Thursday, December 30, 2004


I’ve just spent my second night with my new Uzbek family and things are getting easier. They bought a small portable heater during my absence, but even better, they lit the stove last night. It was wonderful to finally feel warm and I enjoyed learning how to remove the metal rings and to put in chunks of shiny black coal with the metal tongs. It’s my first experience with a coal stove and I think it works pretty well. The coal is less heavy and less work than chopping wood.

Nigora, the woman of the household, told me she prefers coal to other options. “I have neighbors who keep everything neat and tidy by using a gas stove,” she said. “But then the city cuts off the gas and they start to freeze, for one day, two days, a week. They run around shivering and saying how cold it is while we stay warm. I don’t like to deal with such psychological stress.”

I’ve made more progress unpacking and it’s starting to feel a little more like home. I’ve also started to get into routines that make things easier here – always go to the bathroom before leaving work (taking advantage of the indoor toilet), hang my bath towel and what I plan to wear the next day over the heater before going to bed, hang onto any paper trash that could be burned, take a hunk of bread with me when heading to the toilet or shower to build better relations with the dog that barks at me on the way.

There are still some aspects that I’ll have to get used to. I have almost no privacy, as Nigora comes in every hour or two, either to check on the stove, or to bring me tea or something to eat. I have no access to running water without going outside to the toilet. I noticed the absence of that yesterday while finding something sticky as I unpacked my suitcase. I had nothing to wipe it off with. And of course, leaving the warmth of my room to head across the courtyard to the bathroom is never very appealing. To get to the shower this morning, I felt as though I was bundling up for a trip to the Artic. Stepping outside into the morning blackess with plastic sandals over my socks, I walked through a layer of snow that had fallen during the night. Luckily, once I made it to the shower, I found scalding hot water and was very appreciative of that. Returning to my room in a winter jacket, with a towel wrapped around my head, I passed Nigora, who was sweeping the snow off the sidewalk.

There are also the unique sounds of residential life. A car started up across the street and the two caged turkeys gobbled in unison. I’m not sure whether either of them will live past New Year’s. Through my bedroom window, I hear the steady chirp of birds and the banging of pots, as Nigora cooks on her outside stove.

Now that it’s warmer, I think I’ll like living here. It’s excellent in terms of safety, it’s nice to have dinner prepared and I like having someone outside work to talk with. But best of all, I hope I’ll be able to learn more about local life and culture. If I were back in my apartment, I don’t know what I’d do for New Years, possibly the most important holiday of the year here. But now that I’m living with a family, I automatically have people to spend the holiday with and I’m sure it will be much more interesting.

No comments: