N & P: Christmas at the Borderlands Lodge Edition

Saturday, December 26, 2020

On the heels of last week's International Monkey Day edition, now we've got still more special days this week and next. All of these holidays just keep coming.

While I enjoy getting a tree and putting it up in my place here in Bozeman, Christmas has never been a particularly big holiday for me in this part of the world. As an adult, I've appreciated Christmas most of all during the years when I was abroad. As I've written elsewhere, back when I was living full-time in Turkey in the 1990s, Christmas felt like my own personal secret holiday of sorts, something most of the people around me were not celebrating, or even aware of. That's how I like my holidays sometimes: in isolation.  

And indeed, Christmas this year was spend largely in isolation. I made ribs and mashed potatoes, with margaritas on the side. A friend came by to eat and drink on the landing leading up the stairs to my balcony. So, we were distanced by about 10-12 feet and outside. Otherwise, I spent the day the way that I've spent most of the past nine months: working on my book, reading, and taking an hourlong walk. 

In other words: exciting times, all around. The other day I found a can of split-pea soup in my cupboard and literally thought to myself: "Oh, split-pea soup. That might be fun."   

So yeah, on second thought I guess nothing exciting is happening here, after all. 

And what about the Eurasian borderlands, you are asking, what's been going on there? Well, let's have a look...

N & P: International Monkey Week Edition

Friday, December 18, 2020

For those of you who are unaware, this December 14 marked international Monkey Day. 

I'm a big fan of monkeys. I remember when I was in Agra, India, in 1999, I was sitting on the balcony of my hotel. A guy was walking down the street with a bag of groceries in his hand. From my vantage point, I could see a monkey hanging out first in a tree, and then on top of a tall wall. Concentrating on the pedestrian's plastic bag, the monkey made one big leap, grabbed a bunch of grapes out of the bag, the leapt up again onto the wall. In seconds, the grapes were gone. The man stopped, looked up at me, watching him, and shrugged. There was nothing to be done. 

Well, I guess that's monkey business for you. 

And what about in the Eurasian borderlands this week, was there no monkey business go on there? Let's have a look...

N & P: Trimming the Tree Edition

Friday, December 11, 2020

This past Sunday I participated in one of my favorite Montana traditions: cutting down a tree and decorating it. 

The practice up here is to buy a permit for $5 at the hardware store, then go to a national forest and saw down a tree. Growing up in a pretty suburban neighborhood in Ann Arbor, and then really only living in large or large-is cities since then, I'd never experienced something like that. The first time I did it in Bozeman was on Christmas Day, 2009, when I went north of the Bridgers to cut down a tree with a group of local Russians. For the last several years I've been cutting down my own tree to the south of Bozeman, usually with a group of friends with whom I picnic, drink, and stalk trees. 

This year, of course, things are different. But there was a pandemic bonus: rather than the $5 that the rapacious hardware store extorted from us, now Montanans pay just $2.50 to get our permit online. Merci buckets, Recreation.gov!

It was nice to see some friends, outside at a quite socially distanced space. I brought a couple of beers and a turkey club sandwich and joined in the conversation with friends I hadn't seen for months. Then I borrowed a saw and cut down my tree, which I then dipped into an enormous vat of hand sanitizer. 

All in all, a nice day. And there was a strange feeling of nostalgia associated with it as well, as I had kicked off my quarantine back in March by taking down last year's tree. I wonder what the world will look like by the time I throw out this one. Better, I hope. 

And yes, that is a Santa Claus hat on top--purchased on the streets of Istanbul many a year ago. I've never been one for putting crosses or stars on the tree. Loyal readers of the JMB should know, at any rate, that the Borderlands Lodge is one of the last remaining outposts of secular Kemalism in Gallatin County. 

It's good to be in the mountains and, for the moment at least, healthy at the Borderlands Lodge. It's nice to have a tree, and even better to have friends willing to lend you a saw and set up a bonfire. 

And in the Eurasian Borderlands? What is going on there? Well, I thought you'd never ask...

N & P: End of Semester Edition

Friday, December 4, 2020

The fall semester has come to an end at Государственный университет Монтаны--at least pending the final revision of grades over the next couple of days. As always, the end of the classes been a rather bittersweet experience, but then again all good things come to an end. Yet, it seems like just yesterday that I was writing my Back to School edition of the N & P. Or something along those lines. 

It was nice to get back to teaching in the fall, even if it was online. Now that the semester is over, however, it's also good to put it behind me. We've got an extra-long winter break this year--I'll end up going about eight weeks between my last class in the fall and first of the spring. Normally, I would be lighting out for the territory at around this point, but instead I'll be biding my time at the Borderlands Lodge, plotting my next move. There's a book to be finished, and a publisher to be found.  

I also hope it snows soon.

Meanwhile, across the Turkic-Russian borderlands a number of interesting developments have been taking place, including: