30 April 2011

I Bet my Garden Costs Less than Yours

So we got some things planted in the garden finally.  It turns out that we could have planted all the way back at the beginning of April since it's been so hot, but getting tomatoes out at the end of April still isn't bad. 

Seeds have been for sale in the bazaar for a couple of months now, but I haven't gotten any because I'd heard that plants were cheap to buy.  If we'd needed trees or bushes, we could have gotten them at the bazaar too.  We've seen them going in all directions from the bazaar on bikes, carts, cars, and in bags.  So many plants.

We went today to the bazaar to see what we could find, and yes, the plants were cheap.  The most expensive starts we bought (by far the most expensive) were cucumbers at 10 som each, less than 25 cents.  I bought 10 tomato plants that were the size you get in pony-packs in the US for 1 som each, and some that were larger, like 4-inch pot size, for 2 som each.  I also got some hot peppers for one som each.

We'll be going back for more on Monday since we still have plenty of room and the plants are practically free.  Seeds are 10 som a packet, so I bought some of those too.  I haven't yet figured out what they all are (since I had 50 som and decided to add some excitement to my life by getting some mystery seeds), and it won't be easy to figure them out because I'm quite sure some are Chinese, not Russian. 

When you're used to paying 2 or 3 dollars for a packet of seeds and at least that much per plant, it feels really cheap and really good to plant a garden here. 

28 April 2011

Common Cuckoo

No, this post isn't about me, but about the birds I keep hearing outside.  I haven't gotten a photo yet, but we've definitely started hearing cuckoos here in the last few weeks. 

A Few Photos

27 April 2011

Little Owl

When we were at Chon Tash (see below), I saw a new owl in the brick kiln.  It was so small and holding so still that I almost thought it was stuffed, but later it flew to a hole in the dirt wall.  I'm assuming it was a Little Owl because it was so small and they are supposed to be common here.  No photo, since I didn't have the camera on me.

Chon Tash Ata Beyit

We went to Chon Tash on Saturday, the place where over 100 local intellectuals, politicians, reformers, and doctors were executed by the NKVD in 1938. Much more recently, it is also the site where some of the people who were killed in last year's revolution are buried. Chingiz Aitmatov is also buried there.  The memorial is called Ata Beyit.

I'd read about the place often and it was good to finally see it.  It's a nice memorial south of Bishkek with a museum telling about all of the people who were executed. The area where the recent burials are is less developed; I'm not sure if the government is planning on doing any sort of memorial there other than what is already there.

There were many students there watering plants and pulling weeds.  The memorial was very well cared for and there were at least 10 cars there all the time we were there which was fairly early in the morning.

We also walked up the hill to the site of the old brick kiln where all the executed men were buried.  The museum had the account of the woman who told the KGB about the site in 1985.  I'd read her story before, but the museum had a much longer account and some of the details were slightly different from what I'd read before.

The woman (whose name I cannot remember) was told about the executions by her father not long before his death in the 1970s.  She remembers his reciting the Qur'an over the site and crying while she was growing up near the site.  He wanted his children to wait until it was safe to tell people about what had happened, and apparently she decided in 1985 under Gorbechev that it was safe.  She had a difficult time finding someone who would listen to her, but finally a friend put her in contact with someone in the KGB.  He went with her to Chon-Tash and to the brick kiln where it was obvious that what she was saying was true.

24 April 2011

Christ the Lord Is Risen Today

March 27, 2005

There aren't very many Easter hymns in our LDS hymnbook. We sing them so rarely that I have specific memories of singing all three. I love all three. I especially like to sing those Easter songs when I have my little green hymnbook on hand.

I took my hymnbook to Jerusalem with me twice. It went to Bethel, where we sang "Nearer, My God, To Thee." We sang "Redeemer of Israel" on top of Mt. Sinai. "Angels We Have Heard on High" was sung in a field near Bethlehem. We would sing praise hymns while we were returning to Jerusalem. I can still hear "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today" in Bethany in the tomb of Lazarus. Singing "More Holiness Give Me" always takes me back to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

I wrote in my hymnbook the names of the places where we sang those songs, and the names of my dear friends' favorite hymns. I remember Shahira saying that "O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown" is her favorite hymn while we were at the Garden Tomb. Kirk loved "Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy." And even "Love at Home," which I don't particularly like, takes on special meaning when I remember singing it with an Iraqi family in Jordan who had escaped Iraq and joined the Church in Irbid, Jordan.

