29 October 2011

Election Day Tomorrow

This rather quiet campaign is nearly over.  If weather has anything to do with it, tomorrow should be sunny with maybe a few inches of snow on the ground (if we're lucky).  If the weather has anything to do with protests following the results, it's supposed to be in the 40s all week with maybe a little rain.  Not too bad, but not quite protesting weather either. 

Of course, Bishkek isn't the place where protests would start, if they did.  They're a lot more likely in the south, but it looks like Osh won't be much warmer than Bishkek this week.  Personally, I'm not worried, but we're still supposed to have a few days' worth of food in the house.  Just don't mess with my internet.

28 October 2011

Heat=Votes in Bishkek

The heat came on last night, about 7-10 days earlier than usual.  You wouldn't want people to come from chilly homes when they vote on Sunday. 

It's not like it's been cold enough for the heat to be on either.  Yes, today there was snow falling out of the sky, but it didn't stick, and my apartment was still 72 degrees when the heat came on (with windows open).  It's been sunny and in the 60s recently.  I was hoping for a few more days to try to cool off a little more. I won't quite wish for 60-degree indoor temperatures this winter like we had last year in Tokmok, but I won't enjoy having the apartment this warm all winter either.

26 October 2011

Black-Headed Gull

I think this is a Black-Headed Gull.  If it is, I wish I could have seen it in the spring.

Slavonian Grebe

I think this is a Slavonian Grebe in non-breeding plumage.  We saw it at Issyk-Kul and, unfortunately, this is the best shot I was able to get. 

25 October 2011

Community-Based Tourism vs. Regular Tourism

Last week's trip to Issyk-Kul was the first time I'd stayed in a regular tourist place in Kyrgyzstan.  We've done community-based tourism for the rest of our traveling around or stayed with friends.  If we'd been planning the trip we wouldn't have chosen the place we stayed, but it was interesting to try something new.

The resort was lovely, tucked away from the road and right next to the lake.  It was well-manicured, the rooms were clean, the beach was nice, and the food at the restaurant was good.  Overall we had a nice stay.

However, it didn't make me want to switch from CBT.  When we've done CBT or stayed with friends, we feel like we're part of the family, not guests, and especially not paying guests (I can think of one instance where I didn't feel that way, but it was just with one thing, not the entire stay).  At the resort, we felt like we were an inconvenience in every way.  It was difficult to get sheets for the beds, we weren't allowed any extra blankets for the three-year-old who was sleeping on the floor, and they wouldn't let us leave the resort at all till we'd paid for the dirty towels that housekeeping had picked up the night before and not replaced.  (Since it was clear someone had to pay for those towels, it was fine with me that it was us because I felt like they would have made an employee pay for them instead.)

While we were out on our sheet and blanket hunt, we talked to one of the cooks.  She told us is from Karakol, a town on the east side of the lake and several hours away.  She has four children and is only able to see them on the weekends; the rest of the time she sleeps at the hotel.  She also works 16- to 17-hour days.  No, I wasn't impressed.  I wish I'd asked her how much she was making, which is a perfectly acceptable question to ask here, but I'm enough of an American that the thought couldn't have crossed my mind till later.

The women who have CBT homestays (and even if it's a man who's supposed to be running things, it's the women who are doing the work) work hard, but they're not working 16-hour days to host tourists, even on the jailoo where everything is more labor-intensive.  They're also living with their families.  And the money is paid directly to the family with a percentage going to the main CBT office.  Of course, working at a resort is more reliable and you don't have to wait for a tourist to come to your house. 

The room and two meals at the resort cost $122 (plus $25 for the towels- I had no idea towels in KG could cost that much) for a family of four; like I said, there was nothing available for our three-year-old.  A CBT in Karakol costs $50 for a place to sleep and two meals for all five of us.  Certainly the resort was nicer, but I am ever so much more comfortable with CBT. 

24 October 2011

Campaign Signs and Other Election Wonderings

I was curious, last week, to see whose campaign signs we'd see in Issyk-Kul.  Since I have to stare out the window every single second of any car ride, I don't think I missed much on my side of the bus.  I'd say Atambaev had less than half the signs, but not by much.  Mostly it was the same signs I see in Bishkek, just in different proportions.

