Within the 17-page document detailing life here in Kyrgyzstan sent to me by the U.S. Fulbright office, this paragraph was the most interesting: “The Kyrgyz think of themselves as the poets and artists of Central Asia. Nothing illustrates this spirit more than the Epic of Manas, the longest narrative poem in the world. Manas is a hero who, according to legend, unified tribal leaders long ago in the mountains and valleys knows as the Kyrgyz Republic.”
The airport is called Manas. One of the larger boulevards in Bishkek is named Manas. Manas is a Kyrgyz-Turkish university. The U.S. military base here is the Manas Transit Center. Manas is an Italian shoe company, an online journal of intellectual inquiry. Further investigation landed me on one of dozens of websites parsing narrative poetry, the Kyrgyz tradition of oral storytelling and Manas the man. In the chart-busting poem, which bests the length of The Iliad and registers at more than a half million poetic lines long, we are given the bio of Manas. It is pretty substantial: “He is created from the beam between the Sky and the Earth. He is created from the waves of a river under the moon. He is created from the blend of gold and silver.”
I, on the other hand, was created by Ann Gatti and Emmett Kelly in Mobile, Alabama. No gold, no silver, No Sky, no Earth. And nothing to do with the waves of a river under the moon unless my mother and father haven’t told me the whole story.