31 January 2012


It's always funny and interesting to hear what little children say when they're imagining things, especially when they're pretending about real life.  The four-year-old today was saying he was going to the store to buy milk, which in my brain meant going to QFC or something like that and getting a few gallons of milk, because that's how I'm used to buying milk.

But, of course, he was thinking of going to Narodniy and buying a few bags of milk, and he was concerned because one of the bags was leaking when he got home.  Normal (but at least it doesn't happen every time).

My older two boys who would generally rather be in the US, although they like our specific situation in Bishkek, have noticed the difference too.  It's amazing to them that their little brother doesn't remember the US and thinks Tokmok and Bishkek are the normal place to live.  They don't remember that they were the same way nearly seven years ago after living in Bishkek for a year, and they don't see the ways living overseas has changed them.  But at least they can see a little of it in their brother.

30 January 2012

Spinning Again

I hauled my spindle, lots of wool, and my backstrap loom all the way here and, after a year of sitting in closets, I finally pulled it out.  Wouldn't want to have something I brought all the way here never get used.  I'm still deciding what I'll do, but I need to create something.  Writing alone isn't doing enough for me.

29 January 2012

History of Joseph Smith by His Mother

This is one of those books I'd been meaning to read forever, and had read bits of since it's so often referred to in other sources.  So I finally did, since it came free with an app I downloaded (which also makes it the first book I've read all the way through on the iPad).  I enjoyed it very much, even though it was a bit uneven at times, at least whether it's actually about Joseph Smith or the Smith family.  Joseph is the focus in the first half to 2/3rds of the book, but then he's hardly mentioned.

That last part really emphasizes how hard the Smiths had it.  So many family members dying.

27 January 2012

Snowy Sidewalks

The sidewalks are covered with snow and ice right now, like usual for this time of the year.  They got pretty slushy, which is worse than ice-covered in my opinion, the last day or two, but it's colder and snowier today.

Last winter seemed pretty slushy, and the other winter I've lived here was the normal cold winter when everything was covered by December, and didn't get slushy till spring.  I like to see people pulling their sleds on the sidewalks when it's cold; what you don't want is slush and muck.

But there's something new this winter we didn't notice 6 years ago.  Most everywhere I've walked there's been a little path on on side of the sidewalk that's nearly cleared of snow and ice.  It's not wide enough for two people, so you can't always stay on it, but it makes it so much easier to walk.  I don't know if it's a city thing, but it seems to be because it's not in just one part of town.

I saw someone working on it once.  The had a tool that broke up the ice, then the chunks can be shoveled or swept into the gutter.  I am so glad they're doing it since I'm out walking for at least an hour and a half 5 days a week.

26 January 2012

Substitute That

If you can't find peanut butter very easily, it's nice that tahina is a good substitute.  The oldest (not surprisingly) isn't convinced that a tahina and raspberry jam sandwich would taste very good, but the rest of us like it.  And I can always find tahina.  Maybe I'll have to try tahina chocolate chip cookies.  Except it would be with chocolate chips, but chunks of the dark chocolate that you can find here now.

25 January 2012

The King's Speech

Yes, I wrote about this not too long ago, but that was the book.  We stumbled on the DVD in English at the pirated video place (actually, there is only one place we've found where the DVDS aren't pirated, and even some of what we've bought there seems a little dicey- so pirated it is, a lot of the time) and watched it.  We both loved it.  Or I loved it, and my husband enjoyed it.  I'm not sure he ever really loves a movie.  Anyway.

When it came out a year ago a lot of people talked its R rating in the US.  It wasn't rated the equivalent in the UK or Canada. Personally, I don't see all that many movies, and don't see R-rated movies because there's always something else with a lower rating we haven't seen yet.  But this wasn't an R-rated movie in my opinion, at least not in spirit.

Any expletive in English is likely to be a completely innocuous word in another language.  There are also plenty of English words that make you sound like you're swearing in another language.  But obviously, you're not in either situation.  The intent and context matters at least as much as the sounds coming out of your mouth and that's what should determine whether a movie is rated R or not. 

