Monday, February 21, 2011

A Visit

(Note:  We meant to post this on Saturday).

Yesterday, Elnura, my right hand in the classroom, said, "Ms. Katie, are you and Mr. Peter busy tomorrow night?  We would like to invite you to our house."  A very fun, surprise invitation!

So today, Peter and I did our usually Saturday gig - got up, went for a run, and went to school.  Only today we went to school at 1pm instead of 11am so that we could go straight to Elnura's house at 4pm.  (Someday we hope not to need to go in on Saturdays...maybe next year...).  Before catching a taxi at the corner, we made the necessary Narodini stop (Narodinis are a store chain) to pick up a cake.  If we had been thoroughly culturally sensitive we would've brought vodka or champagne too.  We grabbed a taxi.  Taking a taxi still makes me nervous as it requires more language skills than a bus or marshruka, but I am getting better at it.

Anyway, we arrived at Elnura's house and found a table FULL of a variety of salads, fruit, dried fruit and bread.  Elnua and her husband and their two boys live in the house of Nurbek (Elnura's husband)'s mom.  In the Kyrgz culture the youngest son and his wife live with the son's parents.  They take care of them in their old age.  The daughter-in-law carries the majority of this responsibility by cooking for her in-laws, cleaning the house, etc...  Apparently there are traditional ways to serve your in-laws food and greet them.  You must always show the utmost respect towards them.  I believe there are variations when it comes to how in-laws treat the daughter-in-law, but Elnura has never been given a present by her mother-in-law (imagine all the stuff Peter and I wouldn't have!)  In this culture, people are always, always taken care of as they grow old.  I've been told it is good to have children young so that you might be able to live a carefree life sooner.  It is a different mentality than what we are used to!

But I digress.  Back to the salads.  Well, we don't actually know what was in them but here is a guess.  Salad #1 had some sort of meat (similar to ham, but not ham), peas, hard-boiled egg, cheese and other filler stuff all mixed up with an egg-based-mayo-consistency-without-the-mayo-taste sauce.   Salad # 2 had the same sauce with olives, chopped up lettuce, chicken and ....?  Salad # 3 was a bowl full of long, stringy, seaweed (sea cabbage?).  And it tasted just like something you would pull out of the ocean.  It is quite healthy though.

After the salads came a whole chicken.  It was delicious.  Then we took a break from eating and saw their house.  I helped Elnura get the rice ready for plov.  (More food?? oh my gosh!).  It was pretty cute, Elnura and I were in the kitchen and we had left the boys to fend for themselves in the realm of communicating with each other.  Not too long after Nurbek comes wandering into the kitchen and Peter follows shortly after.  Nurbek doesn't speak English and Peter doesn't speak they had managed to talk about about how Nurbek has an old jeep (here "jeep" means off-road vehicle and has no reference to any brand of car) he takes hunting :)

Next, Elnura's cousin showed up and joined us.  Then it was time to eat again.  Food, food and more food!  Oh my goodness.  The cousin was able to say what she didn't want to eat, or that she had had enough and didn't need cake - maybe someday we will have that same relationship with Elnura!  Maybe someday :)

Quotes from this evening:
"Why don't you guys drink?  Life is boring." -- Elnura's cousin
"You guys are young.  You should dance and drink."  --Elnura
"I'm afraid we are boring people." --Me
Pointing to the jeep out the window "russian, russian, russian" hand motions like going up a mountain.  Hand motion like shooting "russian numbers" hand motion writing the numbers, hand motion to show him wrenching on it. (all told, he takes his 1954 jeep hunting and works on it himself)  -- Nurbek to Peter
 "We are modern.  There are lots of traditions, and we do them, but we don't know why." -- Elnura and Cousin (I had asked a question about a water-in-bowl wedding tradition).

It was a pleasure and an honor to have been invited to their home.  My head is tired from Russian and my belly full from delicious food!

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