Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sheep Shearing Day

May 31, 2013

Around 10am, my host family and I drove up into the foothills of the mountains to the southeast of Toguz-Bulak to the place where they keep their goats, sheep, and one horse. There are two families who live and work out there, but I wasn’t clear on if they were relatives or just employees. My host family owns roughly 150 sheep, and apparently it was supposed to be sheep shearing day. I watched Rakhat and Nursultan round up sheep to be sheared, and then decided to hike further up into the foothills.

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I was quite impressed with how high up I was able to get, especially as I didn’t have B or K or a trusty pack of M&Ms to lure me up the hill. (Of course as Nurel, the 2.5 year old, made it 3/4 of the way as well, I can’t feel all that proud of my efforts!) I hiked to the very top of one hill, from where I could see the entire valley in which Toguz-Bulak, Kul-tor, and one other village are located. I could also see Lake Issyk-Kul from over the tops of the mountain range to the north of the valley, and I could just make out the tops of the mountains to the north of Issyk-Kul.

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Nuraika and Nurel

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It's difficult to see, but Lake Issyk Kul is on the other side of those brown mountains... The buildings at the bottom left make up the farm from which I hiked.

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The village of Toguz Bulak as seen from above

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I could see the village of Kol-Tor and the other village in the valley, too

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I hiked back down and watched a little bit of sheep shearing… but apparently the electricity connection running up there wasn’t working too well, and as they were using electric shears, this was a bit of a problem. As such, we returned home around 1:30 instead of spending the entire day out there. The sheep were then driven down into the village to be sheared using Toguz-Bulak’s more reliable electricity. (It’s amazing how much the electrical infrastructure has improved in the past five years that a village the size of teeny-tiny Toguz-Bulak can have reasonably reliable electricity!)

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Sheep shearing!

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The sheep after having been herded down into the village

On an unpleasant note, while we were up in the foothills, I realized that I had neglected to exchange the short (18-55mm) lens on my camera with my long (18-200mm) lens. When we returned, I tried to do that, only to discover that the cap that protects the back end of the lens (not the lens cap, the other end) has gotten wedged in so tightly that I cannot remove it. I hope that it is not completely broken :-( I keep trying to unscrew it, but so far I’ve merely managed to hurt my hand.

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