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Jeremy Lonjon: Passion for Kyrgyzstan is contagious. My friends are moving here

Сourtesy of Jeremy Lonjon
Photo Сourtesy of Jeremy Lonjon
Jeremy Lonjon was born in Strasbourg, France. He studied international relations in France and in Moscow. After the studies, he had different jobs, but nothing stable. In 2016 the online newspaper (www.novastan.org) was looking for a French editor-in-chief ready to work in Bishkek.

«I have always been interested in Central Asia. This was my profile discipline at the university. And it’s still my passion today. I can’t explain how it all began,» the journalist said.

Anyway, back in August 2016, the choice I had was between long-term unemployment in France and a possibly wonderful experience in a region that fascinates me. I collected some money during the summer and I took a plane to Bishkek.

Jeremy Lonjon

After a year of living in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, he shared his impressions.

— What surprises you in Bishkek?

To me, Bishkek is a city where nothing seems to work correctly. But, somehow, it is working. And that’s surprising to me. I was used to «Soviet» cities after living in Russia for a year. But I believe that people are more hospitable here, somehow nicer than in Moscow for example. I am amazed by public transportation in Bichkek. It seems completely random at first. But it’s actually really practical. The beautiful landscapes of Kyrgyzstan surprised me as well. I saw some pictures before coming, I read a few books about the country. But it’s always astonishing when you see it in real life for the first time.

Сourtesy of Jeremy Lonjon
Photo Сourtesy of Jeremy Lonjon

Perhaps, the biggest surprise is that I was just thinking of staying here for a few months at first. Now, I don’t even plan to come back to France.

Jeremy Lonjon

— Is there anything in common between Strasbourg and Bishkek?

Strasbourg and Bishkek are very, very different. Mentalities, architecture, way of life... Apart from the young generation, people from both cities are really different. But it’s a really good thing for me. I live between 2 different worlds. It is good for the mind, for the spirit. It enriches your everyday life.

Сourtesy of Jeremy Lonjon
Photo Сourtesy of Jeremy Lonjon

— What do you miss in Bishkek?

From France, I sometimes miss food: good wine and good cheese. I know it might sound snobbish, but I don’t think there is a place outside of France where you can find cheese and wine that are so good, with great quality and affordable price. Of course, I miss my family and my friends back there. But my arrival in Kyrgyzstan was a way to make new friends. And I guess that my passion for the region is contagious since more and more of my friends and family in Europe plan to come here and visit.

Oh, and I also miss reading books in French language! It forces me to practice Russian and read Aitmatov in its original version for example. So it’s probably a good thing after all...

Jeremy Lonjon

— What do you like about Bishkek?

The city centre is nice, of course. I like to walk around for a while before taking a bus or a marshrutka home. But I have to say that I really like the microrayons in the South. Even if I am moving every 6 months to another apartment, I really liked living there and spending time there.

One can say that I am a Southern «Bichkekchanin». I love the Victory Park next to Yuzhnaya Vorota: it’s wide and quiet, very green and peaceful. I always feel good when I am there, walking, sitting next to the canal and drinking shoro (which I learned to like even if I hated it in the beginning) or enjoying a good book.

Jeremy Lonjon

— What dishes of national cuisine did you like?

Lagman and plov are my favorite dishes. Actually, there is nothing I don’t like in Kyrgyz national cuisine. Even if I am not a vegetarian, I think that there’s too much meat in all the dishes you can find. But the good thing about Bishkek is that you have an enormous choice concerning food. If you are fed up with national cuisine at some point, you can always find something else: Italian, Japanese, Georgian food... Anyway, to me, how food tastes is not the most important thing. The most important is to find the right people to share it with. And I had no problem doing that in Kyrgyzstan so far, in Bishkek or anywhere else in the country.

Сourtesy of Jeremy Lonjon
Photo Сourtesy of Jeremy Lonjon

— What dishes would you not even dare to try?

I heard that it’s possible to eat sheep’s eyes in Kyrgyzstan. And I guess I would be too afraid to try something like that.

Jeremy Lonjon

Since I already have trouble with brain meat or intestine... Not my thing.

— What fascinated and disappointed you with a close acquaintance with the local population?

When I came here for the first time, I started living with a local family. As a European from the middle-class, I was amazed by the kindness of these people. Life is not easy for them. They always lack of money, they have to face all kinds of problems with the administration, at work, etc. But, anyway, they are always ready to share everything, to make you feel comfortable, to make you feel like home. And I realized that this is a trait of character that could apply to any Kyrgyz.

Of course, there are exceptions like in every part of the world. But I am not afraid saying that the Kyrgyz people is one of the nicest and most hospitable, if not THE nicest people I know.

Jeremy Lonjon

The biggest disappointment is the issue concerning garbage in Bishkek or in any Kyrgyz city or village for that matter. As an ecologist, I can’t stand to see these piles of garbage in the streets of the capital. And I hate it even more when I find all this trash in the mountains when I do some trekking or in the parks when I go for a walk.

I actually collect them on the way, even if I know that it is useless. Your country is magic, so beautiful. Its nature is amazing. That is why it saddens me to see that this great people living in the middle of all that do not respect it sometimes. That really has to change, if you ask me.

Jeremy Lonjon

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