Merry Christmas, world! How did you spend your holiday weekend? I know my dad attempted to make cinnamon rolls, but apparently didn’t achieve quite as pretty results as I did. Oh well, I’ll make some for you when I visit.

In the spirit of “doing something” on Christmas, the Belgians organized a trip to Chon Kemin (Чон-Кемин), a small town on the way to Issyk Kul, a couple hours outside of Bishkek. (We went there once before.)

If you didn’t realize, it is possible to do absolutely nothing but drink tea and wander around in the snow and have an absolutely wonderful time.

We stayed at the Ashu guesthouse, where the owners kept us all constantly stuffed with fresh baked bread and hot tea. I have to admit I almost wanted to bow out of the whole trip, assuming that it would just be a lot of hiking and minimal accommodations (and after I messed up my ankle on Bishkek’s frozen sidewalks, all I wanted to do was sit at home and watch Korean soap operas), but I’m so glad I didn’t. The rooms were beautiful, the food was delicious and substantial, and there was a sauna.

There were nine of us all together, representing seven countries (U.S., Belgium, Armenia, Latvia, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands), plus a drunk Russian driver who assumed we hired him for the company and drunken conversation he could provide. He was hard to handle at times (especially when he crashed our sauna party), but he did manage to drive us through fog and icy, winding roads without rolling the (too small) van, so I couldn’t be too upset. Plus, he knew I didn’t speak much Russian, so he didn’t bother me.

Other than sitting around and eating, we also walked around the village during both days of our stay. The weather was gorgeous, crisp blue sky and sunshine the whole weekend, which made for some excellent photography. With my ankle magically healed (or maybe just numb from stomping around in so much snow), I even managed to get myself up a mountain, where I decided to lighten my load and get rid of my only hat.

Eh, guess I’ll have to buy a Kyrgyz hat to get me through the rest of the winter.

So my first Christmas in Kyrgyzstan was low-key, focused on good food and good company. I don’t think I could’ve figured out a better way to spend it. New Year’s seems to be shaping up to be a pretty big deal in Bishkek, by the amount of decorations around the city, and I’m excited to see how 2011 is celebrated here.