Homestay Experiences in Bishkek and Talas

Published: August 25, 2018

Bishkek

I decided to stay with a local host family in Bishkek to improve my Russian communication skills. My host family has four members, all of whom live on the west side of town. My hosts include the father, mother, their 11-year-old son, and an uncle. Their daughter is currently studying abroad in England, so I did not have a chance to meet her.

We first met over tea, where we introduced ourselves and chatted about our respective family histories, interests and life experiences. I brought some gifts to thank them for hosting me. These gifts included an assortment of Latin American foods, ranging from spices, Mexican chocolate, and Colombian guava paste. I chose to give these gifts because it is rather difficult to find anything Latin American in Kyrgyzstan and I wanted to introduce one of the many cultures that make up American identities.

The street where my homestay was located.

My host family provides breakfast and dinner. For lunch, I normally eat at Cooksoo, a Korean restaurant located a few buildings away from the London School in Bishkek. My homestay dinners typically include Lagman (a Central Asian noodle dish) and a meat-and-potato stir-fry. For breakfast, I have bread, butter, and jam, with a bowl of oatmeal or cottage cheese on the side. I have my own set of keys, which allows me to leave and return home at any time of day.

A beautiful lunch setup during Eid al-Fitr.

All in all, I really like my host family. They have a beautiful home with a garden blooming with fragrant roses and lilies. The food is delicious. Whenever I need help going somewhere, my host family is there to show me around the city. I am very glad to have chosen a homestay, because this host family has really contributed to my experience, and has improved my spoken Russian, as well as introduced me to many facets of Kyrgyz culture. I would never have learned as much as I have about Kyrgyz culture if it wasn’t for my host family. I am very thankful for their time, patience, and kindness with me during my summer abroad. I am now able to communicate in Russian more effectively than ever for every day I am greeted by my host family as well as asked to discuss my plans for the day with them.

Talas

I took a couple of weekend trips away from Bishkek to see the Kyrgyz countryside. One weekend excursion was to the town of Talas for a homestay with a local Kyrgyz family. Upon arriving in Talas, we were greeted and given some time to rest after the long drive from Bishkek. We then had a nice dinner with plov, a Central Asian rice dish, and fresh salads. Our host family offered tea and various Russian candies as quickly as our traveling group could eat them up.

My bed at the Talas overnight homestay.

Our host family was very nice and considerate of our well-being. Our hosts provided a delicious breakfast, after which we departed to see Manas Ordo, the main sight in Talas, before heading back to Bishkek. All in all, this homestay experience in Talas helped round out my cultural immersion experiences in Kyrgyzstan by living with a family in the city than having a weekend homestay in the countryside. I have learned so much already about Kyrgyz culture as well as how life, language, and culture differs in the city and countryside. This was certainly an experience that I could never forget.

Breakfast at the Talas homestay.

About the author

Kathleen Connell

Kathleen Connell is pursuing a double major in Anthropology and Chinese and a minor in Central Asian studies at Beloit College in Wisconsin.. She is learning Russian in Bishkek, to build on her interests in Central Asia, as well as how traditional nomadic practices have been affected by modernization across Central Asia and how local communities can maintain their identity in the face of inter-cultural conflict and globalization. She will be studying in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia next year.

Program attended: Challenge Grants: Funding for Study Abroad

View all posts by: Kathleen Connell

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