We brought our little collection of shagai bones with us to Kyrgyzstan to see if we could pick more up and discovered, not surprisingly, that they are popular in Central Asia as well as Mongolia. Some of my husband's students said they would pick some up for me in the bazaar. I was happy to go myself, but they said I'd pay too much. And I would have.
There are four sides to these little guys, called chuko (or something like that). It's a bit hard to tell the difference between some of the sides without seeing it yourself. This picture shows all four sides and there is a clear difference. Starting at the center top and going clockwise, you have sha, pirk, taa, and chik (I can't make any promises on the spellings here; I just wrote them down like I heard them). In Mongolia the names of the sides corresponded to various animals, like horse and sheep, but they don't appear to here. I'm sure someone will correct me though if that's not the case.
There are many games that can be played with the bones, from ones like jacks to marbles to one that's a bit like soccer with bones. I know there are many more I've never heard it. It would be fun to informally research the different versions and write them down.
The students also promised to pick up a bread stamp for me.
I was talking to the students during their English club. We talked about different stereotypes that Kyrgyz have of Americans (we couldn't talk about American stereotypes of Kyrgyz because most Americans don't seem to know Kyrgyzstan exists). We talked about credit and rich Americans, education, famous people, and the self-assuredness of America. It was an interesting chat. Then I sat down and they asked me questions about living in America. I had a good time and I think I'll be able to go back next week. They promised to show me more games with the bones. The most interesting question was whether I like being an American.