May 31st, 2016 Author ian Sections: Calendar, Health, Society

 Today, 31st May, is World No Tobacco Day.

Even though I wrote a postcard about the efforts being made to help smokers break free of their habit back in March, on No Smoking Day, I thought it was worth posting a follow-up to mark the day.

Back in 2006, Kyrgyzstan was the first of the former Soviet republics to adopt both a law on the harmful effects of tobacco on health … and also measures to combat smoking.  As I said back in March, however, there seems to have been limited success achieved by the introduction of these initiatives.

The law appears to be ineffective … in that its measures have not really been implemented.


May 30th, 2016 Author ian Sections: Cutural Life

13179328_786674824801103_6488997043229680038_nSaturday was a rare night out for me … a night at the Ballet – well actually an evening of Contemporary Dance at the Theater of Opera and Ballet, (sponsored by ProArt – a community group established last year with the aim of supporting the Arts in the Kyrgyz Republic).

I saw the advert a couple of weeks ago and called a friend to ask if he was interested in going.  I didn’t fancy going on my own and most of the people I used to go to concerts and such events have moved on … I guessed, however, that this particular friend might be interested, because he had sat on the borad of small dance group back in the US.

He agreed and so we bought tickets.

In fact, although it was possible to buy tickets on line on the website  … but we decided to do it the old fashioned way and visited the box office.


May 29th, 2016 Author ian Sections: Mountains
Mount Everest - Peak XV

Mount Everest – Peak XV

It was on this day (29th May) in 1953, that two mountaineers made history. Edmund Hilary, (a New Zealander), and Tenzing Nogay, (a Nepalese), stood atop the tallest mountian in the world – Mount Everest.

That may be the best known name that the mountain has … but it isn’t the only one.   It is also known as Sagarmāthā in Nepal – and Chomolungma in Tibet.  It was given the name Mount Everest by the Royal Geographical Society in 1865 … after a former Surveyor General of India.  Before then it was known simply as Peak XV, and for a time , (when theGreat Trigonometrical Survey of India  was cataloging the highest peaks in the Himalayas), simply as Peak b


May 28th, 2016 Author ian Sections: Language, News
Who counts as an expat?

Who counts as an expat?

The other day I got a link in my Facebook feed which open a whole can of worms … I was somewhat taken aback … it caught me unawares and gave me food for thought.

It was to an article in the British newspaper, The Guardian: Why are white people expats when the rest of us are immigrants?

The headline was followed by another question: “Surely any person going to work outside their country is an expatriate? But no, the word exclusively applies to white people.”

Now, I am white and I describe myself as an expat … so, this is about me, isn’t it?


May 27th, 2016 Author ian Sections: Calendar, Health, Tourism
Sunscreen being applied to a young boy's skin

Sunscreen being applied to a young boy’s skin

At the beginning of the month, Max decided to go up to Karakol.  He and some friends planned to trek up to Lake Ala Kul, one of his favourite spots in Kyrgyzstan.

I did warn him that the passes might not actually be passable, (the pun doesn’t work in Russian), because the snow can still lie quite deep at altitude well into June.  As it happens, I was right … and instead they had to change their route … ending up at at another small mountain lake instead.

Even so it was an enjoyable trip … and, of course, he took lots of memorable photographs … but he did encounter a more serious problem.

When he returned to Bishkek he was appeared to be a ‘changed man’ … tired … and his appearance had changed somewhat.  He was quite sunburnt and his skin was much darker than usual … and he was sporting some lesions.

He had been caught out by the power of the sun!


May 26th, 2016 Author ian Sections: Calendar, From an Expat


May 26th is a big day for Australians … well, for some Australians in particular.  It’s National Sorry Day.

It has been, each year since 1998, when it was established in order to ‘remember and commemorate the mistreatment of the country’s indigenous population’ …

… when Aboriginal children were separated from their families, (often forcibly), “in the interest of turning them into white Australians” … creating what is often referred to as a ‘stolen generation’..

