Tuesday, 29 September 2009
Our video recorder has had the same tape of the TellyTubbies stuck in it for more than three months. And since husband managed to unlock the DVD player so it does actually play things that aren't in Korean only (What a great day - the whole family jumped up into a sponstaneous dancing cheer - it had been three years after all!), we have had unrivalled access to a world of film. So I dare not touch this device these days for fear that my electronic kiss of death starts to affect this area of our life as well.
Faced with an electrical appliance not working, I will work my way through the possible causes. Plugged in? Yes. Properly assembled? Check. Have pressed 'On' button? Yes. But more often than not, the device will remain inoperable. Then another person will come along. It can be anyone, just NOT me. They will press the 'On' switch, and the device will roar into action, and that person will look at me, and usually say something like, "What's the problem?"
I have come to accept that I am a techno-spaz, but it can be annoying from time to time.
Today I will fly to London for a week. I will be without the kids and I must replace laptop and phone for new, working models. Should I get someone else to buy them on my behalf so that I don't pick up another 'Friday afternoon' job, like my last Macbook turned out to be? I wonder if I can trick my destiny by getting my sister to purchase them on my behalf.
But first I must agonize over my choice of machine. The question is whether to replace my broken laptop (apparently my model is prone to over-heating because Apple use an unsuitable plastic for the casing - thanks, Apple) with a more expensive Macbook Pro. Or whether to take the hump with Mac altogether (after having two hard drive failures in two years and being offered a paltry GBP54 in a discount coupon on the next purchase if I go Apple again from this generous company), and plump for a PC again.
I hate these decisions - since I know that I may well make the wrong one. I am a computer sales guy's dream - clueless, fairly uninformed, worried about choosing the wrong thing, but inclined to try to penny pinch when making large purchases, so he can usually sell me an old model if it is 5 pounds cheaper. I must remain strong and decisive and buy a proper machine at market rate!
Any suggestions what I should get? All advice gratefully received!
Monday, 28 September 2009
We found our friend Nurlan, a team manager who we had met on Thursday, looking very nervous as his team lined up for the grand final, which carried a cash prize. This was it for them. The game began and the pace was aboslutely furious compared to some of the games we had watched earlier in the week. At times, the whole team would crash over the side line and almost into the spectators - we realised why the chest-height, solid metal fence was around the ground.
There was a bigger crowd watching, and the commentary was fast and furious but unfortuantely entirely in Kazakh which is nothing like Russian and so we couldn't understand much.
Tied up behind the commentary box was a spare "ball" - a very dejected looking white goat which had obviously also been an onlooker as its friend, a grey goat, was beheaded and its head and lower legs thrown uncerenoniously into a storm gutter running the length of the ground. Between our group we had nine children, two of which had been inquisitive enough to find the extra goat head lurking in the drain and took great and gruesome delight in staring at it for a long time, rather than watching the game.
It sounds barbaric to use a dead goat in a game. But then you need to think how this sport has developed and why they do it. Horses are part of life in Central Asia, a vital part of survival in this harsh and inhospitable climate. It is so cold in winter that vast tracts are frozen solid for six months, and then boiling hot in summer. The ground is not fertile enough to support arable farming in the main, and so the land has been used over the millenia by nomadic farmers who kept sheep, goats and other livestock and moved from place to place according to the grazing or shelter opportunites. When you drive across the steppe here, you are always seeing flocks of animals being herded by a lone shepherd on horseback. When the Soviets collectivised farming and tried to introduce mass cultivation practices on the land, over a million Kazakhs starved to death - and that was this century.
Another little-known fact about Kazakhstan is that more wolves live here than in than Canada and you do not need to have a PhD in Aesops Fables to know that sheep and wolves do not mix. The skills of Kokpar are all related to shepherding. Being able to reach from your saddle while riding at speed, and scoop up a 25kg beast in one hand, is no mean feat. To then gallop along while holding an irregularly-shaped, hairy lump under your leg or arm, would be similarly challenging, I imagine. Yet these riders can do all this and much more, with complete ease. And I am certain that the riding skills developed in Kokpar were born from practising this art.
The goats are slaughtered cleanly, used for the game, and then I am not sure what happens to their smashed remains. But the spare goat is not killed until it is needed (only if the original goat has disintegrated).
The Anti Fox-hunting lobby would be squealing with horror at such a sport, and would probably demand that a realistically-shaped imitation bean bag were used instead, but I think that this kind of concern is a long, long, long way off here.
Again, I am having problems formatting my posts on this borrowed PC, and today I have no option to upload my photo of the spare goat, so I will just hope for more success later.
Thursday, 24 September 2009
"Falls apart?" I hazarded.
I smiled, and admitted that actually, we were quite curious about the goat thing, because in England where I come from, people also play polo, but they tend to use long stick-like implements to knock a small ball around.
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
We don't see so many horses around Almaty (they would probably choke on the fumes from the Range Rovers and Landcruisers!) and I thought that Kokpar was one of these dying traditions: always on the tourist promotional videos but not actually part of the fabric of life here. But apparently not. Our hiking guide tells us that this is a matter of intense pride and competition, and that the sport is very much alive in Kazakhstan. I am sure it will be an unbelievable show of horsemanship.
I have never seen a game of polo involving horses, but I have twice been to the Kings Cup Elephant Polo tourmament which is held every year in Thailand and which is absolutely excellent fun to watch.
Since my mac has died, I will rely on friends to send me photos to post on the blog, but I am sure it will be an amazing day out. So tune in tomorrow night and hopefully I will be able to share an account of an extraordinary day.
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
In my whole, adult, computer-owning life (which extends to some quite extensive amount of time now), I have had one hard drive die on me (nine years ago in an ancient Compaq). Then after agonizing over the mac/pc switch for months I plumped for Mac and what has been my reward? Two hard drives dead in two years.
Rubbish. Big fat boooooooo. What is the keyboard equivalent of a big fat, spitty, raspberry being blown loudly and rudely at someone? HFHFHFHFPPPLUUURRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHH! Something like that?
I feel indignant. And cheated. And stupid for joining the maccie crowds and not just plodding along with a normal lap top.
Such hassle, and now more expense. Agh!
Friday, 18 September 2009
Thursday, 17 September 2009
My children are 8, 6 and nearly 2. I dearly love them. But sometimes I feel battered.
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
Monday, 14 September 2009
Wednesday, 9 September 2009
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
The hotel Tajikistan – is a magnificent eight-storied building, the windows of which command a lovely breathtaking view on the city. The restaurants and Bars, Beauty – Palour, Fitness Centre and a specious SPA centre “ESPA”, including a swimming – pool, saunas, steam – rooms, that is a list of opportunity for a good rest, which is to some extent still incomplete.
They also offer a "regularly retiled personal bar" (terrible when your bar has not been recently tiled!).
I dread to think how difficult it is to run a hotel in Dushanbe. I suppose the fact that the website is half in English is better than nothing. Lonely Planet offers the following tip "English may be spoken in the reassuring lobby but everything else here is 100% Soviet and horribly overpriced. " but even LP does not manage to publish the website address correctly and it is an English-language organisation, so I should not be too critical.
Monday, 7 September 2009
Sunday, 6 September 2009
Thursday, 3 September 2009
Wednesday, 2 September 2009
I don't really think of Almaty as a difficult place to live on the whole, but then from time to time we all get very excited about a new service, or shop that has come to town and it makes me recognise the paucity of things here, that in the west we take utterly for granted.