31 October 2006

Russian in Central Asia

The main reason I'm not as concerned about learning Russian is that it's pretty much assured that Russian's influence in Central Asia is only going to decline. Will Russian be very useful there in 30 years, or will Uzbek and Tajik and Kazakh have taken over? I've decided that learning Uzbek/Uyghur is a better choice than Kazakh/Kyrgyz, mostly because Russian is going downhill more quickly in Uzbekistan than Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and it never existed in Xinjiang province. Russian may still be pretty prevalent in Kyrgyzstan in 30 years, at least in the north.

But it's hard to guess where languages will go. French is still the official language of many of its former colonies, but that doesn't mean that French is necessarily a good choice for a foreigner to learn. But I think I'll not worry as much about Russian. And if we go back in 30 years and really need it, I'll be sorry. But I don't think that will happen. (I certainly plan to go back sooner than 30 years though.)

I Can't Get Away From Russian

I keep trying to move past learning Russian. It was the most logical choice to learn while we were in Kyrgyzstan since we were living in Bishkek, but I wish I could have focused more on Kyrgyz. I've been working on Persian (it helps that I already know the Arabic alphabet, and that there are lots of words borrowed from Arabic, or similar to other Indo-European languages), but now that my parents are going to St. Petersburg I've been enlisted in Russian-learning corps again. So Persian will probably go by the wayside for the next four months while I work on Russian some more so I don't totally confuse my parents.

Potatoes with Tomatoes and Feta

2 T oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c tomato sauce, or as needed (I like to use crushed tomatoes too)
2 c water, or as needed
4 T fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
2 lbs potatoes, cut into thick wedges (Yukon Gold are best, but use what you have)

In a large frying pan, cook the onion in the oil till golden. Add the garlic, tomato sauce, water, parsley, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, add the potatoes, cover tightly, lower the heat, and simmer 30 minutes till the potatoes are cooked and the sauce is thick. Serve with feta on top. From The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean by Paula Wolfert.

29 October 2006

Spicy Pizzas

Olive oil dough

7.5 c flour
.75 c olive oil
2.75 c warm water
2 T yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 T salt

Mix everything together and knead well, adding flour if needed. Let rise till doubled. This freezes well. I usually use half the for one meal.


Cooked brown lentils- around 2-3 cups cooked, IIRC
1/4 c fresh parsley
1 T red pepper paste (post this)
1 grated onion, squeezed dry
1/2 c chopped canned tomatoes
2 T tomato paste
1 tsp cumin

Mix well and let sit, if possible. Divide the dough into 16 small pieces and roll out. Top with a bit of the lentil mixture. Bake at 500 for about 5 minutes. This is based on recipes from The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean by Paula Wolfert on pages 57 and 59.


1.75 c flour
3 T oil
3/4 cup yogurt
1 T cornstarch
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 c crumbled feta
1 c grated mozzarella
3 T beaten egg (about 3/4 of an egg)

Combine 3 T flour and the oil, then add the yogurt. Add another cup of flour and mix thoroughly. In a small bowl, combine the rest of the flour and the cornstarch, soda, and salt. Add to the bigger bowl, then mix well to form a soft dough. Cover and let sit two hours. Meanwhile, combine the cheeses and the egg. Divide the dough into two pieces and roll each out into a 10-inch circle. Put half the cheese in a 5-inch circle in the middle of each circle of dough, then fold the edges over to make a tight, flat packet. Heat two frying pans over low heat, then film with butter. Cook the breads seam side up till golden, about 12 minutes. Flip over and finish cooking. Brush the tops with melted butter and let stand 5 minutes. Serve cut into wedges. This is from The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean by Paula Wolfert and is Georgian.