I know I've been writing about Jerusalem a lot recently. Easter is the time I think about Jerusalem the most. I miss Jerusalem. I don't think I ever felt more alive than when I was there.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
They shall prosper that love thee.
Peace be within thy walls,
and prosperity within thy palaces

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
Let my right hand forget her cunning
If I do not remember thee,
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth;
If I do not prefer Jerusalem
Above my chief joy.

Happy Easter. Christ the Lord is risen today.

April 8, 2007

Happy Easter!

Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Lo! the Sun’s eclipse is over, Alleluia!
Lo! He sets in blood no more, Alleluia!
Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Alleluia!
Christ hath burst the gates of hell, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!
Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
Hail, the Lord of earth and Heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail, the resurrection, thou, Alleluia!
King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, Thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing and thus to love, Alleluia!
Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!
But the pains that He endured, Alleluia!
Our salvation have procured, Alleluia!
Now above the sky He’s King, Alleluia!
Where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!
Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

And one of my favorite Easter stories. I like to think of the two as being Mary and her husband Cleophas:

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, "What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see." And he said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he
interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?" And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

22 April 2011

Holy Friday

Originally posted March 25, 2005:

I prefer this name for this day. Good Friday has never sounded right to me. We asked a Christian in Jerusalem how they said the name of this day in Arabic, and he said al-Juma al-Haziin, which means Mournful Friday. So I call it that now.

We spent the morning walking along the Via Dolorosa (yes, I know it's far from accurate, but isn't this all symbolic anyway?) to visit the stations of the cross. The first 9 stations are in the city, and the last 5 are in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This was another day when it felt wonderful to walk along the streets of Jerusalem with such a large number of Christians from all over the world.

Many groups were carrying crosses. Others were led by priests. We didn't spend much time in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre this day, but the various sects all have rituals they perform in the Church this day.

Originally posted April 13, 2006:

And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him... John 19:17-18

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Mark 15:34

And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, gave up the ghost. Luke 23: 46-47

When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre. Matthew 27:57-60

Arab Christians call this day Mournful Friday or Sad Friday instead of the more common Good Friday that we hear in the West. I prefer Mournful or Holy Friday. This day commemorates the crucifixion of the Lord, and his being laid in the tomb.

I remember the Church of the Holy Sepulchre today. There are many Protestant and LDS Christians who don't like this site (partly because they have no claim on the site like the Roman Catholics and many Eastern Orthodox sects), but I love the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They call it the Church of the Resurrection in Arabic. Again, I don't care if this church is the actual site of the crucifixion, but there is a lot of historical evidence and a long tradition that makes this site the most likely site in the area.

The history of the building is absolutely fascinating, but I just love to be in the building itself and see the remnants of the faith of so many Christians over almost 2,000 years. One of my favorite places in the church are the stairs leading down to St. Helena's Chapel where countless Christian pilgrims have carved crosses into the stone over many centuries. I love to see this visible symbol of the devotion of those faithful people.

The first time I was in Jerusalem, the dome over the traditional tomb of Christ was being repaired (and had been under construction for decades). The rotunda surrounding the tomb was rather dark. But when I went back a year later, the dome had been completed. The rotunda was filled with light. It's now one of my favorite places in the church.

There are many hymns that are appropriate today. "There Is a Green Hill Far Away" is one of our family's favorites now (the boys like it since it is short), but I'll always remember singing "There Is A Green Hill Near at Hand" instead. We also like "Upon the Cross of Calvary." But it is "O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown" that I remember singing at the Garden Tomb to commemorate this day.

O Savior, thou who wearest
A crown of piercing thorn,
The pain thou meekly bearest,
Weigh'd down by grief and scorn.

The soldiers mock and flail thee;
For drink they give thee gall;
Upon the cross they nail thee
To die, O King of all.

