09 November 2005

Chatting with the Law Students

I had another interesting chat with the students at the law school today. They brought me some chuko bones and taught me a couple more games (below) and then we talked about politics and history. It was interesting to hear their take on WWII and the US's involvement. They said the US joined the Soviet Union when we saw the Soviet Union was winning. I told them our joining the war had a lot more to do with Japan's bombing the US. But the Soviet Union's suffering during WWII is often overlooked from our point of view.

They also said, as everyone has whom I've asked, that life was much better under the Soviet Union. Although I will never agree that communism is a good system of government, it really did have many benefits for the people of Kyrgyzstan. Nearly everyone had a higher standard of living under the Soviet Union. As one person said, they didn't worry about democracy and freedom. Life was simpler in many ways.

I asked the students if there is any racial tension between the Kyrgyz and the Russians. The Kyrgyz students all said no, and so did the Russians, but they didn't sound quite as definite. One Kyrgyz student said the Russians brought culture and education to the country and she is glad they are there. I asked the Russian students why their families didn't leave after independence like so many did, and they said it was their home and they like it here. One Russian student's family has been here for over 100 years, another's family came in 1948.

We talked a bit about the revolution in March, and about Andijan. One said that because Kyrgyzstan is a democracy, the government was able to change and since Uzbekistan isn't a democracy, Andijan didn't make any big changes in the government. They clearly don't believe the official Uzbek version of Andijan. They're all glad they don't have Karimov for a leader. One girl said the Uzbeks are sly.

I love going to talk to these students. The main goal is for them to practice their English. Some speak much better than others. Some are very quiet, but I think they understand more than they let on. They seem to be willing to share their opinions. That's one thing I'd had often heard about Kyrgyzstan- people aren't afraid of the government. They will give their opinions about it without fear.

One girl (see? the girls say they don't play, but they always know the rules) showed us the rest of the game that is like jacks. You toss out five bones or small rocks, then choose one to toss up in the air. Pick up one rock before catching the tossed stone. Repeat 3 times till you've picked up all the stones, then do it again, picking up 2 stones at a time, then 3, then 4. After you've successfully picked up 4 stones at once, you make a little tunnel with your thumb and forefinger and flick one stone at a time through the tunnel while tossing the stone.

The girls said they play a game called akjoluk, or white scarf. The children sit in a circle and close their eyes while one girl holding a white scarf goes around the outside of the circle. She drops the scarf behind one girl, then all the girls guess (I've also heard a running version of the game, but I think this one was just guessing) who has the scarf behind her.

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