“Life goes by. If you will be crying, life will go by; if you’re laughing, life will go by. I think it is better to enjoy it.” – A Kyrgyz shop owner at the bazaar (translated by me)
Sometimes people say things that catch your attention. At the bazaar recently, a very friendly shop owner made the comment above about life when a local person I was shopping with commented on his jovial mood. The comment is interesting, but not particularly “Kyrgyz” – it could have been said by anyone just about anywhere. But what was interesting was that my friend noticed a friendly, happy shop owner and thought it important to point it out. This Kyrgyz man was jovial and energetic and helpful in a way that distinguished him from the other people working in the bazaar (a typically stressful work place).
Another conversation caught my attention recently. Two Kyrgyz classmates were catching up after not seeing each other since high school.
“You have a nice house. It is built really well,” the man said.
“Yes, but I can’t take credit. My husband built it,” answered the lady.
“Well, you have a great husband. Where did you find him?”
“He found me.”
“What do you mean? Did he find you on the internet?”
“No, his parents made an agreement with mine.”
“Were you kidnapped?” I interjected. (See this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bride_kidnapping, or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ala_kachuu)
“No, not kidnapped. He came and talked to my mother. My mother told me to marry him, because he is a good man and he comes from a good family. ‘That way I won’t worry about you when I’m dying,’ she said. I didn’t want to marry him, but how can I say no?”
“Do you love him?” the Kyrgyz man asked. I was surprised at this, since it isn’t a common question here.
“No, I don’t love him. I did at first, but with age love goes to the kids. I love my kids. He’s still a good man and I respect him a lot and honor him, but I love the kids now. That’s normal,” she answered.
“I think love between husband and wife should increase with age, not decrease,” the Kyrgyz man said.
A side note to this interesting conversation: I’m told that for Kyrgyz people, getting divorced is very shameful. Rather than divorcing, they just live separately (in this case, the lady’s husband lives on a different continent), but remain married to avoid the shame of divorce. This practice skews divorce statistics, which don’t reflect the number of single-parent homes we find in Kyrgyzstan.