Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Yep, paradise. I bet you wouldn't have guessed you could find it in the middle of Siberia, but it turns out that's where it is.

What am I talking about? The village we've been spending all this time is actually named for the mythical Buddhist paradise of Shambhala. You can check out what that's about here, but the short version is that it's the inspiration for the Shangri-La that was popularized by Western writers. It is rumored to be anywhere from Tibet to T-land, but of course the people here claim that we're living in the real thing.

Which judgment, of course, we're inclined to agree with. I don't know about the New Age "energies" of the place, but as far as life goes, it's pretty good there. We've started to get the hang of our English classes which take up our mornings, and the kids are starting to make some progress. More importantly, we're getting lots of chances to learn language and culture. Culture more than language, probably, since most of what's going on around us goes over our heads, but it's still really good. On to the pictures of our latest week out in Paradise:

Unfortunately, paradise does have a few minor drawbacks. Especially this time of year, otherwise known as "The Swamp Period" as all the snow and animal droppings start to melt and combine to make the town a massive smelly marsh. Not so nice.

Oh, and the food. Yeah. Also not so "paradisey." This is the famous "Congealed Pressed Fat" dish. Served raw, in slices. Mmmmmmm.

But apart from all of that, it's great. This is our most "rowdy" class of kids, the ones in 5th class.

And back on the home front, the kids love it out there. Steven even volunteered to sweep the floor!

The family we live with keeps the television on pretty much 24-7, so it's not like their kids haven't seen it, but they almost never watch kids programs. So, when we get out a movie for the boys on our laptop, they tend to get on the bed with them to watch.

This has been a very harsh and long winter here, and it's taken a toll on the animals. Our hosts have lost over 40 sheep and a few cows as well. Our coworkers recently bought 2 of their sheep, in an effort to start their own "herd" and mainly to help out our hosts. They were able to buy some hay to see them through the rest of the winter until things melt enough for the animals to go out and forage for themselves.

However, the cows have almost starved to death by this point, and they are too weak to get up if they lay down or fall. Seems like about once a day we all have to go out to pick one of them up. Here we're setting up for the lifting process, which takes at least 3 people and is quite difficult.

One of the odder things to us, culturally, is the way they deal with the sheep that starve to death. Rather than skin them for the wool or try to get what little meat is left on them, they just throw them into a pile and give them to the dogs. Here, what I initially thought was a nice sheepskin bed this dog was lying on turned out to be merely a pile of dead sheep. Looks comfortable, though.

If you'll recall, a few months ago we had a picture of me looking ridiculous dressed up in a local outfit. Now it's Bobbie's turn!

And this one is just a bonus. Congratulations to John and my sister Rachael on your wedding! Sorry we couldn't be there, but on second thought, considering the stock of pictures and stories I could share, maybe it's best for y'all that we weren't. ;-) We love you and will be lifting you up as you start your life together.