I bought a souvenir/gift. When I travel, I very rarely buy anything physical, usually limiting my expenses to food and lodging – experiences rather than things. But last Friday I went to the local Шырдаг Festival, a festival celebrating the tradition of “Shirdags”, beautiful handmade felt rugs native to Kyrgyzstan. These are generally decorated with a design called Оюу, or Oyuu, which are abstract figures with many varieties and meanings. I bought the one pictured above at the market for 7,000 som, or about $100, as a gift for my mother.
Sending it home was another adventure altogether, however. I went to the Post Office yesterday and was sent to the central market to find Белый материал “white cloth” and tape in order to package and send it. Some strange norms/rules here for post, I suppose! I was quite proud of myself for accomplishing this task, all in Russian, from the post to the market to the various stores within, to the stationery stores and back to the post office. The cost of the post (slowest possible at one month) was very expensive, at an additional 4,157 som, but I certainly didn’t want to carry the rug through the rest of Central Asia and the Middle East, so 沒辦法！
The past few days have been marked by absolutely no internet anywhere until today. The library has been without electricity, and the cafes have not had functioning internet either. This gave me the needed impetus to finally start writing, however, and I’m almost finished writing my way through the narratives of Korea. I’ll catch up some day!
I also used the opportunity to go to the market to buy ingredients to cook some meals for my host family. Another adventure, I had to think up doable recipes given the dearth of key ingredients in the food that I normally make at home. After a tour of the central market, I settled on my traveling-cooking-for-hosts standby: picadillo. This recipe has the added benefit of being representative of Florida and the Cuban culture there, and feels like a bit of cultural exchange! The key ingredient, however, cumin, was nearly impossible to find. I went to every store in the market before finding it in the last one (directed there by a very nice girl from a veggie stand). I then bought the rest of the veggies from that veggie stand – bell peppers, onions, an apple, garlic, a tomato. I found raisins nearby, then entered the meat section where I was immediately accosted by all the hawkers shaking livers and hearts in my general direction. I knew what I needed, though, saw the sign for Фарш, and procured the ground beef quickly. My host family enjoyed the picadillo, though they were clearly unused to eating so much rice and most left a bit of rice behind. The diet here is extremely meat heavy (which has been difficult for me). The next day, I made a stir fry of beef, onions, and peppers and stir fried some cabbage with garlic for a very Chinese meal. They liked this one, too!
On Sunday, we went as a family (without the niece) to Салкын-Тор, a beautiful valley where Naryn folk go to rest on weekends. Салкын-Тор (Salkyn Tör) literally means “cool place”. We spent the whole afternoon there, picnicking in a small elevated wooden structure on rotisserie chicken and bread. I drew a bit, then we hiked about two kilometers up the valley (surprisingly difficult due to the altitude – above 3000m) and I found a nice place to draw before the rain began.
Yesterday I taught the ACCESS (low-income) students once again, and I pulled out my signature exchange lesson – Gospel! I taught them a bit about the history and importance of Gospel music, then slowly taught them Wade in the Water part by part. Though only four students came yesterday, they participated beautifully and we got a nice, if shaky, recording of the song.
I shared a few more important songs such as Amazing Grace afterwards, then asked them to to teach me some Kyrgyz songs. Two girls sang one song each, then explained the lyrics. I learned the first one, a heartbreakingly beautiful song about love for one’s village and mother called Апакем.
These are the lyrics as she typed them for me:
Айлымды бугун эскердим
Ак шамда ойноп кеч келдим
Апакем уй саап короодо
Адырдан ойноп кеч келдим
Апакем кайда мен кайда
Адырлуу жашыл тор кайда
Убакыт отпой табышмак
Уктабайм кундо далайга
Жоругу тентек балдарбыз
Жоогазын терип алганбыз
Жок дуйно менен алышып
Жомокто жашап калганбыз
Later in the day, I taught a group of adult students in a conversation setting.
Today, I finally found internet in the cafe (where I am now). I helped an English teacher with some instruction in the morning, and will be teaching two sets of adult students some conversation in an hour. I’m particularly looking forward to the first set of students, as the men are extremely hard-working and interesting. Two doctors, a university student, a pharmacist, etc. One strange thing, however, has been the fact that I’ve been the oldest or almost the oldest one at all of these gatherings, though they all assume I’m younger due to the way I look! Then I inevitably get asked whether I’m married. This is followed by “Why not?”, “Do you have a girlfriend?”, “Why not?” and I never know quite how to answer. “Sorry?”