Greetings from the village! I’m in Tory-Aigur this week for Jason’s birthday and his host father’s 20 year high school reunion. The reunion is being held here at Jason’s house with people coming and going all day and night. Yesterday marked the start of the festivities.
When Jason and I returned from an end-of-the-school-year recital, the women were busy making borsok (traditional bread, small pieces of deep fried dough). They make enough to cover every table in the house for about 4 days. The tables must always be filled with borsok, jam, sugar, butter and salads during any festivities. It’s a way of showing you’ve prepared for the guests and they are welcome anytime.
We waited all afternoon while the men sharpened knives, filled the cellar with fresh produce and other products, and chopped wood. When they were finished with all the smaller tasks, everyone headed out to the back yard to watch them slaughter a cow. It is much different and more intense than a sheep or goat. I won’t go into the nitty-gritty details, but it’s a little more difficult to watch. Since it was the first cow I saw slaughtered, I couldn’t stay for the whole process. Luckily, Jason videotaped the entire thing. [If anyone is interested in seeing it, I can send a copy to you.] After the cow was cut up and stored away, the women prepared kurgak (meat and liver sautéed with a brown gravy). It was fresh and delicious.
I thought after we ate, everyone would go home and rest until the morning, since we ate at about 9:30. But everyone split up and continued working. A few people were in the small house making chak-chak (dough similar to pie crust, which is cooked in long noodle like strands, and covered with honey); some men were cutting the meat into smaller pieces and tying it into bundles; and two women were cooking and cleaning the stomach. That’s when I went to sleep.
On a separate note, plans for the summer camp are moving along. With the local teachers, I wrote a grant. It is posted on the PCPP website:
If you know someone who would like to donate, please direct them to the website. The grant took a month to make it through the Peace Corps bureaucracy and onto the website. Translation: we are on a time crunch and need to have it funded by June 10.
The rest of last week was exhausting. The party lasted about 20 hours of every day, with people drinking vodka the whole time. By Sunday I was ready to leave the village and get back to my quite apartment.
Some things about life in Kyrgyzstan.
TRANSPORTATION. The public transportation system in Kyrgyzstan is quite fantastic. You can get to any place in the country without having your own vehicle. It takes a long time and the roads are rough, but its cheap. To go from Karakol to Jason’s village costs 120 som (less than $3.50) in a marshrutka. A marshrutka is a mini-bus – larger than a van and smaller than an actual bus. It generally seats 15 people, with room in the aisle for people to stand. We just go to the bus station or stand out on the road at any time of the day and eventually a marshrutka comes and picks us up. Taxis are another option. They’re more expensive and different from American taxis. If you are traveling a long distance, the price you pay is for 1 seat. That means at least 3 other passengers will be in the car with you. Some of the passengers bring 1-3 kids with them, which they don’t pay for. The kids sit on other passengers’ laps.
POSTAL SYSTEM. Kyrgyzstan has post offices and mail is delivered daily. The staff at the post office is about as unfriendly as they come. I don’t know why they’re so mean, but no amount of smiling, small talk and candy will change it. Kyrgyz people rarely, if ever, get personal mail. Many of them have never received a letter at home and don’t even know their zip codes. Mainly businesses receive mail.
PRODUCE. In the summer time, Karakol has a great selection of produce. Currently in the bazaar we can find lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, radishes, green onions, bell peppers, apples, cherries, bananas, oranges and lemons. This is in addition to the staple potatoes, carrots, cabbages, turnips, and onions.
GROCERIES. Karakol is starting to see more product choices. The selection of juice, candy, cookies and milk products is getting larger. We can buy dried and bagged soy, dried mushrooms, canned sardines, and frozen chicken. These products are offered at 3 small stores in town; and the stores are more highly priced than the bazaar.
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this blog are solely the author's. They are not those of Peace Corps as an organization.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007