We were also wondering what Roza Otunbaeva will do next year.  There isn't exactly a prescedent for what former presidents in Central Asia ought to do.  Bakiev and Akaev are former presidents, of course, but their leaving wasn't exactly amicable.  Neither lives in Kyrgyzstan anymore (Akaev teaches in Moscow and Bakiev is still  in Belarus).  But I suspect Otunbaeva will stay in Kyrgyzstan and I'll be interested to see what she does.

21 October 2011

Submit to the Roads

We were defeated again this week by Kyrgyzstan's difficult roads.  We went to Issyk Kul at the beginning of the week and I hoped to go to the Suusamyr Valley at the end of the week, but there just wasn't a good way to get there.  Actually we probably could have gotten there, but finding our way out of a little village in rural Kyrgyzstan isn't easy unless you're able to pay for the driver's return trip also. 

We've gotten a bit trapped before in rural Kyrgyzstan.  I don't mind if it's just my husband and me, but when you have kids with you, it doesn't always work to wing it, and we were with our kids in the rain the time we had trouble finding a ride home.  So we try to avoid that now.

I know I've written about this before, but it's always so disappointing that there are so many wonderful things to see in Kyrgyzstan and great places to stay, but not a good way to get there.  Someday it would be so fun to have a car here.  That wouldn't solve all the problems because most of the roads in rural Kyrgyzstan are awful (and plenty in not-so-rural Kyrgyzstan; we have friends from Naryn who haven't been there in two years despite having a car simply because the road is so bad, and the road to Naryn out to be a major road.)

19 October 2011


 We were able to go to Issyk Kul for a couple of days this week.  We didn't plan the trip ourselves, but went with the international students at the university. 
If you ignore the man in the middle, this is a good photo of a cultural center we went to near Cholpon-Ata.  It has a variety of artwork from the region and the buildings you see in the back are for different religions.  It was a lovely setting and interesting, although I won't make you slog through lots of photos of the place.
We stayed at one of the new resorts on the lake.  While it was nice to be in a nice place, I'm happier at a community-based tourism place.  More on that later this week. This is looking out toward the lake.

And this is looking toward the mountains.  Sometimes it almost felt like we were in the US, but there were lots of small things that said we weren't.

Looking south across the lake toward the mountains.

Looking toward the beach from the pier.

15 October 2011

This Is Why I Like Living Here

Sometimes I wonder why I like living overseas, especially in a place like Kyrgyzstan.  Yesterday on a message board I frequent I got into a conversation about why someone might want to move here.  The other person lives in Eastern Europe and is looking for another country to live in.  I didn't suggest Kyrgyzstan as an option (Indonesia, Czech Republic, and Uruguay were my ideas- she needs a place that isn't very expensive), but she was asking about Bishkek anyway and it felt so weird because no one ever asks about living here as a real option.  Later someone came on saying Kyrgyzstan is a horrible place to live and the conversation ended.

Anyway.  It made me think about why I like it here or in the Middle East or wherever else expats usually get paid extra just to live there.  I just like to observe everyday life and the less familiar the place I'm living, the more interesting everyday life is.  I don't need people to talk to me, I don't need social interaction, I don't need to see all the sights (although it's nice when there are some).  I just like to get out and see how people do things and I get lots of that in Bishkek.  There's something interesting every day.

14 October 2011

A Homeschooling Post

A year ago I was trying to sort out homeschooling supplies for two years, getting books scanned, and generally feeling a little frazzled about homeschooling in Central Asia again.  This year it was the easiest thing ever to get ready for school because I'd done everything last year.  I purchased two pdf books, downloaded 20 more free ebooks, and it was done.  Here's how it's going after a 5 weeks.  For reference, my older boys are in 7th and 5th grades.

