Monday, December 22, 2008

The New Year

The New Year holiday is a big deal in Turkmenistan. It is celebrated
much like Christmas in America. At the bazaar, lots of New Year
booths pop up out of nowhere selling ornaments, masks, cards, and
decorations. School ends on December 30th and a two-week holiday
break begins (I will still be holding my clubs, though). Families buy
a "yolka" (tree) and decorate it with so many garlands and ornaments
that you can barely see that it is supposed to be a tree. On December
31st families and friends gather and exchange presents, cook a big
meal and celebrate together. "Ded moroz" (father frost) comes door to
door and gives presents to children after they recite poems or sing
songs for him. For the past 10 years Jennet has been the "ded moroz"
for my town and the children would always wonder why father frost had
a woman's voice. This year though, she has decided that she is going
to retire the "ded moroz" costume and pass the job onto someone else.
In the evening, before mid-night, the vodka comes out, various animal
masks are put on and dancing commences. I don't know where the mask
tradition came from, but wait until I send you the pictures!! A huge
spread of food is laid out on a long tablecloth—salads, fruit, cheese
and meat, soup, palow (Turkmen national rice dish), bread, tea, soda
and vodka. My host-family has requested, take a guess, chocolate chip
cookies. I am going to get a bit more courageous and will try another
pumpkin pie and an apple pie as well. I will be thinking of you all
as I bring in the New Year with my huge Turkmen family and friends,
wearing a plastic animal mask and dancing to American pop music in

My New Years Resolutions for the Year of the Cow:
1.) Learn Turkmen (continue with Russian)
2.) Learn how to make bread in the Turkmen tamdyr
3.) Keep running
4.) Make friends
5.) Be patient with myself and others
6.) Be the best teacher I can be
7.) Keep writing letters
8.) Save enough money for an airplane ticket to Taiwan
9.) Stop being a man carrot (erkek kashir)
10.) Don't fall into my toilet (or drop anything in)

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