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Published: September 25th 2009
The Welcome SpreadDay 21, July 16, 2009, Thursday, Beishembi:
When we walked in this was the table setting.
I got home about 10 pm from yesterday's adventure into the heart of Southern Kyrgyzstan and the village of Aidarken. I was exhausted from the travel and the experiences and went straight to bed after unloading a bag full of goodies from the afternoon-long-into-the-sunset-dinner at the home of Faruh's wife's family.
Travel to Aidarken was with Faruh's brother-in-law and his wife and baby, Mustafa. Faruh's brother-in-law studied theology for 10 years at Al-Azhar in Cairo and he works in the foundation that represents the ideas of Fetullah Gullen in Kyrgyzstan. Given the large number of phone calls during the day, I would say that he is in a fairly important position with the Young foundation. There are offices in Bishkek and in Osh that have been pointed out to me for the foundation.
Travel to the south of Osh takes you through a farming area where the principle crops of Southern Kyrgyzstan are raised. Fields of wheat are waiting to be harvested or have just seen the combines come through. Yellow stubble in those fields lie beside fields of giant sunflowers awaiting harvest for use in making cooking oil. Next to
The Guest of Honor
My Friend Faruh is in the center on the right, to his left is Sapar.
them are fields of maize and corn, and tobacco. Along the side of the road tobacco leaves are drying on racks. Other agricultural production includes orchards of apricots, apples, peaches, nectarines, and pears. A little further south cherry orchards produce red and black cherries which are sold on the highway from large buckets. In the same stretch of highway there were youngsters making and selling natural brooms from the brush that grows along the side of the way. Wild flowers of purple, yellow, white, light pinks populate the areas along the roadsides. And after about 10 or 12 kilometers the road begins an ascent into the mountains. It took us about 4 hours to get to the village of Aidarken. Along the way we passed Kyzylkia and a number of other small villages. The border of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan run close to the road during much of the trip. Check points with army types, customs control points, and other evidence of government presences are frequent.
The roads in the area need work. The trip would probably only be about 3 hours, except that the roadway surface is full of unpleasant surprises. Places where construction projects are underway to replace
Women Join in Celebration
Many women joined the table
bridges take you down to the level of the riverbed where a temporary crossing over a culvert has been created. As you drive along, suddenly, the road will narrow to 1 and ½ lane from what was two. And the roller coaster effect almost made me car sick on the way back. Traveling like that with others at the wheel has begun to really cause me to develop serious tension in my body.
Arrival at the house was accomplished after the worst strip of roadway in the whole trip, but our welcome was warm and generous. We were ushered into a room where a traditional dining arrangement had been established. A table cloth was spread in the center of the room from one end to the other. Pallets of colorful cloth and pillows were arranged around the walls. And on the tablecloth were breads of every description, salads of every kind, bowls of fruit, chocolates and hard candies. We waited for others to arrive. After about 30 minutes others began to arrive. The dinner was in honor of my friend Faruh and his wife. I thought after the first courses of food that the event was over, but no,
The untilled land produces beautiful displays of wild flowers
we took a break from the eating to go look at the nature.
We drove out to a field on top of a very high hill that looked back toward the village and out toward the mountains to the Southeast which appear to be among the highest I have seen. Upon returning to the house, we began another round of eating, this time with a soup, followed by the cutting and dividing up of the sheep that had been sacrificed earlier in the day. The problem, of course, is that the sheep is cooked by boiling it to eliminate any health dangers. That makes for a very tasteless piece of meat. I am sure it could be roasted with vegetables, or even boiled with garlic and onions to make it have flavor, but that does not seem to be the custom.
Again, we are each given various pieces of the sheep to take home with us along with various goody bags containing the bread from the middle of the tablecloth and other treats. The women had brought with them baskets covered with tablecloths to put the division into. It was fascinating to watch the process and how quickly
He speaks near perfect English, learned at the Sabat school in Kysylkia
it could be allocated according to rank, friendships, status, etc. After that division, gifts were handed out. The married couple received rugs, and various household gifts, Faruh got a new fancy kalpak (the official hat of Kyrgyzstan), and we received scarfs to tie around our waists. I could just get a knot in mine. Especially after a daylong dinner. Finally, the time to leave comes and we head off into the treacherous highway, now to be complicated by darkness within an hour.
I have been having some ideas for a film script about life in Kyrgyzstan and they were flooding my head on the road back to Osh. I will need to sketch out the outlines of those stories soon. Maybe when I get back to Bishkek and the process of the day will return to normal.
Today, Marat and I will go to the Autobank, get some cash, then the money exchange to get Coms, then an internet cafe so that I can pay a bill that is probably now overdue. We also then will need to buy some more phone time for me and check on when I can fly back to Bishkek. I think that
Carrots in the Field
One of the cash crops growing at the farm
I will try to go back on Monday. Marat told me last night that his father is coming home for the weekend and that we will go to visit the Chong Ata and Chong Apa in their small village. That is worth staying here a few extra days and it will give me an excuse not to travel back with Faruh. I told Emil that I was willing to trade 55 dollars for 55 minutes of terror in the air to avoid 13 hours of terror in Faruh's automobile again. He laughed very hard. Actually, I do not anticipate any terror in the air, since flying never frightens me, even when I have been aboard aircraft with failed engines, and landing gear that was reluctant to work properly when I was in the Air Force. So, the die is cast, I am flying back to Bishkek early next week, we just need to get me a ticket.
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