Monday, May 6, 2013

May 4, 2013

I was up earlier than usual as Gulnaz had invited us to spend the night at her parents’ dacha, or summer home, on the way back from the walnut forest visit and we needed to leave everything packed and ready to go for Sunday morning when we’d be traveling back to Osh and then Batken.

Since I didn’t want the rice porridge being served downstairs, I brought along the remaining salami, flat bread and assorted fruit I’d accumulated during the week to eat as we traveled. We took a marshrutka to the center and then another one to Bazaar Korgun where Gulnaz’ sister-in-law had promised to join us on the trip to the Aslanbov Forest.

We boarded yet another marshrutka and traveled for about an hour and a half through beautiful countryside where many farmers could be seen bent over the land either plowing or planting seeds. The weather turned cooler and cloudier the higher we went and after many stops to pick up and drop off passengers, we finally made it into the village.

There had been a German couple with a couple of months old baby in the minivan and they told me they spoke Spanish as she had served with an NGO in the Dominican Republic and both of them had worked in Honduras. They were doing forestry consulting work in Kyrgyzstan.

When we got out of the marshrutka, I asked Elvira and Aiperi if we could buy a map to find exactly was available there and they both just laughed. Just then, a downpour started and we had to take refuge in a nearby restaurant where many families sat in topchons eating lunch. We found an empty one and I ordered plov and salad while Elvira had lagman and Aiperi manti.

Elvira wanted to strike on her own immediately after we ate and find out about a couple of waterfalls that she’d heard were worth seeing. I declined to move as long as the rain persisted since I was only wearing my Tevas and was not about to get all muddy.

Thankfully, the rain stopped after about an hour and we found a young driver willing to take us to the waterfalls for about 50 soms each. We boarded one of those rugged, albeit uncomfortable, Niva 4 X 4 and took off for the mountain top. The first waterfall wasn’t that impressive if you were to measure it against the Niagara Falls for instance, but it was a sight I hadn’t seen in a long time.

We got back in the car and the driver offered to take us a property on a ridge where a fantastic view of the village and surrounding mountains awaited us. I was able to take lots of photos of the flowering trees along with observing the walnut trees up close.

I had purchased the 3-1 coffee packet for the following morning and it occurred to me to ask the restaurant for hot water so I could have some resemblance of coffee before returning to Bazaar Kurgon. We took a taxi so as to avoid the packed conditions of the marshrutka and to reach the city before it got dark.

We then had to board yet another taxi to reach Gulnaz’ parents’ home just as dusk approached. The tablecloth had been laid on the floor of one of the rooms, Tajik style, and all kinds of treats were waiting for us. Another couple was already there and I was told they’d been the godparents to Gulnaz’ brother’s wedding.

I ate a bit of salad and flat bread before suggesting we go for a walk around the property before the sun disappeared completely. Gulnaz went around showing the different parts of the house, the vegetable garden and surrounding countryside. Her mother teaches Russian and her father works the land after retiring as a school principal.

Gulnaz’ brother was busy cooking a sheep that had been killed earlier, so we were treated to the greasy and bland shorpo soup that contains nothing but the broth in which the sheep meat was boiled and to which the cook adds globules of fat that float on the surface. I declined mine, but Elvira reminded me it was impolite to turn down such dishes and ordered that I be served a smaller portion in a tea bowl.

I tried, I really tried, but I couldn’t swallow the fat globules and the smell of the sheep meat almost made me heave what I had eaten before. The male visitor was presented with the first charred and then boiled head of the sheep as a sign of respect and I waited to see how he was going to tackle eating that, but he decided to take it home instead.

Following the soup, when I wasn’t even a bit hungry, I was presented with a plate full of meat including a portion of pure fat. I again expressed my desire not to eat anything, but I was told I needed to take at least one bite. And then, to my utter dismay, beshbarmak was served, a dish I thoroughly dislike and I don’t care who cooks it or how.

I simply put my foot down and told everyone that there was no way I could take another bite. Elvira admitted that although she wasn’t a bit hungry, she still needed to attempt to eat whatever was placed in front of her just out of courtesy. I had no such compulsion and preferred to be labeled as rude and not have to stuff my face with food I didn’t care for.

It had been a long day and when Gulnaz offered to lay down the korpachas for our bed, I was more than happy to retrieve my toiletries and get ready to sleep. The house only had an outhouse quite distant from the house, so I knew that sleeping through the night without using the bathroom was going to be a problem.

After brushing my teeth, I bid everyone good night and laid down on very comfortable korpachas while noticing that the cushion to cover myself with was a rather narrow one and the room was pretty chilly. After chitchatting with Elvira for a few minutes, we both fell asleep.

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