The best thing about this new year is having a friend of ours come play with the three-year-old for two hours a day.  Like so many people here, she can't find a job in her profession, so it helps her, but it helps me at least as much since the three-year-old gets the attention he craves and I can work with the older boys.  She took care of my older boys when we lived in Bishkek 6 years ago and it's been nice to be with her again.  

I'm also loving the relatively speedy internet connection.  We weren't able to do any online school subjects in Tokmok, but we do quite a few now.  The boys are doing French and Spanish on the computer.  It's silly they're not doing Russian, but I can't make them learn it, and it's far more likely that French or Spanish would be useful to them.  They also do online Latin exercises with Lively Latin in addition to working out of the ebook.  They're reviewing countries and capitals and doing online logic puzzles too, but the best part is CNN Student News and watching these videos about the periodic table.  I LOVE them.  Science is one of the most difficult things to do here and I've pretty much given up on science experiments, but watching these guys blow things up online is pretty satisfying.

We're also working through an atlas for geography and going through logical fallacies and we use Sequential Spelling, except I just downloaded the great big book and we work through that because it's a lot cheaper. The oldest is using NEM and LOF Economics and the youngest is on LOF Biology and Singapore 6.  Both do WWS and GWG.  I've been very pleased with WWS; we beta tested it last year.  I've never been excited about GWG but it's easy to use and the boys learn from it so we've continued with it- I think this is our 5 year with it.  We read from How Science Works and other ebooks about the periodic table that I check out from the library.  I like the entire How ____ Works series and we've been happy using them for science for years. 

I'm still delighted with OUP's history series and we're working through the last three books now.  We'll finish those by the end of 2011 and then move on to US history and some more 18th and 19th century world history for the rest of the school year.  And finally, there's lots of reading.  I use the early modern list from WTM which is easy to do here because nearly all the books are free to download, and I supplement with some more diverse selections since the WTM list is very heavy on western Europe.  That's a little harder to do here, but not impossible.

We do every subject every day and it takes us 4-5 hours to get through everything, including lunch and music.  The oldest is playing the guitar and middle son is on the keyboard.  I find it easiest to just do everything instead of trying to do some subjects once or twice a week for a longer time.  For example, this week we read a chapter from Age of Empires on Monday, then the boys did a level one outline of the chapter on Tuesday.  One Wednesday they filled out their outlines and on Thursday they did some supplemental reading about the Mughal Empire.  They spent about 90 minutes total on history this week.  Science was similar.

Overall things are going well as long as the three-year-old is happy.  It's been so much better to not have to do so much housework because I'm able to do a better job with homeschooling.  I'd always wondered why Ma in The Little House on the Prairie books was always so worried about living near a school when she was a competent teacher.  I always knew she was busy, but I don't wonder anymore.  There's no way she had time to teach her children well with the life she was living.  My life wasn't anything like that, of course, but I understand better now.

12 October 2011

Bride Kidnapping and Law

I wrote a couple of days ago that researchers haven't found any cases of a man being imprisoned for bride kidnapping.  However, there is plenty of evidence that it's becoming more common for the girl's family to either go to the police, or say they will go to the police which is often as effective.  Keeping any sort of dispute out of the hands of the police or the courts is the goal for most people in Kyrgyzstan, so threatening to get the police involved in a kidnapping is effective.  It's possibly an example of laws changing practice.

But.  That doesn't mean the law is changing what's socially acceptable here.  We are aware of a woman who was kidnapped earlier this year (not Kyrgyz) whose parents threatened to go to the police before the man would let her go.  Since then she's been isolated, maybe even shunned, by her neighborhood and doesn't feel like she has any chance of getting married.  Of course, it's only been 8 months and people might forget in a year or two, but it's hard for her right now.  Even though kidnapping is illegal and no one wants the police to know it happened, it's not necessarily acceptable to leave a kidnapping. 

Of course, this happened in a fairly conservative neighborhood in a small city in Kyrgyzstan.  But even if you pat yourself on the back for passing laws that might be changing practice, even if no one is convicted under those laws, you still haven't necessarily solved the problem.

