Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Home, Home on the Khovu (range/steppe)

So, we promised you some pictures of our time out at the ranch where we've been staying for the past week or so, and here they are.  I'm actually only in town for a few hours; we ran out of water so I came in to get some and to attend to some business things.  I'm leaving in, like, 20 minutes, so I'm going to make this really fast.

Again, I apologize for the quality of the photos - our camera broke a few weeks ago.  We dug out the old one that we were given as a wedding present (thank you, Gabriel!) which miraculously still works.  The height of 2002 technology, I guess, but it's only 2 MP so a lot of these are kind of blurry.  Anyway, enjoy:

We wanted to be relatively close to town as I'm doing some legal work with the registration of our organization, and we found some acquaintances (well, relatives of acquaintances) with a ranch only 9 km from our city!  It's been really good culture study, especially for Bobbie as she hasn't been out of the city as much, and she's loving the time "in the bush," except there aren't any bushes.  And you can actually see the city from where we are, as you can see in the distance in the photo below.  Maybe.  If you squint (you can maybe see the big dome of the sportscenter, at least).

Below is what the inside of the yurt looks like.  Our original plan was to set up our tent, but the family's younger son had just moved back to town and left this yurt empty, and they said we could stay in it.  

You can't see it too well, but right behind Bobbie and the boys there's the stove which dominates the floorspace.  Then around it there is a gas stove (which doesn't work) and some cabinets, and two twin beds.  Bobbie's sleeping in the one on the women's side of the yurt, I'm in the one on the men's side, and the boys are on the floor in sleeping bags, which they think is the greatest thing ever.

 It's also the time of year to plant potatoes, so we went out and helped them with their little (maybe 2-3 acre) plot.  They actually had a tractor come and disc it, which made the planting way easier.  We just had to dig it up some to aerate some more and dig out all the grass that had grown over it, and then dig the holes.  I found it interesting to compare the process with what I remembered from growing up in Bolivia.

 These gloves are definitely much too big! 

Bobbie has loved her time out there, more than me as she has more time with the ladies.  The men are out with the animals during the day, and don't have a horse big enough for me to come with them, so the only time I've been with them is during the morning and evening working around the ranch getting things cleaned up, etc.

Bobbie, on the other hand, has been with the babushka learning how to make sour cream, churning butter, and even learning to milk a cow!  She's surprisingly good at it for only having done it 3 days now.  I'll let her tell you about it next blog (but the main thing is that it makes her fingers hurt, I'll go ahead and tell you).

The boys have turned into quite the little farm helpers, especially Steven.  At first I thought they were just in the way and playing more than working, but then I came back from taking a load of dung down to the pile and they had actually put the next pile in the wheelbarrow already all by themselves!

Not to be outdone, Matthew cranks up the knife-sharpener whetstone.  Too bad we didn't have any knives to sharpen (or any water to actually make it work).

So that's about it.  I'm expecting a call to get going and head back in a few minutes, so I'll leave it at that.  Hope you enjoyed it, and again, thanks for thinking of us.  Culture and language study continues to be a long slog, but hopefully this time in a really good native environment will be good for us.

See you next week with more pictures and descriptions of our time out there!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Another Hair-Cutting Ceremony

Do you see Lightning McQueen there?  Or, as he's known in Russia "Molnya Makween?"  Bobbie baked this cake for some close friends of ours whose son was turning three.

As we've mentioned on the blog before, the people here don't cut boys' hair until they turn three.  If a boy has his hair cut, then it will be known to the spirits that he is a boy and they can cause him some problems, so everyone waits.  This leads to a lot of confusion for Bobbie and I guessing the gender of toddlers, but then on the boy's third birthday, there is a special ceremony for him.

I don't know if you'll recall, but Matthew had one when he turned three (though we obviously changed some of the details), and this was similar.  I'll apologize in advance for the quality of the pictures; our camera recently broke so I was using Bobbie's phone.

First, of course, as with any party here, you have to have a "rich table."  This time was not so elaborate as some, but still had quite a few goodies on offer.

Then all the relatives and close friends get up to pronounce a blessing on the young boy (who generally is disinterested or upset - fortunately this guy was the former).  You "wish" for good things for him, peace, long life, and the like, and then cut a small piece of his hair.  

I've been to several of these, and even offered a toast a couple of times, but this was the first time I've been in the "hair-cutting" party.  

Bobbie was also on the list of honored guests, so she waved the scissors around and cut hair too.

Of course, at the end it was all about the cake.  Little "Glory" (that's what his name translates to in English) had been waiting for that all along!

Sorry for the short post; not many pictures due to lack of camera these past few weeks.  We're making progress on getting our organization registered, and also keeping on with our culture and language study.  In fact, in a few hours we're going out to a yurt/ranch nearby to stay with a T family.  We love the summer for the chances it brings to get out into the culture a bit more!

Be thinking of us, we'll be herding sheep and cows and all the rest of it, and staying in the family's yurt (it was standing empty as they've all moved into a little cabin).  We're not sure how long we'll be there, but the goal is to stay there two weeks if things work out.  Thanks again for stopping by, and we'll be sure to post how that goes when we get back to the city!


 Oh, we do have one more awesome piece of news that I almost forgot, it's been so long since we updated this: we got our permanent residency!  That means that we can be here for the next 5 years, so thanks to those of you who were thinking about that.