No creature is so lowly,
No sinner so depraved,
But feels thy presence holy,
And thru thy love is saved.

Tho craven friends betray thee,
They feel thy love's embrace;
The very foes who slay thee
Have access to thy grace.

Thy sacrifice transcended
The mortal law's demand;
Thy mercy is extended
To ev'ry time and land.

No more can Satan harm us.
Tho long the fight may be,
Nor fear of death alarm us;
We live, O Lord, thru thee.

What praises can we offer
To think thee, Lord most high?
In our place thou didst suffer;
In our place thou didst die,

By heaven's plan appointed,
To ransom us, our King.
O Jesus, the anointed,
To thee our love we bring.

21 April 2011

Maundy Thursday

From two years ago:

There's so much that you can talk about on Maundy Thursday. The Garden of Gethsemane is so important, but there's something about Jesus washing the feet of the disciples that I love. Here are two old posts about this day:

March 24, 2005

On Thursday morning of Holy Week, we went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which happens to be one of my favorite places in Jerusalem. We went to watch the Greek Patriarch performing the Ceremony of the Washing of the Feet. The Church was crowded with people so we climbed up on the roof to get a better view.

It was a fairly long ceremony because the Greek Patriarch had to have his heavily decorated robe removed; he wore a much simpler white robe for the ceremony. He washed the feet of 12 of his clerics while prayers were recited. I can still hear the sound in my mind. Afterwards, he sprayed the crowd with the leftover water from the ceremony.

We didn't see the Latin Patriarch celebrating the washing of the feet, but it is a much simpler process inside the Church (if the weather is decent, the Greeks do it outside). Afterwards, The Latins go to the traditional site of the Upper Room on Mount Zion.

The Armenians don't do their ceremony in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at all; they use the Cathedral of St. James in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem. The Copts use the Church of St. Anthony in the Coptic Patriarchate. The Coptic Archbishop washes the feet of the entire Coptic congregation.

April 12, 2006

And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and knelt down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. ~Luke 22:39-44

Out of all the days of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday seems to be the most overlooked, but it is one of the most important days, possibly even more so than Easter Sunday because Thursday night was the time Jesus Christ suffered for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane. Without that, the Resurrection wouldn't have been worth nearly so much.

I've spent a lot of time in the traditional Garden of Gethsemane. There are two separate sections, both filled with old olive trees. Neither sections are particularly big, and it doesn't really matter to me if the traditional sites are the actual places where Jesus actually stood. There is a large church on the site, the Church of all Nations. It's not my favorite church in Jerusalem (Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives is one I like much better), but it is a lovely building.

But my favorite place there is to the garden. Once when I was in the garden on a Saturday morning in October, one of my roommates introduced me to the hymn "Reverently and Meekly Now." These are the first and fourth verses. I also like to remember "How Great the Wisdom and the Love" today.

Rev'rently and meekly now,
Let they head most humbly bow.
Think of me, thou ransomed one;
Think what I for thee have done.

With my blood that dripped like rain,
Sweat in agony of pain,
With my body on the tree
I have ransomed even thee.

At the throne I intercede;
For thee ever do I plead.
I have loved thee as thy friend,
With a love than cannot end.

Be obedient, I implore,
Prayerful, watchful, evermore,
And be constant unto me,
That thy Savior I may be.

20 April 2011

Voice Lessons

I loved this article from neweurasia about imams taking voice lessons in Turkey.

I can't help thinking there are a few muezzis in Tokmok who could use a little training.  It's one thing to recite the Qur'an poorly inside the mosque, but when you're calling people to prayer, it's worth doing it well.  Some are good, definitely, but some are not.  Or maybe I'm just a snob after living in the Middle East.

