Wednesday, September 13, 2017


The bounty of a Kyrgyz summer is enough to make me fancy myself a food photographer.

Until I realize I didn't take the plastic wrap off the cold cuts.  Food Digest fail.  Shoot.

Editorial note:  We have meat bees here.  One of the kids so named them.  I did not want to signal the meat bees that it was time to feast.  If this sounds like a photo faux pas excuse, it is.

Grilled eggplant, zuchini, and long green beans.
Fresh figs are in season.
Cabbage bowls for the dip and pesto.

Gouda cheese from our little Dutch-esque town in the U.S. completed the spread.
The cheese-gifters, though, were the topping, sprinkles, and cherries on top.
The other guests converged from all corners of Kstan.
We all ate until we couldn't move.
And then we had dessert.

Ah, summer.  You are redeemed.

P.S.  Thanks for stopping by after so many post-less weeks.  My computer died dead and internet in Jbad died zombie dead.  Right now I'm using data and a hot spot, but that is cost prohibitive.  Just know that I haven't forgotten y'all.
More when we get our techie act together. ***

*Breezy kisses*

Monday, August 28, 2017


He thought of the code.  2662--her age and his.  Grand posters and impressive pamphlets announced the opening of "2662," a two person exhibition at the Art Museum in Osh.

Except she's only 25.
That's OK.  "Close enough" should be a Kyrgyz mantra.

She and her museum buddies gave us a personalized tour a few days ago.  In fact, they postponed the closing so that our artsy American friends could visit.
Here we all are, the Americans looking sweaty and touristy because we'd just climbed a mountain and because we allowed ourselves to be.  Touristy not sweaty.
We felt very cultured.
One room housed the art of Calla Van Wyk, portrait artist, cultural explorer, line blurrer.
Her mother is a little bit proud.

Isabel helped her pen the sign.  It's Genesis 1:26-27.
 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness...

 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

It's a big part of Calla's worldview.  She likes to share it in this culture.  Just to rock their boat a bit.

 The "62" half of the show was her friend, Almasbek Bika.
We were impressed.  A different worldview, for sure.  We asked him about the far triptych.  His explanation:  "It's me."
That's how you spot a true artist, friends.  They don't feel the need to explain everything.

Apricots.  They're the best in K'stan.

He did educate us about some of the permanent paintings in the museum.  Soviet era mostly.  We have a lot to learn.  Growing up, we definitely heard only one side of the Cold War.  (Don't go all crazy on me.  I'm still American, y'all.  Just more aware of propaganda the world over.)
Doesn't this one just make you sigh?

The sweaty Bettys came home tired but inspired.
I see another art show in the future.  What shall we name it?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


My teenagers watch this show, 24.  After I go to bed.
It's a thriller about some guys who never sleep and who save the world in 24 hours.  I can't seem to be bothered.

However my last 24 hours have been action-packed, baby.  The stuff TV series are made of.

Here's the stationary trailer.

We've had a lice scare.  I really don't know if we're dealing with the real thing, but she's been exposed and that fact makes her itchy.  So no braids for awhile.  Yesterday, after yet another non-toxic-to-her-but-hopefully-really-discouraging-to-icky-guests application (AH!), I treated her to a two-hour appointment with my straightener.
I could tell she felt all elegant and pretty afterwards.  She kept looking in the mirror and adjusting the barrette.
I remember the same feeling the first time I discovered hot rollers.
 And none of this, "All dressed up and no place to go" nonsense.  We went to a party.
 There's a new school opening in J'bad, and our friend is the art director.  She asked the girls and me to help out with a promotional event.

  After painting a thousand foreheads and cheeks, we ran to the grocery store for supper supplies.  Overnight guests were waiting at our house and we needed to throw something together.  The girls prepared a salad fit for a Caesar and the boys cleaned up.  I can't remember what I did, but I think it involved a couch.
This morning, we ate waffles on the suru, tried to recruit our guests to J'bad, and then drove them to the Children's Home.
 They brought their instruments and regaled the kiddos.  Check out the expression on the little boy in the corner.  It's not normal.
 Music therapy simultaneously calmed and thrilled them.
Once again, the CDI staff and volunteers impressed me with their steady patience as they guided children through new therapy techniques that they've learned in the last few months.
*Spoiler Alert*
The highlight of the last 24 hours--
I couldn't find him because I was looking for him in a wheelchair.
Here he was, in the middle of the floor, sitting tall,  putting beans in a bottle and speaking several words.

I can't even.
You'll remember, you are a  part of this segment of the show because I distinctly remember you praying.
You guys are stars!

The next 24 promises to be even more exciting;  as I sit here documenting in my comfy living room, three American guests are trying to get comfortable in about thirteen inches of space each, high above the Atlantic Ocean.  They'll be touching ground in Jalalabad at noon tomorrow, and the Van Wyks are SO eager to welcome them.

I'm calling them guest stars.

I so amuse myself.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Swap Ya

You guys should try this.  It's inspiration to clean out your closets plus an opportunity to acquire some new-to-you duds.
All you need are some frou-frou snacks (the low-prep kind) and a grapevine.
If you don't have a grapevine, a ceiling will do, but it's optional.  So I guess all you need is snacks.

Rule #1  No men allowed.  
Except for the really small variety.  That way, your extra-conservative Muslim friends will feel more comfortable.  And ya'll can try on clothes behind the garage.

