Anne Heinola is from Finland, but she has been living in the Netherlands for two years doing her bachelor’s degree in Management of International Social Challenges in Erasmus University Rotterdam. Anne came to Kyrgyzstan as a volunteer in late July.
— Anne, why did you come to Kyrgyzstan?
— I came to Kyrgyzstan to do an internship/volunteer placement, which is a part of my study, so here I volunteer for Eurasia Foundation of Central Asia (EFCA). I arrived on July 29, so quite recently.
I was especially curious about Kyrgyzstan, since I’ve never been anywhere in Central Asia before and earlier I represented Kyrgyzstan for a National Model United Nations project, so I wanted to see the country myself. Especially the nature lured me in!
-What surprises you in Kyrgyzstan?
— It surprised me how open and friendly the Kyrgyz people are. It’s not like I had a perception of them being cold or anything, but I didn’t expect this extent of kindness and warmth. Also, there’s quite a few expats here, more than I may be imagined, and in Bishkek Russian even surpasses Kyrgyz.
-What in Bishkek reminds you of your hometown?
Bishkek doesn’t really remind me of home actually. It somehow reminds a bit of China (northern parts, where I’ve lived before), in terms of architecture, climate and bazaars: it’s quite hot and dry, the roads, driving.Anne Heinola
-What would you change in Bishkek? What do you miss here?
— As I mentioned, I pretty much just arrived so I don’t miss anything that much yet. Maybe better conditions to exercise outside; i.e. going for a run would be more convenient with a bigger park, or more connected tree areas. Also, right now it’s quite hot for me so maybe a bit cooler. Of course, at some point I’ll miss my family and things at home like saunas or something, but I’m only here for about 3 months, so I think I’ll survive!
-Do you already have a favourite place in Bishkek?
— That’s tough, I am not sure I’ve explored everything yet...maybe it is Erkindik Avenue with its ice cream. I also love that you can buy fresh vegetables on almost any street corner.
— What national dishes do you like?
— Everything is very tasty! I also love how dried fruit and nuts are very common. Not to mention, maksym is growing on me I think.
— Foreigners are often shocked by Asian cuisine. Are there any dishes that you are afraid to even try?
When I go out of Bishkek and if I visit someone, I don’t want to offend anyone or make them uncomfortable by refusing to eat meat. I have no problem with the taste of meat dishes though, what I tasted so far was very delicious.
There was nothing, that I haven’t wanted to taste so far. I didn’t like kurut and kumys that much though. I also miss more vegetarian options, since I’m vegetarian back home. Here I decided quite fast that I’ll be a bit more flexible with it here, since it’s such a big part of the culture and I don’t want to miss out on it.Anne Heinola
-What has fascinated and disappointed you in close acquaintance with the local population?
-As I mentioned earlier, it was an overwhelming kindness of the people that fascinated me.
Nothing has disappointed me so far.