Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Fair Warning

Recently a colleague sent this list of new laws and their respective fines to our little group of expats in Jalalabad.
Apparently he was most concerned about us getting caught spitting, littering, and making noise.  
Or maybe he was highlighting the difficulty of enforcing these oft-violated rules.      
Either way, the citizens of our fair city can venture out, confident that they won't breathe the smoke from a garbage fire or step in spit.
We will, however, still encounter a layer of coal smoke that hangs perpetually over the city in the winter.
And I was slightly disappointed that blowing your nose in public by holding a finger to one nostril and giving a mighty blast onto the ground wasn't deemed illegal.
I've been surprised more than a few times by the lady walking in front of me bending over and cleaning her sinuses "fireman style."

But then, I'm a product of my home culture.
Here, people consider blowing your nose in public into a tissue quite rude.

So if you're planning to visit, consider yourself warned.
I will say that Curt had a money-making opportunity that we're exploring.  He suggested making our courtyard a spitting zone.  People could pay 5 som per spit.  When I said that might be gross for us, he said we could get buckets.

Now there's an idea.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Getting Out of the House

About the middle of January I start feeling like hunkering down on the couch under furry blankets-- Kindle on my lap, knitting to my right, creamy hot drink huddled against my chest.  Everything I need in life.  'Til spring.

Maybe it's my imagination, but living in a foreign country intensifies this propensity.  I don't want to be the only outsider in the grocery store.  I don't want to draw stares as I describe cinnamon sticks to the spice guy at the bazaar.  I'm tired of the INSANITY of driving anywhere.

I recognize this as unhealthy.
So I went laminate shopping today.

Actually, I don't care if it is unhealthy, but my kitchen sink has been inconveniently situated in the corner behind the oven since we bought the house, and my guys are willing to move it this winter.
Curt stood on a stool for this view of our cabinets/countertop to take to the store.  This is real life, folks.  Undoctored, how we live.  I did crop out the compost bowl on the island.  Just thank me.

Thus, laminate shopping.

Laminate is the cat's meow in Kstan.  But mostly the ultra-glossy, brightly colored, or glittery metallic varieties.  Homeowners cover living room ceilings with laminate, build large wardrobes out of laminate and splash entire kitchens with primary hues of laminate.

I wanted something a bit more subdued.

Basically, I liked two countertop possibilities.  But then Curt said it wouldn't be that much more money to get new cupboard fronts.  Yay!  Out with the stripes!   But now, a whole new world of wood-grain laminate opened up for me.  I know.  You're salivating.
Next time I go to this laminate showroom, I'll take a picture to show you.

I was too overwhelmed to think about you.  Sorry.

All my guys were with me.  Waiting.
They held sample combinations while I stepped back.
They offered their opinions.
They were very, very patient.
Curt did say that up to that point, he hadn't been bored for 20 years.
Bless his heart.

Nial was especially helpful, and as we were making our final selection, another customer was talking to the salesman.

He, too, was trying to decide between two woodtones for a schkaf.  A schkaf is like a wardrobe.  He turned to me and asked which one I thought was better.

"Well," I said, pleased he addressed me in Kyrgyz, but a little surprised, "This color is warm.  It has a warm feel to it.  This one is cold." ( I used to be an art teacher, thank you very much.)

"Ah, " he nodded. "So that one is better."  And--just like that--off he went to order the "warm" one.  Kyrgyz people don't like cold.

"That's what you need, Mom," Nial commented.  "Some Russian woman telling you which one looks better.  You need one of yourself."

I laughed, knowing everyone assumes we're Russian.

Moments later, Curt had a question for our salesguy.  Curt spoke in Kyrgyz, correctly using the word, kerek, for something we needed.

The schkaf customer had come up behind us and was amused.  "Kerek," he softly murmured, smiling at me kindly.

I smiled back, sensing he wasn't making fun but knowing it's unusual for this tall, white guy to be speaking Kyrgyz.
"We try," I said.

His eyes crinkled with warmth. "Thank you," he said.

That should be enough to get me off the couch for the rest January, friends.

Two little appreciative words.

That, and a spiffy kitchen update.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Catching Up

I guess it's a fact of life;  babies grow up.
Then they go to weird countries or stay while you do and call you when they want to know how to make homemade mac and cheese or what to do for an ingrown toenail.

They work strange hours and attend obscure classes.
I can't keep track of their schedules or their time zones.
Maybe you'd like to catch up on the Van Wyk young 'uns.  Perhaps I'll sort it all out in my mind in the process.
These four are Jbad at the moment.
Nial is finishing up his last year of high school.  He works in the shop with Curt, hangs out with Nadja his special friend, and plays soccer, floor hockey and basketball with friends.  Nial and I have had fun speaking German this past semester.  He's studying it at a language school.  Nadja's dad is his teacher.  Nial is not intimidated by this.