The date, 26th May, was chosen because it was on that day the previous year, (1997), that Bringing Them Home, (the official report into the Stolen Generation), was tabled inParliament. It recommended that the Prime Minister apologise to the Stolen Generations.

Then, in August 1999 the Parliament debated a Motion of Reconciliation, which included an expression of “deep and sincere regret that indigenous Australians suffered injustices under the practices of past generations, and for the hurt and trauma that many indigenous people continue to feel as a consequence of those practices“.  An expression of regret … but a little short of an actual apology.


May 25th, 2016 Author ian Sections: Calendar, From an Expat, Tourism
The caption says it all!

The caption says it all!

Ever since 2001, 25th May has been designated as Towel Day – in honour of Douglas Adams, the author of the classic cult story The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and the subsequent sequels.

It was inspired by admiration as an opportunity for fans to demonstrate their appreciation for the books and their author … and not, unlike many unofficial commemorative days, by a commercial interest.  Three days following Adams’ death, a post appeared on an internet forum proposing that a day should be set aside to celebrate the author and all his works … and a date, two weeks on from his death was suggested.

They could have chose a whole of themes – an obvious contender might be 42 – the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything … or a celebration of Vogon Poetry … or … well, they chose a the Towel … because , well, “any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”


May 24th, 2016 Author ian Sections: Calendar, Language, Religion
St. Cyril and his brother St. Methodius

St. Cyril and his brother St. Methodius

Every Day is a special day for someone … and the church has a special calendar of Saints’ Days … each associated with some important event in the Saint’s life.  Of course, there are a lot more than 365 saints … so most days have many more than just one Saint associated with them.

In the Orthodox Church, today is the Saint’s day for two brothers who had a seminal effect on the lives and literature of many different peoples: Saint Cyril (826-869) and Saint Methodius (815-885) … who were responsible for designing the original Cyrillic script in order to transcribe sacred texts from Greek so that they could be read by Slavs.

I think that is quite impressive – to have an alphabet used by something like 300 million people across a dozen or so countries named after you!


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May 23rd, 2016 Author ian Sections: Calendar, Tourism
Queen Victoria, by Bertha Müller after Heinrich von Angeli

Queen Victoria, by Bertha Müller after Heinrich von Angeli

Over the weekend I met some friends for a cup of coffee … and, among other topics, at one point the conversation turned to topics featured as postcards here on ianbek.

Now, the postcards tend to fall into a number of categories … reflecting, to be honest, my personal experiences, interests and preoccupations: Geography and History, Mathematics and Statistics, Cultural differences and People’s beliefs, Tourism and Hospitality, Language and Communication, Information Technology and the Internet, Trivia and the vagaries of the Calendar … oh yes, and of course, Kyrgyzstan – places in Kyrgyzstan, the history of Kyrgyzstan, characters from Kyrgyz History, traditional nomadic lifestyle of the Kyrgyz, life in Kyrgyzstan, doing business in Kyrgyzstan, … and so on.


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May 22nd, 2016 Author ian Sections: Book review, Calendar, From an Expat
A typical image of Holmes and Watson - drawn by Sydney Paget

A typical image of Holmes and Watson – drawn by Sydney Paget

It was on this day, (22nd May),  in 1839 that Arthur Conan Doyle was born.

He was an interesting character … but, in many respects, also a very strange one.  Perhaps the most obvious example if his interest in spiritualism and his attempts to prove the existence of faeries … he was also important in popularizing the mystery of the Mary Celeste.

Of course, he is most famous for his creation of the detective Sherlock Holmes …and his 55 short stories and four full length novels featuring the taciturn sleuth are regarded as the epitome of crime fiction.

Indeed, Holmes is so famous and such an iconic image that he even has his own commemorative Sherlock Holmes Day – and it seems only natural that his creators birthday was the date chosen for this special day.


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