?

— My favorite place in Bishkek first of all is of course AUCA! It’s a great university and provides me not only intellectual stimuli on a daily basis but also emotive stimuli; the backdrop is stunning and the university itself acts as a seabed where I can anchor all my hopes and dreams. After AUCA itself my favorite place is, probably, Toktogul Street in downtown Bishkek. It is located in a perfect location and is surrounded by my favorite restaurant chains. I go there so often with my friends, or I used to go there before the quarantine struck, because the charm of the area is undeniable; it echoes some old European town from the movies. The architecture, greenery and establishments combine to create a part of Bishkek that will always have my heart — I love it!

— What national dishes do you like?

-There are many dishes I really like from Kyrgyz cuisine, but plov and lagman are my favorites. The Kyrgyz plov is pretty much similar to Afghan plov which I grew up eating; probably why I really like it! It’s interesting how as humans we can travel the world and experiment with food until there’s nothing left to experiment with, but we are always drawn back to the tastes of our childhood. There are some variations between Afghan plov and it just tastes almost like Afghan plov without raisins!

— Are there any dishes that you are afraid to eat?

— I’m afraid to try horse meat which is pretty common around here. When I first heard that the locals eat horse meat, I was shocked! I wouldn’t want to try even when I have the chance mainly because I love horses and I don’t want to eat them.

— Where else, besides Bishkek, have you been to Kyrgyzstan?

— I came here in October 2018 and it’s been almost 17 months now since I arrived in this beautiful city. Besides Bishkek, I have been twice to Issyk — Kul last spring and summer.

It’s probably my favorite vacation spot in Kyrgyzstan — the lake is stunning and the mountains even more so; every angle is a postcard view and I’m lucky to be able to call this country home.

Amina Ahmed

— What would you like to change in the capital of Kyrgyzstan and why?

— If I am given the opportunity to change something in Kyrgyzstan, that would probably only be the transportation system. I would try to make it better by introducing many bus routes and stopping mashrutkas being used for public transport.

— What do you like when dealing with local residents, and what disappointed you?

— I like the fact that some local people at the shops or taxis get very excited when I speak to them and they come off very warm. However, the fact that most locals do not understand English sometimes disappoints me because my Russian is not as good as I want it to be, and most often I can’t convey my ideas well enough to the locals; they don’t understand English.