Saturday, April 21, 2018

Dreamy Spring

 This was the view out my bedroom window a couple weeks ago.  Now the little green cherries are plumping out all over the place.
 Jbad does spring in technicolor--it's arguably the best time of the year.
 The coal dust clears out, steady rains cleanse the air at least once a week, and we can see the mountains again.


 Life is fine, fine, fine.
 Can you spot my crazy children above? 
A friend in Bishkek says, "Have your supporters come in winter or summer, but encourage prospective team members to visit in spring and fall."
She's sneaky that way.
Those maybe-recruits would miss tasting the cherries straight from the trees.
But I have a freezer.





Friday, April 6, 2018

Carol Schulte's Tulips

Last summer my friend Lori emailed me.  "What do you want from the States?" she asked.  She and her daughter were coming soon to visit, and they wanted to bless us.
I didn't have to think long.
"Tulip bulbs," I wrote.

Lori and I come from a city in Iowa that has been voted Most Beautiful Small Town in the Universe by every journalistic genre in the world.
And here's why:  Tulips.  Hundreds of thousands of them.  Every year for three days in May, a million people (no exaggeration!) show up for Tulip Time.  It's a glorious celebration of our Dutch heritage.  (Once, some visitors from Holland declared that our town was more Dutch than the Netherlands.) We crown a Tulip Queen, guys.  And we have SIX parades.  But the main draw is the vast stretches of tulip beds.
So I assumed obtaining tulip bulbs would be a cinch for Lori.
Not so.
There was nary a bulb to be found.  Not in our town, nor any other in Iowa.  August is not the time to plant bulbs, don'tcha know?

 Well, our mutual friend Carol got wind of the search.  Carol was in the hospital battling cancer for the ninth year in a row.
"I have tulip bulbs in my garage.  I want Wendy to have them."  She--or some family member--had dug them up after Tulip Time.  A perk of living in Our Town.
"Oh, no," exclaimed Lori.
"I insist," determined Carol.

And that's how I ended up with Carol Schulte's tulips.
 A friend and I visited Carol when I was in America last January.  She didn't look like herself.  But four minutes after our arrival, she looked exactly like herself.  Because I stopped looking on the outside.  She was the same exuberant, math-loving, deep thinking, adventure-seeking, God-pursuing soul she always had been.
We talked about important things.  Children.  Husbands.  Dying.  Jesus.  Regrets.  Joys.
We cried.  We prayed.  We reminisced.

It wasn't all upbeat.
But it was all real.

Two weeks later she beheld Jesus himself.  In person.

And I went home to Kyrgyzstan.

Spring comes early to Kstan.  Little green shoots show up before you're even expecting them.  Last month I stepped outside and noticed.

Carol Schulte's tulips were sprouting.
Last week they started blooming.  Pink and white and red and yellow surprises.
I can't walk by without a pang and a pleasure.

Even if they're not the vast colorways of our Dutch-American, festival town, they are deeply beautiful.  Stately, stunning, friendly and welcoming.

They look exactly like her.





Monday, April 2, 2018

The World Has Changed

Where in the world is Isabel A.?

She's here!  She's here!  She's here!  She's here!  She's here!
And the places she's been.
When I was 19, I couldn't have imagined even visiting the countries where she's hung out.
I thought Europe was exotic.
And it is.  
But she ate silk worms in Thailand and shrimp paste in Vietnam.
Her four months in England seem tame compared with the two she spent in Southeast Asia.
Still she's fitting seamlessly into Jbad, Kstan,  reorganizing my kitchen and cooking delectable wonders like Korean pancakes and Vietnamese spring rolls. 
(The secret is the sauce, my friends.)
We are so happy she's home.
Did you notice anyone else in that last photo?
 Curt's mom and sister flew in last week.
Plus his niece!  Better known as the cousin.  It's wonderful to have family digging into this culture that we've come to love.  It's about the funnest thing in the whole wide world.

After daughters who return.



Thursday, March 22, 2018

Shooting From the Hip

I've shared photos from the springtime festival, Nooruz before; you might remember it.  Dancers (costumed), singers( dramatic), speakers (boring), and crowds (large).
This year I decided to focus on the onlookers.  Because once you've seen Kyrgyz dancing costumes, you pretty much can recognize them from a kilometer away.
 So I invite you to stroll through the festivities with me.  I'll shoot from the hip so I don't freak people out.

 I think the guy on the left was on to me.  Not so much the one on the right.

 I had to put her on twice since she had such a purposeful stroll.


 Okay, I did aim slightly on this one because they weren't paying me any mind.
 I'm a little concerned about the missing baby here.

Recognize anyone above?
This guy was a real...well, I still get irritated when people stalk my daughter.  He was videoing.  I pointedly aimed and took this.  No response.  Just kept videoing. 
So I got directly in front of him.
He just kept videoing.
Argh.
 Finally he stopped when the sumuluk lady came through the crowd with free samples.
 You get to dip the borsok (fried bread tidbits) into the sumuluk.
 They ran out of borsok so our guest from Germany just dipped his whole hand in.
 Shocking.


He is also staring at the Z girl.  After his father pointed her out.

We ate lunch at this fine establishment.
 She's microwaving the meat for our sandwiches.  Red cap is trying to engage daughter in conversation.  Or maybe she's just staring.  She bothers me less than older gentlemen. 

While waiting for our meal, I noticed this nearby juice stand.  The plastic cups are for customers.  They may or may not get rinsed out with water in a bucket before being returned to the tray.
 Favorite shot of the day:
Ice cream date.  Heart eyes.


Thanks for visiting Nooruz with me.  Happy Spring!



Monday, March 19, 2018

Looking Past the Poop

Beauty and ugliness coexist side by side in Kyrgyzstan almost everywhere.
For the most part we've learned to see selectively and not let the nasty overshadow the nice.
 Just a couple days ago Calla and I dragged Theo and Nial away from their studies and up the hill.  As we trudged up, Calla and I both commented on the teeny wild flowers poking up through the new grass.
 Nial laughed and said, "I looked down and just saw poop everywhere."
We looked again.
Sure enough, sheep manure and horse "apples" vastly outnumbered the pink and purple and yellow wild flowers.
I guess we stepped around the poop and immediately forgot it.  Flowers are infinitely more noteworthy.
 All that to justify posting almond blossom pictures yet again.
 You see, with almond trees in bloom, you hardly have to ignore anything.  It's all spectacular.

 
Yesterday Calla went running miles away from here and discovered an orchard that went on forever upwards and outwards.
Zadie and I decided to invite this friend and her littles to check it out with us.
We drove.  
 They were SO excited to be outside of Jalalabad.
 They started running and liked to never stop.
 Until the four-year-old did a head-over-heels face-plant in a pile of, you guessed it, horse poop.
You can't ever completely escape the muck of this world--even in a heavenly-scented fairy land.
She was fine.  After a few spits.
 I wish I could give you the scope and breadth of these trees.  Alas, I didn't even have my wide-angle lens. 
Even so, I hope you can picture yourself here, breathing deeply of other-worldly scents.
While watching your step.
 A symbol, in my mind at least, of the sacred and secular forever mingling.
 Celestial certainty.
Right here in Jbad.
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