11 October 2011


Loved the post and the comments about Cain's cheerful dismissal of Uzbekistan as a small, insignificant state.  Sure, Cain's opinion will appeal to many Americans.  Who cares about Uzbekistan when you're having economic problems in the US?  But Nathan's right- it's pretty stupid foreign policy to think of most countries as insignificant (like Bush did about Pakistan in 1999).  And we wonder why so many people in those small and insignificant countries don't have much love for the US.  We don't spare any for them.

Still, there is tremendous potential for Cain and his pizza in Central Asia.  Bishkek has some decent pizza, but nothing like what Cain has created.

10 October 2011

Bride Kidnapping Lecture Notes

These are notes from a lecture Russell Kleinbach gave in Tokmok 6 months ago, and some notes from when we talked to him at our house that same day.  He's done extensive research with (usually) Kyrgyz women in Kyrgyzstan on ala kachuu.  He started off as solely a researcher but over time has turned into an activist instead.  He usually doesn't give these presentations himself; generally Kyrgyz women travel around the country to do them.

I've probably posted some of this earlier after we met Kleinbach in Washington in 2005, but this also includes new research.  This is what I thought was most important.
  • Presentations like the one I heard appear to be having an effect on kidnapping in rural areas of Kyrgyzstan.  This was tested when researchers returned to some villages to see if kidnapping rates had dropped in the year since they did the presentations.  The sample size was smaller the second year, but non-consensual ala kachuu marriages dropped from 51% the first year to 27%. 
  • There is no cultural expectation to kidnap which makes it easier to advocate to end the practice.  It is currently traditional, but there are other accepted ways of getting married.
  • The newer research still indicates, despite claims to the contrary, that 80% of kidnappings are non-consensual.  Researchers asked 3 questions- Did you want to be kidnapped?  Was there deception or force?  Did you love him?  Answering yes to the first or third question or no to the second resulted in a kidnapping being categorized as consensual, and researchers feel that they were generous definition of what was consensual.
  • There is a push to criminalize kidnapping more, but that doesn't necessarily help.  Kidnapping has been illegal for some time now (it used to be a 5 year prison term, but currently it's 3), but researchers were only able to find two cases where kidnapping was successfully prosecuted.  One kidnapping resulted in the woman getting beaten severely (which is not common) and the man was imprisoned for beating her, not kidnapping her.  Another man was imprisoned for rape, and not for kidnapping.  They have found no cases where a man was sent to prison for kidnapping.  However, there have been cases settled out of court as would be expected here.  More on this below.
  • It is easier to get a divorce later than to refuse the wedding in the first place.  10-20% of women refuse to get married.
  • 35-50% of all marriages in Kyrgyzstan are the result of non-consensual kidnappings.
  • In 20% of the non-consensual kidnappings the woman does not know the man before the kidnapping.  About 20% of the kidnappings appear to involve rape.

After talking to Kleinbach who said he'd heard kidnapping happens amongst other ethnicities in Kyrgyzstan, my husband started asking the Uzbek community about this and confirmed that it does happen.  Kyrgyz do it more, but both consensual and non-consensual kidnapping happens within the minority communities (Uyghur, Dungan, Uzbek, Tajik) of Tokmok.  There's some anecdotal evidence that Kyrgyz in China do no kidnap.

I had my English conversation group go to this lecture in April.  Several of the students were high school students and one told me after that he had never thought about bride kidnapping before as a problem.  Kleinbach's presentation changed his mind and he said he thought he wouldn't want to kidnap his bride without her consent.  Made that presentation worth it. 

I also asked Kleinbach about my feeling that girls in Kyrgyzstan think it's exciting or romantic to be kidnapped (before it happens).  He agreed and also felt that both young men and women often hadn't thought about it much.  That's why the presentations help.  Kleinbach and crew are not interested (mostly, some of his fellow researchers are) in stopping consensual kidnappings.  The goal is to try to stop non-consensual kidnappings. 

Kleinbach told us about one village where they told him they don't kidnap anymore because it's too expensive.  That surprised him because kidnapping often is thought to be a cheap wedding (even though it's often not because families still go in for the whole wedding).  In this village, however, the family of a kidnapping woman did go to the police and it cost the man's family so much money that apparently no one else would risk it. 

