Добро пожаловать, граф Картошка! ジャガイモさん、いらっしゃい!Welcome Mr Potato!

By Rob Packer, KF9 Kyrgyzstan

This is a repost from the Kiva Fellows’ Blog

Inter-Cultural Exchanges in Kyrgyzstan

The words ikebana and prazdnik started spreading around the offices of Mol Bulak Finance, my MFI last week. Prazdnik was the easy part: it means holiday, festival or party in Russian, but the word ikebana was new to me. My first thought was “That word sounds a lot like the Japanese art of flower arrangement!” and then decided it didn’t really sound all that Russian, and used my limited knowledge of Kyrgyz (eki means two) to convince myself it must be Kyrgyz. When I asked I was met with shocked expressions and told it really was the Japanese word and that on Thursday flowers would be arranged, or lunch prepared.

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Death in Toraja

By Rob Packer

I think I should start by stating the obvious: Toraja is one of the weirdest places I’ve ever been. There are countless cultures referred to as unique in the world, often because they continue practices that stopped elsewhere because the social mores changed (the banning of fox-hunting in the UK), or an invading power has condemned them as barbaric (Spanish invaders put an end to Aztec human sacrifice along with countless other indigenous customs), or there wasn’t space for them in a new religion (Hindu customs in Islamicized Java), they were impractical (no examples as who can qualify a cultural practice as impractical apart from members of that culture?), or a combination. While there are plenty of celebrations no longer practised by the Toraja any one of these reasons, there is an obvious exception: Torajan funerals.

The view over Toraja

The view over Toraja

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A Sunday outing, MFI-style

By Rob Packer, KF9 (Kyrgyzstan)

This is a repost from the Kiva Fellows’ Blog

I feel it’s almost become a cliché to write about the inspiring professionalism and overwhelming dedication of MFI staff on these pages. I’ve now been at my Kyrgyz MFI, Mol Bulak Finance, for a week and have now seen where the clichés come from: reality. As if to drive the point home, MBG’s indefatigable Credit Manager, Renat was waiting outside my apartment at 9am on a sunny, but cold October morning to visit borrowers in and around Kara-Balta, Kyrgyzstan.

The view from Bishkek

The road out of Bishkek was my first trip outside of the capital within Kyrgyzstan after my night-time journey from the airport into town. Our route out took us past Osh Bazaar, one of Bishkek’s largest, and Kyrgyzstan’s largest used car market, which is a phenomenon I hope to write about in a later blog. Along our route thousands of kilometres of flat Kazakh Steppe and West Siberian Plain crashed spectacularly into the snow-capped Toblerone blocks of the Alatau Mountains, the advance guard of the Himalayas, which rise 3500 metres within the space of 50 km. (more…)

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