>MY FIRST NATIONAL COSTUME!

>I am so happy. My first national costume is complete!!!! I picked it up today and wore it to shoot a segment of my show. It looks awesome. I was dancing with Tima. Actually the costume he is wearing is mine as well. It was a present that i received from a lady named Mariat this week. So I suppose I have 2 national costumes. How cool.


Amnat ( my dressmaker ) and I

It was 41 degrees and we were dancing directly under the blazing sun! Oh well, it looked good even though i was completely SOAKED.

My dance teacher Ashab Meijidov was there to guide me …



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CNN interview

>Hi everyone,

I am still on vacation…somewhere in North America….. I started getting emails that I was on CNN.com, so I checked it out.
What a surprise, I forgot I did it – I think it was from 2 months ago. Ivan Watson is a fair reporter – I like the interview and video that goes with it.

Click here to watch : Chrystal Callahan – CNN Interview

Here is the text :

Canadian model finds fame in Chechnya
By Ivan Watson, CNN
June 16, 2010 7:51 a.m. EDT

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

* Canadian former fashion model is perhaps the most famous foreigner in Chechnya

* Her TV shows range from current affairs to religious instruction to hobbies

* She defends Chechen president who was named one of 40 “Predators of Press Freedom”

* But Chrystal Callahan is also a symbol of peace and stability

Grozny, Chechnya (CNN) — The news in Chechnya has an unlikely Canadian face: a former fashion model with a catchy name who anchors the news in English on state-run TV.

“Good evening. This is Chrystal Callahan and these are the highlights of the week,” says the smiling anchor at the start of her program. “The Chechen Republic is steadily becoming a region of example for other parts of Russia!”

Aided by a constant stream of Chechen sub-titles, Grozny TV’s English-speaking anchor from Toronto has arguably become the most famous foreigner in post-war Chechnya.

Callahan first traveled to what was long the most war-torn, dangerous corner of Russia several years ago, while filming a documentary about a Chechen Greco-roman wrestling team.

“When I [first] came to Chechnya I was so happy and grateful that I got to come here,” Callahan said, in an interview in one of the studios of Grozny TV. “It was so awesome. Everyone was so nice. And my first impression was “wow, this place rules.””

Today, Callahan lives in Grozny and hosts a series of current affairs and cultural programs.

The program might show her on any given week learning to manipulate manikins at Grozny’s puppet theater or preparing traditional Chechen recipes in the station’s kitchen studio.

She says she has a responsibility to broadcast to members of the Chechen diaspora who have lost touch with their homeland after being scattered around the world by a decade of war.

Though she is not a Muslim, Callahan also offers viewers weekly lessons in Islam, the main religion of the region.

“This week in Islam, we learn about Doomsday,” Callahan announced, at the beginning of a recent interview segment with a Chechen Islamic scholar.

And the tall, dark-skinned Canadian has even begun singing and dancing traditional Chechen folk songs in music videos.

“Everyone needs entertainment and a lighter side of things. So the show I do is light and it’s entertaining,” said Callahan, during a walk through a park in Grozny that includes a memorial to slain journalists. “It’s such a drag, can you imagine? Everyone talking about the war, the war.”

But her “lighter side” approach to the news also extends to Chechnya’s young leader. Callahan devotes a lot of time to documenting the daily achievements of Chechnya’s 33-year-old rebel-turned-Russian-backed-president.

“Horse-racing season has begun in the Chechen republic. The president of the republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, opened the tournament,” announced Callahan in one recent broadcast. “The horse races were devoted to the counterterrorist operation’s regime cancellation day as well as the birth of a son from a close friend of the president,” Callahan narrated, over video of Kadyrov watching the contest with uniformed officers.

Kadyrov had a race track constructed at the entrance of his presidential mansion. “In the second race the president’s horse Ergies took first place.”

For years human rights groups have accused Kadyrov and his security forces of kidnapping, torture and even extra-judicial killings.

In 2010, the Paris-based watchdog organization Reporters Without Borders added Kadyrov to its list of 40 “Predators of Press Freedom.”

The group pointed out vocal critics of Kadyrov keep getting murdered. Most recently, Austrian police linked one of Kadyrov’s top aides to the fatal shooting of a Chechen dissident named Umar Israilov in Vienna, Austria.

Kadyrov routinely denies these charges. Callahan dismisses them too.

“If there’s no proof and there’s no concrete evidence, who cares?” Callahan asks.