Yes, this film has the required number of expletives that technically require an R rating.  But if context and intent matter in speech, then those words weren't expletives when they were said. 

Also, it's easy to skip the technically R-rated parts if you're worried about it.  It's an uplifting and interesting movie that's well worth watching.

24 January 2012

Fast Offerings

Mormonism has lots of unique ideas, or doctrines or principles or practices that while not necessarily completely unique, are at least unusual or unexpected.  One of my favorite of those is the fast offering.

We generally fast once a month, skipping two meals, usually on the first weekend of the month. Then we're encouraged to take the money not spent on those two meals and donate it, usually through the fast offering program of the church, although it doesn't have to go there.  The money is used to help both Mormons and people who aren't Mormons.  I have personally seen a very large amount go to a woman who, while technically on the records of the church, doesn't consider herself a Mormon; my family received food once through this program.  It's a simple, efficient, and brilliant way to help people in need. 

I also really enjoy the testimony meetings we have on the Sundays we are fasting.  We don't have a pastor who preaches every Sunday; instead, we all take turns speaking (in my family, that means we all speak about once a month, down to the four-year-old).  But on Fast Sunday, anyone can come to the microphone and bear her testimony.  Keeps things interesting, certainly, but it also helps keep things authentic too.  It's another way Mormons have to support each other.

23 January 2012

On Prophets

Really liked Jana's take on prophets.  This comes from an interview at Mormon Stories, but I got the transcription here.

Jana: "...If the Book of Abraham is not a divine translation of this ancient document, if it is in fact an ordinary funerary document that Joseph Smith completely expanded, embellished, elaborated on or if you are looking at a more cynical view, just simply lied about, then what do we do with the rest of our faith?

"Well, let’s step back first of all and think about how important is the Book of Abraham to the Mormon faith in general?  I don’t think it’s terrifically important, but that’s just me.  But we need to have a tradition of midrash.  We need to have a tradition where we can look at a prophet in the way that Jews have looked at prophets of old and say, ‘this is a midrash’ on a revelation, or this is a midrash on an earlier work of scripture."

John: “What does that word mean?”

Jana: "Midrash, well it’s basically any expanded teaching.  I don’t know what the exact definition would be, but an expanded teaching is something where in midrashim, you are taking a core text and then thinking about it cosmically, you’re thinking about it theologically, and you could look at, for example, the entire Pearl of Great Price as a midrash. You have Moses as a midrash on Genesis, right?  If you think about it in those terms, the literal nature of it is less important than what the book is trying to teach us about who we are as children of God.  I think that is where we need to be looking, and I frankly don’t give a hoot about some of the arguments about historicity, DNA, the more troubling avenues is of course Joseph Smith, the more troubling aspect is not the scripture itself, but what Joseph Smith said about and whether he can then be relied upon as a prophet of God.  Based on my work on the Hebrew Bible, I would say yeah.  Have you looked at those guys lately?

"I mean we have this completely ridiculous idea of what a prophet is supposed to be.  No human being can measure up to that and there’s certainly no biblical example that does, and yet we conveniently forget about it. We come up with these stupid Gospel Doctrine lessons that encourage us to look at people in the Old Testament as if they were perfect and they we look at our own leaders to be perfect as well, and when they aren’t, well we leave."

Mail. To Our House.

Mail was just delivered to the apartment.  In two years of living in Kyrgyzstan, that has never happened.

We would get notices when we had mail in Tokmok, and then we'd pick it up at the post office (still do, since sending things to Tokmok has been more reliable and cheaper than sending things to Bishkek).  But before 5 minutes ago we had never received anything that was sent to a home address in Bishkek (not for lack of my mother trying).

22 January 2012

Republicans and Democrats, or What Became Glaringly Clear (Again) in South Carolina

Huge generalization here, but this is one major reason why I'm not a Republican and haven't been for nearly 10 years.  I'm not a Democrat either, but if I had to pick one party, I'd be a Democrat.

