We have now entered into what we like to call “holiday season.” The spring season has many holidays that the Kyrgyz celebrate. For example, Women’s Day was on March 8, Nooryz on March 21, Revolution Day on March 24, Easter (for Russian Orthodox), and Unity Day, Constitution Day, Victory Day are all in May. One of my favorite Kyrgyz holidays is Nooryz, a holiday that celebrates traditional New Year and spring (which coincides with the spring equinox). It’s my favorite holiday because everyone is in the festive mood. The dreary winter season is over and the weather is light and pleasant. People are still bundled up but the layers are getting lighter.
The smell of shashlik (meat kebabs) and plov (rice with meat dish) fills the air. The town square is filled with people. Traditional and modern dances are being danced, and traditional and modern songs are being sung. Crowds gather around a local game being played called “ordo”. In this game a three to four meter diameter circle is drawn and in the middle are several small sheep vertebrae bones. People stand on the outside of the circle and try to hit the small bones with a larger vertebrae bone. It’s like a larger version of marbles. Crowds also gather around to watch wrestling and arm wrestling matches. Several Kyrgyz yurts are set up. Some are used as backstage areas and others allow visitors to take a look around. There will be several kiosks of people selling food: plov, shashlik, boor sok (fried pieces of bread), and my absolute favorite, a traditional drink called “sulumak”. It is described as a drink made by boiling wheat, oil, sugar, fruit, nuts, and etc. The first time I drank this magical drink it reminded me of our Navajo ground cake, only in liquid form. Missing home soul food, I quickly drank one cup and wanted another. I look forward to this drink every year, since it is only made at this time. The other great thing about Nooryz, and spring in general, is that this is when the “shoro ladies” come out. Shoro is a company that sells a commercially made local drink called maksym. It is another one of my favorite local drinks. When the ladies who sell shoro-brand drinks out of big barrels start selling in the street that’s when we know spring has really arrived. Oh, what a happy day it is when the shoro ladies come out. Despite the fact that there are no shoro ladies in Karakol, I can’t wait to celebrate in our new home.