This could be a great trip, no matter how you spell it

March 18, 2001|By Dave Barry | Dave Barry,Knight Ridder / Tribune

It's time for "Foreign News Notes from Abroad." Our top story today is the recent presidential election held some time last year in Kyrgyzstan.

By way of background: Kyrgyzstan is an actual nation located in the western hemisphere. Or possibly the eastern hemisphere. It's definitely in a hemisphere. Historically, Kyrgyzstan is part of the group of nations -- also including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kurdistan -- that were founded by a tribe of men named "Stan."

Unfortunately, most Americans know little about Kyrgyzstan. Most Americans can't even SPELL "Kyrgyzstan," although it's easy if you remember this simple rhyme:

First there's a "K"

Then a "Y" comes your way

Which is followed by "R"

Then the heck with it.

But getting back to the Kyrgyzstan presidential election: An alert reader named Saruhan Hatipoglu sent us a news report stating that the winner was the incumbent president, Askar Akayev, although the results were challenged by the loser, Al Gore.

No, seriously, the loser was Omurbek Tekebaev, who asked for, but was denied, recounts in Djalalabad, Issyk-Kul, Talas, Chu and Osh.

Why are we interested in this? Certainly it is not because we are juvenile wisenheimers who think these names sound funny. No, it is because, as Americans, we need to learn about the many fascinating non-American nations that share our planet (Earth) in case they might be good places for us to buy T-shirts. That is why we spent several minutes extensively researching Kyrgyzstan on the Internet, where we found these fascinating but true facts:

The capital of Kyrgyzstan is Bishkek, which used to be named "Frunze." (Before THAT, it was "Pishpek.") According to one Internet travel guide, Bishkek is -- prepare to be strongly attracted as a tourist -- "the only town in the world named after a wooden plunger."

Kyrgyzstan has a bunch of history that occurred in the past. Among its famous historic figures was a person who went by the moniker of "Moghul Baber the Lion."

Kyrgyzstan currently has an economy. Among the businesses thriving there are the Kurulush Bank, which can proudly boast of being -- this is a direct quote from the "Kyrgyzstan On-Line" Web site -- "one of those several Kyrgyz banks which came into 1999 without loss!"

At this point, you're probably on the phone with your travel agent, planning your dream Kyrgyzstan vacation ("It's spelled K, Y, R, umm. ... never mind"). If it helps, the Internet says the best way to get to Kyrgyzstan is to fly to Kazakstan, then take a bus. As the French say, "Bon voyage!" (Literally, "Carry antibiotics!")

A word of warning: If your route takes you through Egypt (which may be in the same hemisphere) you should be cautious around sheep. We base this statement on our second Foreign News Note from Abroad, concerning a fatal incident involving an Egyptian man who was raising a sheep on the roof of a three- story building. The man intended to kill the sheep as a religious sacrifice. According to a newspaper report sent in by several alert readers, "Many Egyptian city-dwellers keep livestock on rooftops" for this purpose.

Ironically, before the man could perform the sacrifice, he was butted off the roof by -- you guessed it -- Al Gore.

No, really, the sheep did it. The report does not say whether this was an accident, or -- we cannot rule this out -- evidence that sheep have formed a religion that requires its members to sacrifice humans.

Speaking of animals acting up:

Our final Foreign News Note from Abroad comes from India, which is also located -- this cannot be mere coincidence -- in a hemisphere. According to a Los Angeles Times item sent in by several alert readers: "At least 10,000 monkeys have occupied government offices in the Indian capital of New Delhi, where they have threatened workers and shredded important documents."

The story states that the Indian government is having a hard time getting rid of the monkeys. We know we speak for all animal-loving Americans when we say to India: "Hey, send US your monkeys! We'll give them a good home! In the headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service!"

This concludes today's edition of Foreign News Notes from Abroad. We hope it inspires you to visit some other countries, experience other cultures ... maybe even learn a new language! A good word to start with is "Baa."

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