Day two, August 15
Morning perusal of tho news reveals Trump blamed both sides for the rioting racists in Charlottesville, but the silver lining is that it was nice to see even all the hard core republicans condemning his remarks. Also what the hell did he mean with that "not Obama. Not trump" part
Breakfast here is served in a canteen in one of the other buildings at 8:30. The building has some clearly once-grand ornamentation but now plaster is0peeling and bare bricks show through the wall in places. We found that inside it was assigned seating, which struck me as a totally soviet useless bit of authoritarianism. We had to sit at separate tables (the driver, interpreter and I), so I was seated with two babushkas whom I of course couldn't communication with. Everyone here seems to be just your typical Kyrgyz family, maybe with a slight bend toward the older. Lots of babushkas in headscarfs and old men with tall white kalpak hats.
Breakfast was porridge that was quite good and a chunk of fish in some soup, which we were apparently expected to pick up0and gnaw on. I really don't like fish but I gave it a bit of an effort. Drank the soup. The porridge was good though as was the fresh bread.
After lunch the driver departed and one of our local hosts (that is, the target group of the training) led us the short walk a few hundred meters to where their family cluster of houses was0piled up near the sandstone rock formations.
It turns out the hosts are a Russian family. The head of the business is a middle aged man (Sergei) whose face has kind of a sour look to it and eyes like dark blue marbles, but despite this rather intimidating countenance all evidence is that he's actually quite nice. His two son in laws look to be in their thirties, one is broad and stout with reddish hair and a perpetually cheerful expression (Anatoli, hobbies: wolf hunting) and the other (Andrei) has the lined and droopy face of a man thirty years his age. This latter fellow was the most proactive about talking to me and showing me things though. Also at the house was the patriarch, grandfather of these young men and father in law of the older one. He looked just like an older version of the red haired fellow.
They showed me the beehives around the house. They'd recently built an enclosed "bee pavilion" and we're particularly hoping I had wisdom on the finer points of running such a thing but I haven't worked with one. The grandfather's eyes lit up when I mentioned mead and once we had seen all the beehives around the house he beckoned us in to have some mead. Keep in mind it's like ten AM!
But it was a good time to sit and talk about their issues. They seem thoroughly experienced beekeepers and unfortunately the issues they want help on aren't things I feel I can particularly help with. Their main problem is finding buyers for their honey. With the collapse of the Soviet Union it involves a lot of red tape and corruption. They had buyer in Russia but the middleman / shipper adulterated their honey so they lost the contract and $105,000, which is a fair bit round hereabouts. They can't compete in the markets in Bishkek because the market owners all have friends they buy it from who adulterate it, and they don't care because hey it still sells and is cheaper than unadulterated honey. I think the family may also be at a disadvantage being Russian. So they appear good at beekeeping, are admirably dedicated to making a good pure honey, but the problem seems to be in actually selling the stuff.
This is where I start to feet a bit anxious since the Organization paid $3150 for0the flights to get me here not to mention everyone's time and other costs for the project and I feel like my principal recommendation would be "you should have brought a local market expert not a beekeeper." But oh well I'll do what I can.
Meanwhile grandfather kept refilling our glasses with mead. If they were interested in making mead commercially I could probably really help them but it became apparent they just think of it as a novelty that would never really be good. It was very sweet with a strong almost sour flavor. I asked how much honey to water they used and they said "oh its mixed to take" I asked them how long they fermented it and they said "not too long or it will become vinegar." This fear of vinegar making I've seen among homebrewers in America too with just a vague superstitious belief anything left long enough will become vinegar. However that would require either0the intentional introduction of acetol making bacteria or catestrophic failure of maintaining a sanitary seal. I wish I'd brought a bottle of my mead to show them what it could be.
We broke after lunch and had the rest of the afternoon off. I was extremely keen to go hiking in the mountain forests that directly abut the resort but Translator (Hamida) having had too much mead was set on taking a nap (with no obvious trailheads it would have required asking around), and left me with a warning not to go wandering in the forest because bears.
So after lunch (a thin borshkt with a hunk of unappetizing meat in it, plus the usual porridge, yogurt and bread) I poked around on my own and as I was walking down the road toward the sandstone rocks I found a group of young men with GOSH DARN EAGLES letting tourists pose with them for pictures for a small fee. I of course inquired about this and the youngest eagle-hawker communicated to me 200 som, just under $3. So of course I went for it and next thing I know I had thick leather gloves on each hand and an ENORMOUS FRIGGEN EAGLE on each one as well as a third eagle held up behind me as the kid proceeded to take 114 pictures on my phone and tho guy with my DSLR failed for five minutes to realize he had to take the lens cap off and I could neither communicate with him nor gesture with my hands since I had a motherfuckin EAGLE on my hand. Shortly my phone was complaining it was full up and because I'm OCD like a vampire I had to spend half an hour carefully determining which pictures to delete.
Check my instagram for a picture or two of the eagles! (IG: such_sauce)
Of course my 200 som became 600 som ("because there were three), which I didn't terribly mind because I felt it was worth0it and basically 100% expected some pricing shenanigans like that) and then the kid was for some reason trying to wheedle yet more money out of me so I briskly walked awkward. Later I saw them putting the giant eagles in the trunk of their car and it made me a little sad, but the kid was sitting in the front seat with the smallest eagle on his lap, which was cute and I'd have liked to take a picture but then he'd probably be after me like a harpy for money again.
Later I mentioned these eagle kids to the Russians and they commented "yeah most people don't even use them for hunting any more."
But anyway. If I ever move to Kyrgyzstan I am absolutely getting a pet eagle. And a yurt.
Once Hamida awoke we walked around a bit more. Dinner in the canteen, like all the meals began with a bowl of porridge, then of yogurt (keffir), then a main course. I'm this case spaghetti noodles in chicken broth with beef. I ate my bowl and the bowl the old man next to me didn't touch.