We came home with lots of souvenirs from Kazakhstan, such as several Nevalashka dolls for friends and family, a gift for Sasha for each childhood birthday, a Kazakh-Russian-English picture dictionary, a sword, several oil paintings, and two cans of horse meat. Yes, we favor the eclectic when shopping.
We also brought home three "dream quilts," embroidered wall hangings that are traditionally hung on the inside walls of yurts on the steppe. Our driver in Almaty took me to a rug dealer who travels around the countryside purchasing dream quilts from rural families and brings them back to the city.
The dream quilts that they sell are usually between 20 and 40 years old, so they're not exactly pristine (or at least the ones in my price range weren't pristine), but I think it only adds to the fun on the purchase knowing that the quilt was touched by many hands and enjoyed by many eyes before finding a home with us. The quilts are becoming more and more rare as folks move from the country to the city and even those who still live nomadic, yurt-dwelling lives acquire TVs and other novelties to fill up their free hours instead of embroidery. Oh, and the bottom edge is unfinished for one of two reasons: a. since dream quilts are often made to hang behind the bed of a new child it's symbolic of the fact that the child's life has only just begun and there is much more of their life yet to be written (embroidered) or b. dream quilts go behind the beds so there's no point in finishing a bottom edge that nobody will see. You choose the explanation that works best for you.
I purchased three dream quilts, one for each child to take with them when they set up their first home. Even if it doesn't work out that way, it was a good justification for me to buy and lug home three very heavy quilts.
While Steve and the kids were away with the church youth group this week I finally hung two of our three quilts - one in our room and one in Sasha's. The top photo is of the one hanging in our room and I was told that it's a very "Kazakh" design with all of the geometry and scrollwork. Sasha's design is more "Russian," which I thought was cool because she is clearly not of purely Kazakh descent and I thought it was nice symbolism of her shared Russian and Kazakh heritage.
It feels great to finally have the quilts displayed in our home - I think we're finally unpacked from our Kazakhstan adventure!