Sunday, June 6, 2010

Kazan Tatars, whitewater, shashleek

A warm, breezy Sunday afternoon, and the first day I can remember in a long time of not basically doing anything except my usual weekend activities of laundry and going to the bazaar. And hopefully getting some reading done and a little work for the library and for the English clubs.
Yesterday—Saturday—was such an interesting day, and I so wish I had my camera with me. The day started with meeting Nadjie at the library to go to a Kazan Tatar holiday celebration. The Kazan Tatars, different than the Crimean Tatars though very similar in many aspects, including of course that they are Muslim, are the Tatars that live mostly in Russian, also called the Volga Tatars. There is a group living in Crimea, and on Saturday they gathered to celebrate a sort of welcome spring holiday, a holiday that the Crimean Tatars apparently c elebrate on May 5th, though I am not sure I heard much about it this year. Anyhow, it was a picnic on the river with traditional food, dancing, and music. My friend Arzy was there with her mother, selling books about Crimea and the Crimean Tatars. Apparently now they have a stall at the central bazaar selling books, probably as a way to get some extra income, which everyone is desperate to do these days. Anyhow, we had a great long chat and made a plan to go hiking to Chatag Dag, the beautiful mountain I see on my daily walks. I have been longing to go there—her 15-year-old “cousin-brother” will probably join us as he knows the trails, and hopefully Serdar will come too.
Nadjie’s “friend” showed up—the man that when he shows up at the library she always gets this sweet grin on her face resulting in much teasing from the office mates. I’m not sure what their story is, but he seems pretty attentative to her. He lives down in Yalta, I think has a restaurant there, and keeps inviting both of us down, so hopefully we will really do that. A lot of vague invitations happen, but sometimes the follow through doesn’t materialize. So, we’ll see—it would be a lot of fun I think, plus maybe a special treat for Nadjie.
I was going to the large central library after the Tatar event, so I decided to walk along the river to get there-Nadjie took the bus back to the center and home. First I stopped by the big park with the botanical gardens. The gardens are most known for their large rose garden, and it was in full bloom. Just magnificent with towering bushes filled with blooms, along with the traditional rose buses. I do wish I could have taken some photographs—I will have to go back. There was also some kind of free classical concert going on, students it looked like, but they were quite good. Their beautiful music echoed across the garden.
The river, I noticed, was very high and fast, unusually so, with continuous rapids. As the river narrowed, the rapids got quite big and it turned into a spectacular white water river. All those little falls and twists and turns that it normally gently follows had been turned into class 3 and 4 rapids. It was quite exciting, and I walked along, plotting my course through the white water in my imaginary canoe. Ah, I was in seventh heaven. Got to a place where I noticed people on the banks with various forms of life jackets on. Then paddles appeared and eventually folks carrying an assortment of rafts. Turned out there was some kind of course set up because further on down the river, lines had been strung across with numbers, and markers showing where to go. Saturday was also the annual city birthday celebration, and clearly this was one of the events. I don’t know for sure, but my guess is they open the dam gates on the reservoir above the city to create that kind of flow. Well, it was great fun, and a little hair raising, to watch the rafts go through. At this point the river was quite ferocious—I don’t think I would have taken a canoe through it, even a covered one. Well, maybe, but it would have been a ride, that’s for sure. The rafters seemed to be lacking in the skills department, and some didn’t even have life jackets on, and one guy was just on the kind of air mattress you buy for an extra bed. There were some dumps, obviously, and I was relieved to see that there were actually rescue people at the end. That air mattress guy I especially thought was going to need it, but he eventually made it through and pulled himself out and headed up to the top for a second try.
So now you see why I so regretted not having a camera—I keep having images of that whitewater in my head, and can hardly believe that is what my gentle little river turned into.
Stopped off at the central library to help my English speaking friend there with a brochure translation, wandered around the center a bit more, and then came on home. Later in the evening I went over to my neighbors. They were going to cook up some “shashleek”—barbecuing basically—so I ended up mostly hanging out with Neshet outside around the shashleek pit. Serdar got home late from visiting a friend, and we didn’t eat dinner until about 10:30, and then sat around the table outside, cracking sunflowers seeds (the Ukrainian and Russian pastime/addiction) and talking, even after the kids went to bed. I finally looked at my watch and realized how late it was—12:30—and that I better head home. A wonderful evening, and especially wonderful because they just seem to happen. I wasn’t sure if I was even going to go over there last night, and almost didn’t, but then at the last minute decided to, and that is what the evening turned into. You just never know….
Whoops, it is starting to rain, better go get the laundry in. I will post some miscellaneous pics. Love to all.

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