Life At Point C

Experiencing Life along the Silk Road

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Playgrounds Abound

The "playground"

The “playground”

When we lived in Bishkek, we had our choice of multiple playgrounds within a couple of blocks of our apartment, not to mention the two inside our complex. Playgrounds are everywhere in Bishkek. It is one of the really nice aspects of the city center. Kids can find a place to play without going far from home.

Well in Karakol, we don’t quite have that benefit. Our building does have a playground that is almost always in use. The building next to us also has a playground. One main park in town, about a half hour walk from home, has a playground. But as far as I know, those are the only ones still standing, apart from what a daycare has on private property. The large park near us, Victory Park, has the remains of an old playground but alas, nothing but remnants.

However, do not think that kids are lacking for playgrounds. We saw one just the other day as we pulled our car out of our garage. The playground is the entire row of garages. We walked out to see two boys running around by the garages and soon saw them on top of the garages. Back and forth, they ran from one end of the row to the other, jumping from roof to roof. When I opened the doors of our garage, they quickly laid down on the roof of it to peer inside at our car. They were a pair of curious boys. When I had pulled out of the garage and went to close and lock the doors, they ever so kindly helped by starting to pull the doors closed from on top. Then they naturally posed for this picture.

the boys posing for their picture on the "playground"

posing on the “playground”

So though they may not have an abundance of swings, slides, and seesaws, they still have playgrounds, just of their own imagination.

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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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An Apache in Central Asia

Recently, my wife and I visited a former student friend from Bishkek. She lives about 35 minutes away from Karakol. She invited us over for lunch. But first, she wanted us to visit the school where she is teaching. She was conducting a performance with her middle school students. She really wanted us to see the rehearsal on this particular Saturday. We arrived in the village of Kyzul-Soo and found the school where our friend and her students were rehearsing. She greeted us at the entrance of the school and promptly lead us to the concert hall. We heard the roar of preteens echoing through the halls. We arrived at the concert hall where there were at least 40 kids. Screaming, running, laughing, giggling, whining kids were everywhere. She yelled at all the students to get in line for the rehearsal to start. After about 3 minutes of getting the students in place, the presentation started. A couple girls started the formal greeting and explained what the presentation was about. It was difficult to hear their little voices without a microphone. They introduced the first skit and then a squad of kids came out to the stage. They were dressed as American Indians and Pilgrims.

The pilgrims were surrounded by the savage Indians. The little Kyrgyz boys dressed as Native Indians howled and pranced in circles around the Kyrgyz dressed pilgrims. They poked and prodded them with their sticks and bows and arrows. I thought to myself, “Everybody, all over the world, thinks of me this way.” I looked at my wife and we were both amused. Even my little Apache son, Ryan, was amused by the Indian and Pilgrim skit. The Indians put the pilgrims on their knees and one particular pilgrim stood up. It was Christopher Columbus. It was difficult to hear the dialogue. From what we could see, Columbus made peace amends with the American Indians and then everyone was happy and no one was killed. I looked at my wife and just smiled. The teacher came to me after the skit and asked if I could add anything to the play. Since I am a “real Apache”, her students thought I might add some good input to the skit. I smiled and said, “I am not from the east coast, but it looks like you guys are doing fine.” Afterwards, the kids asked a ton of questions about being an American Indian. I could have told lies: we still live in Tipi’s, we dress in leather skirts and head dresses, we eat only what we hunt, and we still fight the “white man.” But I really shouldn’t corrupt such young minds. Overall, it was a great morning and I had a few laughs over how this country views Native Americans.


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Toys Don’t Last Forever

It’s always great to see my little boy playing. He has a bin of toys that he loves to dump. He is in love with his giant Lego blocks. He is very creative in building his towers out of blocks. Among the stuffed animals, mixed puzzle pieces, and broken crayons, there are a great number of toys that are in broken pieces. Most of these toys are cars. Over the past couple of years we have collected our fair share of cars bought in Kyrgyzstan. To this day, all but a single car has made it through a single week intact. He has gotten cars for his birthday, Christmas, and random events throughout his 2 and half year life. He has not figured out that cars are not invincible. Well, I should say that “Chinese” toy cars are not invincible.

CIMG2851Every time he gets a new car, his eyes light up and he jumps continuously. He receives the tiny vehicle and immediately starts driving it on walls and crashing it up and down on tables and chairs. It makes me cringe to see him play with his toy so aggressively and with so much passion, knowing that these moments only last a little while until car destruction. Within the hour of the gifting, he manages to break something. Often, it’s the frame of the car, because it is only held together by a very flimsy plastic base. As soon as this happens, he often chucks that part away, almost as if he knew it was going to happen. Then, it’s only a matter of days when the rest of the car starts crumbling before our eyes. It may be the back wheels that go first. Sometimes a part of the base will crack in an odd place. Or the wheels may not spin because they bend out of position. Bending the wheels back into place only weakens the rods to snap anyway. I have only seen one car make it past a month before its demise. This week I saw this car snap in half. Yes, it had a great run. But now it’s time to find another car for my son to destroy. What he needs is one of those old “Tonka” dump trucks that I had as a child. Those tanks could last through the apocalypse. But for the moment, Chinese toy cars will have to do.

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A Learning Child

It’s great to watch my son grow. It’s even greater to hear him talk. Lately my son has been saying a ton of words and small sentences. He has been saying numbers, colors, animals, and his wants. When we visited the zoo in Karakol (, he repeated us as we named all the animals. When we watch movies, he often tries to quote his favorite characters. He expresses his wants when we go to the bazaar or to shops around town (days like this… Yes, he has been repeating EVERYTHING we say. So we often stop ourselves and make sure he says things correctly.

Here are his top 6 favorite words/phrases:

6. tak (means “like so” in Russian)

5. fish

4. Diana (he thinks all cats are called this)

3. see you later

2. kiss…hug (they always go with each other)

1. MORE!!! (in an ascending pitch)

On many occasions he babbles. But in the babbling he mutters Russian words! I noticed this after I saw him “talking” with his babysitter one day before I went off to work. They were holding a very simple call and response conversation. Hearing him say “da”, “nyet”, and other simple Russian words made my heart melt. Ever since then I have kept a sharp ear out for when he speaks to determine what he is saying. In some of his rants I have heard him speak words in English or Russian. This new phase in parenting is very fun and I am so excited to see my little boy grow in his languages.

He's growing in his painting skills also!

He’s growing in his painting skills also!

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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.

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Preparations, Part 1

With a baby on the way, we obviously have some preparations to make. Add to that the fact that we are leaving to go to Turkey soon to have the baby. Needless to say, we have been busy. On our way to Istanbul, we will spend a couple of nights in Bishkek. Part of this is to allow us to meet with some friends and colleagues there but mostly it is insurance. When you live in a country as mountainous and as far north as Kyrgyzstan, it is wise to leave a day earlier than you would normally think of leaving. What about a major snow storm or even an avalanche? We are living over a mile high and have to go up hill to go through the pass between here and the Chui Valley.

So on to the point. I’ve been studying Russian for a while now and I am making progress but certain things are still rather difficult, especially anything needing more specialized vocabulary. So when we started doing some of the preparations needed to leave and bring home a baby, I ran into some language stretching moments. The first of these came when we went to get a final ultrasound and get a doctor’s note to be able to fly. The doctor only speaks Russian and Magevney and I have no medical Russian knowledge. Amazingly, and resulting in much pride, we managed to get through the appointment, talk to the doctor and her assistant about the baby, our 3 year old daughter, and why we were heading to Turkey rather than staying put or heading stateside to have the baby. And we came out with the note allowing us to fly! It was a proud moment.

Then later in the day, we had another stretching moment.  We went crib shopping. Now honestly, this one was less stressful. It was just a purchase, though it did include some special instructions. We had to get it delivered. Just a few minutes after arriving, we had the crib purchased, at a reduced price due to a tiny crack in the paint, the mattress purchased, and the delivery arranged. Yet another proud moment. If you mess up numbers on a small purchase, it doesn’t hurt too much. You mess up on a larger purchase and you start feeling the pain a little stronger, mixed between your pride and your wallet. In this case, we did it and without any pain. Yet another language learning milestone. They may seem small but they sure feel good when you are slogging your way through learning language, immersion style.