Sunday, September 27, 2009

Trip to the Yurt/Stoyanka

Since Jesse is getting increasingly lazy in doing these blogs :) I guess I will try to do them (sorry). The only thing we have been up to other than the usual language studies is our trip to a stoyanka (ranch) about 2 hours outside the city. Our coworkers David and Erin (Privyet blog linked to the right) have been out there for about 3 weeks helping out with the sheep and cattle, in an attempt to better understand T culture. It was interesting to see how they have been living as they don't have electricity or running water. It really makes you appreciate the simple things (like bathrooms and stoves).

We were only out there for 2 days and got so dirty and smelly. The people who live out there all the time only take baths and do laundry once a week but if you had to haul the water up to the banya (like a sauna) and spend 4-5 hours cleaning yourself, your baby, you grandmother, your little girl, and wash laundry by hand you would only bath yourself once a week also.

The lady spends her day either cooking, hauling water, cleaning, or taking care of her baby and little girl. It is quite a life to observe. If you want to just boil water you have to start about an hour before building the fire getting it hot enough, and then waiting for the water to boil. Imagine how much time it takes when she needs to feed several men (the workers on the ranch) every day for lunch?

The men, of course, spend all day herding cattle and sheep. Our friends got to help with this. Once the regulars there found out David was willing to help they started coming for him in the mornings. Our friends found out then that a cultural difference between them and the T people was that they don't believe in knocking. They will just come on in!

Of course, most of time their door was opened because it was so hot in the cabin. When you have to basically keep the stove hot all day it can get a little warm in the one room cabin (the windows didn't open). There are several advantages to being there (especially with kids). I was able to just let the kids go outside and run around without supervision. There was a gate around the yard so they didn't get far. Even if they found their way out of the gates I would still be able to see them for a few miles every direction. They loved playing in the dirt and climbing the fences. It was paradise for them.

Jesse was able to help with the sheep and cattle while I helped Erin with the household chores. We did take a break to walk up a mountain which I think I enjoyed more than Jesse. In between we just sat around talking and relaxing. So, here are some pictures we took from the trip:

And, as one final bonus, Jesse found the following rope up near the summer yurt. Can you guess what it's made out of? (No points if you already saw this on facebook.)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fall has fallen!

Actually, I think winter is starting to slip, and it won't be too long before it's fallen too, but for now, everything is pretty. The snow that was promised this morning only hit the mountains, so everything around is nicely dusted in white, while K-town itself is still sunny and nice (if cold).

So, what have we been up to? Language and culture study, that's what. We finally have a language helper, courtesy of our coworkers David and Erin lending us theirs while they're out of town. That means dialogues, monologues, vocabulary, culture events, and most fun of all, TPRs! (They're like TPS reports, only more fun.)

Other than diving into a new language, we've been trying our best to squeeze the last few days of sunlight and normal temperatures for all they're worth, relationship-wise. Of course, having the boys around is an instant ice-breaker:

In an effort to develop relationships with some men (OK, also to have fun, but that's beside the point), I've been playing some football/soccer twice a week. I worry about the state of the field a bit, as it's rockier than some mountains I've seen, but so far no broken bones have resulted from a fall. It's just a matter of time, though. One good thing is that no one here is really that good, so even my mediocre skills don't embarrass me on the pitch.

As for our future plans, hopefully tomorrow we're going out to visit our aforementioned teammates in their yurt. If it works out, we may stay a day or two, and then when we come back another new buddy of mine has invited me out to his village for some time in the woods. Should be a lot of fun; keep us in your thoughts!

In newsy-type news, nothing new on the apartment hunt front, so thanks for continuing to think about that. Our other coworkers, David and Christy, are preparing for their return to Europe to have their twins, so be thinking about all the documentation, etc., that goes into that. And I think that's it. Thanks for stopping by, and we'll be sure to post lots of yurt/woods pictures when and if (it's a joke, Mom, don't worry!) we get back.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Hello, Internet

We're back online!

It's a pity it took our coworkers going away so we could steal their internet gadgetry, but you had to know we'd get back on eventually. I don't think this thing is fast enough to get any videos uploaded, so we'll just do pictures. Here's a sampling of what you've missed in the past month or so while we've been off:

OK, so it's kind of weird that by the time we get pictures of our apartment up here, we're looking for another one, but that's just how it goes sometimes, I guess. We love our current apartment, which we found as kind of a temporary solution to rent while we looked for one to buy. I wish it was for sale, but it's not, so we're still on the hunt for a more permanent solution. Just check out the huge living room!

Also on the agenda in the past month or so was another trip out to the river for shashlik. I think on this one we were celebrating someone's birthday, maybe. Anyway, here are the Davids fixing us up some very delicious shashlik.

And of course, while we were there the kids enjoyed a trip down to the riverbank. Our kids, of course, being a little younger, only did this under the strictest of supervision!

I think it's been really good for our boys to get together with our coworkers' kids and just have some social interaction, which they were short on in Moscow. Neither of the boys really talks at all, but after a few months here they're starting to jabber quite a bit. Here the kids are enjoying a day making cookies together.

And, just for a bit of K-town flavor, here's a picture of the Buddhist temple, with flowers in full bloom...

... and a few blocks away, the seemingly opposite end of the philosophical spectrum as these things go, the meat market.

A couple of weeks ago, David and I were lucky enough to be able to attend a local concert for various T singers, which was really interesting. I have a dream that maybe one day I'll learn to play the instrument the guy is holding in this picture.

Last week was Bobbie's (yes, we're using the whole first names on here now) and my 7th anniversary, which we celebrated by dropping the kids off and going out for lunch and a walk. While we were in the park enjoying the beautiful day, we decided to take a paddleboat out for a spin, and caught some sun while we chatted. It was glorious!

And, just for the grandparents, a few shots of our growing kids (I think I may have already put some of these on Facebook, but whatever).

Matthew looking cute, and then tough.

Last week we had to get passport photos again for another paperwork thing, and Bobbie liked the pictures of the kids so much she asked the guy to put them on our thumb drive. Here are the results:
And just so all the pictures aren't of Matthew, here's Steven too:

Thanks again for thinking of us. We're looking at a couple of apartments closely these days, so be lifting that up - we really want to end up in the neighborhood and place that he wants us! Thanks, and now that we have this kind of internet access, we'll try to get the weekly schedule going again.