Keeping Things in Perspective in Central Asia

I think this (ignored) story makes a nice contrast to the Greg Mortenson's very public story.  Here's the opening paragraph:

A derelict hospital refurbished last year to serve as a battered women’s shelter with nearly $750,000 in aid from the US military in Kyrgyzstan has never been used for its intended purpose. The disconnect between the project’s mission and its outcomes, plus its exorbitant cost, is casting doubt on the judiciousness of the Pentagon’s aid spending in the beleaguered Central Asian country.
Looks like CAI isn't the only group in Central Asia who should be questioned about its spending. I think this paragraph is particularly important:
Presented with these observations, the head of the non-governmental organization running the center acknowledged that no women live there and explained that its “direction had changed a bit,” steering away from victims of violence. Zamira Akbagysheva, president of Kyrgyzstan’s Congress of Women, said in an interview on April 14 that a small-scale survey prior to the center’s opening showed that local residents identified their top-priority needs as “trainings,” microfinance loans and classes for children. She also said that “everything is working” at the center, but it was now having “temporary difficulties,” which she attributed alternately to a lack of running water and shortfalls in funding.
It is too common for money to be misspent simply because the aid group didn't spend it on what the people wanted.  It's also too common for money to be spent and then the project is completely ignored by the aid group afterwards.  There's not enough follow-up being done, either to make sure that things are going well, or to make sure that the money was spent wisely.

Yes, CAI and Greg Mortenson have lots of questions that need to be answered.  But so do lots of other people who say they're doing good in Central Asia.

One more bit of perspective from Registan, again.  If Mortenson has used some of the money donated to him in a fraudulent manner, then something needs to be done.  But whether he is a fraud of the worst type or completely absolved, it's certain that the people who are most affected won't be the CAI, or the people who donated, but the people in Central Asia who need schools.  His basic message does still make sense.

It's too bad that's it's nearly impossible to be sure the money you donate to someone is being spent wisely, especially in a place like Central Asia.

19 April 2011

Not Very Effective Censorship (If That's What It Is)

I haven't been able to access any blogspot blogs for quite a few days now which is making me curious if blogspot is blocked here right now.  After poking around a bit online it looks like it might not be just me.  It's not really a big deal because I can still access blogger and post to my blog, and I can read blogspot blogs on google reader. Not too effective if someone's trying to block access to blogspot.

I just tried to access blogspot through our other ISP.  I can access them there.  So it looks like KyrgyzTelecom could be blocking blogspot, but Beeline isn't.  From that earlier poking around, it looks like the filtering is going on in Kazakhstan and affecting some ISPs in Kyrgyzstan.

Gates Galore

 Or maybe it should be glorious gates.

18 April 2011

Greg Mortenson

So even though I don't get to watch 60 Minutes, I'm reading a lot about what was on last night in the US.  It seems reasonable that these questions about Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute are finally getting asked.  They've been hinted at for a long time and it's reasonable for an institution like the CAI to get looked at more carefully.  But it doesn't seem that there's anything to get anyone too upset yet.*

In my opinion, it was always clear from Mortenson's books that he doesn't really know how to run an organization like the CAI.  Many of his stories show how stunningly naive he was when he went into Central Asia.  If the kidnapping story is faked, and it always sounded off, I can't figure out why it was added, because I don't think it was exciting, but incredibly foolish.  That one story has always been the biggest turnoff for me in all of Greg Mortenson's stuff.

It's also obvious that Mortenson is difficult to work with and doesn't know how to keep track of anything.  I'd never had donated money to anything he did at the first, although I'd have donated my time in Central Asia.  I might donate now, even with the current revelations.

The numbers from the 2009 audit aren't really surprising.  41% of donations going to schools in Central Asia isn't bad at all; I'd have expected it would have been lower.  Another big chunk went to travel, outreach, and fundraising in the US.  If you've heard about Greg Mortenson, you know that money is being spent to get the word out.  It really doesn't seem all that unusual for a group like this.

I imagine this isn't the end of the story, and we might find out a lot more that's not so nice, but right now I'll wait and see.  I'd like someone in Central Asia to have figured out a way to make education more accessible at a reasonable cost.  Of course, someone else is doing a good job of it too.  It's the Aga Khan.  But it helps to have an incredibly rich man running things.  You don't have to spend so much getting the word out.  Anyway.  Till another day.

*The best reason why you shouldn't get mad?  See Joshua Foust's post today on Registan.  Two quotes, in case you don't click through:

If Greg Mortenson’s poor records and fabricated life story weren’t as equal or more important than the many horrible mistakes the U.S. military has made, why would 60 Minutes devote as much airtime to it as the Haditha massacre?
...the amount of money the Central Asia Institute may have wasted since 1996 is less than the cost of a single JSF engine the military doesn’t even want but Congress is forcing them to buy!

17 April 2011

Rice, Rice, Rice

We've been trying some new types of rice this week.  I usually buy Elite rice from Kazakhstan because it's not too expensive and it's good for plov.  It's fine but nothing amazing.  There's also Batken rice (from the southern part of Kyrgyzstan).  I used that when we lived in Bishkek.  And we tried something labeled "Leder" but I can't figure out anything about that.  I'll ask more about it in the bazaar.  My favorite was the rice labeled "Pakistan." 

The trickiest part was guessing how to cook each time.  The Pakistani was easy, since I rightly guessed that cooking it like basmati would be a good idea.  I've cooked the Elite and Batken rice a lot in plov, so I knew what to do with that (except that I have a habit of putting too much water in with the Elite).  I still don't know what I should have done with the Leder.  Middle son and husband liked that type best though.  Out of the four types we tried, there wasn't any agreement on what was the best.  The little one liked the Batken and the oldest son liked the Elite (ironically, because he's always complaining that he doesn't like it when there aren't any other types of rice around).

After looking around I think the best guess for the type of Pakistani rice is parboiled Irri-6 or Irri-9.  It's a long-grain non-basmati white rice.  Unless there are basmati types that are shorter, this rice isn't long enough to be basmati, and it certainly doesn't lengthen when it cooks like basmati.  I tried it tonight in our Pakistani pilau (I usually use basmati for it, or the Elite rice when I'm here, or sometimes plain old American long grain) and I was in heaven.  The rice was perfect for the dish (makes sense) and so creamy and delicious.  It costs 60 som a kilo or 60 cents a pound (with the dollar at 47 som, that makes the conversion easy) which isn't a bad price, although it's expensive for Central Asia. 

Happy Palm Sunday!

Originally posted April 9, 2006

And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way. And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered, and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. ~Luke 19: 36-40

Palm Sunday is one of my favorite Sundays out of the entire year, and one that is sadly ignored by many members of the LDS Church. I started celebrating it 9 years ago [now 14 years] when I was in Jerusalem and celebrated all of Holy Week with the Orthodox Christians in Jerusalem. I prefer Orthodox Easter because it is usually less touristy and there are a lot more locals participating. (See here for more on the celebration of Palm Sunday in Jerusalem.)

We met at Bethphage on top of the Mount of Olives then walked down the Mount of Olives through Lion's Gate to the Church of St. Anne where we sang and shouted hosanna. A somewhat familiar experience since I had been at the dedication of the Mount Timpanogos Temple the year before.

I always remember that particular Sunday on Palm Sunday now, but I also like to have an official beginning to this Holy Week when the most important event in history took place. So much that was good and bad happened this week, and I like to commemorate the entire week instead of just Easter Sunday. It's nice to begin and end the week with happy events.

And don't forget Saturday, the day before Palm Sunday, when Mary annointed Jesus (John 12:1-9). Unless it was on Tuesday (Mark 14:3-9).

So many of the praise hymns like "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" and "Come, O Thou King of Kings" are beautiful songs to sing today. "All Glory, Laud and Honor" is one of my favorites:

All glory, laud, and honor
To thee, Redeemer, King
To whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring

Thou art the King of Israel
Thou David's royal Son
Who in the Lord's name comest
The King and Blessed One

The company of angels
Are praising thee on high
And mortal men and all things
Created make reply

The people of the Hebrews
With palms before thee went
Our praise and love and anthems
Before thee we present

To thee, before thy passion
They sang their hymns of praise
To thee, now high exalted
Our melody we raise

Thou didst accept accept their praises
Accept the love we bring
Who in all good delightest
Thou good and gracious king.

