Posts tagged shashlik

More than a discussion about Slave Trafficking in Minnesota

This morning I woke up with a strange dream about bullying and intimidation.  Apparently we had a snow mobile that had been sold to my Dad by a famous snowmobiler in our area.  A Polaris, as I recall, (sorry Arctic Cat.) Three guys roared into our front yard and were taunting and yelling at my dad and the rest of the family.  I stayed inside trying to decide whether to call our neighbor one mile away or call the cops.  My Mom finally came in and said that there are worse things going on in the world, that this was merely a distraction.  I guess the answer was, no, don’t call the police.  I never did hear them roar off but they did leave their tracks all over our snow.  An analogy can be made of this dream with our talk about human slavery in the world, which is still going on for about 30 million unfortunate people caught in a trap.

Last night eight Minnesota women gathered at our home to discuss human trafficking.  Nine of us are very fortunate ladies with loving husbands and a roof over our heads. Yes, thankfully my husband busied himself grilling shashlik (Kazakh version of shish-ka-bob) outside. Once we ate, our discussion took different turns and each contributed from their own experience about what they had read or knew on the topic concerning other cultures.  Mostly they wanted to find out more about what is happening in Central Asia after having read the book “Two Kyrgyz Women” by Marinka Franulovic.

According to Marinka’s book, many women are deemed as nothing in the Kyrgyz culture. Also, the males in the book appeared spineless, the mother-in-law didn’t come off too well either for the second Kyrgyz woman.  If her father had not died, the second woman’s life may have turned out quite differently. He had wanted her to at least get an education, which served to help her use her wits later to escape from her awful situation in Dubai.

We all agreed there was a generational thing going on where the mother-in-law is considered the queen bee. She expects her new daughter-in-law to be broken in as the family servant.  Also, the husbands in this book were rascals and did not take their responsibilities as fathers or husbands seriously.  The two women unwittingly got into trafficking simply because their children needed to be fed, they had no money for food. Both husbands lost money to alcohol or foolish, big dreams.

The question was initially asked, “Why does no one DO anything about this problem of trafficking?” One answer was that there are no good role models to show depth of love or compassion within the family.  Since the Kyrgyz mother-in-law was a “slave” in her husband’s family, she is eager for her son to provide her, in the form of his wife, a new slave to carry the burden of household chores.  With the emergence of yet another change of lifestyle from Soviet times, as of 20 years ago, materialism has set in.  Once nomads of the steppes, now the amassing of things seems to rule over the Central Asian people. Girls and women are further devalued.

Someone commented that the devaluing of life goes on in our country as well.  But we don’t talk much about it when materialism and convenience override whether a woman chooses to extend the life of her baby to full term. (I won’t use the “a” word). Another said that in Central Asian culture they are brought up to expect bad, so bad things follow them. No hope like we in America enjoy.  We were reminded that we grew up believing in the American Dream or having grandparents or great grandparents who had an optimistic attitude. Not so in Central Asia where unemployment in the rural area is very bad. (I’m not sure of the correct statistics).  I DO know 61% of the internal migration are males who are caught in slavery within Kazakhstan. They do heavy manual labor in mines, cotton or tobacco fields or construction labor in the big cities of Almaty or Astana.

Someone pointed out that evil in each men’s heart needs to be purged. What father or mother would sell their daughter? Obviously there’s a market for the sex slave trade simply because men need to have these addictions for their warped appetites filled.  Alcohol, gambling, sex, eating…all the vices are there that preys on those who have next to nothing. The only thing victims have are their bodies for hard labor or for sex or both!

Back to the question of “Who can they turn to for help once caught in the trafficker’s deceitful web?” They need better law enforcement!  In many cases in other countries, not just in Central Asia, but in Mexico or South America you have police who are “in” on this crime. They have no backbone to save those girls or children who are distressed, who are crying out for help. The police, because of low salaries, are driven by greed. They pocket some of the money when they don’t arrest and are paid off by the traffickers.  Someone else mentioned the movie “Taken” with Liam Neeson. That is an intense thriller when a father goes after the traffickers to try to save his daughter when she is off on a trip to Europe.  Check that movie out for a dose of reality.

