Hello! Thanks for your patience – we haven’t blogged in a while!
Our time in Central Asia was great. We were volunteering with an NGO that specialises in training of various kinds, so we were running English Conversation Clubs, which went very well. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there (despite having bad stomachs from the strange food!) and met some amazing people.
Since we came back to the UK life has been very hectic. I start my new job on the 13th June (this coming Monday) – Community Builder (not building work!) for the charity Barnwood Trust. I’m very excited. Ben has an interview on Thursday for a job that he’d really like and would be great at – prayers would be appreciated for that! In other news, we’ve bought a lovely little car (silver Corsa Comfort, 5-door, 1 litre engine…) and are hoping to move into a slightly bigger flat so that we have more space for hospitality and hobbies.
We thought you might like to hear about some of the interesting cultural customs that we noticed during our time in k…stan.
Firstly, there is a custom of politely declining offers that one would wish to accept. If you are offering someone some tea, you may have to ask three times before you get the answer that they had been waiting to give – that they do want tea. It has become a standing joke among western workers – “Would you like tea?” “No.” “Green or black?” We found this quite funny!
Secondly, like in many cultures around the world, men and women would not normally greet one another. If a man enters a group situation, he will go around shaking hands with all the men present, ignoring the women. If a woman enters a group situation, she will greet all the women present, ignoring the men. This took some getting used to!
Again like much of the rest of the world, hospitality is a big deal. With our host family Ben and I were staying in the ground floor of their beautiful house and the rest were upstairs – and every time we went upstairs, the grandmother of the family would immediately start preparing some tea and snacks or food to offer us. (We went upstairs several times a day, most days.) We were also given absolutely huge breakfasts made up of about a dozen dishes of various sizes to pick from.
At breakfast on our first morning there, I embarrassed myself somewhat. Having eaten some very fatty barbecued meat and almost finished my akrozka (cold soup made of sour milk and carbonated water, with little bits of spam and egg and pickled veg inside – a favourite from Russia) and not particularly feeling the need to indulge in the various types of pickled salads that were available, before embarking on my ‘chicken soup’ (which was literally the water that the chicken was boiled in, with some salt and oil added) I saw some rice cakes on the table and some jam. I put some jam on a rice cake and was met with laughter all round because jam is not for eating or putting on rice cakes but for stirring into tea! Oops…
It also took us a little while to figure out where we fit in the hierarchy of who gets a seat on the bus. While of course the top priorities are the elderly, the pregnant and those carrying babies, one must also forfeit one’s seat in preference of businessmen and slightly older women. I, as a female above 5 and under 30, am at the bottom of the bus hierarchy – I must give up my seat for everyone older than me (even people in their 30s), and especially men. We saw that on the crowded buses women my age would often remain standing even when there were seats available, because they would just have to give them up again when almost anyone else enters.
There are many other things we could say about interesting cultural traditions and customs that we came across, but perhaps we’ve said enough for now.
Thanks for your thoughts, prayers, messages and hugs! Thanks also to those who congratulated us on Friday’s graduation! (No more essays ever – yay xD) Do keep in touch!