29 December 2006

To Buy Later

My poor Amazon cart is getting full. Not my wishlist (that's always crowded), but the cart of stuff waiting to be bought. Usually I try to keep it to one or two things that can be bought with those handy gift certificates they send me, but there's $150 in there right now and I can't imagine I'll not want to add anything else to it before I get enough gift certificates. That's a lot of $25 dollars. But in case you want to buy me a book...

The Politics of Muslim Cultural Reform

I don't think I ever reviewed Adeeb Khalid's The Politics of Muslim Cultural Reform: Jadidism in Central Asia, probably because I didn't finish it. I ran out of time to read it all (since my time was limited with ILL), but I'd decided before I had to return it that this is a book worth owning. It was absolutely fascinating, particularly the chapters on educational reform in Central Asia in the early 1900s and the chapters on nation building. I wish I could have finished it, but I will soon.

28 December 2006

Earthquake in Kyrgyzstan

There is finally more information coming about Tuesday's earthquake in Kyrgyzstan. And I'm glad it still appears that there hasn't been too much damage. An earthquake this size near Almaty or Bishkek (a distinct possibility) would be devastating.

27 December 2006

Afghan Kebabs

We had kebabs/shashlyk for dinner on Christmas Eve and they've never turned out so good. We used Montreal Steak Seasoning (recipes here or here)and another marinade on the beef, but it's the chicken kebabs that were especially good. So here's my recipe based on one from Flatbreads & Flavors.

2 pounds chicken, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup plain yogurt
1 T minced garlic
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt
1/2 c mint leaves, minced (use kitchen shears)

Combine everything (adding the chicken last) and refrigerate at least 3 hours. Thread onto skewers and cook in whatever manner is handy for you. I broil them on high, about 5 inches from the broiler element, for 7-10 minutes.

23 December 2006

Merry Christmas!

I'm thinking about Bethlehem today. These lithographs were done by David Roberts.

Niyazov Aftermath

IWPR has a good article on some of the aftermath of Niyazov's death in Turkmenistan. One of the best lines from it said that there were no newspapers in Turkmenistan today because there was nothing to report on- Turkmenbashi's activities have filled the newspapers for a long time.

And of course there are already rumors about his death. It's business as usual though in the country. The man who was supposed to become acting president, Ovezgeldy Ataev, has been fired and accused of various things by the man who actually became acting president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. He's apparently learned a few things from Niyazov. And if Berdymukhammedov ends up holding on to power, he may well have the longest last name of any head of state. Who would be some other contenders?

Some Russian experts have weighed in on Niyazov's death. I don't think anything is particularly predictable right now in Turkmenistan. I'll just hope (and pray) that the country is able to take a better direction sometime soon. It would be hard, although certainly possible, to do worse that Niyazov. But it will be hard to recover from that havoc Niyazov wreaked on the economic and education systems in the country, much less from his impact on every day life.

22 December 2006

Turkmenbashi is Dead

Rather a surprise, although he'd been rumored to be in poor health for a while. 'Twill be interesting to see where Turkmenistan goes from here. Niyazov didn't have any obvious second-in-command.

Felt Nativity

These nativities are much more common in Bishkek and you can easily find one. You can even buy them online, but for a lot more money. I've seen them for $75 online and this one cost about $5 in Bishkek.

21 December 2006

Kyrgyzstan Nativity

Did I ever put this picture up last year? I can't remember. This is a nativity my husband put together with these little wooden figures you can get in all the souvenir shops in Bishkek. It wasn't originally a nativity (one of the wise men is actually a women), but I like it. I'll put up a picture of our other Kyrgyzstan nativity tomorrow, I hope.

(Pardon the blue cloth. I didn't have a lot of options in Bishkek.)

19 December 2006

Fires in the Backyard

Have any of you fascinating people who read this blog ever tried building your own tandoor oven? I've been thinking about doing this for a long time and recently heard about a woman building one in her backyard (I wasn't sure about fire codes and such in the US, but it sounds like it's okay). Apparently she got a mold (they sell them in the Gulf) and then built it with dirt and clay.

I'd LOVE to have a tandoor in the backyard.

Dungan Mosque Interior Photos

These are some photos from the Dungan Mosque in Karakol; the Dungans are descendants of Chinese Muslims (Hui) who fled China in the 1800s. Many live in Kyrgyzstan, particularly in the north, and the mosque in Karakol is beautiful and one of the few mosques to survive communism intact. The Dungans speak Chinese (although when I asked Chinese speakers about it, they said they couldn't really understand Dungans) and cook wonderful food.

Dungan Mosque Exterior Photos

18 December 2006

Stuck in Utah

We sent Christmas cards out this week. They went all over the US from Virginia to Alaska and all over the world from Singapore to the UK (I even wrote a few in Russian, aren't you proud of me?). Those cards are better travelled than I am. I wanted to go with them. It's hard when your friends live in all sorts of interesting places and you're not there. I wish we could be in Bethlehem in a month for the wedding of a dear friend of ours.

16 December 2006

Please Don't Ask for Sugar Cookies

Somewhere along the way I missed the sugar cookie class. I can't make the silly things.

This wouldn't be a problem, since others make really good ones and share them with us, but my children seem to think they would be fun to make when people give us cute little cookies that look perfect. So we try. And it always ends up with me cross in the kitchen and a pathetic little collection of the sorriest-looking sugar cookies you've ever seen. And the boys are hiding downstairs.

Can't we just have snickerdoodles?

(And please don't give me tips or new recipes. I don't want to ever even imagine again that I should try making them.)

15 December 2006


Kyrgyzstan is in an uproar again over HIPC. I talked about HIPC quite a bit with the university students earlier this year and there were few topics that got as heated as this one (see here, here, and here).

Earlier this year Kulov said that Kyrgyzstan will owe $100 million in interest payments over the next three years. $100 million is a huge number in Kyrgyzstan. So far $39,000 has been raised to cover these payments so HIPC won't be necessary. There isn't $100 million available in Kyrgyzstan over the next three years, not to mention the continuing payments after toward the $2 billion currently owed.

Even though HIPC is not an attractive option to many in Kyrgyzstan, what else is the country going to do? I understand that it is annoying to have other countries come in and tell you what to do. I know I sound like an imperialist snob for saying this. But the money was borrowed and it has to be paid back. HIPC would write off as much as half of the $2 billion in exchange for reforms that are necessary to get Kyrgyzstan's economy going. No one in Kyrgyzstan can deny that corruption has had a seriously negative impact on the economy and there seems to be no political will to reduce that corruption (including the shadow economy which every single person in Kyrgyzstan is a part of). HIPC would at least require some reforms.

And please, Kyrgyzstan does not have enough natural resources to make it an object of prey for the World Bank or the West in general. And please stop trying to blame Akaev for this. I agree he caused a lot of the problems, but blaming Akaev won't solve the problems.

HIPC is not what we should be arguing about. HIPC would neither solve Kyrgyzstan's economic problems, nor would it make those problems significantly worse. There are so many other things contributing to Kyrgyzstan's economic woes that this outcry over HIPC is masking.

End of imperialist rant. Actually what I really wish is that there were a way for all countries that qualify for HIPC to write off every penny of their debt and use that money to get their economies going. Without corruption. When I have my own world.

14 December 2006

The Best Two Years?

Probably not. But it's still been fun to blog for the last two years.

Seems a lot shorter than that though.

I'd link to my first post, except it was pretty boring. But I do have a few old favorites.

12 December 2006

New Proofreading Marks

By Eve Corbel

These would have come in handy last year.

11 December 2006

What Would You Do With...

I was thinking about this- when people ask what you'd do with a million dollars, or what you'd do if did have to work, or whatever. And I realized that we were doing exactly what I'd want to do while we were in Kyrgyzstan. That doesn't mean that life was perfect in Kyrgyzstan, but we were doing things that I wanted to do. (Which made it even harder to leave, but that's another post.)

I loved volunteering at the baby house and working with the university students on English. I'd love to do the same thing in any country. I love homeschooling the boys. I love living in other countries with my family, especially with my husband. He is far more adventurous than I and I need him there with me. He enjoys teaching law overseas and could do that. We both were glad to learn a bit of Russian even though it wasn't our favorite. It's so much easier to work on a language in country.

It's too expensive though in reality. Even though it's technically much cheaper to live in many countries than the US, our monthly student loan payments are more than the average annual salary for law professors in many countries. And there are the flights. And homeschooling overseas does require some money because it's impossible to get decent schoolbooks in English, at least in the countries I'd want to live in. And a good internet connection is expensive; it's a necessity so I can keep in touch with my family. And a reasonable apartment in a safe and quiet neighborhood are requirements too. I require our own bathroom and I'm not sure I'd ever be interested in washing clothes by hand for a family of four or more- I think I could handle it for two though.

And for some reason my husband thinks a regular career would be a good thing for our family. One where you stay put for a while.

10 December 2006

Will You Be Looking East Tomorrow Morning?

Jupiter, Mercury, and Mars will be closely grouped tomorrow morning at dawn (nice that it's December so dawn is rather late). This doesn't happen often; the last time any three planets were this close together was in 1925 and the next time it will happen is in 2053. Mars is pretty dim right now so you might need binoculars, but Jupiter and Mercury should be easy to see if it's clear and you're looking in the right direction. It's always tricky though to see anything this close to the sun. And the mountains could block the whole thing from where I am.

If you look at the moon while you're out, you'll see Saturn just below it.

And the Geminids will be peaking on Wednesday morning.

09 December 2006

I've been fiddling with the sidebar again; I probably have too much there, but I like it all. So it's just crowded. I particularly like the Librarything widget. It's pretty cool. (I was up over 1,o00 but then went back and saw some duplicates. But I'm close.)

08 December 2006

Where Did This Come From?

The Agrarian University in Bishkek likes Turkmenbashi for some reason. I wish I was still there and could ask the students I knew from that university how they like the Ruhnama. For some reason I just can't imagine this foundation is making a big difference in Kyrgyzstan. Even beyond the fact that Niyazon is over the top, the Ruhnama is totally geared toward the Turkmens and not the Kyrgyz.

I am so tired of boxes. But I will be done soon. And then maybe I will write about something interesting. My brain has been turned off and this has to be the most boring site ever.

Did I ever say that I don't like to deal with comments? I'm still trying to decide if blogging on bigger blogs is for me. Comments I get here are fine- I can handle a few a week. But more than that strains my brain in so many ways.

06 December 2006

White Trash

One thing I've always disliked about shopping in Asia (any part, from the Middle East to China) are the flimsy plastic bags you always end up with. Bags that can't hold anything. They're awful and they're everywhere (the few grocery stores in Bishkek that had decent bags would ration them out carefully- I usually took a cloth bag with me to avoid the bad ones). Everyone knows they're awful; most store owners will at least double bag your stuff.

But what's even worse about the total ineffectiveness of these bags is that they all seem to end up on the ground somewhere. This picture is from India, but the same picture could be taken in dozens of other countries. Countries prone to flooding have even more reason to worry because they seem to clog up drainage system- Dhaka and Mumbai in addition to others have banned them for this reasons. I hate these bags.

But so do lots of people and there's a growing movement to ban plastic bags, or at least the flimsy little ones. Tanzania just banned the thin ones; several other African countries have already banned them. Beijing has been trying to crack down on them in preparation for the Olympics. But too many cities continue to ignore this problem. And it's something so worthless that's filling up the streets.

(Yes, I know there are problems with plastic bags in the US. But it's nowhere near the problem it is in some other countries. And it's easy to fix in the US- just don't use plastic bags, or reuse the ones you do. And be grateful that you can get strong bags so easily.)

Hello Lolly

Still sorting through all the stuff (all the books, or most of them hopefully, have been entered). But I found my old lolly. I'm glad my mother saved it.

04 December 2006

Islam in Central Asia

There have been some interesting comments about Islam in Central Asia. James posted about Khalid's book a couple of weeks ago at neweurasia and Nick mentioned a couple of resources: For Prophet and Tsar: Islam in Central Asia, Encyclopedia of Islam, Cambridge History of Islam, Cambridge History of Iran, and Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden Horde: Baba Tukles and Conversion to Islam in Historical and Epic Tradition.

And since it was ambiguous below, when I referred to the dearth of books on Islam in Central Asia, I was referring to Islam during the Soviet years, and particularly in the last 15 years. And how Islam in Central Asia compares to Islam in other parts of the world, especially in the Middle East. Many non-Muslims have a rather monolithic image of Islam and I'd love to see even some popular nonfiction talking about the diversity within Islam.

Thanks so much for the suggestions.

Have you ever put dry ice in milk? You really ought to try it.

01 December 2006

I've been rather too busy to blog much the last few days. I hate that. But we've been doing fun things. They're just not bloggable unless I want to turn this into a mommy blog. And I'd hate that even more.