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Bill Leaf: I learned to measure time with teapots in Kyrgyzstan

The American Bill Leaf moved to Bishkek recently, having spent two years in Osh and Batken cities. Before that, he has lived and worked in Ashgabat for nine years. In general, the labor path of Bill Leaf stretches from Brest to Kamchatka and from Kushka to Plesetsk. In the past 30 years, he has moved from place to place, traveling around the former Soviet Union.

— What surprises you in Bishkek?

— I have lived in Central Asia for almost 14 years, the last four years I worked in the south of Kyrgyzstan. But exactly in Bishkek I was surprised by a large number of restaurants and the variety of cuisines. Such a bright culinary range is a heaven for my stomach.

There are more opportunities for shopping in Bishkek — it is the capital after all. But the bazaars in the south are special charm and coloring that no metropolitan shopping centers will win.

Bill Leaf

— What do you miss in Kyrgyzstan?

— Naturally, I miss my family. My wife is in Miami. They had to leave their house when the hurricane Irma was approaching the state. And I, sitting here, felt so helpless that I could not support her and my friends in any way. But everything ended well.

What else do I miss? As I said, I have lived for four years in the south, but here in Bishkek, you will not find what I’m so used to there.

Often, I simply wandered around Batken or Osh on weekends. I always met friends. And we went to the nearest tea house. We drank tea, talked. I learned to measure time with teapots.

Bill Leaf

— Can you name your favorite place in Bishkek?

-It’s hard for me to say so far. I really love walking along the green boulevards Erkindik and Molodaya Gvardiya. It’s so nice and relaxing when you look at how parents play with their children, people compete in ping-pong or chess, and enjoy the green and fresh air.

When I moved to Bishkek, I also visited Issyk-Kul Lake and Ala-Archa Park. Nature in Kyrgyzstan is simply breathtaking! So, there are a lot of «candidates» in your country for the title «Bill’s favorite place.»

— What do you like in the national cuisine?

— No doubt, it is plov. And you can try a delicious plov at feasts. It took me a while to get used to shorpo. At first, it was just a fatty soup for me, but then I fell in love with it.

— And what are you even afraid to try?

— A funny story happened to me in 2013. At that time, I lived in Batken. My friend celebrated the birthday of his youngest daughter and held tushoo ceremony — «cutting the trammels.» He invited me, and I watched the entire cooking cycle, including the slaughter of a lamb.

When we sat on the couch, he handed me a plate and offered to try. I can not refuse. I took a chance. It turned out to be delicious. I asked the host what the name of the dish was, he said slyly: «Let’s just call it a treat.»

Bill Leaf

I suspected that it was made from guts, and I would like to know how it is called in Kyrgyz!

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

 I like to watch how children care for their parents, how they respect the elders.

One thing that touched me personally is the shyness of local residents to foreigners. It takes time to change the status of an acquaintance into a friend.

Bill Leaf

Relations are very important in Central Asia, and I have many friends, brothers and sisters. So I know that I will terribly miss them when the time to leave Kyrgyzstan comes.

— And what has disappointed you?

— Lack of discipline among the drivers. This year, in particular, there is a large number of traffic accidents. I know that the government, various organizations and some active citizens offer programs to improve the situation on the roads in Kyrgyzstan. I hope these ideas will be implemented, the situation will improve, and drivers and pedestrians will become more responsible.

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