Growing up my family had a big field and we grew watermelon, cantaloupe, and squash. My summers as a kid were spent waking up early to weed our field. Oh how I hated waking up early to work in the field, but after I went to college I somewhat missed it. Living in my university city I found myself wishing that my then-non-existent children would have the same type of experience (definitely looking through rose-colored glasses at that time). It was hard work and I always thought that it had to be hard work.
Yet, one thing I’ve learned from living in Karakol is that it doesn’t have to be such hard work to grow your own food…and I love that. Many homes have a vegetable garden, a few fruit trees, and maybe a few berry bushes. People take what they need and either sell or give away the rest. The bazaars have many people selling the fruit of their labors: fresh and canned fruits, vegetables, and spices. The best time of the year is when the older babooshkas (grandmothers) come out and sell their small, yet very delicious strawberries and raspberries. They are unlike anything I have tasted back home. Driving through villages outside the city, people line the road selling apples and apricots from their gardens.
I feel like I make it more complicated than it really is. Here, it’s just a way of life. It makes sense, right? There is a time where lots of work is needed but getting to take part in the harvest is so worth the effort. Looking around and seeing how, on some level, people are self-sufficient is encouraging and challenging. In a country that doesn’t have a lot of conveniences from a Western viewpoint, it has taught me the value of earning my food through work. For example, last fall I embarked on my first experience with canning. It was several days work for spaghetti sauce, apple butter, apple sauce, apricot butter, and canned apricots but each time I open one of those cans I’m so thankful for that process. This newfound appreciation for “hard” work is something I hope will change the way I live back home.