Life in Another World

Posted on August 15, 2012 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Down Home in Mississippi

The glare of the sun reflected relentlessly off the barren rocky mountains that surrounded this remote Central Asian city. Fed by the fast-flowing runoff of melting snow from the previous winter, the narrow valley appeared lush with a band of green as trees and gardens sought to claim the diminishing source of moisture that eluded the summer heat. A new world of bearded men and burqa-clad women clamoring throughout the congested marketplace confronted us as we finally arrived to visit our daughter and her family who have lived in this part of the world for 12 years.

The little eight-seater plane that flies to this part of the country twice a week brought us from the capital city to our three grandchildren waiting at the airstrip with their parents. They had prepared a colorful welcome sign that greeted us upon entry into their courtyard. As with other grandparents, we could not believe how Sam, 10, Mia, 8, and Gloria, 7, had grown and matured since we last saw them as they departed from stateside assignment more than a year ago.

There was little respite from the sweltering heat as the city provided electricity only from 6:00 to 10:00 pm, and that was often sporadic. Air conditioning was a fantasy, and fans inoperable most of the day, so daily activities consisted of locating the best shade and hoping for a slight breeze in their courtyard filled with apple, apricot, pomegranate and persimmon trees. The perimeter of roses, zinnias and a vegetable garden provided the setting for games with the kids including a trampoline and zip line from the second floor balcony. No, I did not attempt either of these activities!

Our visit coincided with the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, so there was not much activity outside of the house. Bobbye and Lori had to cover with their burqas when we went out for walks along the canal behind their house or went to the nearby stalls to purchase necessary provisions. One of the delightful aspects of Ramadan was the delicious dishes neighbors would send over in sharing from their iftar feasting at the breaking of the fast in the evening.

Life in Central Asia brought back memories of the challenge we faced years ago upon our arrival in Indonesia as we saw the household helper assisting in using a solar cooker (pictured), and the family relying on a kerosene refrigerator to preserve a few chilled items; (I have not yet comprehended how a kerosene burner can produce cold!)

Solar panels produce enough electricity for the family to have access to internet, watch a few hours of television and have light in the kitchen when absolutely necessary.

After emotional good-byes we fly to the capital city today before a flight to Dubai. After a 12-hour transit (where we anticipating napping in the home of friends) we will take the 15-hour flight to Atlanta and then on to Mississippi. More about the grandkids and Central Asia will follow next week.

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