Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Weekend at a Yurt


So, a week ago our friends invited us out for the weekend to their parents' yurt.  It's out in a beautiful part of T-land and Bobbie had never been so we jumped at the chance.  This post is all about our fun/hard-working weekend on the farm.

These are our friends, you may remember them from past posts.  He was my first language helper, and she works as a psychiatrist in the asylum here.

 The best thing about these summer trips to people's yurts/ranches is that the boys have all the room they could possibly want to play.  After being cooped up all week in a 700 sq. ft. apartment, suddenly they have this:

Like most T ranches, they have a separate summer kitchen building.  It's too hot in the summer to cook inside, but then when winter comes and you already have a fire going in your cabin it's better to just use that to cook.

This is what it looks like inside the kitchen; it's just boards with cardboard lining the walls to keep out the wind.

The boys enjoying the T tea, which is milky and salty instead of sweet.  Just the thing for a windy day to warm you up.

Of course, for Steven and Matthew the best thing was the animals.  Steven couldn't get enough of the calves, and anything we did that involved them he would volunteer to come "help."

It was also a time for work.  The owners actually left a couple of hours after we got there, so we had to do all the regular work to keep the farm operating (with the help of our friends who also live in the city who had come out with us).  There was chopping wood, ...

... breaking off the sharp teeth of the pig (pigs can really hurt each other when they bite if you don't snip their teeth off when they're little) ...

... milking cows (which Steven had to try too), ... 

and Matthew, having seen Steven, was not going to be left out ...

... churning butter (which, without a proper churn, is HARD work), ...

... patting butter into nice round balls for storage, ...

... and herding.  There was actually a LOT of herding to do; I spent most of the day the first day herding sheep.  We left early in the morning and walked all over those mountains you see in the background chasing sheep that fed any direction they pleased with no thought to the fact that they were going to have to spend the night in a corral at some point.  Ugh.  Stupid sheep.  I was exhausted when we got back; shepherding in a mountainous area is hard work.

 Bobbie, of course, took the chance to get in some fishing.  Not catching, but fishing at least.

The lone fish, caught by my friend A, was not exactly a monster.

All in all, it was a great weekend.  Great to have a chance to catch up with A and S, great to have a chance to speak so much T, and great especially for the boys to get outside in the great outdoors.

And for anyone who thinks that we "suffer" out here, take a look at these two pictures and ask yourself if you'd rather live here or where you do.

OK, fine, you still want to live there, but there are benefits here too, I think you'd have to admit!

Anyway, thanks for stopping by, hope you enjoyed your online "visit" to a T sheep ranch.  I'll leave you with a video of Steven learning how to wrestle, T style.  He struggled at first but as the weekend wore on he eventually managed to pin Aldin instead of the other way around.

See you in a week or two!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Friends From Faraway Lands

So, recently we've been blessed to have not one, but two visitors from across the pond come to see us in T-land!  David, who you'll all remember from previous blogs, came from Canada, and P came from the US.  We really enjoyed both visits, though we wished that both could have brought their wives (and stayed longer!).

Anyway, on to the pictures!

One thing you always notice when you go over the mountains into the rest of the country is how different everything is.  A more "modern" feeling, etc.  So, on the way back to T-land after picking up P from the airport it was clear that we were getting back home when you start to see cows blocking the road!

Still, when you get views like this, it's totally worth it.

Or not, maybe.  Poor P.  After a long layover and a night on the airport floor, he was exhausted by the time we got back to our house.  As we entered our building, I said "Oh, I really hope the elevator is working" as it's frequently out and I had no desire to climb up to the 8th floor carrying a suitcase.

Well, it turned out that it was working ... temporarily.  We got in, pushed the button for the 8th floor, and the power went out.  Juuuust the way you want to end a long trip.  Fortunately, P's camera had a flash and managed to capture our bemused reaction to standing in a small elevator with three men and several bags in the dark.  Eventually, someone came from the elevator repair place came and rescued us so that we could very gratefully climb the stairs without complaining (hey, it's better than being trapped in a steel box!).

 We wanted to show P around, so we took him all over the place.  I really like how they've managed to find a translation for "Welcome" above, especially since that's not part of T culture and I've literally never heard anyone say the words on the poster.

Below are a couple of pictures from a visit to the local Buddhist temple, which was between services so we got to walk around inside a bit.

These pieces of paper lay on the table while the monks chant their mantras.  They usually have the names of people or requests on them, and the idea is that the person receives what I call "karmic credit" for having their name on a paper at the ceremony (I should note that this is only partial credit, really, because they don't get as much as a person who actually attends).  Interesting, no?

The Center of Asia monument, seen from down the street.

This is the kind of thing that someone from the West would notice, but you don't after you've been here a while.  A truck in front of the market, selling live chickens to anyone who wants a source of eggs (and maybe meat, eventually) this winter.

Of course, we had to take P out for shashlik.  Actually, I think we did it about 2-3 times while he was here.

Above: Bobbie with her (excellent) language helper, Vika.  Below: Me with a friend from up north who came down to see what T-land was like.

Above: Yet another shashlik, this time in our friends' back yard.

Below: We had a couple of spare days at the end of P's visit, so we decided to take him out to see some of the natural beauty of T-land.  This is Lake Chagytai, where we had an overnight camping trip.

Of course, since we were on the prairie side of the lake, the only source of fuel to be found were cow droppings, so we made our fire out of them.  Trickier than you'd think, but once you master the idea of stacking them vertically it's not so bad.

I don't have as many pictures, but our friend David was also here recently.  I guess you'll have to spot him by the top of his face over at the right of this picture, which I took when we hosted a goodbye party with a lot of his old buddies.  We had pizza, chips, and a good time seeing all these folks, some of whom we hadn't seen in a while.

 And to end with, I have some pictures of the kids being silly, mostly for the grandparents.  Playing in hammocks, making faces, or "sword-fighting" with visitors, our boys always seem to be able to find adventure in simple places. 

And that's about it.  More on our new business and how it's progressing in our next update, perhaps.  Love you all!