Besides our usual picnic meals and warm tent accommodation, the experiences from eating and sleeping at the homes of the people in Central Asia has been both culturally enlightening and a very humbling experience.
While many of us back home would sit on a chair at the table, things are a little different here – physically and culturally.
Physically there's no chairs, only a short table where the men (or guests) would sit around. Bare hands are used to eat with and occasionally a spoon and fork, whereas knife is not so commonly used. You'll find bread at most tables and the host will always break the bread by hand, pour tea, and keep the cups filled.
Culturally there's no women eating with us. We understand it is due to gender segregation from religion but it was something we knew not to ask to avoid being ignorant of their culture. The mother or wife would bring over food and drinks, then leave us to eat. They may hang around but won't interact with us directly. They help out by being nearby in case the man of the house requires more tea, or bread, or anything else. Although it is the cultural norm here in Central Asia, we certainly didn't feel right about it ourselves.
While we're enjoying the food, the wife sits back as we eat and chat
A bed has been quite rare to see at the homes of the people here. Originally nomadic people (some still are between summer and winter), it would be difficult to move an entire bed let alone move the entire house. We've stayed with a few locals at their home and being inside can be a nice change from the tent. Instead of a bed, special thick mats about 2 metres long and 70 cm wide filled with cotton are used to sleep on. They are a luxurious version of the sleeping mat campers use.
A modern home and still a very comfortable sleep on the floor
Before heading to sleep, these mats will be rolled out, sheets put on, and pillow and blanket placed on top. The next morning the mat can be rolled back (or folded) and put aside to give more space in the room. It's a rather compact version of a bed with some extra work required each night and morning.
Packed away neatly
Part of our travel through Central Asia was to discover the cultures here, and in doing so we had to adapt and blend in with the locals. We may disagree on some things, such as having no religion or not yet having a wife and children, sometimes it is best to tell white lies or simply to try to avoid the topic.
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This blog has been brought over from our personal blog