Den, our Kyrgyz born Russian driver employed by CBT, greeted us with a happy smile at the airport. The dust of the city was soon gone. Sharp arid mountains jutted into the clouds as we bounced along the highway for about 3 hours to our first stop, Tamchy. Our plan was to relax and try to acostumize ourselves to Kyrgyz culture and learn a bit of the Kyrgyz language.
The CBT organized home stays for us; willing families that were either Kyrgyz artisans or had yurt connections where we experienced their family life and shared meals. We arrived at our home stay which had a lovely courtyard and were welcomed by three young sisters who showed us our room and sat us down for our first Kyrgyz meal! It consisted of a pilaf style rice with chicken, carrot coleslaw, fresh bread, homemade jams and strong black tea. Their parents, one of whom is an acclaimed UNSECO felt artist, were away on business. All of the daughters were felt artisans as well.
We decided to head to the beach at Lake Yssyk-Kol, the world’s second largest alpine lake. With a few Kyrgyz phrases written down in our journal, we hoped to meet the locals and practice the language. Some of the walls around the houses were made of clay, and most people were drying dung and clay bricks in their front yards for building purposes. The sand was warm and a few people were relaxing at the lakeside along with a few horses, a donkey, and a couple of dogs.
Much of our time spent in Tamchy involved getting ice cream (bals-ma-duk), exploring the town and spending time with our hosts. Although they didn’t speak any English, and we didn’t have an interpreter at this point, we were able to share photos of our home and connect by helping with daily chores. Yara milked the cows, and played with children both at the home and at parks. We had our first demonstration of shyrdak making (felted and hand-stitched wool carpets). We will go into more details of shyrdak making later on.
After each stay we gave gifts to our hosts which included Nova Scotian summer savory, cranberries, maple syrup, and a handmade card.