Too many Republicans make it a virtue to vote for someone like them.  That's one reason why Sarah Palin was popular at first- lots of women liked her because she was a mom like them even though she would have been totally incompetent at running a country, and why Mitt Romney had a rough time in North Carolina yesterday.  Conservative Christians who make up a significant part of the Republican party base won't touch Romney.

Democrats make it a virtue to vote for someone not like them.  There is no way there could be a Republican candidate like Obama, not with his supposed ties to Islam and his ethnic background.  But since he's a Democrat, it's not a problem, or maybe even an advantage. Have you ever heard anyone care at all that Harry Reid is a Mormon?

In both cases, a candidate's religious, cultural, and ethnic background matter.  Those aren't necessarily good things to base a vote on.  But since that is something lots of people base their votes on, I'd rather go with the party who votes for diversity instead of someone just like me.

18 January 2012

The Day that Never Was

A year ago January 18th pretty much disappeared on the airplane.  We left Seattle on the 17th and arrived in Tokmok on the 19th.  I always think it's weird to have a day disappear like that (an entire day!).  But then you get it back sometime when you fly west because you can leave early in the morning and get back to the western US late that evening.  Longest day ever.

Anyway.  We spent most of that shortened day in the air between Los Angeles and Moscow, and in the Moscow airport.  Not my favorite airport, but Aeroflot did impress, although that was helped by our low expectations. 

The hardest part about flying here is getting as far as Moscow, which is at least as far or farther than your overseas friends in Europe and the Middle East and then have to wait for 5 hours for another flight that takes 4-5 hours.  And that flight *always* gets into Bishkek in the small hours of the morning.  Last year we tacked on a 90-minute drive to Tokmok at the end of the too.

So glad I am not on an airplane today.

17 January 2012

Snow Plows

Just missed getting a photo, but there were snow plows on the street today.  I didn't even know that was possible.

The four-year-old was impressed.  Except for the winter he was born, he's lived in Seattle and Kyrgyzstan.  Snow plows haven't exactly been in his vocabulary.

16 January 2012

The King's Speech

This is about the book, not the movie.  Not that I knew there was a book before a few days ago, but still.  I was glad to discover and read it since everyone raves about the movie and I haven't been able to see it.

Anyway, I liked the book.  I suspect it was more about Lionel Logue than the movie was, and I liked that his son wrote it.  The pacing was a little uneven though, and sometimes it felt like they were just trying to get it published so the timing would match the movie.  I'd also have liked to read more about Logue's methods which his son said he found in the journals.  But overall, I liked it.

14 January 2012

More Censorship

I know this is becoming a perpetual theme here, but I really wish I could access the websites I want to when I want to.  There is no good reason to block every.single blogspot blog out there.  There are always ways to get around blocked sites (and I use them when I need to) anyway.  And what's up with being able to post of a blog, but not access it?  I guess it's less worrisome to spread discontent than to read it.

However, one of the ways I get around that is using Google Reader.  But it doesn't work when people don't have their full post there.  I know you like to have people click through to your site, but since I can't do that, I'd really like to be able to read what you wrote at all.

I also think it's funny that the spell check think blogspot is spelled wrong.

13 January 2012

A Video?

Experimenting here.  If all the internet connections work, this is the view from our window at midnight on New Year's.  It goes on like this for at least an hour here.  Love it.

I can't get on my blog to check if this works, so if it does, I'd be pleased if you posted a comment (not that I could respond to it though).

12 January 2012

Photos and a Regular Life

I got a step closer to posting photos today when I took the camera with me when I went shopping.  I just took it, though, and didn't take any pictures. Either a. I want to get back home ASAP or b. everything looks normal.  Not boring, mind you, but ordinary.  So the camera stays in its case and I get the shopping done and everything is good, although the blog stays boring.  I hope for a car.

