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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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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You Might Live in a Village When… (Part 4)

cows in townThere is a sure fire way to know you live in a village and here it is. It’s when you dodge not only cars and pedestrians, but also livestock while driving. It is a common sight to look out my apartment window and find sheep and cows grazing on the roadside. Walk through a neighborhood and you are sure to see all manner of farm animals napping or eating in front of their owner’s home. Sometimes, you have to wonder where they came from as they are tied up on a tree or sign post and no home is readily nearby.

Then of course there are the livestock used for transportation. This could be someone on horseback (incidentally I just saw a woman on horseback, a first in KG) or with a beast of burden pulling a card. Our local coffee shop was even selling two donkeys back in the summer thanks to a French tourist who purchased them for hiking only to learn that it was faster to travel without them. I’ve never seen an ox pulling a cart but I see horses, mules, and donkeys doing so all the time.

Best of all was the day I saw a small boy walking the family cow on a leash. We were out looking for office space when the cow came around the corner heading to a vacant lot to munch on some grass. I know the boy was holding the leash but I assure you, the cow was walking the boy. I only wish I had a picture of that one!


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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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You Might Live in a Village When… (Part 3)

Back in May, I was out with a friend looking for some good places for a picnic for our language students. We went out to a beautiful, narrow valley near Ak Suu and then he mentioned an overlook on a ridge near Karakol’s brick factory. This is only about a 10 minute drive from the office and still within Karakol itself so I thought, why not take a look. After all, Ak Suu is a lot farther away.

So as we drove past the power plant and turned onto a small semi-paved road climbing the ridgeline, we seemed to be going nowhere. But before long, we reached the brick factory and had a great view of Karakol and the valley it sits within. But just up ahead was a somewhat steep hill with a dirt path going up. I thought to myself, “I bet that has amazing views. It is on the front of the ridge but higher than anything else without turning and going farther away from town towards the mountains. I wander if we could park at the base and walk up? I wander if I could drive up?”

I turned to my friend and told him my thoughts and off we went. I locked the center differential and drove on up the path and found myself with this amazing view of all of Karakol and even the shore of Lake Issyk Kul. (It felt much steeper driving back down!)

I took Magevney up a few days ago and realized, I’ve found the perfect spot to be alone to read or just get away for a couple of hours, all with a view of the village I call home. Only in a village could I get a view like this, feel totally alone, and be just five minutes from town and ten from home.

Karakol, Kyrgyzstan


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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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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.