Life At Point C

Experiencing Life along the Silk Road


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Homemade Baby Food

When we moved to the village a year ago, I was pregnant with our second child. Our first daughter was born in America and we didn’t move to Kyrgyzstan until she was 2 years old. So with our second child, I knew I’d have a lot of “firsts” raising a baby in Kyrgyzstan. There were a lot of questions that I hadn’t had to ask yet, for instance, where do I find baby food, how much is it, and what is available?

I discovered that it wasn’t too hard to find jars of baby food in Karakol, but it is incredibly expensive and there isn’t much variety sold. It makes much more sense to prepare baby food at home. This realization was a tad daunting because I’d never made my own baby food before, but how hard could it be? I knew I had some jars of apple sauce already canned, so at least that was a start. Let me tell you there are several good “how to” websites for homemade baby food, and for those I’m very thankful. Really, it was easy. My first experiment was with carrots. I steamed them, put them in the food processor, and then froze them in ice trays. From the trays I put them in Ziploc bags to keep in the freezer and pull them out as needed. I’ve done the same with other vegetables. It has saved us so much money I might even go so far to say that I would make my own baby food in America too. Shocking, huh? Here’s to the simplicity of life in Kyrgyzstan.IMAG0489 IMAG0491


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Where Did Autumn Go?

Girls going to school

Girls going to school

Pears

Pears

Fall foliage around Karakol

Fall foliage around Karakol

Scott and I here at Life At Point C have to apologize for our absence in the world of blogs. You miss a week or two of writing and suddenly you realize you’ve missed 2 months! It was September since we last checked in with you. Honestly, life has gone on as usual in our quaint village. Students are back to school, we enjoyed the changing of the leaves and autumn fruits and vegetables, and we are excitedly anticipating the piles of snow that will soon envelope everything. Here’s to a fresh start for blog writing! (before we have to make it into a New Year’s Resolution!)


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Sweetened Condensed Milk

I remember my friend Sarah and I finding sweetened condensed milk in one of the first stores that I walked into outside of Bishkek. I don’t remember now if that store was in Karakol or on our way from Bishkek to Karakol. I found it odd that such a small store with such a limited stock would have sweetened condensed milk. Since that first encounter, I have noticed these cans just about everywhere, from the largest grocery stores in Bishkek to the smallest side of the road kiosks. I recently bought a can to make a dessert and it really got me thinking…what are most people buying sweetened condensed milk for? It is not really common for people here to make desserts at home. So I asked my Russian tutor. Her first answer was that it was used to make a particular cake. Ok, I thought, but the rare cake doesn’t explain its abundant availability. And then it came…and some people put it in their tea. Aha, that’s it! This is its real use in Kyrgyzstan. They say you can’t live without tea. Well, I tried it. Not yet in my tea. I tried it first in my coffee. Let me tell you, it wasn’t too bad. I don’t think it will be replacing my sugar and cream, but I do now understand its marketability.

 russian sweetened condensed milk


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Canning Salsa

teh finished jars of salsa

The tomatoes, onions, cilantro, garlic, and peppers bought at the bazaar last week were put to good use canning salsa. I must admit I was terrified to spear head my own canning project this year. Last year I was more behind the scenes on all the canning endeavors, not paying much attention to the science and mechanics of it all. But, alas, my canning buddies from last year are now in the states so I needed to figure it out. I invited two new friends along for moral support.

We fumbled our way through the process, asking ourselves whether or not to: heat the jars in the oven with water, completely submerge the cans in the water bath, and allow the filled jars to rest right side up or upside down. One of the difficulties of canning here is that it is so different from canning in the states. (Not that I have ever canned in the States!). Neither screw bands nor water baths are used in the canning process here. Screw bands keep the lids secure during the water bath. We decided to employ a water bath that did not completely cover the jars in case the lids weren’t sealed correctly. The lids popped up during the water bath and then while cooling indented back in. I’m not 100% sure that all of our choices were right but the jars appear to be sealed. If anyone sees a health risk in our future, speak now! Otherwise I’ll be blissfully ignorant and continue on to the next canning endeavor: apple sauce!

 


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Summer Bazaar

summer produce from the central bazaar in Karakol KyrgyzstanWithout a doubt, late summer in Kyrgyzstan is the best time to shop for produce. Since produce is largely seasonal and mostly locally grown, it is the most abundant and the cheapest during the end of summer. After summer’s abundance, many produce items simply cannot be found, and those that can be found may be double in price. These facts definitely motivate me to carry on the canning tradition, which my friends and I started last year. Scott recently made a bazaar run for me to buy produce for my latest canning session (salsa), along with some extra fruits and veggies. More about the canning session later.

For now, I want to show you the kinds of produce and the prices that can be found at the bazaar during the summer. (See my blog on a trip to the bazaar I took last winter). Here is a picture of what we bought. It included 2 kg of tomatoes, 1.5 kg of onions, two bunches of cilantro, a bunch of basil, 3 zucchini, 3 bulbs of garlic, 5 bell peppers, 16 other peppers, 3 large potatoes, 1 kg of peaches, and half a kilo of grapes. And the cost? Drum roll please…390 som or approximately $8. Someone want to go buy all of this in the states and let me know how much it costs you? 😉


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A Day at the Circus

 

My view of the circus "theater" clowns

My view of the circus “theater” clowns

I recently experienced my first circus in Kyrgyzstan. My husband and I took our kids and went with some of our friends. Two of our friends had already purchased their tickets but the rest of us needed to purchase tickets “at the door”. Interestingly, kids 5 and under entered for free so only the adults needed tickets. We arrived a bit later than we wanted to; the circus was minutes from starting and there was a huge mob of people at the ticket window. We decided to let the children go on in with our two friends who had tickets and the remaining 4 of us waited to buy our tickets. It seemed we would miss this particular show altogether because the line didn’t appear to be moving at all. The ticket window would be open for a few minutes and then the attendant would close it. It appeared the majority of those waiting were buying tickets for later shows so they weren’t as concerned about the wait. About 30 minutes into the show we finally had our tickets and were allowed inside. We made our way to the back of the theater. Yes, theater. I had never been to a circus in a theater before. I immediately figured that this circus probably didn’t include animals, and I was right.

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the Russian acrobats

For our first few minutes there were clowns doing goofy tricks and getting kids from the audience to participate. Initially it was cute but then I tired of it and started to wonder what else I could have spent my money on. However, the acts really started to improve as the belly dancer/snake charmer, acrobats, and strong man took the stage. The goofy clowns would come out for some light entertainment between the main acts. The male Russian acrobats were really impressive as one of the guys balanced the other guy on his head! By the end of the show I was glad that I had spent my money on this experience. While it was different from any other circus I’ve seen (namely because of the absence of animals!), it is worth repeating.


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Kyrgyz Waiters and Grandmas

my daughter and her ice creamWe were in Bishkek recently at one of the most western malls in town, Vefa Center. We decided to sit down and eat at Imperial Pizza. My daughter is a very picky eater and we were having trouble deciding what to order for her. She has not really discovered that most kids like pizza and she should too. The most we can usually get her to eat is some crust.

The waiter had already stopped by a few times to take our order and we were just not ready. He understood the dilemma and started to flip through the menu in front of us. I’m thinking…I know ya’ll don’t have a kids’ menu, so what are you so sure that we should order for her? Guess what he flips to? The desserts of course! He points out a pretty picture of chocolate ice cream in a tall glass and then adds to that blini (Russian pancakes). We caved and ordered them for her. He knows how to make a sale at least!

When he pointed to the ice cream, I was immediately reminded of Kirsten’s grandmas. Because we live so far away, they aren’t really privy to Kirsten’s day to day eating habits. They only hear from us that she is a picky eater. When we visited the states over the holidays Kirsten stayed with each of them at different times while Scott and I had a date or a meeting to attend. When we asked them how she ate for them, they would respond with something along the lines of “She ate great! She loved the happy meals, pancakes, ice cream….etc.”

Well, Scott and I know that she’ll eat that stuff! What we really want to see her eat is more fruits, vegetables, and protein!

I guess there is no point in trying to win over Kyrgyz waiters or grandmas offering ice cream.