16 April 2011

North of Beautiful

I imagine Melissa recommended this, since it's a YA book, and I'm glad she did because I enjoyed it.  The basic plot was a bit trite, with an abusive father, and a complicated romance, but that was easily overlooked with all the interesting bits.  Geocaching, China, and maps all feature prominently here, and that's never a bad thing.  There's also a good message about beauty and art. And Seattle!  I almost forgot that. 

15 April 2011

Getting Sick: Russian, American, and Chinese Style

I've finally started a beginning Russian class after trying to get something going for a month.  I have two teachers; one is Russian, one is Kyrgyz, and the other students in the class are Chinese from Hong Kong and Taiwan.  Russian is the closest thing to a common language, and it's not all that close.  English is also helpful at times.  Anyway.

Today we were talking about what to do when someone is sick.  There were obviously some different cultural expectations.  The Russian version had people going to the doctor, buying all sorts of stuff for sick friends, and generally being very solicitous.  The Chinese students suggested acupuncture for various afflictions, plenty of rest, and various medications (the Russians like the medications too).  I suggested that I might make dinner for someone and read them a book if they were sick (since I figured I'd better come up with something more than I'd usually do, which is to leave the person alone to sleep).  My Russian teacher thought that was very "interesting."

I'll remember only to get sick with American friends around.  I don't think I could convince my friends here that I really didn't need anything.

(One other thing that fits here- the reason why I took so long to start a class was that my original teacher got sick.  Three weeks ago.  I am under the impression that it was the flu, which is nasty, but I don't know many people outside Asia who would take over three weeks of work off for it.  I'm not saying one way or the other is better, just that the expectations are hugely different.)

14 April 2011

Dictatorship TV

Our TV doesn't work very often, but when it does, we get free satellite.  Not just any free satellite though, or at least not what I'm used to watching.  We can watch channels from Uzbekistan (in Uzbek), Belarus, Afghanistan, Iraq, lots of places in Russia (including Grozny and Tatarstan), and probably more that I haven't figured out yet.  Most of the channels are in Russian, but the channel from Iraq never has any sound so I don't get to hear Arabic.  The Afghanistan channels are in Dari.

The Belarus channels mostly show movies, but sometimes the news comes on.  The Tatarstan channel seems to be all movies, all the time.  The Afghanistan channels have lots of news, usually with American military tromping around.  The Grozny channel is incredibly boring; usually there is an expressionless man discussing Islam.  Sometimes you get to watch people pray too.  The Uzbek channels have some variety, but nothing dangerous, of course.  The Russia channels have by far the most variety.  There are cooking shows, news, talk shows, movies, sitcoms, and all sorts of things.  Some even have old Soviet cartoons.  Definitely the best viewing.

I wish I could find a place online that had all 20 channels listed with their countries of origin and their names, but I can only find a partial listing that's mixed with channels from Egypt and Lebanon that we don't get.

Still, I think it's way cool to be able to sit down (if the TV works) and watch TV from Belarus to Afghanistan to Grozny in Russian, Dari, and Uzbek.

12 April 2011

Stop the Traffic

We had a fascinating conversation today with another researcher who was in Tokmok for the day.  We mostly talked about bride kidnapping (that's another post, or series of posts), but other interesting things came up too.  One was after my son came in and we talked about the short interviews he (my son) had done recently in Tokmok about law enforcement.  The answers were rather different in Tokmok than they would have been in Seattle. One answer was that people always keep money in the car in case they are pulled over.

Anyway, the researcher who is currently living in Bishkek, told us that there are two women police officers on one of the main streets in Bishkek who won't take bribes.  Instead, they give you a ticket if you did something wrong.  They are apparently not the most popular officers in Bishkek.  Interesting on a lot of levels and it gives one glimpse into why corruption is hard to fight.

Another funny story was about someone from Kyrgyz who moved to Israel.  He got one of those red batons and starting flagging cars down there.  No one stopped for him except the Russian drivers.

Sacred Hearts

Sacred Hearts: A Novel
I liked this book.  Interesting historical fiction with plenty of research, and reasonably engaging characters.