I think it's best that Kleinbach and his associates have focused more on educating about ala kachuu instead of trying to use legal means to change this.  Ala kachuu has been illegal for a long time but that hasn't mattered.  I also appreciate that his education efforts are directed toward Kyrgyzstan instead of the West.  I'd be interested to see if there's any indication that the overall rates of kidnapping have dropped in the last 10 years since there's been more research and education directed toward the matter. 

09 October 2011

Ebooks for Everyone

Had an entire post typed out that disappeared. Here's the short of
it, inspired by an article on CNN about using cell phones to fight
poverty around the world:

When ereaders are cheap enough, and they will be soon, start a
nonprofit that donates ereaders to children through schools. Just
getting one ereader to a family would make a huge difference. You
don't need a computer or wireless access, just an outlet at home where
you can charge the reader.

The nonprofit sets up kiosks (or even better, just uses kiosks that
have been set up for cell phones) where people can get ebooks- they
could also be set up in school, but I like the cell phone kiosk idea
better. You could either access copyright-free books for your
country, or you could purchase ebooks if you wanted. You could use
cell technology to transfer the books, or just use a card.

Simple. You'd need to know copyright laws in all the countries you'd
be working, but even making only copyright-free books would give
readers a huge resource. There aren't many digital books yet in many
languages, and that's certainly a problem, but not an insurmountable
one especially as it becomes quicker and cheaper to create ebooks. It
also might encourage more local authors to publish.

We will *never* get physical books into everyone's hands, at least not
in the numbers we'd need to. But ebooks are a real possibility and I
don't think it will be long before they can make a huge difference.
It's vital to increase literacy rates, but it's as important to make
sure readers have access to books.

06 October 2011

Atambayev, Gas Prices, and Other Kyrgyzstan Stuff

I ought to at least do a brief bio of Almazbek Atambayev since he's expected to be the next president of Kyrgyzstan.  Like nearly all the candidates, he's been around for a long time, mostly as the leader of the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan since 1999 and a member of Parliament.  He's currently Prime Minister and was Prime Minister in most of 2007 under Bakiev, although the position meant something very different at that time.  He's run or considered running for president several times in the past.

He's from the north and was born in Arashan, south of Bishkek in the Chui region, so he's a northerner. Based on his website, he's either the youngest son in the family or one of the youngest.  And he likes to read. 

Moscow likes him which is an advantage for him and not necessarily a disadvantage for US interests in Kyrgyzstan, although Atambayev's campaign is unquestionably pro-Russia.  Personally, I think Kyrgyzstan could do a lot worse than Atambayev and I hope that if he is elected, he'll be a good president.  Still, he's definitely recycled and old-school. 

About that website- it's in English as well as Kyrgyz and Russian and is one of the better websites I've seen for Kyrgyzstani politicians.  Some of it just looks like Google Translate stuff, but other parts of it have better English.

In other news, it's been announced that (natural) gas prices will be dropping here soon since  Kyrgyzstan will now buy most of its gas from Kazakhstan instead of Uzbekistan.  It's supposed to be a fairly significant drop, although I won't see much difference in Bishkek because I just pay a few dollars a month for cooking (when it's on). 

For more rural families who have been able to install gas heating, this could make a big difference.  Our house in Tokmok had gas heating, but the owner was happy to move out in the winter because heating with gas was difficult to pay for.  Even more, I hope that gas heating becomes affordable for more families in Kyrgyzstan. I've mentioned before than heating a typical home in Kyrgyzstan with natural gas costs about $100/month compared to about $60/month to use coal.  The projected price drop could make the costs much closer, and, since gas is so much cleaner and easier, it might be possible for more families to switch to gas heating. 

The Potato Truck

My current source of photo subjects seems to be things I can see out my front window.  That doesn't mean that I don't get out, but that there are interesting things going on outside our building.  We live on a busy street on the edge of the center of town, and there's a bit of a parking area in front of our building which isn't always typical everywhere in Bishkek.  There's often something going on there.

