Wednesday, April 06, 2005


This morning I woke up to a cover of snow that had fallen during the night, enclosing the green buds and various flowers in a light white blanket. Locals say that snow in April is very unusual here. And it’s especially unfortunate since it will affect the grape, nut and fruit crops.

“There was also a revolution here in weather,” an employee, Erlist, told me. “In 1990 when there was a revolution in the Republic of Georgia, there was an earthquake right afterwards.”

I made a quick trip to the market today. I especially noticed the cows heads turned upside down on the market floor. Hooves stood nearby, balanced against the wall. Birds twittered in the roof above the dried fruit and nut sellers, adding to the commotion of trade.

I bought raisins from the same person I always do. Sometimes it’s an elderly woman, sometimes her daughter, a second year student of English. Today it was the older woman.

In very poor Russian she told me, “The girl, my daughter, who works here, told me you are a good person,” as she handed me two hard pieces of an unidentified dried fruit (that are supposed to be good for the heart) as a gift.

As I was leaving, I carried my backpack in front of me and saw a man casually, but quickly, opening the zipper of the front pocket.

“Hey!” I yelled loudly at him in the crowd. “Thief!”

He was a sad-looking character, walking with a shuffle and using one hand to cover a wound over his mouth. He didn’t seem to be shamed by the attention.

I had lunch in a roasted chicken café. While I was waiting for the chicken to cook, a woman came in holding a pan full of burning juniper. She walked through the café, blowing smoke, then approached the owner. He scooped smoke with cupped hands over his head, removed his hat, and wiped his hands over his face. He and the café had been purified of bad spirits. He handed her a donation.

I’m struck by the absence of all the billboards featuring the President’s face. Malan told me they were blown up by gas bombs, gas-filled canisters that effectively burned the portraits, leaving the billboards empty. Some have been replaced by ads for cigarettes and tea. Others remain empty.

“We used to not have enough of those billboards,” Malan said.

I remember the giant face of Akaev that used to stare at me when crossing the central bridge across town, and the smaller portraits in the center of town and on the rural roads. The protestors did a better job getting rid of Akaev than they did Lenin, who still stands in the central square.

I find the atmosphere to be fresher and more relaxed without an authority figure looking over me all the time.

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