I do listen to Russian while I'm walking.  Sometimes it seems crazy to be walking around a Russian-speaking town and practicing Russian by myself, but that's what a good introverted language learner does.

11 January 2012


Seems like every time daylight savings time ends in the fall, there are people who wish it would last all year.

You can try that option out in Kyrgyzstan if you'd like. We sprang forward in spring of 2005, but never fell back (I remember well trying to figure out what was going on that fall).  I like daylight savings time in general, but I really don't like it in the winter.

It's just starting to get light here at 7:30 AM.  As in, you'd still call it dark outside.  Sunrise isn't till 8:30.  It gets old to get up in the dark and know it won't get light for a long time.  I'd much rather have that hour of light from 7:30-8:30 AM than from 5-6 PM.

Or you could go to Kashgar where they're another two hours ahead of us on Beijing time and it would feel like it would never get light.  But they're smart and operate unofficially on Xinjiang time which is the same as Kyrgyzstan time.  So they're still on what would be daylight savings time, but it's not as bad as Beijing time. 

10 January 2012

Red Lentils with Tamarind and Lime

This is one of my favorite recipes with red lentils.  It's really good with stir-fried greens and naan (Central Asian, of course). This is from Mangoes and Curry Leaves, I think.

1 cup red lentils, washed
5 cups water
1-2 tablespoons tamarind pulp, chopped

2 tablespoons oil
1/2 tsp each of coriander, cumin, cayenne, and turmeric
1 tablespoon minced or mashed garlic
1 1/2 cups sliced onions
1/2 tsp salt
Limes or lemons

Put the lentils and water in a qazan or heavy pot and bring to a boil, skimming as it comes to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, covering it for the last 10 minutes (the cooking time is really flexible; the lentils will be soft in 20 minutes, but you can cook them for up to 40 minutes if you want the texture smoother and you can blend them too if you want).  While it's simmering, put the tamarind in a small bowl and scoop 1/4 cup of hot water from the lentils and mix it with the pulp.  Let it sit for at least 10 minutes.

Heat the oil in a wok or pot or qazan over medium-high heat, then add the spices and stir-fry for 10 seconds, then add the garlic and onions and stir-fry for at least 10 minutes, lowering the heat a little as you cook until the onions are very soft.

When the lentils are as cooked as you want them, press the tamarind pulp through a strainer into the lentils (discard the pulp).  Add the onions and salt and more water if you want to, again depending on the consistency you want.  Cook for 5 minutes, then taste to adjust the seasonings if you need to.  Serve with lime wedges (or lemons if limes aren't available) so your guests can squeeze the juice onto their lentils.

09 January 2012

Back in the Saddle

I suppose it's time to start blogging again after a thoroughly lovely Christmas break.  We ate good food, played lots of games, and watched all the Harry Potter movies again.  Since we'd only been able to get the last DVD a few weeks ago, it was fun to finally be able to watch them all together (even if it did take the entire two weeks to get through them).

And we waited for our visas (still waiting), because that's what we do, wait for visas.  Some other things didn't quite work out the way we wanted, but still, it was a great break and I suppose it wasn't too awful to start going again today.

05 January 2012

Napa, Chinsay, and Carrot Laghman

So the laghman was really good last night.  I added some carrots so there would be enough for our family and some garlic because everything tastes better with garlic on it.

So here's the recipe:

2 large carrots, julienned
1 napa cabbage heart, julienned
1 bunch chinsay stalks, chopped (strip the leaves and chop them too)
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, chopped
Vegetable oil
Salt and red pepper to taste (or lazy)

Heat the oil in a wok or qazan, then add the chinsay stalks, carrots, napa, and garlic and stir-fry for a few minutes.  Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, just till the vegetables are tender but not soggy.  Add salt and red pepper and serve over laghman.  I added black vinegar to mine, but no one else did.

04 January 2012

Bazaar, Chinsay, and Radishes

Someday I'll have to take a picture of the little bazaar next door where I do most of my shopping.  It's not as colorful or exciting as the Tokmok bazaar, obviously, and it's really not very big, but it has everything I need except for dairy products and loaf bread (and some Chinese and Turkish things, obviously).

There are two people selling vegetables, one selling cleaning and personal supplies and naan, someone else selling pasta and oil and all sorts of basic things like that, and someone selling toys and stuff. Those people are always there.  Oh, and the meat guy, but I've never talked to him.  Sometimes there is a woman there selling pickles (not just cucumbers), and before New Year there were all kinds of decorations in one usually-empty corner, and two new places just opened in another section with drinks and candy and used clothes and shoes. 

There's also plenty of overlap between what people sell and I'm never quite sure how to handle that because I like everyone there (except I'm not nice enough to buy meat).  I generally buy vegetables from one man, and fruit from the other produce man.  The both sell eggs too, but I buy eggs from the pasta women (even though everyone sells pasta).  The vegetable man always has cracked wheat and tomato paste and will get sesame oil for me too.  And he has laghman.

I've blogged about laghman often before, but it's always interesting to talk about laghman with people because there are strong opinions about how you ought to serve it.  Today the vegetable man told me a new way to cook the sauce for the laghman.  I was going to have cabbage and black vinegar, which is easy and delicious, but he told me you can't put cabbage on laghman.

So he had me get some чинсай (chinsay- I assume this is what would be called Chinese celery in the US) and suggested that I cook it with radishes (not the little red ones, but bigger green and white ones, although they're smaller than daikons), but my husband doesn't like the radishes, so he suggested the heart of Napa cabbage (which isn't called cabbage here- it's a totally different name).  Then he gave me two tomatoes for free to cook with it and dinner was ready to go. I'm supposed to peel the tomatoes, but if no one is around to check on me, that's not going to happen.

Chinsay is likely the Dungan name and if I knew the Chinese word for it, I could figure out what we call it in English.  I like it a lot better than regular celery.

Someday I really need to write a Central Asia Uyghur/Dungan cookbook in English.  But I would hate to have to test so many recipes.  Trying them, even lots of times, is one thing, but testing is totally different.

Sometimes I miss being able to buy Thai or Mexican ingredients, but I miss the Central Asian ingredients more when I'm not here.

03 January 2012

Tortilla Chips

We found a place in Bishkek that sells tortilla chips.  Real, homemade tortilla chips.  I can figure out how to make almost all the food I want to eat, but tortilla chips are beyond what I want to do here (I have, for the record, made tortilla chips from scratch, starting with masa, so I know what I'm talking about).  So I was delighted when it turned out that the only Mexican restaurant in town did have chips and was willing to sell me some. 

I don't know how long it'll last though.  When we picked up the chips on a Friday night at 7:30, the place was empty. But I'll take chips while I can.

01 January 2012

2012 Checklist

No visa woes
Visit Uzbekistan
Don't run out of money
Best homeschooling year ever
Stay in Bishkek till the summer
Don't move more than twice
Dissertation done
Read more
Write more
Research more
Fit more
Russian more
No mooching
Play more games

Think that does it.  I'm curious to see how it all goes.  Note there are no predictions for where we'll be living at the end of the year.  There are at least 5 interesting possibilities all over the world and I have no idea what will happen.

2011 Checked Off

I found 2010's end-of-the-year hopes for 2011.  2011 was a lot more predictable than 2010.  Here's what I checked of the list (although some were half-hearted checks):

Live in Kyrgyzstan most of the year
Don't run out of money
CBT Kyrgyzstan
Bone games, of course
Refresh Russian
Read a lot

Didn't manage these at all (although I did learn how to make plov in a qazan outside)

Move to another city in Central Asia at the end of the year
Learn to cook naan in a tandur
Learn Uzbek
Watch the boys learn Uzbek and Russian

And I knew these were too much to hope for, and they were:

Visit Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan
Church recognized in Kyrgyzstan