Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Facts about yurts OR A Volunteer Named Dave

First, I'd like to say Brad captured the spirit of the trip very well. I really enjoyed his perspective on things as someone new to the country. I threw a lot at him, and he did great. Most of the things Brad got wrong were minor: we did x before y type things. But they aren't important for the story. However, Brad did confuse the story of the yurt in Asa quite badly. Enough that deserves correcting now.

Many years ago, there lived a volunteer in Kazkahstan. I don't know his name. But he bought a yurt. Because yurts are cool. (See Brad's entry and photos.) And they aren't that expensive. (Maybe $600 then probably. Try buying a house for that much outside of Detroit these days.) But despite being carried around by Kazakhs as movable transportation for hundreds of years, they are big. So without a caravan going from KZ to America, you may have to pay a pretty penny to ship a yurt back home. Probably more than the cost of the yurt.

Well, original un-named volunteer did not consider the shipping costs. And when he calculated them, he realized he couldn't justify spending his whole readjustment allowance on the yurt shipping. (He probably had to use it to travel.) So the yurt stayed here under the vigilance of a local friend. It was stored in her shed or something. Not really sure. But he had plans to one day find a way to get this yurt home. 

That was years and years ago. And the caravan he must have been waiting for never materialized. Eventually, friend of the un-named volunteer no longer wanted the yurt taking up space where ever it was taking up space. Also, it was being entirely unused. So she though, who might want a yurt? The answer: Dave.

Let's rewind a bit to talk about Dave. He was a city boy, born and raised in south Detroit, who took the midnight train going anywhere. Just kidding about that part, had some residual Journey stuck in my head after finally watching the pilot episode of Glee. But yeah, Dave was from somewhere around Detroit. (Which makes the idea of him buying the yurt even more ridiculous. He knows $600 is way too much for a house.) He worked at a youth/community organization in a small village north of Taraz called Ainalain. 

From the stories about locals, you'd think Dave was a super hero. He spoke Kazakh that rivaled Abai. He played baseball better than Mickey Mantle. And his beard bested even the best Russian Orthodox bishop. While none of these claims are true, they model reality. He did a lot for his org in the time he was there, and the people of Asa remember him fondly.

One of the goals of his organization is the preservation of Kazakh culture. They want to make sure the younger generation never forgets their past. It's very important here. To do that, they make traditional crafts and have camps with local youth. And what fits more into traditional Kazakh culture, then a yurt. 

So friend of original volunteer happens to know Dave (because everyone here did) and calls him up one day. I believe the conversation went something like: 
"Do you want a free yurt?"
"Uh… Did you say free?"
"Yeah, I have this yurt sitting here that I don't want. Could your organization use it?"
"Yes. Yes. Uto zharksa (Kazakh)."

And then he took the rest of the day off, because he had just scored a yurt for his organization, for free.

1 comment:

Koen Roovers said...

Good story.

Hope things are going well. Working towards the end I imagine? Any travel plans for when the work stops? Or do you plan to stay longer in Taraz (as you seem to have integrated pretty well)?