Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cool Deals are Disturbing Realities

The most common form of advertising in this country is not a flyer in the mailbox or a billboard at the side of the road. Instead companies big and small pay individuals to stand on the street and hand out business cards or coupons with their information printed on it. I have heard some of these employees get paid per card they get rid of. Which means the worker are quite insistent to press the information into the palm of your hand as you stroll by. Some companies try to make their handout more appealing by printing up a brochure of some type to be distributed in the same manner.

My friend stopped to accept one of these handouts the other day. This time the advertisers had gotten creative. The information was printed on a cardboard type heavier paper and cut out in the shape of a fan, each one of the flyers even came with a handle so that passer byers could fan themselves with a cool breeze as they continued on their way in the hot summer sun. My friend noticed that the fan was printed with several large price tags declaring low, low deals. She quickly scanned the paper to see what was being sold so cheaply and was disturbed to realize it was a hospital praising the painless and healthy means by which they executed abortions.

This brightly colored and animated summer cool down advertisement that has been forcefully pressed into her passing hand was a reminder of a painful reality that abortion is part of everyday life here. Small children and adults alike were fanning themselves with these deathly good deals, there was no shame in publicizing the topic.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner

What do you do when you are the first to enter a room that has a table in the corner for you and your friends to sit at?

If you are in North America, the polite thing is to file into the back corner, farthest from the door, so that those who come after you don't have to scurry past you to find a seat. Right? It would not only be inconvenient it would all seem rather rude, if you sat close to the door and forces others to squeeze into the corner.

If you are in Central Asia it is the exact opposite. The seat in the corner furthest from the door is the seat of honor. If you are the first person through the door and naturally assume you are worthy of sliding into the back seat, you seem presumptuous and proud. The proper response is to sit in the seat right by the door and let the older and more important guests struggle to climb over your legs and situate themselves in the back corner. It may seem inconvenient, but it reminds me of a story of parents often told:

"When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this man', and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. "But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher', then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you."

In the west taking the chair crowded in the back corner is the same as taking a low place. You may hear a friend say "oh don't sit there I can squeeze in instead" -- but in this culture that same back corner seat is the place of honor.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


While in Canada last month I was making frequent trips to the walk in clinic for dressing change and wound care. Mom and I learned quickly that it was best to get there first thing in the morning before they opened and wait outside for the door to officially be unlocked. Arriving even ten minutes later could result in a much longer wait. We weren't the only ones to discover this, every time we drove into the lot a ten to eight there were a couple of people already loitering in the vicinity. Some were leaning against the building playing on their cell phone, others hanging on the handrail as they gazed across the street. To say we organized ourselves in a straight line in front of the door would be a stretch to the definition of "lining up". But this cluster of people, no matter where they were standing or how they were occupying their time, were very aware of who had arrived before them and who showed up after. When the door was finally opened we all filed in orderly according to the amount of time we had been standing around.

As much as I love life here, I wish I could transport the courteous custom of lining up to this culture. Here, no matter who arrived first, it is the person with the sharpest elbows and the ability to push the hardest that gets in first. In most cases there is no such thing as even a loosely formed line, all that exists are blobs of humanity striving to get through the same doorway at the same time.

In elementary school we use to yell at the student who tried to slyly make their way to the front bypassing the wait...we would scream "so-and-so is a Cutter - they just cut in front of me". Instead of being a reason to tattle on each, the value of a good 'Cutter' seems to be a learned and much practiced skill.

Friday, July 15, 2011

My Convenience Store

At the front gate of my apartment complex there is a small convenience store. I stop there all the time because I am friends with the owner. I had noticed that it was odd before, but after spending a few months in Canada the sight of their shop struck me as downright hilarious.
They got government permission to open their own shop in that location, but they couldn't get the permits needed to cut down the tree. So they just built around it and now hang their wares off the trunk. It is my local tree fort/store.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Who are the People in your Neighborhood

While in Canada several friends and family sincerely asked if my life in Central Asia was lonely. I am so fortunate to say that nothing could be further from the truth. Upon coming back this time I was struck by how much I fell like I am a part of life here, that I am a member of our neighborhood.

In my neighbourhood there is the older almost toothless Uyghur man and his wife who sit at the front gate of our apartment complex running their tine convenience store, every time I head out they smile and ask where I am going, on my return they eagerly check my bags to see what I have purchased and invite me to sit down next to them and chat for a while.

There is the woman responsible for cleaning our apartment complex, in the summer she uses her over sized straw broom to sweep the ever present dust, in the winter she shovels piles of snow and chips away the ice so we all have a safe place to walk. Due to what I think is a birth defect with her mouth she is unable to talk and often wears a face mask to cover the deformity but her eyes are so bright and welcoming that you don't need to see her lips curve upwards to know she is greeting you with a huge smile. She is part of the majority people group, but can understand both languages and using her hands and different grunts has found ways to communicate with those around her. She always stops and puts down her broom so her arms are free to give me a hug.

In my neighborhood there are the children who come running after me yelling "Acha, Acha" - which means "big sister, big sister". When I turn to talk to them they say in heavily accented English "hello" and then run away giggling to themselves. But they always come back a few minutes later to show me their newest toy or tell me a story about what happened at school.

In my neighborhood there are so many shop keeps who nod and smile as I pass by, or even step out of their shops to yell a greeting across the street. Yesterday the carpet salesman was in the middle of enticing shoppers into making a purchase, when he spotted me and stopped mid way through boasting about why his carpets are the best, to greet me and ask how I was and why I had been gone so long.

Not to mention the seamstress by the front gate who can tailor make any outfit you want, the drycleaners down the street who always clean and press my finished cross stitched things for free or the policeman who offered to help my business in any way he could, the university professor who has studied more English than anyone else in our area and is so pleased he can converse with me im my language. There is a 14 year old Uyghur girl who loves to sneak up behind me on the street and tickle me until my obnoxiously strange laugh breaks out.

These are the people in my neighborhood, and I am so glad to be one of them. Yesterday the water deliveryman was having trouble finding my apartment and I told him just to ask someone on the street "where does the Canadian girl live?" because all of my neighbors know where I live and count me as part of the community that surrounds them. With wonderful people like this close by I am anything but lonely.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Tickets Have Been Purchased

Last week when I was at the doctor’s office I got the go ahead. It seems that my incision and infection have healed amazingly quickly. I think I heard the word “prefect” pass the mouth of a medical professional in response to my case. With that pronouncement I started looking into flight and ordering tickets. I am now knee deep in purchasing fun North American treats and trying to pack them in my small weight allowance.

I official leave here Thursday night at about 9pm, but due to about 20 hours spent in layover, 4 different flights, and huge time difference created when travelling internationally I don’t actually land in my destination until 11pm Saturday night ( that is 11 Central Asia time – I guessing about 1 in the afternoon here). It will be a long journey, but my strength has returned and so am I returning.

Thanks to all of you for your thoughts and support in so many ways over the last few weeks. Some prayed, some sent cards, and others called to see how I was doing – all of it meant so much to me. A special thanks goes out to mom and dad who ‘held my hand’ through the roller coaster that has been this past month.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Home for Canada Day

It was nice to be in country to celebrate our nation’s birthday; but for such an important event I knew I should find a date. I always did have a thing for TALL , dark and handsome men in uniform. I got myself a Mountie!