This is the first actual book I've finished in a long time since most of my reading recently has been journals and autobiographies of various ancestors.  And Russian stuff.  And Central Asia stuff.  But no regular, reviewable books.

11 April 2011


Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs, Зяблик, Ушучук
Photo taken  in Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan March 31, 2011

10 April 2011

Overdue Photos

The camera spent the week in someone's bedroom (who shall remain nameless, since of course it wasn't there all week), but now there are photos again.

I've never seen so many things for sale at a time.  It's mostly household stuff and lots of things for children.

This kid told us he painted the door himself.

09 April 2011

Black-Billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie, Pica pica bactriana, Сорока, Сагызган.  Photo taken April 9, 2011, in Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan.

08 April 2011

What Speaking Russian Says about Me

I overheard a very brief exchange at the bazaar the other day when an older Russian woman asked a Kyrgyz vendor how much a large plastic bag cost. The Russian woman asked in Russian, but the Kyrgyz woman answered in Kyrgyz (it was 10 som). Then Russian woman asked the Kyrgyz woman to speak in Russian and the Kyrgyz woman replied again, this time in Russian. And then I couldn’t hear anymore.

It was interesting for a lot of reasons. Did the Russian woman really not know the Kyrgyz word for 10? "Som” is the same in either language. But it was also obvious she was Russian, so was it reasonable for the Kyrgyz woman to speak to her in Kyrgyz?

This is just one little example of why I have a hard time speaking Russian in Central Asia. It’s basically a colonial language, but it’s also unquestionably the most useful language in northern Kyrgyzstan. The people on my street would have a hard time communicating without a common language since they are Uzbek, Dungan, Uyghur, and Kyrgyz (note I don’t mention Russians since they are very few on my street, and I haven’t met any).

But that common language doesn’t have to be Russian, and like I said, it doesn’t really make sense for it to be Russian. The Kyrgyz were here long before the Russians, and so were the Uzbeks, and the Uyghurs and Dungans came at about the same time as the earliest Russian settlers did. A Turkic language would be a more logical choice for a common language.

This isn’t really about a common language though, but about the language you choose to speak. And the story at the beginning highlights the tension. If the Russian woman really didn't know the Kyrgyz word for 10 (maybe she hasn't lived here long, but I can assure you there aren't a lot of older Russian women looking to move to Tokmok), then I have a big problem with that. But I also think it's important to speak to people in a language they understand. Both sides failed at that. But I'm more comfortable with a Kyrgyz not wanting to speak Russian than a Russian who doesn't want to speak Kyrgyz.

So I don’t like that the obvious choice I have to speak Russian communicates something about me. It’s a message I don’t want to send.

(The number one reason why Russian is the best choice for me is that it’s what my children need to learn. The adults on our street might speak Uzbek and Dungan and Kyrgyz with each other, but the kids all speak Russian all the time. That leaves my boys needing to learn Russian. Two parents who are working on Uzbek isn’t the best way to do that. Someday, I hope, Turkic languages will be a better option.)

06 April 2011

I cooked plov outside in a qazan today. The Uzbeks who ate with us told me it was too soggy, and they were right, because it wasn't Uzbek plov. It was my plov in a qazan (which means it was also missing the meat and a lot of oil). Oldest son prefers Uzbek and Kyrgyz plov and the rest of the family is happy with my plov. But it was fun to cook outside and we'll do it again. With a little less water.

The couple that ate with us is unusual. He broke his back five years ago in a car accident and cannot use his legs anymore. But he manages very well, especially since a German NGO gave him a wheelchair and a van to go with it. I really enjoyed talking to him and his wife and watching them work together.

05 April 2011


Libya came up a few times today here for the first time.  A neighbor was talking about his disappointment that Barack Obama would bomb a Muslim country over oil.  And it came up again during the English conversation thing.  Some students said they watched local or Russian news and thought oil was the reason for the war in Libya.  Others completely disagreed (these were not Christian students, and that needs to be clarified when I'm talking about students at this particular university) and thought that the UN was helping people in Libya.  Interesting discussion.

One student brought up Russia's involvement (or not, depending on your point of view) after interethnic conflict in Central Asia.  She was one who thought Libya was about oil, and also thought Russia was using interethnic conflict as an excuse.  Interesting comparison.

