Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sewing and Felt Handicrafts Course

While shopping at the bazaars, one can't help but notice all of the felt products Kyrgyzstan has to offer. People in the streets wear felt hats and coats. Inside homes, people wear felt slippers on felt rugs. I've even seen people wear felt jewelry and children carry felt dolls. Felt products are not touristy souvenirs, but have been a part of everyday Kyrgyz life for centuries. 

Last month, a good friend of mine (one of the international students) took an embroidery and felt-making class at one of the local art schools. Often at hookah bars or while watching Game of Thrones, she would pull out her latest homework assignment and begin sewing. The pieces she was creating were beautiful and intricate. 

So in my admiration and lack of internet at home, I decided to take the course this month. All I can say is that I am addicted. I cannot find enough designs to sew or enough people to make things for. Two other teachers from my school and myself are taking the course twice a week. We began with talismans, then earrings, flowers, camels, and now yurts! If I had more time, the teacher, a small gentile Kyrgyz woman, said that we could have learned how to make slippers or shyrdaks (felt rugs), but alas June is coming quickly.  

Here are some of the things I've made thus far: 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Cafe Review: Chaixana Cafe Jalal-Abad

Chaixana/Cafe Jalal-Abad
Cnr of Kiev and Togolok Moldo, Bishkek

As the weather has gotten warmer, Bishkek is abound with outdoor cafes. Cafe Jalal-Abad was recommended to us through a local teacher at the school. Now, a group of us go there biweekly to enjoy the atmosphere and food.

Jalal-Abad has both indoor and outdoor seating. The outdoor seating resembles traditional chaixanas, where customers are expected to take off their shoes before sitting on the raised couches. On the weekends or pretty days, the outdoor seating can fill up pretty quickly. The indoor seating resembles a Western cafe with tables and chairs.

The menu ranges from southern Kyrgyz food to Uyghur dishes. I recommend the shashlik (meat on a stick), the plov (best plov in Bishkek), or the manti (Central Asian dumplings). There are vegetarian options like the pumpkin or potato manti. If you sit outside, you can watch your samsa (meat pie) or shashlik being cooked. I also recommend ordering a dip under the salad section (the name escapes me) made of tvorog (farmer's cheese) and smetana (sour cream). It's excellent to add to your plov if you find it spicy or dipping lepyoshka (Central Asian bread) in it.

Occasionally, we've had price disputes over the bill; however all such problems have been resolved. 

 The architecture is Southern Kyrgyz                                             Cooking samsa in a tandori

Side of rice with different salads                                  Traditional summer salad with shashlik

Plov with green tea and tvorog/smetana dip

A Uyghir dish                                                                                         Vegetarian Manti