Sunday, October 7, 2018

Midnight on the Kazakh Border

When you turn 18 in Kyrgyzstan, you can't be on your family's visa any longer.  But you really can't get a different visa if you already have a valid one in your passport.  Solution?
Cross the Kazakhstan border at midnight, turn around and re-enter Kyrgyzstan with a 60-day tourist visa. ON YOUR BIRTHDAY.
Confused?  Welcome to the life of expatriates.  Otherwise known as Perpetual Visa Seekers.
 So Nial spent his birthday with his friend's family in Bishkek. (Said friend left home for a distant adventure, being a newly-minted adult himself.) Then he taxied to Kazakhstan and you know the rest.
 Except for this.
 He managed to get his sleepy self back to Jalalabad for a birthday supper the next day.  We lighted meatballs on fire which he clapped out after a sorry Happy Birthday chorus.  See coolness factor below.
One was left burning.  You know what that means.
One special friend.

What it really means is that even though he's an adult now, he won't be in a huge hurry to leave Jbad.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Drive

When I was little, Grandpa and Grandma Burt would take drives in their shiny Oldsmobile just to "look at the crops."  They'd be sitting in their living room, reading The Sunday Register out loud to each other, and Grandma would look over at Grandpa and say, "Let's go for a little drive, shall we?"

I got in on more than a few of these.  I was always up for spending time with the grandparents, but the recreational drives lacked true recreation for me.  I liked it better when Grandma suggested--as she often would-- "Let's have a little ice cream, shall we?"

 I did become conversant in soybean field conditions (were they clean?) and how the corn was faring--skills that aided me slightly in impressing my future husband.

Well, I have become my grandmother.
Yesterday afternoon, I asked Curt if we could go on a drive.
I was tired of being cooped up inside our little town.  Inside our walls.  I needed countryside. 
Curt has been especially kind lately.  He indulged my many requests of, "Can you stop?  I'd like a picture."
He even acted like he enjoyed it.  Maybe he was hearkening back to crop-checking drives with his grandpa and grandma.
 So this is southern Kyrgyzstan in the fall.
 It hasn't really rained for a very long time.
 We lolled about, drawing stares from people who knew we didn't belong in these here parts.
 We didn't care much;  we're used to it.

Women were out in the fields picking cotton.
I'm not conversant in cotton.

 As we circled the roundabout back into the city, we followed this guy with a load-full of ear corn.
Grandpa Burt used to enthrall us with stories of hand-picking corn when he was a youngster.
I think he would've liked it here.

We ended our excursion with a trip to the grocery store.
It's kind of a fancy one--I bought parmesan cheese and pretty napkins.
Sunday splurges after a drive in the country.
Say, let's have a little ice cream now, shall we?

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Friend Party

Cherry Turnovers for breakfast.  Thank God for puff pastry in Central Asia.
 We used to say that our children could have a friend birthday party every five years.  The other years we invited family.  After a while, cousins became best friends anyway.
Our candle is so awesome.
We have no cousins in Kyrgyzstan.
Poor kids.
 But friends?  Check. 
And what do you know--it was his 15th birthday.  We are so consistent with our rules.  When they work out.
Every family member in country was also present.  All four of us.
The friends were shy and quiet at first.
They ate a lot though.
There's a new pizza joint in town.  The Hawaiian and Mexican varieties are surprisingly yummy.  Just don't come with any preconceived notions of how those kinds are supposed to taste.  Open your minds, fellow pizza seekers.  Pizza nirvana can be yours. 
 Theo ordered caramel cake.
From his mother's bakery.  I need a catchy name.

 After the food, everyone lost their shyness, and the games got rowdier.

 Theo says it's often like that;  just when things start getting fun, it's time to go.
Ah, the last vestiges of childhood.

Apparently these guys have said "Tah-tah" to childhood and rowdiness.
Or they ate too much caramel cake.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

That Kind of Friend

You know when you haven't seen someone for a very long time, and then you get together for a heart to heart, and it's like you were never apart?  You fill in the gaps and laugh about the same things you always laughed at and cry together about hard things--old and new.

Let's be that kind of friends.

Because otherwise my months-long silence could be awkward.  And awkward is no fun.