(to be continued)

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Astana in Blue Hue

Yesterday didn’t turn out like I had planned at all.  I thought I’d be biking around the new part of Astana and taking in the sights of May Day.  Instead, I ended up making two batches of granola and one batch of chocolate oatmeal cookies and going to Metro shopping center (think BIG Walmart complex) with my husband and a broken pedal on a Nomad bike.  Ken and I later popped popcorn and watched a movie “Cry, my Beloved Country.” This is about South Africa and injustice that I couldn’t bear to watch several nights before.  I was too blue.  So, today I’m feeling much better, the weather has vastly improved.  Astana is actually showing signs of spring especially when I walked past the festivities at Baiterek yesterday, there were tulips pushing up from the dirt about 4-5 inches high, no blooms yet.  Glad the sun is out with the white puffy clouds, Astana is really turning into a pretty city.  The other photos are from last Sunday when I walked around the central city bazaar, note the shashlik stand and the nearby mosque, blue hue too.

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Rare “Dacha” Moment Sequel

What I forgot to mention in my last blog posting is that the evening we watched the ORANGE full moon come up, fireflies were also something to behold.  Once it was dark, they glowed brightly against the backdrop of our densely, grassed woods.  So, to look at the sky above with stars glittering and then look at eye level to see miniature stars twinkle was part of our rare moment.

Also, I neglected to add that we have a wren or two who warble their happy melodies, always a welcome sound.  Now that we have the thistle seed up, we have our regular, bright yellow finches back.  Of course, without us they have plenty of wild thistle to eat from but it is like the birds “fast food haven” to go to our feeder.  The other night as I went out to see how the wild raspberries were doing that some birds “planted” out west under the western shelterbelt trees, I saw some raspberries were already ripe.  Our domesticated ones are not that far along yet but it won’t be long that we will enjoy raspberries on our breakfast cereal.  What got me really excited to not only watch the remnants of a spectacular sundown but also to HEAR the howls of the coyotes out west.  I tried to call Ken out to hear but he had already retired to the house.

We have some pocket gophers that are playing havoc with our raspberry patch.  These varmits dig up beautiful rich, black soil but when they start getting into the lawn, we must put a stop to that kind of ambition.  I don’t know if flooding them out will help or what to do.  I remember my grandpa would sit out on the front porch and use a BB gun to get the little rascals that were creating mounds in our front yard.  Not sure what animal rights people would say about that but once you let a gopher family in, the rest of the colony will arrive post haste.

Ken has been watering with a hose our Braeburn apple trees as well as our grapes, hopefully we will have some grapes to harvest this year from the oldest vine.  I’m not sure how much we can harvest and make into jelly of the apples and raspberries since we have to be back in Kazakhstan by mid-August.  I have rhubarb I could make into sauce today.  Last night we enjoyed some store bought blueberries on our ice cream thanks to our good friend Ron Vossler.  We three enjoyed a picnic outside by grilling chicken shashlik and catching up.

It has been about a year since we saw Ron and he had just returned from a Ukrainian Holodomor/genocide conference in Dickinson, ND.  He told us stories of his recent trip to Ukraine where his relatives were from.  He has been to Ukraine about seven or eight times before.  He is a prolific writer concerning what he has unearthed about his own people (Germans from Russia) who left the Odessa, Ukraine area to settle as pioneer farmers in North Dakota.  His own relatives of two generations ago were starved out by the communist regime in 1932-33 when the Holodomor (Terror Famine) had labeled industrious farmers as “Kulaks.”

On my early morning walks along the gravel roads I look around the perfect beet fields and impeccable grain fields that surround our little hobby farm, no weeds!!!  I ponder what our German farmer neighbors would do if they were forced to join the collective.  What if these prosperous farmers were told they had to hand in all their equipment to the government because they were NOT supposed to own their own property or work for their own profit?  That is precisely what happened 75 years ago in Ukraine and also in Kazakhstan to the nomads who happened to be good shepherds and owned large stock.  The Kazakhs did not fare as well with collectivization due to their lack of experience.  However, Russian and Ukrainian farmers, who were sent down to Kazakhstan to take over the open spaces fared much better with their collective farms.