This is a truck filled with potatoes that show up yesterday.  Since then there's been a constant line of people buying 50-kilo bags of potatoes for the winter. 

For a lot of the year there are a lot of trucks like this sitting outside the Tokmok Bazaar.  I'd wondered how people stocked up on potatoes and onions for the winter and now I know one way they can.  If I had any clue about how settled we're going to be this winter, I'd get some myself.  I also notice things like this more often this time around because I've lived in Tokmok.

One more thing- you often hear that people in large cities in the US don't have access to produce or decent grocery stores.  While there is plenty of good produce available in Bishkek in the summer and fall, it's horribly expensive in the winter.  Stocking up on potatoes and onions and carrots in the late fall is a good way to avoid the problem.  It seems the same thing could be done in the US.  And please don't tell me about lack of storage space or hauling stuff up stairs.  It's at least as bad for your typical family in Bishkek.  People around the world come up with creative ideas to solve problems like this and I wish those ideas were more widely shared.

05 October 2011

Fortunately Unfortunately

Unfortunately the gas is off.

Fortunately some friends of ours warned us it might be off for a week
for repairs so I don't have to wonder if there is something I ought to
do about it.

I bought fish for the first time in eight months yesterday and
intended to cook it on the stove.

My stove is a combination of gas and electric.

There is just one wimpy electric burner and it took 90 minutes to cook
a meal that should have taken 30 (the fish was delicious though).

I can bake dinner instead till the gas is supposed to come back on
next week and it's cool enough outside to consider turning the stove

I have no idea what to bake for an entire week. I rarely bake even
one part of dinner, much less most or all of it.

04 October 2011

Daughters in My Kingdom

I have a great deal to say about this book, mostly because I haven't talked about this book with anyone in real life; there is no one with whom I can do so. My interaction has all been online and since I'm curious about what people have to say about this, I've spent a lot of time of looking for those reactions.  There are, obviously, the gushers who, of course, love the book.  There are the people who think it's silly and fluffy and white-washed.  Both types are fine, but often neither allows for much discussion.  Most people seem to be somewhere in between though.  First, here are my thoughts about some common concerns about the book and mostly, if I have concerns too, this is where they are.

  • Too simple: I'm nearly finished with my second reading of the text and I don't feel that the language of the book is overly simple.  I feel that it strikes a reasonable balance between a book that is easily translated but also doesn't feel like you're reading an elementary school book.*
  • Too pretty:  Yes, it is too pretty for my taste.  That doesn't really bother me; I've generally been ignoring that sort of thing for a long time.  There are many women who love the prettiness and I don't mind their getting it in this book.  Some of the photos are interesting (and I wish there were more identifying information about them) and I generally like the collages, but I could have done with just the photos of the women whom the stories were about (those are the best photos) and the collages (minus a flower or two) and skipped the rest of the photos and decoration.  It also makes the file a lot larger to download which is a problem for women who will not get the book in person, but cannot download a large file.
  • White-washed:  This is probably going to depend on your perspective.  If you want it all, go read In Sacred Loneliness instead. But I thought this book dealt with some difficult topics too and didn't just ignore all the difficult parts.  Could it have done more?  Of course, but I felt it struck a decent balance.
  • It's not really a history:  No, it's not.  That's disappointing, but I think what has been written instead is valuable anyway even if it's not really a history.  It's still a historical work and despite my reading a fair amount of Church history, I learned a few things.  I had hoped for a real history when the book was first announced, but it's okay with me that it isn't because there are many other resources out there for me to learn about RS history.  It is unfortunate, however, that this will likely be the only think many women read about RS history because there is so much more out there. 
  • Women's voices are much less noticeable toward the end of the book: Yes, this is true, but that would only have to be in comparison to the beginning of the book.  Compared to nearly any other Church publication, even the less-frequent female voices (but still half of the quotes are from women) toward the end are far more noticeable than women's words in any other book.  Is that enough?  Not really, but it's a major improvement.  I sincerely hope that having this book will make it easier for women and men to talk about women and use their words in Church settings.

