12.08.2012 25 °C
Well I am way behind on this blogging business. I have so much to say, because we have been doing so many great things, and that of course in turn gets in the way of writing this. But. We are now in China, and have some mega train journeys ahead of us, currently on a 36 hour one, and its the perfect opportunity to catch up. Terrible blog practice I am sure, a lull and then an overload, but its just the way it is. So... to Kyrgyzstan!
All over Central Asia we had been seeing the same comic sight of donkeys and old Soviet trucks totally overloaded with hay. There was dry grass fields all around us. So in our first few days in Kyrgyzstan when the opportunity arose to go hay making with a local family for the day, we were in.
The setting is beautiful Arslanbob, a village at the tip of a steep valley with mountains behind and steep hills on either side. We climbed West up one side of the valley up onto a plateau and through fields of dry grass and sunflowers until we reached the family group, of about 16, we would spend the day with. It seemed all the women of the extended family between 15 and 45 were there, boys under 16 and Dad/Uncle whose particular piece of land it was. I was curious what the men were doing while the ladies laboured away in the fields, but I was reassured that the men of working age were at another family member's piece of land scything the grass ready for the ladies the next day, just like they had been here the day before.
We arrived just in time for breakfast, cooked on-site in a cauldron over a fire by one of the ladies, and shared from a central plate while we all sat on blankets. Then to work. The ladies all had a sickle and in a line, worked their way up the hill using the sickle to pull together a large bunch of dried cut grass. This was laid on top of a piece of string and the boys followed up behind to tie the bundle up and heap them together. It was hard work, but with plenty of opportunity to stand around and chat, fortunately a few in the family spoke English so we got more of an insight into life in this village.
Lunch was shared in a similar fashion to breakfast, a hearty plov - rice with a few veg. Once all the hay was bundled the hardest part was to begin, dragging all the heaps down to the bottom of the field (which was pretty hilly and steep) so that it could all be brought together into one massive pile. Some of the boys fashioned a sleigh to carry as many bundles as possible, I joined up with one of the ladies to share the burden of each load. And one super strong girl threw each bundle, by pitchfork, up to Uncle to form an absolutely enormous pile of hay.
After some watermelon to celebrate the job done all 16 of us piled into Uncle's old UAZ jeep, with a hay bale for a back seat, several people completely hanging out the window, but Dan, the second oldest man, ceremoniously given the front passenger seat. We bumped down a rocky road, into the sunset and through the fields of sunflowers back to town.
It was hard work, about 10 hours of labour, and we were exhausted. But this group were back out tomorrow to do it all again on another piece of family land. Some of the ladies were teachers, one a doctor, most of the girls students, and this is what they did every day for at least a month during the summer months. A real family team effort, and really hard work. These people are super hardy and incredibly welcoming. They politely didn't mention how crazy they thought we were for volunteering to work with them for a day!