“Do I think he killed him [Israilov]? Absolutely not,” Callahan says. “What would he have to gain by that? You know, he did so much to try to make this a safe place so kids could run around. There’s no war!”

She speaks while strolling through a Grozny park where elderly women sit chatting on benches and music plays from speakers at an outdoor café that serves instant coffee.

In this relaxing place, Kadyrov’s most enthusiastic and visible Western defender is something of a celebrity.

Young Chechens begin drifting up to Callahan, asking to pose along side the Canadian for photos snapped on their cell phones.

“It’s really nice that she’s from Canada and that she traveled here to host the show,” says 18 year old Avsan Veshal after smiling for the camera.

To these star-struck Chechens, Chrystal Callahan is more then just a mouthpiece for the Kadyrov government. The presence of Grozny’s most famous foreigner also symbolizes something everyone here is hoping for after years of conflict: stability and peace.

>Sernavodskaya Water / Boys Military School

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This week has been really busy. On Tuesday I went to Sernavodskaya ( 70 KM west of Grozny ) to film. I love getting out of the city.

Sernavodskaya Water company is there. Their mineral water is #2 in the world. In this photo I am with the director of the company and Yusup the cameraman. We are at a hot water spring. It smells like boiled eggs and actually tastes the same. However, this isn’t the water they bottle – it is used for medicinal purposes.

Alihan, the director of the company, is explaining all the details of the water and the way it is processed.

Today Artur is with me because Madina is home with her kids. They are sick.
And Yusup is the cameraman.
They also have a spa here!!! Artur and I are getting a massage in these awesome chairs.
Back to work. We need to get an interview with Alihan.
On Thursday I went to a military school for boys. They are AWESOME! They win every competition they enter.
Ibbi was with me on this day – Madina’s kids are still sick.
Thank god I wore these colours – they match the uniforms!
Ibrashka was the cameraman. We all love him!! He does such a great job every time!!
We ended up having a lovzar party!!! Hahah -I love Chechnya. Spontaneous lovzar parties happen often.

>CNN

>

Yesterday I took this photo of Artur from the TV station. He is always so busy and usually is talking on 2 phones at once.

Today I got a call from Said-Sellim ( head of Grozny TV ) telling me that I will do an interview with CNN at some point today.
I ended up meeting them around 3pm for a couple hours.
I am in this photo with the correspondent who interviewed me. His name is Ivan Watson.

>Day of Chechen Language

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It is almost 2am – so, it’s April 25th already – the Day of Chechen Language. There is a big concert tomorrow but I don’t think I am going.

For this week’s show my cultural theme was the Day of Chechen Language. I went to a puppet theatre that does plays in Chechen.

I took part in working one of the puppets and saying a few lines.
This is Zara – she also works at Grozny TV but also takes part in this theatre. She is a great actress and so funny.
I ended up staying at my friends place on Tuesday night. She told me she was going to pick nettles – I wanted to go as well. She tried to warn me that they irritate the skin and give blisters – but I wanted to go anyway.
I put on some gloves and went into the field.
I picked one nettle plant.
And somehow touched my skin with it. And … that was the end of me picking. I spent the rest of the time looking at my arm while poor Fatima picked an entire bag of nettles alone. I also got a rash on my legs. Such a strange plant – but so tasty.
On the way out of the fields I felt something slimy in my shoe.
I had squished a snail by accident. Many of them live on the nettle plants.
Abuazid was home from Moscow. I haven’t seen him in 3 years. He is HUGE! He just won an all Russian competition in wrestling.

Fatima, Beslan , Gelany and I went over to Abuazid’s home for dinner later.
My new obsession. This toothpaste called Siwak – I forget what it is made of. Ibbi uses it – something to do with Islamic medicine. It tastes good and smells strange. Ibbi gave me this tube on Thursday night because I was just staring at it. I think it is made from a tree of something.
Tonight Beks came to work with the actual twig from this mysterious tree. It serves as a toothbrush! It’s a twig and you cut 1/2 inch of bark off – then chew it until it looks like a brush. People have been using this as a toothbrush snce the 15th century! I had no idea.
Check out the bristles. This is cool! Beks is going to but me one. This twig smells great – and you don’t put any toothpaste on it. Just rub the twig on your teeth – it is already loaded with … something Hahahahah, I need to get more info on this.
Speaking of obsessions…Ibbi was showing Beks and I video that some girl made him. It was a love video – she editited it. I have never seen anything so over the top in my life. It was awesome. I took a photo on one of the last shots of the video with Ibbi in it.
Hahaahha – the writing on the screen says I love you.
Lastly, I was reading the news in the studio today. When I came out I ran into Said Sellim ( head of Grozny TV ) . He looked great!!!!!!!!!!!! He was wearing kind of Chechen traditional clothing.

>The end of the week ( April 7th – 10th 2010 )

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During the day on Wednesday I was walking to Dom Pichati through the “Journalist Park” when I noticed that the name of Dom Pichati had been changed to the Chechen version. It’s now called Zorbanan Ts’ ah.

On Wednesday night I decided to go to Chernolechie and visit my friends. I had been working so much I hadn’t seen them in 1 month.
Fatima made a Chechen dish that is in season right now – I think it is called “Yizan Galnash”. I could be wrong…..

It is made from nettles, garlic shoots and fat from a cow or sheep with a lot of salt.
Fatima is making the dough for it now. The nettle mixture is put into round pieces of dough and looks like dumplings.
It tastes great!!!!!!
Fatima’s son is behind me and giving me rabbit ears in this photo.

Thursday morning started early. I had to be at dance and singing rehearsal at the Ministry of Culture by 9am .
Rehearsal was packed – all the young girls were there on this day. The little ones are so cute because they are just learning how to dance.
Here is the routine I am working on at the moment. I am recording a new song with Aimani’s ensemble. We will shoot a music video in the next week for it.
Dancing is such hard work. I had no formal training before and now I am dancing everyday on my toes like a ballerina – it hurts!!!!!
This is the part of the routine that I have difficulty with. After the 1st verse I have to go out and do a dance. Hopefully it will all come together by the time the video shoot is on.
And on Thursday night in editing – I caught the entire process of a guy breaking an apple in half. Artur did it. here is the process……
And finally, last night was Friday. My friend picked me up and we went to a place in Microyan. I was bored of going out to places in Grozny and wanted a change of scenery. This cafe was awesome. They had the best sound system and played the best music. The cabins were all private and it was decorated well. There is a song by Akon they were playing. I am going to download it from ITunes now!
This is the place in Microyan.
Me chilling out in a private cabin after a long week of work. Akon is playing in the background.

>MY LIFE AS A PEASANT

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Today I went to a remote part of the republic and worked the land. My show this week is about…spring. And all things associated with it. I haven’t completed the script but I knew I wanted this segment in it.
The day started with me and the crew turning up to the farm land at about 10am.
We asked one of the workers to bring some clothes for me to wear in the field. She did.

As I put these clothes on – I knew it was going to look really authentic.

I check my make up before the shoot starts.
This photo is of myself and the lady who brought me the clothes. Forget the camera putting on 10 pounds – I look like I put on 150 in this outfit!
I suppose this is what I would look like if I gained 150 pounds. This outfit does nothing for me. Hahhahaha.

I’m going to start the shoot with driving a tracker and ploughing the land.
1 problem – I don’t know how to drive. My crew is making fun of me because of this small obstacle.

I think I can pull it off – so I get in the tractor. Ibrashka is inside as well.

I am asking which pedal is STOP and which one is GO. I want to make sure I know how to STOP!
Me and new friends.

I have a burr stuck to my sock. They are also stuck to my skirt. They hurt….but that’s life in the field.

Later in the day – my next assignment is to sweep. I am not thrilled about it.

Sweeping is painful. Hahahha. I look like I am holding a hockey stick.

New friends………

I am knackered and not even 1/2 way through the day. I now have to scoop seeds into a bag and move the bags.

Next…. babies are being born now. I had to go check on the newborn sheep.
As I was trying to feed the adult sheep – they were becoming very aggressive and stomping their hooves at me. I thought they were going to attack me – but they didn’t.

We went into the field to liaise with a sheepherder. Since sheep are my favourite animal… I had to do traditional Chechen dancing with sheep all around me.
This is the sheep herder and his son. He rides an old school motorcycle and his son rides in a sidecar made of wood.
He needs the motorcycle in case a wolf comes and he has to scare it away. Not many wolves have been around lately. What a peaceful job….watching sheep graze all day in fresh air.
Last task – I must sow seeds into a field.
Ibrashka came along for the ride to film me. There was a tractor pulling the seed dispenser. My job was to make sure that the seeds were being distributed correctly. Sometimes I would throw buckets of seeds off the back of the dispenser – just for good measure.
And that folks…. was my life as a peasant.
BTW – last Friday I was in my apartment. I saw 2 shadows outside my windows with ropes. Hahaaha.
I threw open my curtains to find some window washers. I took a couple photos of one of them.

>Maximus Circus – Grozny

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The circus has been in town for a few weeks. Today I went to check it out and had a private show! Lions and tigers!!!

Xalid was the cameraman.

Even our driver came in to check it out!

This is the trainer Lubamir.
A great experience with extreme kittens!!

Ahhh, last night I was in editing and Ibbi broken an apple in half with his hands.

I saw Artyr do the same thing last week! I have never seen this done before. Apparently all the guys here have the skill to halve an apple almost perfectly with their hands !!!!

>Chechen Theatre

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I did a show about Chechen theatre today. I really have never been that into plays – they always seemed so boring to me. However, this was one of the best times I’ve had filming a show. Everyone on the cast of this play had great attitudes and were really good actors.
The year is 1935 – the revolution is over. I am playing the role of a peasant girl named Kelisat who lives in the highlands of Chechnya. I am from a poor illiterate family and have just received a degree. I can read and write. No one else in my family can. All the guys in the village want to marry me.
Kelisat ( AKA Chrystal ) I am nervous and worried I won’t be able to pronounce my lines in Chechen .
Rehearsing with Khava Akmadova ( director of this theatre group ) and other actors.
In this scene, I am proving to my family that I can write their names – they are so impressed – because none of my family can write their own names.

This is me and Khava Akmadova. She is also a singer and has a TV show on Grozny TV called Daimokh.

My next scene: I am going to the stream to get water. I have called all the guys that are in love with me there. I want to tell them all that I am getting married and that they should stop bugging me.

But..they continue to profess their love, sometimes trying to give me gifts.

And…some offer me a wonderful life. However, I have already made my decision and I leave them all standing there. I pick up my water jug and go home.

The cast of the play.

This is Kameta – she is the girl that plays the part of Kelisat ( I just took her spot for today )

Cool day – acting is fun !

>Presidential Sinkeram, Tamara Dadasheva and PONDAR (Дечиг пондар )

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Monday March 8th was Women’s Day. The President threw a cool sinkeram party – and I went. It was my first sinkeram party and everyone had to wear national dress. I was so nervous. They wanted me to sit in the front row – but of course I didn’t. I asked to sit on the back bench – I was so nervous – I thought I would have to dance. I was asked a couple times but I said no. I thought I would make a fool of myself. I don’t know how to dance with a guy – I can dance alone, but when there is a man dancing next to me I get too nervous and forget what I am supposed to do – hence, I am making a cultural program about it because I MUST know how to dance at a party.
I am watching it on Grozny TV . I love the way the mayor of Gudermes was dancing. He has an interesting personality. 

I was completely confused of the process at these types of parties. There is a mediator that will go to a man and he will tell her to ask a girl to dance or he will tell her to tell a girl he likes her and to look at him. Apparently, these parties are where a lot of couples meet and get married. I was confused when one woman kept coming over to me and saying that a guy liked me and wanted me to look at him. I was like…ok…and…..what is your point? Hahahahah. I had no clue what was going on. It felt extremely strange to me – culture shock big time. Only the next day did I find out some of what the process is.

This is my colleauge from the TV station. She was in national dress but she changed to normal clothes when the party was over.
On the right is Amina – she is also a colleauge from the Ministry of Press and Information, External Affairs and Policy – she’s Kazbek’s assistant. 

More friends from Grozny TV.

All of us are from the Ministry of Press and Info….

This party was fabulous! The best part about it was when Sahab Mejiedov was playing the dechig pondar.
The dechig ponder is the national instrument of Chechnya – it is gorgeous. I fell in love with it at this party. I HAD to meet Sahab ( he is the best pondar player here and an “Artist of the Chechen Republic”
Artur from the TV station sent me his number and Madina and I went to meet him today! My cameraman was Ruslan ( I decided to make an episode of my show on the pondar. I am going to learn how to play it. Sahab also ordered me one from Gudermes today and I am going to pick it up tomorrow!!!!!!!!
Sahab is teaching me a song and Ruslan the cameraman is writing it in tablature !
He also told me I needed to cut my nails off – so I did. I am so excited to play this instrument.
Me and Sahab with pondars!!
And… I had to meet Tamara Dadasheva today because she is QUEEN OF LOVZAR / SINKERAM MUSIC!!!
Me and Tamara Dadasheva
Ruslan and Tamara Dadasheva
Tomorrow I will go to the Ministry of Culture and meet Sahab and pick up my very own pondar!! I am also meeting Sahab’s son Ashab who is a famous dancer. He is going to teach me all about dancing !!!!!