Monday, May 3, 2010

Growing Food

People in Kazakhstan are still very closely connected to their land. In America, it may be hip and progressive to have a vegetable garden in the back yard, but it's not the norm. Here, everyone has a vegetable garden. In fact, people don't have back yards with grass and landscaping; they have gardens. If you don't have your own land, like my family who lives in an apartment block, then you find another patch of ground to grow food in. Ours in through the forest on the edge of town. For big city dwellers, they have a dacha. Dacha literally refers to a patch of ground in the country, though most dachas include a basic dwelling. The houses are nothing special, though; they often don't have running water or even electricity. Dachas are not summer vacation homes, like people in the US have. Instead, they're a vegetable garden with a place to sleep.

Even my school has a garden. Every teacher is required to water and weed the garden for a week during the summer. The potatoes and other foods grown there will be used in the school cafeteria during the winter.

People are always coming to the school to sell fresh milk and eggs straight from the farm. I know the milk is straight from the farm, because it comes in old Coca Cola bottles with a layer of froth and fat on top. The people pull up into our parking lot, and the teachers who don't have class right then all hurry outside to buy plastic bags of 20 or 30 eggs, or plastic bags of salted butter. Another time, a teacher from our school put up a sign up sheet in the teachers' room. She was killing her cow, and wanted to know how many kilos people wanted to buy from her. My host mom signed up for five kilos. What with the 40 eggs in our fridge, it looks like my protein input should be increasing exponentially.

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