Life At Point C

Experiencing Life along the Silk Road


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You Might Live in a Village When… (Part 2)

the mountains east of Karakol KyrgyzstanThe other day, I went to Tsum with my oldest daughter to pick up a couple of items and make a stop by our local butcher. She also got an ice cream cone that promptly covered her face and garnered many smiles and a few comments from those walking by. As we were standing there in front of the building, in the very center of town, I looked up at the gorgeous view of the mountains east of the city.

As I looked on, I thought to myself, where else could I live and be in the very middle of the city and have such an unobstructed view like the one before me. That is one of the great aspects of life in our little corner of Kyrgyzstan. Wherever you are, you have amazing views. I can look out my bedroom window at purple mountains forming the Kazakh border. I can look out our balcony at the towering peaks forming the border with China. To the south are more peaks of mountainous Kyrgyzstan.

I once read that Kyrgyzstan is the most beautiful country on the plant and that it is the Switzerland of Asia. I have to agree. Of all the places I have been, none has the natural beauty of Kyrgyzstan and within Kyrgyzstan, few places can touch our little northeastern corner with its towering peaks and alpine lake. Throw in the near constant sunshine and clean air and you have a little piece of heaven on earth. No city can offer this. I’m loving the village life.


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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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You Might Live in a Village When… (Part 1)

our front dorToday I begin a new series about living life in rural Kyrgyzstan. I hope you enjoy my anecdotes about village life and that it helps you get a better picture of this beautiful country and its beautiful people.

I was reminded the other day about how small a community village life really is when we had a knock on our door. We have only been back home a few weeks and have not begun teaching our English conversation classes. We are waiting on the university to resume classes so that our students know their university schedules. The university does not resume until September so we have a little time to get the new office set up and do some other projects that have been put off.

We made the decision in the spring to limit our conversation students to those who were previously involved in our English program simply because our teaching staff is greatly reduced. We thought that we would give those students who had put in the work a chance to improve their skills and to continue to develop our relationships with them. If space is available we will open up to new students of course.

Well a few days ago, Magevney and I thought we heard a knock on the door. Odd we thought, as we don’t usually get unannounced guests other than people delivering bills. So when I opened the door, I find two young girls, maybe 15 years old each, standing on our landing between our apartment and our office. They wanted to know when we started new English classes. What makes this odd is that we have not had a single class in the new office nor have we advertised a new location. We hadn’t even started putting things together in the new office. Word spreads rapidly in a village. Somehow these girls heard about it and took the initiative to come looking. I admire their dedication but alas, they are a little too young for our program. Sorry girls, maybe in a few years.


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Line Dancing in Kyrgyzstan

line dancing in Karakol

Recently, I had the opportunity to act as something of a guide for a group of university students from Texas. They came for a couple of weeks to help at our language center and to travel around a country they likely would have never seen otherwise.

As part of their preparations for coming, this group of seven Texan travelers learned a couple of dances to show to the students at our center. The idea was to expose each group of students, both Kyrgyz and American, to one another’s culture and allow them to interact and discuss life. It was a great time.

Being from Tennessee, I am familiar with country music, but I’m not an avid fan. This group of Texans included some serious country fans. They left their mark on our students in Karakol and on people all over Kyrgyzstan, from Talas to Kyzil Kia, as they line danced to “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” and to “Cotton-eye Joe.”

For our Kyrgyz friends, this was the first time they had ever heard of line dancing or either of these two songs, but they joined right on in with the Texans. Our big end of the year party at out student center was a great success, largely due to our new friends from San Antonio and their willingness to invest in coming to Kyrgyzstan. Now, the next time I travel to southern Kyrgyzstan, maybe I’ll find all new line dances being done to local music, mixed with a little American country music.


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Life At Point C Returns

After a one month hiatus, Life at Point C returns tomorrow with more stories of living life in rural Kyrgyzstan. We here at Point C apologize for the absence as we have been busy with teams from America and saying goodbye to friends. DesertLaVena and DerrickDona have moved back to the good ole US of A. Danynsmith, Darylatpointc and Sarahatpointc will also soon be stateside for a time. We miss them all and know that you, our readers, miss them as well. Maybe they will send us some updates periodically. Scottatpointc and Magevney will continue posting weekly and we look forward to some guest posts as well.


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A Way I’d Like to Live

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.


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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.