Calla returned before Christmas after three months in the US.  She got to connect with family and lots of friends
and their new babies.
Upon arrival here, she immediately commenced to painting.
This watercolor is of her Kyrgyz mom with the first grandbaby.
Sadly, just yesterday, Calla's Kyrgyz 55-year old father passed away suddenly.  We went to pay our respects yesterday.  Hundreds of men were praying in the next-door mosque while we stood in line in the family's courtyard to hug this sweet lady and her devastated daughters.
Calla will help in the future days with some of the many hosting obligations that go along with a death in the family.
In happier news, Calla also met a special friend while in America.💖

Hanneli is in her last term of nursing school.  She already works on the weekends as a Licensed Practical Nurse.
During her recent Christmas break, she and our friend Hannah buzzed down to Florida to spend four days with my parents.

 I think they spent all their daylight hours on the ocean.
Hanneli has dreads.
They get a lot of attention.  Mostly positive.  Her mama likes them a lot more than she anticipated.

Erika works really early hours at the hospital as a tech. Her patients love her.
She often has afternoons and evenings free to take care of her livestock and to spend time with her special friend.  He recently made shutters for her house while she and her sisters painted the outside and refinished the wooden floors inside.  
Shutter picture won't come through.  They're cool--take my word for it.

After leaving Kstan, Isabel worked full time painting houses in Iowa and applying to colleges for the fall of 2019.  Last week she hightailed it to Hawaii to take a three-month intensive course called Foundations of Counseling.  So many cultures to adjust to!  If you think Island culture isn't different from Iowa or Kyrgyz culture, you need to talk to Bel.

Those are the high points on our adult children.
Thank goodness we still live with Spunk and Rap here in Jbad.

Trying not to blink,


Thursday, January 3, 2019


One of my biggest joys of the holiday season was hosting parties.  I reveled in the planning, baking, decorating, gathering and gifting.  It reminded me of the treasures I have here in Kstan and helped to partially fill the void of family members not with us. (By the way, I'm already starting a family campaign for 2019:  Christmas in Kyrgyzstan.  Nice ring to it, right?)

But back to parties.  We know what goes into them.  So when this family invited us for New Year's Eve in their village home, we were not only happy to accept--we were honored.

They are givers.  The kind that look for ways to help and bless and be a friend. 
The kind that sacrifice to make a party more festive because they want to celebrate you.
 They cooked and decorated--even outside--and gave us personal gifts.
These three:
Sisters all and Kyrgyz daughters of my heart.
Speaking of heart...
 I could gush about this child for a very long time.  Her cheeks are absolutely as satisfying as they look.  She never fussed.  The entire time we were there.  I could hardly stand the sweetness.
 And this.
The number one reason for sitting on tushuks:  after a party meal, you can just snuggle down for a nap.
Our hostesses didn't mind in the least.
They may have even been honored that he felt so at home.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Sights and Highlights of the Season

It's always a teeny bit hard to say good-bye to Christmas.  I think I won't for awhile.

Heart. Heart. Heart.

Overly pleased with gnocchi making and Christmas coffee drinking.  And being friends.

Who's beneath the beard??  Ayaz Ata and Ayaz Girl give out presents to boys and girls for New Year's.

He looks awfully familiar.

This is where he was headed.  A celebration for Zadie's Russian and Ballet School.

Theo made eleven nativity sets and helped others make some too.

 Happy New Year, Friends!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Al Bacio!

I learned an Italian word yesterday.  And I've used it SO MUCH already.
Al bacio.  Literally, "the kiss."  But it also means fantastic, wonderful, delicious, perfect!
And when Italians do that little kissy thing with their fingers and lips (see above), that's al bacio!

For our annual Christmas Italian Cooking Extravaganza, we made truffles and gnocchi.

Truffles rolled in pistachios, hazelnuts, and coffee cocoa. 

But these little numbers stole the show: dozens and dozens of little noodle-ish dumplings made of 11 pounds of potatoes, flour and eggs.
 The dough stretched endlessly on as only homemade pasta can.

 Every piece had to be individually rolled on the floured tines of a fork, our index fingers pressing a hollow on the underside of each baby gnocchi.
Fortunately we are an engaging bunch and made gnocchi rolling look like the best pre-Christmas activity since mistletoe hanging.

Allie dropped by and wanted to try her hand at it.
 Then the boys wanted to try it.
They were born to shape gnocchi.
I'm not surprised.  When I lamented to this darling friend from Italy that I wasn't Italian, she assured me that I surely was.  A little bitta.
We had so much gnocchi, it wouldn't fit on the table, and so we had to boil some up and sample it with tomato bechamel sauce.  We all agreed. 

 It was al bacio.
Here's a gnocchi recipe.  I can't give you the actual one we used--well, I could, but it's in Italian.  Make it with a crowd for a crowd.

Italian Christmas kisses!


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