August 19, 2007
One of the most enjoyable aspects of Kyrgyz societies is the tradition of konok, or guesting. Konok (gosti in Russian) is the process in which you go over and visit a neighbor. It generally involves tea and a lot of food. Usually, the person hosting offers their best food and sits the guests in the seat of honor, which is usually a raised seat at the end of the table. For Lauren, it is a little similar to the once tradition in Chile, except there is a lot more pressure to eat. Families invite others for konok for special occasions or just to make someone feel welcome in the neighborhood. So far, Lauren and I have gone on konok three times each and they are the times that we feel most welcome within our neighberhood.
The first time we went on konok was part of our Kyrgyz language class. We had just learned directions and we, in partners, were supposed to find particular family’s houses by asking locals where people lived. One of the catches was that we were only given the first names of the husband and the wife. In a community in the US this task would have been impossible, but in the community we are in everybody knows everybody by name and knows who everyone’s husband or wife is. During this experience, we may have learned more Kyrgyz than any other class. More than that, we were shocked by how people were willing to stop their day to have tea with a new member of the community. Martin and his partner went to the house of a woman who ran a store out of her house. She closed the store for over an hour and fed him all of the best treats from her store: her best bread, fruits, tomatoes, coffee, tea, cookies, and chocolates. Lauren’s hosts similarly made the most of everything