Thursday, April 15, 2010

Weekend Adventure: Man and Beast


When we got out of the Lada we stepped into the best part of our trip—Nazira’s village. Since coming to Kazakhstan I had been longing for this experience. We arrived in the late evening and were greeted warmly by all her family. We washed up and went to the dining room for a late dinner. The woman served us several incredibly delicious salads, meat dishes, and tea. In America it seems like we have one kind of salad that usually consists mainly of lettuce, some tomato, carrots, and maybe cucumbers. We dress it with Italian, Ranch, or some lemon juice and oil. In Kazakhstan they get creative. They have salads of shredded carrots with hot spices, coleslaws with beans, and all sorts of different creations. The tea was black mixed with fresh cow milk and was amazing with a sugar cube. I must have drank at least 6 cups every meal. At every meal we were served with barsack (fried bread, like a donut without the sweetness) and some other fried things that were crunchy. A lot of bread, with freshly churned butter, and a lot tea makes me a happy man. All of us were tired and so after much conversation, and much food, we retired to our pads that were neatly laid out on the floor waiting to take us to sleep. We all slept great and woke up ready for the day. We wanted to go hiking in the nearby mountains and we also wanted to ride horses. As they saddled up the horse and a donkey for us to ride, we went to play with the sheep. There was a little black lamb that was incredibly adorable. I picked it up and held it close as it snuggled up against me. I decided that I want to have sheep when I get my own place some day. All of a sudden everyone was laughing and screaming, I lifted the lamb off my body and discovered that it had pooped all over me—nasty baby poop. The pocket to my jacket was open and so I had a pocket filled with poop. It was quite funny, but my jacket is still stained. The horse was ready and Veronica was anxiously waiting to be the first to ride. All of us were ignorant when it came to riding horses so that just made for an even greater adventure. Veronica mounted and trotted around the road for a little bit thinking she had got control of the large animal, but soon things were about to change. The horse started trotting fast down the road and all of Veronica’s attempts to stop it were not working. Soon the horse was in a full gallop down the street and Veronica was struggling to hang on. I started to get very worried, but everyone else was laughing so I assumed things would be alright. We started running after her and it wasn’t long before the horse came running out from behind a corner, without Veronica. We found Veronica laughing hysterically exclaiming how fun it was and then took off after the horse. The horse had ran quite far and our attempts to chase after it were not succeeding. Finally Nazira’s brother caught it and commandingly rode it back to where we were. Emily strode up riding on a donkey and we were ready to set out for the mountains, but first we went to a little Mausoleum that was in the village. On the way, I rode the horse and felt like I had a good command of it. Next, I let Steven have his turn and he also did not fall off and kept control. The Mausoleum was also like a Muslim school and we traveled all around it after tying up the animals outside the gate. In the back was a graveyard. We arrived right as one of the town’s oldest women had passed away. She was in her nineties and people were mourning. We went to the graveyard and found about 6 guys digging a large whole which would soon become the babushka’s grave. It hit me full force that this village life was different than anything I had ever experienced. The people were close, they looked out for each other, they dug each other’s graves and mourned with each other’s families. It was a humbling experience. Nazira went to pay respects to her sister’s grave and everyone become solemn for the moment. After leaving the Mausoleum and untying our animals, we kept trekking toward the mountains. Orken was next to get on the horse. He’s a native Kazakh, but has spent all of his life in the city. I told him he would be a professional—that horse riding flowed through his Kazakh veins. He mounted the horse and soon was bouncing up and down as the horse galloped out of control. I again watched nervously as Orken struggled to hang on trying his hardest to stop the creature. Soon we all watched as he slid off the side and cringed as we thought he might have been stepped on. After running up to him and seeing he was ok we again took off after the horse. This time it went further than before, out of our sight. Nazira’s brother was in full pursuit. We took the donkey and went to the mountains, the same direction the horse was galloping uncontrollably. As we enjoyed the fresh air of the unpolluted countryside, we explored all around and admired all the animals grazing on the hills. It was a cold day and the wind was blowing with an intense force that I have rarely experienced. After crossing a little river, chasing some more goats, and taking turns riding the donkey up the mountain, Nazira’s brother returned again in full control of the horse. The way he handled that horse was incredible. He was in full control and he galloped across the land like a hero. It has always been one of my goals to take up horseback riding and this certainly reinforced that. There is something that evokes truly manliness when you connect with a wild beast and work together to achieve tasks and have fun. I think our mechanized culture is missing out on that. We continued up the mountain, in the furious wind embracing this new world that we had fallen into, embracing this curious lifestyle...

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