The best place for Santa to live is Kyrgyzstan

Last night was Tuttle Park’s annual holiday party. Every year this small recreation center of Columbus Parks and Recreation treats kids from surrounding neighborhoods to craft projects, food treats, games and Santa. Our Bolivian friends and Japanese friends were there, as were assorted other folks who I recognized from other years.

When Santa arrived about an hour into the party with not the loudest or jolliest Ho! Ho! Ho! in the world, the outfit did it’s magic and kids clamored to get in line to tell him what he or she wants. My son said seeing Santa was the best part of the party. This is only one holiday happening Santa has to attend–never mind Christmas Eve where he has a whole lot of globe-hopping to do.

If Santa really did make the rounds on Christmas Eve, heading down chimneys and through doorways around the world to deliver gifts, according to a study by a group of Swedish engineers, he should live in Kyrgyzstan to minimize a time crunch.

These engineers have calculated the distances between various places in the world where the bulk of the world’s population live and came up with the location of the best place for Santa’s workshop. Kyrgyzstan is it. That’s much harder to pronounce and spell than the North Pole is, however, so I don’t expect this will stick any time soon. What a clever study, though. It might give Kyrgyzstan a tourist boost if they figured out a Santa theme park or something. There’s a Santa Claus, Indiana that capitalizes on Santa Claus. Why can’t there be a Santa Claus, Kyrgyzstan? I can see the CD title. Caroling with Kris Kringle in Kyrgyzstan. [via Jaunted]

On the Lonely Planet Web page on Kyrgyzstan the country is described as: “No whistles and bells, just friendly faces and some mighty big mountains.” If Santa moved here that would change. There would be whistles and bells–sleigh bells and whistles each time he rounds up his reingeer to head out. Can’t you just see the building in the photo fixed up like Santa’s workshop? Slap a few giant candy canes in front, and you’ve got the beginning of a whole new look.

One for the Road: Realities of Foreign Service Life

Jessica Hayden had been married less than 3 months when she moved half way around the world with her new husband, and soon found herself in a tent in the middle of Kyrgyzstan, heavily sedated on pain killers and hooked up to a WWII style medical contraption. It sounds like some sort of extended honeymoon trip gone horribly wrong, but in fact, it was all part of Hayden’s introduction to life as a Foreign Service representative.

Her story, along with 28 others, appears in the AAFSW’s second volume of Realities of Foreign Service Life, a collection of personal experiences from members of the U.S. diplomatic community. Focusing on the “realities” faced by diplomats and their families outside consulate walls, the authors explore topics such as schooling and housing abroad, intercultural marriage and employment for accompanying partners. Those who have already served in this capacity will surely discover tales they can relate to within the pages of this book. And it can serve as an excellent reference guide for folks contemplating a possible career in the Foreign Service.

Jessica was kind enough to share an excerpt from her story, “Your Health Abroad: What you Need to Know about Medical Evacuations”:
I generally consider myself a pretty healthy person, so when I started to experience pain in my abdomen about a year ago, I didn’t think much of it. We had only been posted in Kazakhstan for a few months and I figured my system was still getting used to the changes in my diet. I had, after all, spent the last few weeks experimenting with the local fare, eating Central Asian delicacies like kazy and kumus, otherwise known as horse sausage and camel milk.

But after a few days of increasing pain, I decided to make a late night call to our Regional Medical Officer (RMO), Dr. Kim Ottwell. It would be the beginning of my introduction to the world of medical evacuations, or what most refer to as “medevacs.”

Over the next week, I’d endure various forms of prodding (some of which I’m convinced would fall under the Geneva Convention on Torture) during my medical evacuations to Manas Air Force Base in Kyrgyzstan. I would also brave surgery in a makeshift military tent by Korean doctors who didn’t speak English, spend a week of recovery on a cot, and ultimately return home to Almaty with my appendix in a jar.

Yikes! Sounds like an overseas diplomatic duty disaster, and makes me wonder why a Foreign Service reality T.V. series has not yet surfaced?! This is the next best thing — Pick up a copy of Volume Two (2007) to learn the outcome of Jessica’s medical misadventures…and consider grabbing Volume One (2002) as well.

Photo of the Day (11/15/07)

You know you’re a long, long way from home when you come across a yurt (unless, of course, you’ve happened upon some local hippie commune).

If there was a teepee, tent, cabin or any other type of domicile in this shot, it simply wouldn’t be as rugged and exotic. A yurt, however, has a way of changing the landscape the moment your eyes rest upon its pleasant around shape. And, of course, time stands still. This shot could have been taken hundreds of years ago. Or yesterday. Except there is some type of strange blue box in the background. An outhouse, perhaps?

Anyway, this particular shot by Uncorneredmarket was actually a bit nostalgic for me because the first yurt I ever came across was located in the same country as this photo was taken: Kyrgyzstan.

Photo of the Day (8/31/07)

Goat polo in Kyrgyzstan. Very cool!

This could have been the worst photograph in the world and it still would have made Photo of the Day because of its fascinating subject. But of course, it’s not. The outstanding work of photographer Anselmo Lastra really captures the spontaneity and joy of an ancient game played so rarely these days. I’m sad I missed the opportunity to watch it myself when visiting this beautiful country a handful of years ago, and I hope to have the chance once again before some major beer manufacturer sponsors it.