Friday, April 14, 2006

The Dream is Over

Well, I suppose it had to end somewhere, but Kyrgyzstan were finally knocked out of the AFC Challenge Cup in the semi-finals by Tajikistan 2-0. However, let's hope this has some effect on their FIFA world ranking and they move up from their lowly ranking of 154. More importantly, let's hope they move above Mayotte, the country immediately above them and whom I've never heard of in my life (despite having a fairly good grasp of geography). In case you're wondering, it's a French administered island off the African coast.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Why can't you just 'go' like everyone else? OR Goddamn you Russian verbs of motion

Like going to the dentist or cleaning under the bed, I’ve been putting off learning Russian verbs of motion for quite some time. You see, for a long time I was under the mistaken impression that there were just a couple of verbs for ‘going’ and ‘coming’ and I liberally used them for anything vaguely related to movement. So ‘I go’ I thought was ‘Ja idoo’ and whenever I wanted to say I was going somewhere I would use that. However, my wife would constantly correct me, saying ‘no, that should be ‘jedoo’ or ‘pajedoo’ or ‘hozhoo’ in this context, and I dutifully changed it but had no idea why.

Well, according to ‘The New Penguin Russian Course: A Complete Course For Beginners’, Russian verbs of motion are a right little nest of vipers. Alright, it never actually says that, but it’s certainly something to infer when you read passages like this:

‘You will see from these examples that the unidirectional verbs always have the specific meaning of one direction, while the multidirectional verbs are vaguer – so the ‘m’ verbs are used when there is no motion or the number of directions doesn’t matter (rules 2 and 3 above). So, as a ‘rule of thumb’ use the ‘m’ verbs in contexts involving repeated motion’

Are you following this? Really? Ok, well try this:

‘Imperfective future forms of the verbs of motion are rare. As you might expect, the imperfective future of multidirectional (‘chodit’-type) verbs is used for unfinished multidirectional motion and repeated round trips, while the imperfective future of ‘idti’-type verbs (very rare) denotes uncompleted motion in one direction.’

Followed by endless lists of verbs, variations, inflections and examples that are supposed to make some kind of sense. I particularly like the author’s optimistic ‘as you might expect’, as if I’d understood perfectly the previous five pages of this nonsense. So, apparently for every verb of motion (go, fly, walk etc) there is a different form depending on whether it’s in one direction or two, it’s a single trip or a repeated one, it’s on foot or by some form of transport, it’s in the future or the present, it’s a little trip (or kind of trip) or has some kind of preposition after it (go out/in etc). Goodness, why should something such as travel have to be so complicated? Maybe there’s some connection here with the Soviet Union’s reluctance to let any of their citizens go outside of the country – they were worried that the easier unidirectional verbs would discourage any kind of desire to come back.

I started trying to learn these verbs about an hour ago, and like any good procrastinator, decided to write this blog to explain why they are so difficult and to avoid having to go back and look at them again. And if I can’t be bothered, well I’ll have to stick to the one ‘go’ verb I know and spend my whole time here never returning (or going repeatedly, or in the future, or on foot etc etc).

Peace Leader is shot. Criminal Politician threatens Head of Electoral Commission. US Secretary of State proclaims Kyrgyzstan a “stable country”

On the day of the visit of the US Secretary of State Richard Boucher, one of the leaders of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil, Edil Baisalov, was shot in the head, thankfully not fatally. This is the organization I mentioned in a previous post that were protesting peacefully to try and restore law and order to the country. Clearly some people were not too impressed with that idea. Not sure who that might be…

At the same time, I read this report about the notorious Ryspek Akmatbayev. Now, I’m not sure that all its facts can be proven and it does seem to be largely hearsay and rumour, but it’s not encouraging when The Man Who Would Be An Elected Representative is threatening the head of the Electoral Commission and apparently has some “killer material” to blackmail and threaten Kyrgyzstan’s major politicians. Isn’t it nice to know that Kyrgyz democracy is being played out in such a civilized and equitable manner?

So, it’s good to see the US Secretary of State expressing such confidence in the political process, though maybe more in hope than on anything that’s actually happening in the country. Oh, and because they have an airbase here and are worried about the Russian influence in the region, and because it’s the only base they have in Central Asia after being kicked out of Uzbekistan…

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

There's a damn yurta in my garden...

Well, not actually in my garden but the yard in front of my tower block. I saw some guys standing in a line looking appreciative last night but the trees obscured the view and I assumed that it was a dry wall or a German car they were staring admiringly at. Yurtas are the traditional Kyrgyz dwellings that you rarely see in the city, but in the villages some people still live in them. Anyhow, here’s the one currently doing duty in front of my apartment.

What the hell is going on? I’m hoping this is a temporary thing for a celebration or wedding or something and not the government’s solution to the housing shortage problem.

Kyrgyzstan to meet Tajikistan in AFC Challenge semi-final

Updating the never popular tournament in Bangladesh, little to report as my title kind of says it all, doesn’t it? Just to fill space, Kyrgyzstan will meet Tajikistan in the semi-final (really? You don’t say?). Tajikistan thrashed the host nation 6-1 in the quarters, so looks like the defence is going to be kept on its toes again.

Peace Protestors Politely Ask To Speak To The President. The President Politely Says No

On Saturday there was another protest in front of the government building, but this time it was by 2000 people looking for an end to all the corruption, intimidation and violent protesting. Read the report here. They gathered outside the president’s palace and requested an audience with Bakiev. He said no. Interesting really, given that when the supporters of dodgy parliamentarian Ryspek Akmatbaev asked for a similar audience, he said yes. Twice. Seems that using intimidation and the threat of violence is a far more effective way of getting to speak to the head of the country.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Speaking in (three) tongues...

My ten-month old son can recognize words in three languages: show him a picture of a group of animals and say bear, Medved (Russian) or Yulu (Kyrgyz..well that may not be the word but it sounds like that) and he’ll pick out the proverbially wood-defecating animal. Impressive, eh?

Now, this is not going to be a post claiming some kind of ridiculous precocity on my son’s part. Firstly, that’s not true. He’s no more precocious than babies speaking one language at that age. It just so happens that he’s exposed to three languages: English totally from me, English and Russian from his mother, Russian from his aunties and Kyrgyz and Russian from his grandparents.

But I am beginning to think about how you bring up a bilingual or trilingual child. How do you make sure he’s fluent in all of them? Can you make one of the languages his ‘first’ language? Do you have to have rules about who speaks to him in what language? I vaguely remember reading somewhere that you have to speak the minority language in the home, i.e. the language that he won’t be exposed to in the country you’re living, and the majority language outside the home. That would mean English indoors and Russian outside. But of course, I could have misread that and it was the opposite.

Anyhow, I really do want English to be his first language. This isn’t some kind of prejudice, just a practical acknowledgement that his future will be much brighter if that’s his mother tongue. But I also want him to speak Russian fluently and at least have a working knowledge of Kyrgyz. Kyrgyz I think will be the trickiest, simply because I think at some point we’ll move away from Kyrgyzstan and my wife isn’t totally fluent in the language (something she’s somewhat ashamed of given her nationality). If anyone has any advice, It’s be welcome..