Invite people from across the country, world, and/or your street.
Serve tea in all your funky cups.  Even if they're chipped.
Hint*  Our menu was pesto on naan, grape chicken salad tarts and cucumber sandwiches.  Also, Isabel made chocolate baklava, which (while being the most heavenly delicacy this side of, well, heaven) is not low-prep.
If you're in Central Asia, your friends will also bring food--melons, samsas, and homemade meat/potato pies that say, "We are blessed."
You're sad you don't live in Central Asia, aren't you?
Rule #2  Bring things that you don't wear anymore or that you're tired of or that don't fit like they used to.
That's it!  Take a bag and start shopping.  It's all free!

I really hope you throw a Swap Party.  Put a little love in your neighborhood.  I'm thinkin' we could all use it.

When you do, let me know how it goes.  I'll be waiting...

Monday, August 14, 2017

It's In My Neighborhood Too

She came running into the house, tears welling up.

"I'm not going back down there!" she sobbed.

"What are you talking about?" I looked for clues in my 7-year-old's eyes.  Minutes earlier, I had sent her down the street, barely a block away to meet her brother and give him something he'd forgotten.

"There are men throwing down tiles off a roof," she managed.  "They called me bad names."

Sadly, this is nothing new.  For many people in this country, Zadie is the first individual of African ethnicity they've ever seen in person.  Most are curious, kind and complimentary.

Some are cruel.  Zadie and I have had countless conversations about this;  why people are ignorant, why they say mean things, how she should respond.  We also talk exhaustively about her identity as a treasured daughter of her Creator.
We sometimes pray for "our enemies" and bless them.

So I asked her what names they had called her (just to make sure it wasn't a meaning lost in translation) and then did what any godly mom would do.

I snapped.

I have evaluated my actions since then, trying to decide what constitutes godly anger and when you should turn the other cheek and pray for those who hurt you.

In fact, I was praying (sort of) as I marched up the stairs to change out of my shorts and T-shirt into a dress and long pants.  I could feel adrenaline pumping and my heart thumping;  I knew it's seldom wise to take action when you're in such a state.

But I was so mad.

My thoughts whirled:
These are grown men.  
Insulting a child.  My child.
I've had it.  
When are these people going to get it?  
How will they even know it's wrong if no one ever tells them?  
The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.  
Yes, but Jesus turned over the moneychangers' tables.  
He was angry.  
Enough is enough.  
She needs to see that this is unacceptable.  
Her momma sticks up for her.

My clothes now more suitable for our conservative, Muslim street, I marched outside.
"Stay here," I told Zadie.

I tried conjugating the verbs in my head, thinking up vocabulary as I soldiered down the road. When I reached the pile of broken tiles, I realized this scene was going to be more difficult than I had thought.

The workers were standing up near the peak of a two-story house, tearing off tiles and throwing them onto the street. (Pedestrians just have to pay attention in order to not get hit.)  Whatever I wanted to say to them, I'd have to holler to high heaven.  Every single neighbor would be gossiping about me by day's end.

I yelled.

This is what I wanted it to sound like.  I'm sure I was slaughtering every grammar rule in the book.

"Hey, that was my daughter you said bad words to.  She is beautiful and dark-skinned.  Yeah, that girl.  You said bad things to her.  God created her just like that--beautiful.  And it's shameful, the way you talked to her."
There were two of them staring down on me, jaws slack.  Then they started interrupting my tirade.
"Eje, we were just warning her not to get hit.  We didn't say anything bad to her."

The upstairs window opened and two older boys peered out, wondering what the commotion was.
Sure, let's get everyone involved.  There's a crazy white woman down there throwing words around like she means business.

I restated my former sentiments, adding that my daughter speaks Kyrgyz and Uzbek very well.
"She knows what you said and so does God."

They must've understood the gist of what I was saying.  Or maybe their consciences condemned them.  They protested their innocence a few more times.  I didn't believe them for a minute.  And I told them so.

Then I turned and walked home, wondering the whole way if I'd done the right thing.

I still don't know.

What I am certain of is this--

My daughter watched from our doorway as her mamma refused to tacitly encourage racism by chalking it up to ignorance or cultural differences.  And her friend watched too.

And this--

As I write, that same daughter is viewing, at her request, YouTube videos in Amharic (the language from her native Ethiopia).

Maybe that's enough for now.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Under the Arbor

A lot of life takes place under our grape arbor.
I think it has something to do with the unrelenting Jalalabad sunshine and the temperatures regularly butting up near 100.
But the massive grape arbor is more than just a shady spot to hang out.  It represents something big and personal.
26 years ago, before mortgages and babies (well, I was pregnant with Calla), Curt and I flitted around Europe like we hadn't a care.  He drove a hundred mph on the German Autobahn while I closed my eyes and prayed to live another day.  We climbed the Eiffel Tower and got lost in Venice.
But the things my husband liked the most were all the little Weinstuben in tiny German and Austrian villages.  They were cafes/bars/taverns serving up wine made from their very own grapes growing right out back.
Curt and I didn't so much enjoy the local wines as much as the locales;  each Weinstube had a twining grapevine under which summer patrons sipped and munched and chatted and relaxed.

Curt has wanted a grape arbor ever since.

How like God to surprise us in Central Asia, at our own house, with six, fully-grown grapevines.

It seems He loves to delight with whimsy and long-forgotten desires.  

And with life under the arbor.
This puppy likes lounging in the shade.  His name is Bunny.
It wasn't my idea.
Farmer friends, this is not the weed variety morning glory.  No, I planted it.  The weed variety also grows under the grapes, but I don't photograph them.
Painting on canvas and rocks.
Great artists paint you-know-where.
And then they take a break and cuddle kitties.  (jk, Calla)
This is, by far, the best thing going down under the arbor.
Friends gathering, chatting, sipping and munching.

A little bit of Germany right here in J'bad, KG.

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