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Kyrgyz Felt DolliesWe have been selling felt dollies in our shop for a few years, since we found them in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Mohammed, a Kazakh trader has been sending them to us every now and then and we had assumed they were made in Kazakhstan. However we were wrong – they come from Kyrgyzstan and I have been keeping my eyes out for them all over the country. But in vain!

Now here we are in “Tsum” a great big department store in the middle of Bishkek, the capital, and finally here are the dollies. We’d like to find out where they are made and buy a pile. Easier said than done it seems, but then we find Mirgul (sounds more like “Miracle”) another very competent young woman. Mirgul has a little shop selling felty souvenirs to tourists and expats, and just the fact that she is helpful marks her out as unusual, and she speaks good English too.

Yes, they are made in Bishkek and yes, she can get us some, but we can’t visit as the woman who designs them and oversees the workshop is rather touchy about visitors.

Anyway suffice it to say, felt dollies are obtained and various other things too (Mirgul is a pretty good saleswoman) and now comes the hard part – sending them home.

With the searing memory of the Uzbek Postal System still so fresh we are rather dreading it. But come on, it has to be done. So we persuade Mirgul to come along with us to smooth the path and translate Russian officialese.

Everything is weighed and inspected and no great obstacles are put in our way apart from the necessity of finding a big enough box to squash everything into, and the rather eye watering amount of money it is going to cost!

Mirgul in her shopJim is dispatched to go in search of a box and tape and after several attempts we manage to get almost everything in. Meanwhile people are coming and going bringing in the things they want to send abroad, getting everything out for inspection and filling in the numerous forms. Each category of item has to be listed and weighed separately so it all takes quite a while!

At last our box is handed over and now a bag has to be made for it. White cotton fabric is first measured out and then it is sewn up on the sewing machine -oh so that’s why it’s there. Next the box is inserted into the bag and needle and thread fetched for the ends to be hand stitched – nobody is in a hurry and those waiting suppress their barely audible sighs and wait their turn.

Finally hot brown sealing wax is applied to the stitching – at least 15 blobs. But hang on, we’re still not finished, the Kyrgyz Postal System official stamp has to be cleaned and pressed into each of the 15 or so blobs to the postmistress’s complete satisfaction.

Everything is done at a slow and careful pace, there’s no point in getting impatient and finally we are out of there – hey it only took 3 hours.

Only the large sweating Russian lady who came in shortly after us and who I believe is trying to send her son’s stuff to him is still there, having to fill in another set of forms (I know exactly what she was sending as it was all inspected including a large silver pop up photographic screen which unfortunately popped up while being inspected and which we all struggled to manhandle back into its bag).

Hooray, our felt dollies, felt hats and felt rugs are off our hands and a great weight is lifted from us. I just hope our parcel has at least left Bishkek Post Office by now.

 

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