Our God-given freedom is a very precious thing, our freedom to earn money by hard work is rare.  That is why I am enjoying my moments in Minnesota especially since it is mosquito free.  Wonders never cease.

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Forget-Me-Nots But No Wildlife!!!

forget me notsopened poppiesBig Almaty Lake

Yesterday after church, Yelena took us to a Georgian restaurant (ate shashlik and traditional cheese bread) on our way to Big Almaty Lake. Spontaneous decisions for adventures can sometimes be a good thing.  We went high up into the wilderness where I’m convinced the authorities purposely keep the dusty and rocky road rutty and full of pot holes to keep as many cars away as possible. Doesn’t seem to help, half the way up both sides of the road were crowded with people camped out in yurts, playing by the river, barbequing and generally enjoying the great outdoors.  Thus, this route is nicknamed “Barbeque Road.”  

We continued to bump and jolt along for over 45 minutes on many tricky switchbacks to get to a lake that we thought Ken had taken me to 15 years ago when he owned a two door, red Niva.  It wasn’t the same lake, yesterday’s trip seemed to take much longer than when we went to Zailliski Alatau Lake. 


Once at the top to Big Almaty Lake, we walked around the dammed end of the lake and picked wildflowers. (many forget-me-nots, a kind of small yellow poppy, clover, edelweiss and others I can’t identify)


It took about a half hour to get down amongst civilization again and much better paved roads. I learned that the rule of the road in mountain swtichbacks is that vehicles going UP have right of way.  Those going down have to pull over to let oncoming cars pass on narrow straits.  Yelena kept saying “Mama mia” when she had to make tough decisions on which crevice to tackle as our heads kept bobbing around all the while complimenting her expert and impressive maneuverings.  What could we do, we were helpless in our seat-buckled state?!  It was an overcast day and rained just enough to wet down the dusty trail.  The river, lake, mountains and pine trees at every level were spectacular!


Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my camera to capture all the wonderful mountain scenes so the best I could do was take photos of the flowers I picked once we got home.  Also, I took a photo of what is on our Almaty calendar of the two different lakes.  We hope to get to Zailliski Alatau lake where we were at 15 years ago but I’m sure there are many houses built going up along it now.  It was untouched and very peaceful back then. 


What I found so amazing once we finally got to our destination yesterday was sighting NO animals and thus no road kill.  The only wildlife I saw was one lone eagle gliding overhead. Otherwise, it seems that any kind of varmit that might live in the craggy boulders and rocks are long extinct or very well hidden during the day.  If this were the U.S. in its untouched state, you would have deer bounding about, hedgehogs, skunks, rabbits, something besides just people.  Thankfully there were no barking dogs!


This will be a day LONG remembered with our friend Yelena who bravely took to the mountain road with her trusty four wheel drive vehicle.  Not sure where our next adventure will be with her but I’ll be sure to bring my camera next time.



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Photos of Rained out Picnic

Ken\bakytYuri and shaslikAnna and Aliya

Yesterday we went to a picnic hosted by Bakyt and his wife Anna for Ken’s economics department.  The weather was unpredictable since it had rained earlier in the morning.  Thankfully it was warm and sunny by noon.  However, by the time we had our picnic at 3:00 p.m. it was raining again and coming down “cats and dogs” by 3:30.  Fortunately, by the time we left after our fill of salads, horse meat and shashlik, the rain had stopped.  Sadly it was tough for a little four year old boy named “Lion” who probably felt caged up inside the house.  Anna’s parents had bought their house after WWII where she and her husband, Bakyt, currently live with much property in the backyard including fruit trees and gardens.  Prime real estate now, sixty years later, close to the Kazakhstan Hotel and other notable locations.  If it hadn’t been for the rain, we would have enjoyed being out back in their expansive yard.

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