04 April 2011

Cold Days and No Heat

I like living in Tokmok, really I do, but sometimes it would just be nice to live in Bishkek.  But not today.  It’s been cold and snowy in northern Kyrgyzstan and apparently the heat turned off in Bishkek a few days ago, and the hot water too.  I bet their apartments are almost as cold as our house is now.  I’ll enjoy a nice, hot shower tonight.

Seriously, though, that’s pretty bad timing.  But people outside Bishkek are without hot water all the time, and no one can afford to keep their homes as warm as the apartments are in Bishkek.  It should be much warmer tomorrow though.

This has nothing to do with anything, but we'd have to open our windows in the winter in Bishkek because the apartment was so hot, easily over 20-22 degrees.  One winter day we visited a friend who didn't open the windows (no one does in Bishkek) and I was melting in their apartment.  Then a cousin from Naryn showed up and started to melt too and opened the window.  I was glad to know it wasn't just me.

03 April 2011

Wasting Women's Time

Sometimes it seems that women in the West think that childcare is the biggest burden/responsibility/expectation placed on women.  And it is in some parts of the world.  Childcare is something that still eats up a huge amount of time, and usually it’s usually women’s time.  The argument is that if women didn’t have to spend so much time taking care of their children then they’d have more time to go out and work and make a difference in the world.

I don’t think so.  It’s not childcare that’s tying up women’s time in most parts of the world; it’s simply the matter of keeping a house running.  I suppose that if women had no children then the housework would be simpler, but that’s not really a reasonable solution.  Even if a woman has one or two children in a less-developed part of the world, she going to be spending a huge amount of time just maintaining the basics.

Here’s what I’d like to see for every women, in order of importance:

A safe, dry, and clean place to live, of course, and enough food for her family.  Those are obvious.

-Clean hot and cold water available at least half the day on a fairly reliable schedule.  The water needs to be accessible and flowing from a faucet or some sort of spigot where food is prepared and where people’s bodies are cleaned.  There also needs to be a simple and efficient way for the used water to disappear when it’s been used. No woman should have to haul liters and liters of water in and out of her house on a daily basis.

-A reliable way to cook food.  This will vary hugely in different parts of the world, but I think no woman should be without a reasonably simple way to prepare food for her family.  There are a lot of things that can make food preparation easier, but being able to cook is a big one.

-Reliable heating that doesn’t require any woman to chop wood or shovel coal or to spend hours hunting for fuel.  I also don’t think that any woman should have to use an unhealthy source of heating.

I honestly think these are bigger needs even than education for women.  If food, water, and adequate shelter aren’t available, then education isn’t going to happen, for mothers or daughters.

After these things, education is next.

I’d also like every woman to have access to a washing machine.  Laundry sucks up so much time and labor that could be put to better use.

That's it.  It's really not a long list, and women in the West have all these things and so much more.  Women everywhere need them. Women will never be able to change the world if all of their time is spent just maintaining daily life and right now a huge number are doing just that.  We are wasting a tremendous resource.

01 April 2011


I had no idea what this bird was when I saw it yesterday. It's a rather distinctive bird. It was fun to discover that it's a Hoopoe, especially since they crop up in books every so often.
Hoopoe, Upupa epops, Удуд, Үпүп.  Photo taken in Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan, March 31, 2011.

Great Tit

I'm calling this a Great Tit, but I'm not sure it's not a Turkestan Tit. It looks more like a Great Tit, but it appears that it's more likely to see a Turkestan Tit in Kyrgyzstan.
Great Tit, Parus major, Большая синица, Сарыбоор чымчык.  Photo taken in Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan, March 31, 2011.

Common Myna

Myna, Acridotheres tristis, Обыкновенная майна, Ала канат чыйырчык. Photo taken in Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan, March 2011.

Masked Wagtail

Masked Wagtail,  Motacilla alba personata, Белая трясогузка, Ак жылкычы. Photo taken in Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan.


Rook, Corvus frugilegus, Грач, Чаар карга.  Photo taken in Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan.