Long time, no update!

I had the best of intentions with keeping this blog, but it’s been hard to follow through. They US Consulate has kept me super busy with projects, meetings, and special presentations to both the general public and to the city government. It’s hard to put into words (or at this point to even process) this experience. I’ll start by showing you some pictures, in the order in which events have happened.

When I first arrived, there was a special reception for me at the Tengri Umai gallery. Here’s an article in Russian about it with photos. I gave a presentation about my art and work to about 40-50 people from the creative community who had come out for the occasion. There was a professional interpreter (who I’m standing next to in the photo below) who has been with me to all my speaking events and government events- he’s incredible. Everything at the event was so nice– clearly a ton of time, effort, and care had been put into everything. They had some delicious sushi and bottles of wine and orange soda. Some of my artwork had been blown up huge- screen printed onto silks and stretched onto a display. The whole experience was totally flattering and surreal–this kind of attention has continued throughout my experience.





The day after my reception, I was thrilled to be invited to a special celebration by my American friend and his wife (who is Kazakh.) The gathering was to commemorate their son taking his first steps (and also his first birthday.) The party was in a yurt and there was an endless amount of Kazakhstani food (some of which I was able to enjoy- this is a very meat centric culture- but there were some delicious fried bread, cheese, salads, and of course dessert.) The yurt itself was a fascinating place, very cozy and colorful with blankets, rugs, and pillows filling the interior. We sat on the blanket-covered floor and ate at low tables. As the dinner began, the vodka came out and everyone started making toasts to honor the event and to celebrate family. This toasting continued throughout the meal, with everyone in attendance taking turns sharing heartfelt words-myself included. We went outside for the actual ceremony in which a rope (or more traditionally, a piece of intestines!) are wrapped around the child’s feet and are then cut with with a knife by the parents as the child then walks across as piece of fabric on the ground. Candy is thrown in the air and everyone celebrates the first steps. After the ceremony, it was back to the yurt for more food, conversation, and toasts! Many bottles of vodka later, everyone left the celebration happy and full (along with a designated driver.)



The image above is the top part of the yurt and the criss-cross design is very special and symbolic. You can find this symbol on buildings and architectural elements all around the city, like this:


The architecture in Almaty is a cool mix of styles- there are ultra sleek, modern skyscrapers as well as buildings left from different Soviet eras. I really love some of the funky older buildings and their odd shapes.




The name Almaty translates to “the city of Applies” and you can find apple trees everywhere.



I haven’t taken many pictures of the various projects I’ve been doing (too busy keeping up with giving presentations, working on murals, playing music, researching, trying to breathe!) but here are a few:


(The initial stages of our first mural based on the fairytale Yer Tostik, the project took a bit longer than expected and we plan to wrap it up this Tuesday, while also working on our 2nd mural, also based on the fairytale.)


Above is me with a couple musicians I got to”jam” with at a club during the daytime. It was a lot of fun. If we had more time, maybe we’d write a song together. Here’s one of Anzhelika’s videos (she’s the lady on the right): http://vk.com/video3758358_166713130


Yesterday, I was thrilled to have my first full day off and headed into the nearby mountains! You take a series of gondolas and to reach three different elevations- the highest is around 10,000 feet. This view was from the first level. The second level had a super cute restaurant where I enjoyed some tea and a warm blanket (it was cold and rainy)

FullSizeRender-20 copy

But the highlight was seeing some wild yaks at the very top. There were about 8 of them in a pack, but this guy was clearly the alpha:


So there’s a quick week’s worth of pictures and captions. I’ll try to update a bit more frequently. I can’t believe my trip’s about halfway through. So much has happened and so much still to come. Hope everything’s well at home with all my family and friends. I miss everyone and am looking forward to sharing more stories soon. Love, Carrie


Kasteyev School of Fine Arts & Applied Design

On Monday, I will begin one of two mural project with students ages 10-15 at a summer camp program of the incredible Kasteyev School of Fine Arts and Applied Design (named after famous Kazakh artist A. Kasteyev, of which Almaty’s Fine Art Museum is also named.) I had a meeting at the school with the principal and the organizers of my program here. I was given a tour of the facilities and had an opportunity to learn about the school as well as discuss all the details and logistics of our mural projects. The Kasteyev school is a free (or very low cost) public after school program for elementary through high school aged students, focused on developing skills in a variety of subjects, from observational drawing to jewelry making and metal-smithing, to intricate textile designs. At the top level, students earn a prestigious certificate through a concentration of portfolio work. Upon completion of the program students receive an opportunity to continue their studies in fine art/applied design at the University level. Many of these students have gone on to study abroad or participate in International art exhibitions. I was absolutely BLOWN AWAY by the quality of the work these students were producing. There is clearly a very high level of expectation for student performance. These students put in a tremendous amount of effort outside on their art on top of all their other regular school day studies. I am very eager to meet these young artists on Monday.


(above) Outside the school (below) Signs indicating the school’s values about art and creativity

FullSizeRender-20 copy 6

The principal at the school had this beautiful, gigantic tray of pastries for us for our meeting! Amazing hospitality!



Around the neighborhood


I arrived in Kazakhstan a couple of days ago and things are off to a good start so far! Everyone I’ve met from the US Consulate here has been absolutely wonderful and kind. I am staying at the most famous building in Kazakhstan- the historic Kazakhstan Hotel, built in 1970 and made to withstand a 9.0 Earthquake! The building is the symbol for the city of Almaty and is even featured on Kazakh currency:


I got to do a bit of sight-seeing with Anastasia, a brilliant young intern for the consulate. She took me on a walk to Panfilov Park, where we saw this beautiful cathedral (Ascension Cathedral):

FullSizeRender-20 copy 2

Almaty has surprised me by how green and leafy it is. There are flower gardens and public fountains and small parks everywhere. Apparently, the city has 125 fountains! From the city, you can see the Zailiski Ala-Tau mountains to the south, which border Kyrgyzstan. Anastasia also took me to the Green Market, which is the city’s main produce and meat market. We’d heard taking photographs is strictly forbidden, so I don’t have any pictures to share. There were all kinds of delicious looking fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and dried fruits as well as many different meats and cheeses. There was also a section of the market with prepared Korean dishes for sale.

I’ve been a bit jet lagged and the higher altitude in Almaty has made me feel a bit groggy, so I haven’t gotten to explore too much on my own yet. I’m really looking forward to visiting the art museum on Friday and learning about Kazakh art history as well as contemporary Kazakh art. Today I meet with people from the school I will be working on mural projects with.

Here are some random signs and things that have caught my eye so far:

Sign for a bowling alley:

FullSizeRender-20 copy

Sign for a cinema school. I have learned that Kazakhstan has an interesting history of cinema. Looking forward to learning more about it.

FullSizeRender-20 copy 5

Here’s an old photo booth I thought was interesting:

FullSizeRender-20 copy 4


Kazakhstan Journal!


Today I leave for a month-long trip to Kazakhstan to participate in the 2015 ArtBat Festival in Almaty, thanks to support from the U.S. Mission to Kazakhstan and ArtBat Festival. This program was also made possible through the U.S. Department of State’s Arts Envoy program, and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to experience it. I’ll be documenting my experience on this blog, so stay tuned!





Louisville Story Program Kickstarter Campaign

My husband is the director of this new nonprofit organization called the Louisville Story Program. They have just launched their Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to help publish their first book, Our Shawnee. Follow this link to check out the amazing video and learn more about the project: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1787482492/our-shawnee-a-louisville-story-program-book


Soda Reviews #4

Fentiman’s Dandelion and Burdock


Before hearing about this soda, I was unaware that Dandelions were something a person could drink.  I also had never heard of Burdock Root. Google explained it to me:

burdock is a slender, brown-skinned root vegetable that grows to more than two feet in length. In markets and restaurants, pickled burdock root is often sold as an accompaniment to sushi or rice meals. But in Japanese cookery, burdock is an all-purpose vegetable that’s added to stews, stir-fried, and pickled.”

I still had a hard time imagining what I’d be getting into. After trying a couple sips, I wrote down the following words: banana chips, bubble gum, ginger and cinnamon, licorice, root beer, slight hint of licking the back of an envelope. This drink’s apparently made with pear juice and after reading the label I learned that this type of soda is actually a traditional English drink. 130 calories a bottle

FOCO Basil Seed Drink


My friend Salena went to Jungle Jim’s International Grocery Store/Amusement Park (located just outside Cincinnati) and brought me back two unusual drinks! This one was made in Thailand and has 210 calories per can. I took a sip and was so intrigued by the texture that I wanted to pour it into a glass so I could get a better look. What I saw was a multitude of gelatinous seeds suspended in a thick clear liquid. They looked like tiny floating eyeballs. Or amoebas swimming under a microscope. Flavor-wise, this wasn’t particularly interesting- a super sweet vanilla kind of flavor with a texture reminiscent of bubble tea. The picture on the can shows a lime wedge, and that would probably cut the sweetness a little and make it more interesting.

Grass Jelly Drink


This was another gift from Salena that she found up at Jungle Jim’s. She laughed in an evil way when she gave it to me.  This drink is a product of Taiwan and it had 116 calories. Since it also appeared to have a unique texture, I decided to pour it into a glass as well to get a better look. Out came a murky brown liquid with small tan, rubbery sea-vegetable looking flakes floating around. With such an off-putting appearance I was a little nervous to try it, but it was surprisingly mild.. tasted like southern sweet tea with a hint of menthol. Like, if Kool Aid came out with a Vick’s Vap-O-Rub flavor, this is what it would taste like. But with little tasteless blobs of jelly floating in it.

Sprecher’s Ravin’ Red 

This was so damn good. Sparkling cranberry and cherry juices combined to make a refreshingly sweet but not too sweet drink. I love that this is made with actual juice, too.  If this were served in a martini glass with a slice of lime, it would feel like a fancy cocktail. One of my favorite drinks I’ve tried so far. 140 calories a bottle (but it’s a pretty large bottle.) Purchased at Liquor Barn.

Lion’s Paw Roots Drink


On a recent visit to Asheville, NC, I went to a Jamaican restaurant called Nine Mile and ordered this drink at the bar. I was warned by the bartender that it was strange, but that just made me want it even more.  The label indicated it was manufactured in the Bronx and was not approved by the USDA. It also promised: 100% VITALITY! Strength and Vitality!! The list of ingredients was so bizarre, I took a picture of that, too. The bartender recommended that it be poured over ice so it would get diluted a little bit. The first sip I almost gagged- it was so bitter I couldn’t imagine drinking much more. I wrote on a napkin: Take a handful of grass out of the yard and puree in a blender. Throw in some tree bark and some ground up leaves and dirt. That is what this tastes like. Though it was almost painful to drink, but I was determined to finish the whole thing. My husband was horrified by the drink and told me he was not going to feel sorry for me if I spent the rest of the night vomiting. (I didn’t vomit.)  However, I did start to feel really weird. My face flushed and I felt odd rushes of energy. Oddly, the more I drank it, the more I liked the way I felt- a bottle full of crazy. Not sure if I am recommending this or not. I think I’d do it again, though. Here’s that ingredients list.. read them carefully:



Soda Reviews #3

These sodas all have a lot of calories in them, but I made an exception because I thought they all sounded interesting.

Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade (Purchased at Rainbow Blossom)


I stopped by Rainbow Blossom the other day to look for an exciting soda when I ran into Brett Holsclaw. He recommended that I try this rose lemonade. When he mentioned that it was sparkling, I was intrigued. It did not disappoint! Sweet, but not too sweet, a little tart and with a nice floral taste from the rosewater.  At 130 calories, this is not the kind of soda I have in mind to chug all day long, but it was definitely interesting! Thanks, Brett!

Fentiman’s Shandy (Purchased at Liquor Barn)


I had a minor freakout while I was drinking this. When I bought it, I was intrigued because this was a mixture of 70% de-alcoholized beer and lemonade. It could be a great fake beer for me. Then my husband pointed out the information on the label that said it contains .5% or less alcohol. I tried to wrap my brain around the math. After visiting Fentiman’s website, it’s actually closer to .05% but the FDA requires all beverages like this to be labeled as such. So how does it taste? It tastes okay. Kind of sweet and the lemonade flavor is not particularly bright, but it’s nice to have an opportunity to enjoy a beer-ish flavor. This might be something I’d have once in awhile if I am missing beer. I don’t know if I can handle full on non-alcoholic beer. Calorie-wise, this is the same as the Rose Lemonade: 130.

Ting (Purchased at La Rosita Grocery on Westport Road)

tingThis is a Jamaican grapefruit-flavored soda and it was awesome! Sweet, but a little tart, and refreshingly crisp.  Even better, I drank some of it straight, and then mixed the rest with La Croix grapefruit flavored sparkling water and that combination was TOP NOTCH. It’s a little high in calories (150) unfortunately. Also, the new La Rosita grocery on Westport road is awesome. All kinds of interesting Mexican groceries, good looking bakery items, and there is a restaurant there with tacos that look to be super authentic (no vegetarian options, that’s for sure.)

Woong Jin Green Plum Drink (Purchased at Choi’s Asian Grocery)


I was hooked by the label design when I saw this Korean beverage. I couldn’t tell what the fruit was or what the label said, nor did I ask anyone at the store about it.  I have to say, I was a little disappointed when I opened this up and realized that it wasn’t actually a soda. No bubbles. The first sip I took seemed very sweet, too. The more I drank it, the more interesting the flavor became and the more I liked it. Afterward, I tried finding it on google and discovered that the flavor was green plum and it made sense. It tastes like you’d imagine: a plum flavor with a little bit of tartness. 100 calories. And the can is pretty.


soda reviews #2

Yeo’s White Gourd Drink (purchased at Choi’s Asian Grocery)


You know when you eat a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios or Honeycomb cereal and then the leftover milk tastes really sweet and delicious? That’s what I was reminded of when drinking this intriguing beverage. It also reminded me a bit of coconut water. There’s no carbonation going on here which was a bit of a disappointment and the calorie count was 100 per can. I can’t see myself chugging this stuff down on a regular basis (it’s a little sweet for my taste) but it was certainly an interesting experience! It was pretty cheap, too!

GUS (Grown Up Soda) in Dry Meyer Lemon. Purchased at Liquor Barn on Shelbyville Rd.


This might be one of the best sodas I’ve ever tasted. It has a goofy brand name, but it makes sense. Kids will think that this is gross. It is definitely dry and super bubbly and refreshing and made with real Meyer Lemon juice. At 60 calories a bottle, it’s not too bad and the lack of artificial sweeteners and chemicals is good. Down side is that it is fairly expensive. Still cheaper than a nice beer though. I was happy to see that this brand comes in some other flavors, too, which I will definitely be testing out.

Zero Calorie Honest Fizz “Professor Fizz” Cherry Flavor (purchased at Whole Foods)


This drink had a lot of promise. I really like cherry flavors and was hoping for a nice tart cherry flavor. Zero calories was a plus as well as the fact that it claims to contain all natural ingredients. Unfortunately, this is one of the grossest sodas I have ever tasted. This beverage cannot seem to decide if it wants to taste like a tea, a cola, or a cherry drink. The Stevia sweetener was way too sweet and had a strange, off putting aftertaste. Not recommended!

Refreshing Carbonated Chinese Herbs Drink (purchased at Choi’s Asian Market)


This is a tiny bottled drink from Korea. It looks more medicinal than “fun soda” and I was intrigued. The only ingredients in the product I recognize are Menthol, Cinnamon, and “Aromatic Carbonated Water.” It was definitely refreshing and minty but had an odd aftertaste similar to licking the back of a postage stamp. I think I felt more energized after drinking this, but it might just be in my head. 25 calories per bottle.


Soda Reviews #1

I quit drinking alcohol almost three months ago. No, I’m not pregnant. Overall it’s been a very positive change, but sometimes it’s hard, especially when there is a social gathering revolving around alcohol. Plus, I used to LOVE alcohol. All of it. Wine, craft beers, cheap beers, good bourbon, cocktails, etc. I miss exploring different flavors and varieties. Which led me to look for some alternatives.

Soda is bad for you, we all know this. But I figured if I’ve managed to cut out one big habit, I might as well enjoy a different but less problematic one. Which led me to investigate what interesting options might be readily available in my own town- Louisville, Kentucky.

The ideal sodas I hope to find:

•Low in calories/sugar **

•Not too sweet (or not sweet at all!)

•Has some sort of kick or unusual flavor combination happening

**I will make an exception for a full on sugary/syrupy soda if it looks particularly exciting or unusual

#1 VIMTO (Purchased at Anar Food Mart, Westport Rd.)

soda1This is a soda manufactured in the United Kingdom but the back label of the can was all printed in Arabic. The flavors here are grape, raspberry, and blackcurrent. There was a regular and a “Lite” version. This soda looked very promising, but I was a little disappointed upon tasting it. Kinda of reminds me of Big Red crossed with cough syrup. Maybe the non- “Lite” version is better. I have to mention that Anar food market was really neat. Lots of delicious looking foods. I did come across a Goat Milk Soda which was both fascinating and somewhat horrifying sounding. I’ll save that one for a later review when I start to run out of other options.

#2 Barritt’s Diet Ginger Beer (Purchased at Liquor Barn, Shelbyville Rd.)


This ginger beer promised a kick, but what I experienced was more of an overly sweet chemical taste with some ginger flavor lurking in the background. Kind of disappointing. Once again, maybe the non-diet version is better.

#3 Sprecher’s Low-Cal Root Beer


Now this is a damn good soda. This root beer is 30 calories for the whole bottle. The sassafrass flavor is nice and sassy and not too sweet. No weird chemical-y flavors going on here. This might become my new beer replacement. I also like the German beer-garden inspired label design. The only downside to this product is that it’s on the expensive side. Still cheaper than a bottle of good real beer, though.

#4 Q “Superior” Ginger Ale (Purchased at Whole Foods, Shelbyville Road)

soda4Okay, this is the kind of obnoxious looking product that I would have definitely made fun of before I quit drinking. Though the label is nicely designed, it looks very pretentious. And it’s also crazy expensive for a soda. That said, this might be my favorite soda discovery yet. It’s slightly dry, not too sweet with a super spicy ginger flavor. 50 calories per glass. Makes a wonderful substitute for a white wine. I drank it out of a champagne glass and it was awesome. No shame here.