So let me fill you in.
Zadie started summer ballet with a new teacher.  She was the sole student.  God only knows how Zadie's mother got ribboned into the end-o-summer performance.  But she did.  I'm referring to her in third person to distance myself from the trauma.
Actually, it wasn't so bad.  I pretended like I wouldn't want to be anywhere else but waltzing away in front of 40 Kyrgyz mamas and papas. 
I also prayed my daughter would appreciate the magnitude of my love for her at some point in her future.  I may have prayed this out loud. 
In her presence.
We celebrated afterwards at the new hamburger joint.  They say, "Gamburger" here.  It's funny.
But really tasty.
Oh, you want to know who the young man is dancing with his mom? It's the director's son.  He was forced into performing because I refused to dance BY MYSELF with the Z girl IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE.
I am so not sorry.
Besides, he's cute and someday Zadie might need a partner that's not her mother.
 After the hottest part of the season in Jbad, Theo and I flew to a exotic locale that felt like Florida in the summer
 and looked like a real-time Renaissance fair.
 I thought this guy was going to do the sailor impressment thing on my son.
Maybe he just thought Theo was a Pirates of the Caribbean actor.
 Do you have a guess where we were?  And don't my calves look shapely in this distorted mirror?  I like that mirror.
 Hint: the Mediterranean, not the Caribbean.
Place your guesses below.

But, dear friend, if I've given the impression that summer was a carefree gala;  I have misled you.
Indeed, some seasons are hard.  Maybe that's why I haven't connected much.

Wet dish rags are not fun to be around.  Especially when they're being squeezed.

Some of you can relate.

Then this happened in the USA:
Which is lovely when I'm feeling gracious and benevolent.

But it's lonely and friendless and heart-scraping when I'm not.  The Isabel bird isn't coming back any time soon.  She has flown the nest and the Atlantic.  She is chumming with all the adult sisters.

This part of parenting does not get easier.

I will tell you that I'm doing better.
The family is doing better. 
Some things are too difficult to write about in a breezy blog.  Yet once upon a time, I promised you authenticity.
We've had health issues and lots of other issues, but we are on the mend.
Mentally, emotionally, physica...well, you know--all the "ally's".

The new ratio of guys to gals in our house has taken some getting used to.  I now talk to Nial and Theo about feelings, cooking, kombucha and keto.  I think they're learning something. Ha!
  I wish you could take a turn in our little chat.  Maybe gush about a new grandchild, bemoan your toddler's tantrums, share health fears, show me your latest project.  Someday... 
For now, reconnecting just a tad feels like the welcome whisper of a new season.
Thanks for being those kind of friends.

Kisses from Kstan,


Friday, August 3, 2018

Bright Spots

I thought I'd add a few bright spots to your summer.  If you're like me, the heat starts wearing on you and you can't see the flowers through the weeds.
Or something like that.
 Art in the Park every Tuesday evening has turned out to be a rousing success.  More and more kids show up each time, and they love the variety of projects that Calla picks for them to try.
               The sign above says,
But those who trust the Lord
    will find new strength.
They will be strong like eagles
    soaring upward on wings;
they will walk and run
    without getting tired.
Good news!
 This young man will soon brighten a little girl's life with her custom-made adapted wheelchair.
She lives at home with her family who's thrilled to be getting new transportation  for their little sweetie pie.

I thought you might like this too.
Aren't they adorable?  Nadja is the sparkle in Nial's eye lately.  But you didn't hear it from me.
 Summer birthdays are colorful.
 Private art lessons too.  My selfie skills at their zenith.
 New hair extensions are sunny AFTER they're in.  The process is still excruciating.
 My little diva on her way to the dentist.  She considers it a highlight that she gets to ride in an airplane to get cavities filled.
You can be thrilled you don't get to.
 Earlier this summer, lemon balm pesto brightened all our pasta and crackers and tomatoes.
 It's dead now.  No rain.
But the memory makes me happy.  And hungry.
We can make pesto with basil, but in Kstan they only have purple basil with green insides.  Do you know what color of pesto purple and green make?
It looks exactly like--never mind.  It's not bright.
 But Kyrgyz wildflowers?

I can't see the weeds through the bright spots. 

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