Wednesday, August 25, 2010

a hot August in Crimea

A picnic near the lake
On the way out to the swimming rocks
Lenura and her father at the table under the grape arbor
the best peaches in the world!
Abulmeet showing us his drumming. He was a professional drummer in a band in Uzbekistan.
It’s a Wednesday afternoon and normally I would be at the Children’s Library, conducting an English Club. But I woke up this morning not feeling very well—sore throat, exhaustion—so I decided to stay home. Spent the day laying around, drinking herbal tea, reading Doctor Zhivago, my current book in the Russian literature available in English that I am working my way through at the big city library. I am really enjoying this foray into a literary world I know little about apart from author names and book titles. And I have 16-year-old Serdar to thank for this new found love of reading—all the titles have been recommendations of his. The writing is so rich that I am afraid, as Serdar says, going back to reading popular literature will be like “reading children’s stories.”
Want to take some time, though, and get caught up on my blog posts. So much has happened since my time in Belarus a month ago—two weekend trips with the Seitaptiev’s, a Crimean Tatar family celebration next door, a visit from my PCV Fran who lives in far eastern Ukraine. The trips with Serdar’s family were especially wonderful. The first was the day after I returned from Belarus. It was Neshet’s birthday and his “client” as he calls him—the man he is building a home for and also designing and building stores—offered him the use of his apartment in the coastal town of Gursof for the weekend. So off we went to what was a sleepy little town the last time I visited in October. Now it is overrun with tourists as is the whole coast, and the beach was packed. But after settling into our blessedly air conditioned apartment (the temps were in the high 90’s both days), we made our way to a less crowded beach where we rented a paddle boat and went out to some rock outcroppings offshore. And there we had some of the best swimming I have done for a long time. Beautiful clear deep water, diving off the rocks, swimming underwater, floating effortlessly on my back in the salt water of the Black Sea. Ah, it was heavenly… We all loved it so much that we did the same thing the next day. Drove home along the beautiful coast and then turned inland where we found a lovely lake to dip into and cool down. Neshet seems to have some sixth sense of where to find the best places. Perhaps his knowledge of the land is so in his genes that he knows where to go even if it is an area he has never been. But his feeling for this Crimean homeland of his also can lead to anger and frustration when access to it is increasingly denied as land is bought up by wealthy Ukrainians and Russians. We really ran into this in Gursof, as we went walking one evening intending to stroll through a beautiful park Lenura and Neshet knew about, only to find that it is now gated and guarded and you are only allowed in if you are staying at one of the “sanatoriums” (Russian word for health resorts) on the property. We did manage to get in via a bribe to one of the guards, but it was one of those incidents that just added to an undercurrent of despair that I sense from Neshet about what has happened to Crimea.
I have become more and more part of the Seitaptiev family, even having Serdar called my grandson by a family friend. And so it is not surprising that two weekends later, they invited me to come with them to a trip to the village to visit Lenura’s mother and father. I had met both of them before but hadn’t been to the village where they live, about a 2-3 hour drive from here, so an overnight trip. We stopped at the beach coming and going, which was a real treat, especially on the return trip as for some reason the water was cooler and clearer. I have gone swimming more this summer than I have in years, and I am so loving it.
Liliye and Abulmeet live in a village of about 1000 people on the “steppes”—the vast prairie lands of northern Crimea and Ukraine. There isn’t a whole lot there—houses with large gardens, livestock, and fruit trees; a school; a few small stores; and a long low building that seems to be divided into a mosque in one half and an Orthodox church in the other half. Lenura’s parents have lived there since returning from Uzbekistan nineteen years ago, along with many other Crimean Tatar families—the town is over half Crimean Tatar. Liliye and Abulmeet have a small home along with several other small structures that they live and work in and also some sheds that house their three cows, chickens, and turkeys. Their place is surrounded by flower and vegetable gardens, and fruit trees loaded with apples, peaches, plums, and cherries earlier in the season. On the hot summer days of our visit, life takes place outdoors—cooking in the outside summer kitchen, eating and hanging out under the grape arbor. Liliye’s sister and her husband who is the director of the school came over for dinner, and it was wonderful sitting around the table, feeling the evening breezes, eating the delicious Crimean Tatar dishes, talking and laughing. It is so precious to me to be included in their family the way I am now, that I could be at such a gathering and really feel part of it, despite my lack of understanding of much of the conversation.
There is more I want to write, but perhaps I will end this now. Feeling I should lie down some more, and you, my dear reader, probably are tired of reading. Will tell about my other adventures of the last few weeks in my next post. Much love from Crimea.


  1. Wonderful post of your new Crimean Tatar family! A feeling of belonging and love. I am happy for you. Be well.

  2. Barb, dear, hope you are feeling better now. Thanks for taking time from your sickbed to catch us up to date on your adventures, and on the poor sheep. I do think from time to time that we shouldn't eat food we're not prepared to kill ourselves, but then my carnivorous appetites overtake my moral intentions--but that sad-eyed sheep--hard to overcome!