September 24, 2008
My morning and lunch were pretty normal today. I got up at 6:40am to get ready for school. In the US this meant that I would shower and (very occasionally) shave as fast as possible, eat a bowl of cereal and run out the door. Here it’s pretty much impossible to take a shower in the morning unless you wish to get up an hour ahead of time to turn on the water heater and then go back to bed. Oh, and you have to put a space heater in the bathroom because otherwise it’ll be a fresh fifty or so degrees (that’s ten above what it was this morning). So getting up here means throwing on warm clothes very quickly and then going into the kitchen (which is already warm because my host grandmother is fasting for Ramadan and gets up very early to make herself breakfast).
Most of my morning is spent making my breakfast. For the past few days this has consisted of fried potatoes (peeled, chopped and cooked last night), a potato pirogue, bread slathered with peanut butter and homemade jam (hoooo baby!!!), and, of course, tea. It’ warming everything up and then cleaning up afterwards that takes the most time. Yes, I do miss my usual Cheerios with milk, but cereal here is expensive (by their standards) and I have a single bag of powdered milk which I have yet to mix with filtered water and try.
School is nothing much yet. For the first two weeks I am only allowed to observe, which for the previous two days meant I was pretty much bored to tears. Today, however, she decided that I needed to meet the students, so I spent all my classes surrounded by 5th, 7th, 9th, and 10th graders (though the tenth grade boys were less than interested…puberty). Basically, I go grilled about my family, where I am from, what I like about Kyrgyzstan, name some differences between the two countries etc… I assure you, it was refreshing and fun after sitting in the back of the classroom, although when I observed I did come to the conclusion that these kids, even the most advanced, know little more than the basic greetings. My counterpart, a local English teacher who just moved to this school recently, and I have a lot of work to do, and I’m not sure how interested the students will be despite our efforts.
Lunch was delicious. I made myself soup from premade (homemade) broth with potatoes and onions, fried up some more potatoes and ate a pirogue with peanut butter! So my day was normal up to this point, in fact, everything seemed normal until about four in the afternoon when I started to smell smoke. Nope, not a fire, just the soup broth being made by my host grandma which I was supposed to have taken off the burner about, oh, two and a half hours previously (I am laughing as I write that… two and a half hours). Yea, so, I open the door to the kitchen, and it’s nothing but smoke. I see the pot, it’s smoking like a chimney, but nothing is on fire. Step one: turn off burner, Step two: take smoking pot out of the kitchen, Step three: open every openable window and door, Step Four: commence pot cleaning.
Pot cleaning sucked. There was a nice couple millimeter thick layer of black goo on the bottom of the pot, and since there was a duck leg in the pot when everything went to hell, it was really sticky. Note: I do not like duck at all because of its large fat layer just below the skin… this same layer made this pot just awful to clean. In an entry that I did not post about cleaning practices in country, I noted that my new host grams does not use soap to clean her dishes; I did not have cleaning soap. My weapons: water (the universal solvent)a spatula (sturdy), sharp knife (pointy tip… was useless), steel wool (nowhere near as good as the stuff stateside), brillo pad (not sure if this is the right name, it’s like steel wool but plastic… I think), wet wipes (God’s gift to humanity). I fill the still hot, but no longer smoking pot, with water and begin to scrape away with the spatula. Semi success, I get off some thick layers of goo. The brillo cleans the sides, the steel wool kinda finishes off the bottom, the sharp knife sits uselessly by my side and the wet wipes are just waiting to get to work. So, wet wipes are fantastic at cleaning off thick grease layers, especially when there is no soap with which to wash and no hot water. The lid of the pot had a nice layer of duck fat on it, and with just one wet wipe it was clean, maybe cleaner than that lid had been in years (speculation). I also found that they were good for scrubbing the last little bits of grease out of the inside of the pot and for cleaning my hands (which made me look like a mechanic).
After all my cleaning this afternoon, I’m kinda glad I burnt the broth. My host grams had told me that I’d get to eat the duck leg that was going to have been boiling or sitting in that pot for a long time. I had told her in no uncertain terms that I would not because I don’t really like duck. This statement seemed to shock her a bit as the only animals besides her two dogs are ducks for eating during winter. Perhaps she really loves duck meant. Oh, and besides the avoidance of duck for dinner, I had something to do all afternoon! Being new in the town and not having to lesson plan means that I have an abundance of free time, and while I have been reading like crazy, it’s nice to shake things up a bit.
p.s. it seems I have almost gone vegetarian because of my distaste for duck, any reader thoughts on how I can get that needed protein?