Hobak Namul

3 medium zucchini, sliced thin
1 T oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp toasted sesame seeds (dry roast them till they turn golden)

Put the zucchini slices in a colander and salt them. Let sit 30 minutes, then squeeze them out to get rid of as much water as possible. You can use a towel to squeeze them, if you like. Heat the oil, then saute the garlic just for a short time. Add the zucchini and stir-fry about 2 minutes, then add the pepper and sesame seeds. Fry one more minute. You might want to add a bit more salt, depending on how much you squeezed out. This is based on a recipe from Essentials of Asian Cuisine by Corinne Trang.

Refried Beans

3 c cooked pinto beans
1 T oil
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 T chili powder (I don't much like chili powder, so I use a lot less and put in crushed red pepper instead)

Heat oil, add beans and cook 5 minutes. Mash the beans and add the spices. Add water or the cooking liquid from the beans if you need to. Mix well.

Quick Breadsticks

3-4 c flour, white or wheat
1 T yeast
2 T sugar
1 tsp salt
1.5 c warm water
2 T butter
Garlic salt

Mix 2 c flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Add the water and mix well, then add enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead 3 or 4 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter and pour it in a 9x13 dish. Roll out the dough to fit the dish, then put the dough into the dish, and then turn it over so it's all buttery. Cut the dough into 18 pieces about 1 inch wide and 4 inches long and sprinkle with garlic salt. Let rise 15-20 minutes, then bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Country Gravy

3 T butter
3 T flour
2 c milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning (I've never used this, instead, I use some celery salt along with a some of a bay leaf and more pepper and a bit of cardamon, cloves, and paprika)

Melt the butter in the microwave or in a pot on the stove. Add flour and mix well, then add the milk and stir again. Heat for a minute at a time in the microwave, stirring each time it stops, or on the stove until thick.


2 c whole wheat flour
1 c barley or oat flour, or another cup of whole wheat
3/4 c ground flax seed
1 c powdered milk
1 T baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1 egg
1/4 c oil
1/2-3/4 cup applesauce, or one banana
3/4 c yogurt
3 c water

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Purify the rest in a blender, then add to the dry ingredients. Add more water or flour as needed to get the consistency you like.

28 October 2006

Daylight Savings

I totally forgot about daylight savings ending. I usually look forward to it for days. I'm finally getting my hour back I lost all the way back in April of 2005.

27 October 2006

123rd Page

From Susan:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next 4 sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.

This was nearest book; others were a few feet farther on the piano bench:

The system of supporting constructions, owing to the large size of these halls, become so complicated that the structure almost becomes and ornament in itself, thus giving the building a unique individuality.

You'll never guess, so I'll just tell you it's from Monuments of Central Asia. It's talking about madrasa Abdullah Khan in Bukhara.


I haven't written about Kyrgyz politics in a while. But that doesn't mean that there isn't plenty going on in Kyrgyzstan. In fact, things aren't going well at all. But of course, things weren't going well earlier this year and Bakiev managed to weather that pretty well, and I think there's a good chance he'll get through this round of strife. But I'm not making any predictions, because you never know with Kyrgyzstan. And who knows? There are demonstrations planned for November 2nd. Maybe Kulov will drop Bakiev. Maybe Bakiev will threaten the demonstrators again. Or maybe Kyrgysztan will join up with Russia again. If Russia wants it.

26 October 2006

Smoke Detectors

I have bad luck with smoke detectors. Even though I rarely burn food, they're always going off when I cook. Honestly, I'm really not burning things. :)

I'd forgotten that in Kyrgyzstan though, because I don't think I ever saw a smoke detector there. I never had one beeping at me for no apparent reason. I didn't have to track down magazines or newspapers to fan wildly in front of one till it stopped beeping.

Comet Swan

Comet Swan has gotten bright enough to be visible without a telescope (as long as there's not too much light pollution). Look west after sunset about halfway up the sky. This map is from Spaceweather.

