Work & the Sick Role

I have already posted on Being Sick & the Sick Role that lays the foundation for this series of posts. I also posted on how we don’t choose to be sick, don’t look sick, don’t want to be sick, and how tricky it is to help people understand how we are sick so we can get the help we need without having them treat us like we are sick. You can find that under Who Volunteered Me to be Sick. I have a lot to say about work and chronic illness so I am breaking it down into several posts.

27/365: fractured reality/grace under pain

27/365: fractured reality/grace under pain (Photo credit: kira.belle)

When people have an acute illness and take on the sick role, they are exempt from the usual work, family, community, and other obligations while they are sick. When we get pneumonia or the flu, or have surgery, we can take some time off and in fact we are expected to do this to aid in our healing. What does it mean when we have a chronic illness where healing probably won’t happen and remissions may not last long? What does chronic and possibly degenerative mean for our responsibilities to our families, our work both within and outside the home, to our community and church work? We can’t take a few weeks off, or even a few days, to get better because chronic means forever. Continue reading

Issyk-Kul lake

Thus far I have shared my experience in Kyrgyzstan of spending a couple of days at Son Kul where I slept in a yurt and learned how to milk a mare. We also traveled around Issyk-Kul lake. It is believed that the Chinese traveler Jan Chan Tzan explored this lake in 128 BC as part of his 6-year travels. The lake is a tourist area in the northeast corner of Kyrgyzstan, close to Kazakhstan and China.


English: from cia wfb

English: from cia wfb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now a little information for those of you who like numbers. It is 668 meters deep at the deepest point making it the 5th deepest lake in the world. It is the world’s second largest mountain lake at 1606m above see level.

Issyk Kul is Kyrgyz for “warm lake” but it isn’t! We sat on the south side of the lake and put our feet in the water – for a little while. The only thing that made it tolerable was the very hot sun. The real reason why it is called warm lake is that it doesn’t freeze in the winter. It is probably due to the fact that it is at the bottom of a drainage hollow and has no outlet so the only way water is lost is through evaporation. This gives it a slightly salty composition.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASharon and I were able to hire a driver with a van and a guide for 5 days with accommodations in homes that provided supper, B&B and a picnic lunch each day for a total of 777 USD – what a deal. This is our tour guide, Azamat, who is Kyrgyz and is decedent from a khan. And he likes Kumis!

Here are some of my favorite pictures and stories from our trek around Issyk Kul.



In the town of Karakol our driver let the three of us off at the mosque and then we walked through the town to the Orthodox Church. We were able to go inside the Orthodox Church to see the paintings and to purchase icons.



My picture of the inside of the church isn’t real good but I always feel like I’m violating the sanctity of places of worship by taking pictures of the interiors.

The walk to the Orthodox church was uphill and about half way up we came upon the town market. Sharon pointed out that the woman sitting on the steps was a beggar. I was intrigued so, being tired, I sat on the step a ways from her and we smiled at each other.

Aug08 00036After a couple of minutes I moved closer and because she looked Russian, Sharon asked her in Russian if we could take her picture. She seemed pleased to oblige.

Her family is local and we learned that she has grand children and a new great grandchild. She was very proud of them – they were all well established but there isn’t a pension in Kyrgyzstan so she was begging to bring in a little more money. Azamat was somewhat bewildered as to why I would speak with her and concerned – or just curious so he sat behind where he could hear our conversation.

I thanked her and paid her for the privilege of taking her picture and sitting by her on the market step.

On the edge of Karakol was the town cemetery with the beautiful backdrop of mountains that were visible from everywhere.


The landscape changed frequently as we rode along the southern side of the lake.




Our driver took us to an area along the lake that wasn’t developed and to get there we drove along the floor of what they described as motley clay mountains. This was an extremely rough ride over boulders and through ditches with high canyon walls rising on either side. Even with seat belts on we were thrown around the back seat. I thought my all my insides were going to be shaken loose and my spine broken apart. He went through places that I didn’t think possible – and he was loving it.

But we were rewarded with a time to look for beautiful stones along the beach, sit and cool our feet in the water, and a picnic lunch – in the usual tail-gate style.


This is the market square in the village of Kochkor.


On this square was a shop where they made felt and quilted handicrafts and had a store where their crafts could be bought.

I bought some wonderful felt craft objects and a pillow cover made of antique embroidery.

After a supper of soup and bread at our B&B we went for a walk in the neighborhood. These young boys were more than eager to pose for us.



The next morning as we were leaving for our trip to Son Kul, we asked if the owner of the B&B would pose with us for a picture. She said yes but asked us to wait for a moment. When she reappeared she had on her traditional attire

This was a Kyrgyz woman of prestige and social standing which she was very proud of. Her deceased husband had been a doctor and a director of a hospital so he would have been trained in Russia. She had large portraits on the walls which is fairly uncommon in Kyrgyzstan and enjoyed using her nice table service when she served us our meals.