So, here are my own thoughts.

I had a very hard time reading the sections about Relief Society sisters in places like the former Czechoslovakia who were able to meet together as Relief Society sisters (after being baptized clandestinely) and have some visits from Church leaders, or at least have contact with Church leaders.  Must have been fewer Church attorneys at the time. 

I liked how the story of Mary and Martha was rethought and the emphasis on female disciples in the New Testament.  We hardly ever talk about these women and I hope they get a lot more notice now.  President Beck highlighted Mary and Martha in her RS Meeting talk- there was a lot that was familiar in the RS Meeting after reading this book

Of course I liked the chapter on the worldwide Relief Society, despite the discomfort I already described above.  I also thought the visiting teaching chapter was really good.  That was where I learned a few things.  I feel as if I can finally get behind visiting teaching now.  I *love* how President Beck has reshaped visiting teaching into something more worthwhile. 

For me, what this book really does is asserts that there is something more to RS that just a meeting on Sunday.  It's easy to reduce RS to that one meeting or to some fluffy crafts on a Saturday morning.  Certainly it was emphasized that RS is under the direction of the Priesthood, but I feel that it was also saying that RS is part of the Priesthood, not under it (President Beck makes this clearer in some of her not-General-Conference talks).  I come from a family who loves and supports Primary, but I feel more drawn to RS.  Not the Sunday meeting, but what RS can be beyond that.  I hope that ward and branch Relief Societies around the world can do more to make RS more, but also to support women who want to do more because they are part of RS.

In the end, I very much like this book, but I'm discouraged by how often, for many different reasons, we're not willing and/or (especially) able to make RS what it can be.  I think there could be much more emphasis on getting more women in a given ward or branch involved and not just having it be able taking dinners to families with new babies or dutifully visiting women the last week of the month.  We need more creativity and I hope this book get some of those creative ideas going.  There isn't one right way to be a Relief Society and there is so much more we can do.  We need to make ourselves a more prominent face of this Church.

*Back to the too-simple concern:  I've seen many people argue that it's better to write a book that challenges people, that makes them stretch.  I agree- as long as you're providing the necessary tools for people to stretch.  So many of our LDS publications assume a certain basic knowledge that isn't there for a lot of members of the Church.  This isn't because they aren't well-educated, or unwilling to stretch, but because their religious background hasn't prepared them to read The Book of Mormon (First and Second Nephi in particular expect that the reader is familiar with the Bible), or the current Relief Society manual, or even Gospel Principles.  Those same converts are especially disadvantaged if they are isolated and don't have anyone to ask who Peter, James, and John are; or what the Articles of Faith are; or what Isaiah is talking about.  There is nothing published that is basic enough for those members.  I think this book actually comes closer to filling a little bit of that need without being fluffy.

03 October 2011


As I recall, there's not much wind in Bishkek.  Of course, I lived in a very windy city before I lived in Bishkek last time, so Bishkek could have just seemed calm in comparison.  Tokmok is definitely windier than Bishkek at any time of the year.

Not today.  There's lots of wind (and leaves and dust and branches and wimpy plastic bags) blowing around outside right now.  Here's one of those branches getting cleared out in front of the building.

Recycled Candidates

I was working through the list of candidates to post bios of them, but not surprisingly, there's not a lot of variety among them.  Many are currently in Parliament and have been part of the elite running Kyrgyzstan for its entire history, despite a few revolutions.  There are a few businessmen and some others who hold some government positions.  Noah Tucker at Registan writes more about this and explains exactly why I got tired of the project (the entire post is worth reading, especially about minorties):

[M]usical chairs is not a revolutionary game...as much as each new regime vilifies the representatives of the previous one, the "talent pool" from which each government draws is incredibly shallow, and similarly voters are perpetually asked to choose between the same few candidates for elected positions. This reality is not lost on most Kyrgyzstanis, who are deeply frustrated with their government, tired of being asked to "choose" only between the same perpetual candidates, or cut out of the system entirely when their local patron is pushed out of power, motivating them primarily to do whatever they can to get him back in.