To Terri Goldsberry’s delight, I had told her in July of my adopting the solar powered cloths dryer i.e. the good old fashioned cloths line to do laundry here in Kazakhstan. Drying cloths this summer in Almaty was fabulous. You hung out a load in the morning and when you get home in the afternoon it was wonderful; sun fresh cloths to hold close to your chest and just SMELL – it smelled like the SUN and AIR just like when I was a kid (note: two days on the line and the cloths smelled like the exhaust fumes from the hordes of automobiles below our balcony.) Here’s how it works in winter.
You still do the same drill; wash cloths in the bath tub by hand, using Tide (the old Tide – with phosphates – I love phosphates they clean cloths so nicely, sorry Terri, but it’s a compromise drying dirty cloths or clean cloths; when you wash by hand, phosphates are groovy) and you need the “magic” Russian soap bar – lard and lye; I call it Little-House-on-the-Prairie soap. Soak for about 15 minutes and wa-la! Sparkling cloths ready for the solar powered dryer. Next, hang them out on the line either the night before or first thing in the morning before you go to work. The sun is just warm enough right now to get the big part of the water out of the cloths during the day. This time of year when you get home in the evening, its dark and its cold and the cloths are frozen on the cloths line. Not to worry. Simply disengage these cardboard-like fashions from the solar powered dryer, and drape them over the steam radiators in the living room and bedroom. Usually within an hour the cloths have finished drying and they have imparted much needed moisture to the air in the apartment. Terri, you need to send me the Gold Star Environmental Award for my conscientious use of heat energy. (The phosphates are a different story).
Talked with Sophie today. She got herself a great pair of winter boots out in Mezhdurechensk, Russia – Eastern Siberia. Boots for ladies are a real fashion thing here in Kazakhstan and in Russia. It is THE winter fashion statement in fact. Boots are sexy and you have some real fashion statements amongst the female population. Sophie left for her project management assignment with “fall” boots and needed something warmer. I kind of understand why they looked weirdly at Nadia in the summer when she was wearing her Kroc’s……….not high fashion enough even for a kid.
Sophie’s project management assignment seems to be going great and she just loves the little city she has landed in. Mezhdurechensk (you will be tested on the spelling of this city at the end of this missive) has proved to be a great respite from Almaty and its cranky drivers and traffic. Mezhdurechensk is far enough away from the mines and smelters that the air quality is quite good. Its slow pace is refreshing and of course it’s being back in Russia – like being back in the “hood” communing with the “Brudahs and Sistas” if you know what I mean………..back to Mother Russia for my dear Sonya. For you ill informed remember: Kazakhstan is NOT Russia and they are two very different cultures.
Bits and Pieces:
Dealing with the realities of the Russian rough edges. We had to get the visa process started for Nadia and me this week so we can go up to Yekaterinburg, Russia for the New Year’s holiday. With the capitol of Kazakhstan being moved to Astana the Russian embassy moved north to the frozen steppe as did the US and all the other embassies. The “down graded” Russian consulate is the quintessential gulag. Lots of cement and concertina wire around the outer perimeter. The not-so-friendly security guy who meets you looks like Vlad Putin’s twin – black leather coat and really reveling in being able to “control the gate” – tight thin lips reveal an almost perverse joy in seeing 25 people freezing outside the gate of the Consulate – many were poorly dressed. Controlling the gate on Friday afternoon saw a mix of folks for this near-sadistic brother of Vlad. Sophie had warned me about this a long time ago; that the government officials have always gotten a near perverse pleasure of seeing the minions squirm when needing official sanctions – like visas or their work books fixed. When you got inside the Consulate it had lots of space; all of these frozen folk could have been admitted to the warmth of the Consulate offices but instead are forced to suffer -10 to -15C temps. They were let in two or three at a time. The temperatures dropped very quickly on Friday and it was really unforgivable that people were left outside the gate. Nadia and I were lucky. A young Kazak woman, who processes visa apps on a regular basis, took a liking to Nadia and first put us in the guard shack which was heated – she said the guards were her "borthers". Next she “shamed” Vlad Jr. to let all people with small children into the indoor waiting area. A young Brit fellow named Peter who was on a “travel adventure” needed a transit visa. He was merely trying to get to Ukraine via Moscow and Vlad Jr. didn’t seem to want to help him. Peter was the last to be admitted; I think his attire – a Chinese Red Army field jacket he was wearing didn’t register right to the Russian security guy. This jacket was lined with Yak fur and Peter looked like he was the warmest one in the queue. Peter looked weird but was totally sane, bought Nadia and me tea and coffee at the café next to the Consulate and we had a delightful conversation while we waited; Nadia taught him a few Russian and Kazak phrases to boot.
Our visas are in-process and due out from the Russian gulag on Dec. 8.
And that’s the way it is, Sunday, November 26, 2006. This is Mike Lynn reporting from Almaty. Goodnight……don’t know what made me think of Walter Cronkite tonight but I couldn’t resist………..)