25 October 2006

Helping Those In Need

This is not to ignore the fact that there are many people in need in every community. There are always many ways to help in your own town. But for those of us who see the needs in other places, these are some ways to donate overseas. Since this list is far from exhaustive, if you know of other reliable organizations or individuals, please leave a comment. And please remember that you need to check all of these out yourself to make sure they are reliable. I can't make any promises, although I am comfortable with these.



Books (remember cash donations are often required to cover shipping costs):


Tess of the D'Urbervilles

I finally read (actually listened to) all of this book for the first time. For me, it falls into the category of books like Portrait of a Lady and House of Mirth. I get much too worked up about Tess and Isabelle and Lily, and Anna and Emma and plenty of others. But I love the books. Despite their sometimes incredibly stupid decisions, and at other times the horribly unfair things that happen to them, I love them.

23 October 2006

Eid al-Fitr

Happy Eid al-Fitr! This is our favorite Islamic holiday. We'll be celebrating tomorrow, and most celebrations around the world will be today or tomorrow.

I've updated the Kyrgyzstan adoption page. Adoptions in Kyrgyzstan are moving forward, but it's still not a very reliable place to adopt from yet.

22 October 2006

The Lemon Tree

The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan is unquestionably one of the best books ever written on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict for people who aren't very familiar with the region. There are so many books out there on the conflict that it's difficult to find books that are interesting, fair and accurate. Tolan manages all three.

There really isn't anything new here; all of this is well-documented and there are many similar stories that could be told. But what's new here is that both sides are presented in an unbiased and complete manner. Yes, some think the Israelis are presented much too negatively in this book. You can't say the Palestinians are presented in a good light though- there are plenty of details of Palestinian terrorism (and you get plenty more in the news). Both sides have done awful things to each other and neither is morally superior to the other and that clearly comes through. Tolan doesn't skip over atrocities committed by either the Palestinians or the Israelis.

I've long enjoyed and recommend Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour for those who want to get a different perspective on the Middle East. I still love the book, but I'll also be recommending The Lemon Tree.

20 October 2006

For Utahns Only

Tribute to Utah

Note the correct spelling of Utahn, at least if you're a native.

Explaining the Word of Wisdom

Over at Nine Moons they've been discussing (I've been out of town, so I'm late on this) explaining difficult concepts; it started because I said it's harder to explain the Word of Wisdom than to live it. And it was, in Central Asia.

Explaining the Word of Wisdom is really easy in the US. It was even easier in the Middle East. It may not be fun to be the only couple not drinking at a party for work, but at least people could understand why you weren't. I knew it wouldn't be so easy in Central Asia, but I had no idea how hard it would be. Turning down alcohol and tea almost became a battle in some cases.

I expect the main reason for this is that most of the Muslims in Kyrgyzstan drink alcohol, at least occasionally (Muslims aren't supposed to drink alcohol). There is little precedent for turning something down simply because of your religious beliefs. Tea is so ubiquitous that it's almost unimaginable that you wouldn't drink it. And a simple no thank you wouldn't do. That would have nicely avoided the explanations. No, we always were asked why we said no thank you in someone's home.

I never thought that the most pressure we'd have to drink would be from Muslims.

18 October 2006


While sorting through and uploading more photos I found this picture of children from a kindergarten near our house in Bishkek.

There were always a lot of children around. What a great place to live. Although I don't miss the apartment itself.

St. Petersburg

My parents are going to be spending most of the next two years in St. Petersburg- the one in Russia, not Florida. While there is a slight difference of opinion on whether a trip to St. Petersburg or a down payment on a house would be a better option- (does my husband actually think we'd stay in any one house long enough to make up for the trip?), I've got it all planned out. And maybe we'll get to go.

17 October 2006

Lengthen Your Stride and Empires of the Word

I've been looking forward to reading both of these books for a long time and finally was able to track both down. I was a bit disappointed with Empires of the World, but loved Lengthen Your Stride.

Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World
by Nicholas Ostler- When I first heard about this book, I hoped it would be a bot more global in its coverage (and certainly, it goes a long way, with sections on Middle Eastern languages, Sanskrit, and Chinese), but overall, it focused on Europe and European languages for more than half the book. The main title is better for describing the book; I didn't quite find it to be a language history of the world. There were way too many gaps for that. But it was still an interesting book, and if you're interested in language and world history, you'd probably like this book.

Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball by Edward L. Kimball- This was a completely enjoyable biography of President Kimball's years as president of the LDS Church. It's topical instead of chronological, and spends quite a bit of time on the 1978 revelation allowing all worthy men to hold the priesthood. This biography is different from most typical biographies of church leaders (although quite different from the recent one about David O. McKay), partly because it was written by President Kimball's son and recounts his entire tenure as president; usually the biographies are written near the beginning of a presidency and you miss a lot of their lives. President Kimball is also the first prophet I remember, although I only remember his later years when he was not well. It was heartbreaking to read the chapters about his last few years; you're left to wonder why he had to wait so long. Highly recommended.

15 October 2006

Central Asia Wishlist

Too bad this list represents hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. My Central Asia library is pitifully small. (If you have comments about any of these books, or suggestions of others- I'm looking more for academic books than travel types- let me know.)

Russia's Orient: Imperial Borderlands and Peoples, 1750-1917

The Politics of Muslim Cultural Reform: Jadidism in Central Asia

Islam after Communism: Religion and Politics in Central Asia

Historical Dictionary of Kyrgyzstan

History of Civilizations of Central Asia: The Dawn of Civilization : Earliest Times to 700 B.C.

History of Civilizations of Central Asia: The Development of Sedentary and Nomadic Civilizations : 700 B.C. to A.D. 250

History of Civilizations of Central Asia: The Crossroads of Civilization : A.D. 250 to 750

History of Civilizations of Central Asia: Age of Achievement, 750 Ad to the End of the 15th Century

History of Civilization in Central Asia:Volume Five: Development in Contrast From the Sixteenth to the Mid-Nineteenth Century

The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia

Turkestan and the Fate of the Russian Empire

Holy War in China: The Muslim Rebellion and State in Chinese Central Asia, 1864-1877

Tribal Nation: The Making of Soviet Turkmenistan

Veiled Empire: Gender and Power in Stalinist Central Asia

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

A History of the Peoples of Siberia
(not Central Asia, but I don't have a Siberia list)

Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North

13 October 2006

Travel Books

It's easy to find good coffee-table-type books about the Middle East; we have several. But now I want one about Kyrgyzstan, and I have never been able to find anything of the sort in English. There aren't even many about Uzbekistan or the Silk Road.

12 October 2006

New Plan

I've been rather frantically checking books out of the library for the last few months because I'm not sure how long I'll have access to a decent library. But it's gotten overwhelming. I have a huge stack of wonderful books to read, but that keeps me from enjoying the one I'm on.

But it's looking at least a little more likely that we'll be using this library for a while, so I've returned a lot of my stack. Now, those books, and a lot more, are just on my list to check out later. Much better.

Of course, it also helps that I tracked down a crochet hook, so I can have something to do while I read. Try as I might, I still can't read while binding or tying a quilt, or spinning. Although I imagine some could read while they spin. Good thing for books on tape.

Still, it's hard to return so many good books.

11 October 2006

If Only I Could Have Learned Russian from this Book

Language Hat has a great post about an old Russian language textbook. This link has the book, complete with illustrations. They make it even better.

I Want to See the Wonders of the World

And not just read about them

I Want to See the People of the World

And be able to talk to them

I Want to Know the Earth Is Round

And not just believe it

10 October 2006

Reading Lolita in Tehran

Arts and Letters Daily pointed out a couple of articles from The Chronicle of Higher Education detailing some of the criticism of Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran (I wrote about it a couple of times here and here. The first is about Nafasi's perceived political persuasion, the second about the photo on the front.