Related articles

Doctors & Patients: A Collaborative Relationship


Fibromyalgia (Photo credit: Kindreds Page)

When I developed my chronic condition the first thing that happened to my life was that I started spending a lot more time in my doctor’s office. So much time that I thought I should be collecting frequent flyer points towards a free office visit. Or I should be given my own examining room with a recliner, a stereo system, and wet bar – and stocked with my favorite magazines. The nurses kept telling me they were working on it in the basement. What I received was a lot of time to read novels while I waited and time to think about this relationship that was forming. Through these frequent visits we learned how to work together and formed an excellent working partnership. In a series of posts I will be sharing with you what I believe made our relationship work so well and especially what it was about the relationship that contributed to my healing.

Originally I had written a section on what patients need from a doctor and then another section on what patients need to take to the relationship. As I was editing them for posting I realized that our relationship worked because we each brought complimentary qualities, knowledge and skills. We were collaborative partners with a shared goal of controlling my symptoms and increasing my functioning. According to Robin DiMatteo,[i] patients are most satisfied with partnerships rather than authoritarian control by the doctor because partnerships allow us to participate more in healthcare choices, leading to more informed decision making, better follow through and adherence to the treatment plan, and ultimately better health and quality of life. Continue reading

New Dawn Rose


The first promise of what was to come on my New Dawn climbing rose. The plant was covered with buds and I anticipated a beautiful show. A week later there was a beauty to the entire space being filled with pale pink roses – but it couldn’t compete with this one individual blossom. Are we the same? Does our unique beauty diminish when we become one of a crowd? So often I want to blend in with others, to be a part of a crowd so I don’t stand out. Maybe it is time to bloom – to let my innate beauty show.

How to Milk a Mare

Before I decided to go to Kyrgyzstan, Sharon told me that she had drunk Kumis, fermented mare’s milk. My immediate response was “Where in the world do you get mare’s milk?” Duh, from a mare. I was intrigued so as soon as I made plans to visit Sharon I told her to see if she could arrange for me to learn how to milk a mare. Little did I know that milking a mare was difficult and could be dangerous. I am a city kind of gal who likes to think of herself as a country gal. In other words I am naive.

The colt was skittish and the mare had let the woman know she didn’t want to be milked. But I am getting ahead of myself. After a wonderful night’s sleep on the ground in our yurt B&B, we were off to find a family that was milking mares. It was still early in the season and most of the herds hadn’t arrived.

The minimalist infrastructure meant that we drove through a mountain stream instead of using a bridge, and then came upon this herd of yak grazing.

We stopped at this neighborhood so our guide could inquire about who was milking and were told there was one up ahead.

We found the family and they said they wouldn’t start milking for two hours. It was cold but I really wanted to see this, so I said we wanted to wait.

We sat in the van because the wind was blowing and it snowed for a few minutes – I told you it was cold. We spent some time watching this toddler wander around – she didn’t go far and there wasn’t much to draw her away except when a family member walked somewhere.

Behind is what looks like a yurt that has not been erected. The back pack belonged to a hiker.

Soon we saw a couple of men leaving one of the family yurts and walking a ways out in the pasture to where a young goat was tied to a stake. We were really perplexed until we figured out that they were castrating the animal. As they were working, this toddler wondered over and nonchalantly walked under the animal’s belly. None of the men seemed to think anything of it. If I would have figured out what they were doing before they were done, I would have walked over to watch. It would have made an interesting picture. 🙂

We also noticed some men in the far distance beyond the family’s yurts. I watched for a long time to understand their pattern. (Sorry for the lack of clarity of the photo, the white specks are blowing snow and you will have to imagine horses in the distance.)


Four men spread out and formed the corners of a large square with horses in the middle. These men kept the mares and colts from running. Two other men went inside the herd and attempted to grab a foal and wrestle it down so they could tie it to a rope. This was a lot of work because the foal didn’t want to be caught and the mares became very agitated.

Once the foals were all tied to the rope, the mares would stay close by because they were still nursing. Now we got to see how they milked the mares.

A colt was untied and placed close to its mother so the mother’s milk would drop and to keep the mare calm. The woman knelt down and milked. The foal was very young and the mare hadn’t been milked often so she watched very carefully to make sure all were calm. In the first picture, she is jumping back because the mare had gotten jumpy. They didn’t milk that first mare.

Yup, that’s me drinking fresh-from-the-mare milk. They don’t get much milk from each mare and they do this every two hours. The milk was very white, thicker than cow’s milk, and very sweet. It was really good. The woman offered to get a glass from the yurt so I could have more but I graciously declined. They had to work way to hard to get just a couple of inches in the bottom of this pail.

At night they untie the foals and put their strongest stallion with the herd so they can go up into the hills to graze. The process begins again the next day.

As we were driving down the pass, Zermat, our guide, pulled out a quart glass bottle and handed it to us. Yup I tried kumis, and it is horrible.