31 May 2017

You can see where we ended up on the escarpment here, and if you zoom out, see the wadi we followed for a long way.  You can see a road leading to power  lines just south of there and it looks like we can access that road from some new points, instead of the old blocked-off ones.

Google Earth does not do this place justice at all, nor does a cell phone camera.

30 May 2017


It's interesting to be in a rather strict Muslim country for Ramadan.  Ramadan in Kyrgyzstan is barely noticeable.  In Palestine plenty of people are observing it but since there are lots of non-Muslims living there too, it doesn't completely take over the month for everyone. But here, it does.

There's a mandated shortened workday of six hours.  Generally that means people come in around ten or eleven and work till four or five.  My children love the late start at school and early release.

Any business might be closed during the day but open at midnight.  My husband needed a haircut in Saturday and his usual place was closed at 11 am, but when he went back at 10 pm, he was able to get the haircut. Even medical places do this.

Grocery stores usually open from 10 am to 6 pm, then again from around 9 pm till 2 am.  I'm going to the grocery store later today and I'm curious to see if there are any changes inside. I'm just glad it's allowed to buy ingredients during the day and that the stores open in time to get a shopping trip done before noon prayers. I hear they can be very crowded in the late afternoon.

Restaurants are closed during the day.  They open in time for iftar and feed many, many people.  

There is no eating or drinking allowed in public during the day.  I might get a pass, since I'm obviously foreign, if I make a mistake, but eating or drinking in public during Ramadan is actually a deportable offense.  Even water.  The water is tricky for me since I carry it everywhere because I get dehydrated here very easily.  But I also don't go out much during the day.

I love being in a place where I can watch the majority religion join together for some type of religious observation. But the majority also needs to remember to not try to control everyone's lives.

Update:  I didn't make it to Lulu today because the traffic was horrible.  I was too optimistic thinking that I could get there and do the grocery shopping before prayers.  Well, I probably had time, but when we weren't even halfway there after 25 minutes, it wasn't worth it.  So I went to Hyper Panda instead.  I'll try Lulu again next week.  The grocery store was normal though.  I'd wondered if prepared foods were banned, but no.

Also, the A/C in the kitchen died last week.  The repair people are coming either tonight or tomorrow night after 9 pm.  Lovely.

29 May 2017

Wadis and Camels

Our usual road to the escarpment is often blocked now, which isn't surprising, but I convinced my husband that an adventure would be a good idea so we tried going to a different part of the escarpment.  The problem is that there really are very few roads going there so you just have to hope.

We got lucky and found a wadi that went all the way to the edge of the escarpment, complete with a bit of a track.  It was a long ride with some dicey parts, but we made it all the way there.  We were joined by camels and goats in several places.

I doubt we'll ever go out there again, but that wasn't the point. It was so nice to get out and do this.  More photos when I get them off the other device.

23 May 2017

Refugees in the Book of Mormon

There are multiple refugee stories in the heritage of many religions and cultures.  From Passover to the Hijra to US Thanksgiving to so many other examples, it's likely that most people have a refugee story.

One of my favorites is from my own religious tradition, in the Book of Mormon.  There are a number of refugee stories in the Book of Mormon, but I'm writing here about the people of Ammon.

The people of Ammon were a group of people was being targeted because they had converted to another religion.  They had also taken a vow of non-violence as part of their conversion.  A small faction in their homeland incited war against the people of Ammon and many were being killed. They had to leave.

But the only place to go was to the Nephites, the people they had warred with before their conversion.  The Nephites didn't much like the people of Ammon's ethnic group, calling them lazy and filthy.  And the people of Ammon had killed many Nephites before they took their vow of non-violence.  The people of Ammon were not at all sure it was wise to go to the Nephites, but Ammon (their new religious leader who was a Nephite and the son of a former Nephite king) convinced them to seek refuge with the Nephites.

So the people of Ammon picked up as a group and went to the border of the Nephite land.  Ammon, who had prayed about all of this, went to the chief judge and asked if the people of Ammon would be admitted.

And here's the part I like best.  The Nephites voted (no idea if women were allowed to vote, but I'm assuming not) and agreed to take in the people of Ammon.  But not only did the Nephites give them a place to live, they also agreed to protect them so they wouldn't break their vow of non-violence, in exchange for a tax to help support the Nephite army.

So you have one group of people welcoming refugees who not only were from an ethnic group they hated and fought with, but they agreed to give them a place to live and provided military protection because they would no longer fight themselves.  Good stuff. And I hope my pronouns didn't get too confusing.

21 May 2017

There's a rather large event going on in Riyadh right now.  My favorite part is the Islamic Summit because there are flags from all over the Muslim world lining the streets.  It's lovely to see all those old friends.

08 May 2017

Cucumber Feta Salad

This is amazing. If you're stuck with the huge American cucumbers, peel and seed them, but if you can get smaller, thinner-skinner cucumbers, you can just cut them up. The amounts are all very adjustable.  Fiddle with it to taste.

1/2 kilo cucumbers, chopped
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1-2 T chopped mint
1/2 T or more sumac
Pinch or more cayenne
A bit of minced garlic
Blop of olive oil
Lemon juice

Mix everything together and serve.

07 May 2017

But the Plumerias are Blooming

In The Geography of Bliss, a book I didn't like much, the author says that people in Moldova were really focused on the fresh vegetables and he seemed to think that was odd.  But for me, after living in Kyrgyzstan once and having returned since reading the book, that phrase is perfect.  The vegetables really are very fresh (something that cannot be taken for granted), but even more than that, sometimes you just need to focus on something good.  So yes, the vegetables are fresh, but when you say that, you're also acknowledging that a place like Kyrgyzstan isn't always that easy to deal with, but it's certainly not all bad.  Even if the vegetables are really limited in the winter.

Right now my corresponding phrase for Saudi Arabia is "But the plumerias are blooming."  They started blooming again a few weeks ago, after it warmed up a lot, and they'll keep going till November when it cools off.  I have lots of plumerias in my garden and I can smell them when I go outside, especially in the evening. 

It's hard to be here when it's hot.  The heat is awful, of course, but it also takes away my last bit of independence.   I really can't go anywhere without finding someone to drive me because I live too far to walk from any public indoor place.  Biking is a possibility, but I have to admit to being really annoyed with having to bike in the heat when a bunch of men are driving around in cars.  So I can either be annoyed and find someone to drive me in an air conditioned car, or I can be annoyed while also baking on a bike.  When none of your options are good, it doesn't really matter much if you have choices.

Saudi does seem to be relaxing some of its guardianship rules though.  One can hope. And the plumerias are blossoming.

03 May 2017


The very first thing we ever did in the desert was four-wheeling.  There are people renting four-wheelers in outside the city in nice sandy patches and can rent one for about $15-20/hour.  

I don't ride, because I am not that coordinated, but I still love to go out with the group and be in the desert.  Also, we go down the escarpment and I never pass up a chance to do that.

01 May 2017


I can't believe I didn't mention what we ate in Austria.  We had a kitchen where we were staying so we went to the grocery story (rather complicated by our arrival on a Saturday night a few minutes after the grocery store had closed for the weekend) and mostly cooked at home.  There was lots more spaetzle and cheese along with yogurt and muesli.  Delightful.

We had one night between Austria and needing to be back in Paris for our flight, so that morning we decided to go back through Strasbourg, I think to maximize castle and Lego store visits.  I was just happy to go to Strasbourg since it has a long and interesting history.  We were mostly driving but I still loved it.  And we were back to French food.  Also, the place we stayed had kuglehopf.