Personally, I don't see what the fuss is about. She can write what she wants regardless of her politics, and pictures are often cropped to bring out the point people want to make. I can assure you I've cropped things out of pictures I've posted here. When I see that cropped picture, I see two young Iranian women- that's it. There is no implication that they have anything to do with Lolita.

However, I would dearly love to see more books published and being recognized in the US (in a similar way that Not Without My Daughter and Reading Lolita in Tehran were, although they would be very different books) that hold less-than-popular viewpoints on various governments around the world. It would have to be done by excellent authors though. You don't have to be so good when you're writing something people want to hear. And people want to hear that the Iranian government is oppressive. And it is, but there's always more to the story.


I finally made it to the spinning store and got myself a spindle and some wool. Between crocheting blessing dresses again, spinning, and tying quilts for my boys, I finally have something to do besides read and blog.

Actually, I wasn't really that bored, but I find that I like to have things to do with my hands.

07 October 2006

Another "Real" Bishkek Report

I still check Real Post Reports every so often to see if there's a new report about Bishkek, and today there was a new one. I'm debating whether this one was even worse than the one from December. Even though the two reports are by very different people, they both manage to complain about just about everything. And how can you do a reasonable report after being in the country for two months? I hardly scratched the surface in a year.

And the Rest of Wyoming

We didn't just go to Yellowstone this weekend; we also visited a lot of places in Wyoming and Idaho. I don't really know why, but I love western Wyoming and eastern Idaho. This picture is in Star Valley Wyoming where we stayed for a few nights.

Probably one reason why I like these places is because so many of my ancestors settled there when they came west. This is the headstone of my great-great grandmother, buried in Afton, Wyoming. I'd always planned on being buried in Swan Lake, Idaho, next to my great-grandparents, but I might change my mind and choose Star Valley instead. I'm partial to the cemetery in Grover.

And then we went through the Tetons to get up to Yellowstone. It's absolutely beautiful there right now with all the aspens golden.

We really had a wonderful trip. We visited friends in Idaho, checked on the progress of the Rexburg Temple, visited lots more cemeteries than the one in Afton, stopped at the Star Valley Cheese Factory, got Aggie ice cream in Logan, Utah, and, best of all, saw lots of geysers.

06 October 2006

Geyser Sightings

We were in Yellowstone on Monday and Tuesday and early Wednesday morning and were lucky enough to see quite a few geysers, even though we missed Giant. We started with Old Faithful since my in-laws were with us, and since my younger son really likes OF. (Photos- OF above- from YNP website. Since it was cool, it was really steamy and most of my pictures didn't turn out really well.)

Then we drove up to Firehole Lake Drive, saw that Great Fountain was about an hour away from erupting, then drove over to see what Fountain was up to. Only Clepsydra was on, so we watched the mud pots for a bit, then zipped back over to see Great Fountain. The top photo is White Dome, which you can see from GF, and the lower is Great Fountain.

The next morning Fountain (below) was erupting as we drove by,

Castle was having a major as we parked (below),

We caught Oblong as we walked by (below),

And then we had to decide what to do. Daisy (below) went while we were sitting at Giant, and then we moved on.

Riverside and Grand went at the same time, so we only saw the steam cloud from Grand (below), but I do like Riverside (above).

After that, there wasn't much to expect in down basin (Beehive went at about noon, but since I didn't have my walkie-talkie, I didn't know in time), but we didn't want to go too far away from Giant, which was getting ever closer to an eruption. We watched a few hot periods, one that was particularly good around 3, and then Grotto started. I took the boys back to the hotel, then went back to Giant. I waited a couple more hours, then went back to the hotel with the plan of coming back early in the morning.

But Giant had other plans and went at nearly 3 in the morning. This is what I would have seen (of course, it would have been rather dark, so I mostly would have just heard this):

I stopped at Cliff Geyser (below) on my way out of Yellowstone and was back to the hotel by 8, although rather sad.