Thursday, May 12, 2005

Rural life

I traveled past Nookat today to a village near Kyzyl-Kia. It has a population of 2,500 and according to the local I was with, most of the able adults moved to Russia to work.

“They all went broke on cotton last year and there is no work here, so everyone left.”

Children lined the streets in small clusters, showing that the one thing there is to do in town is reproduce. The former pre-school was closed due to lack of funds and bought out by a mosque.

“It’s bad,” the local said, “because now the kids just stay home.”

Near the school, children climbed a fence and balanced on tree branches, picking berries. Small red tulips burst into color along the roadsides and the fields were full of workers planting tobacco.

“Tobacco is a lot of work for very little money,” our driver, Malan, told me. “There used to be a company, Daimler, that bought a lot of tobacco, but now they buy very little. When the tobacco is ready, they have to pick it either early in the morning or late in the evening, when there is no sun. If they try to pick it when it’s warm and sunny, they can have problems from the fumes emitted from the plants.

“They bring the tobacco home and all the children in the family thread the leaves through a needle, then hang it up to dry. When it’s dry, the children have to roll each piece.”

Malan has sometimes been driving down the middle of the road lately. When I asked him why he preferred the center to choosing a lane, he pointed out the difference between the dashed and the solid white line.

“The solid line is like a wall,” he said. “That one can’t be crossed. But if it’s dashed, then it can be crossed. I can drive down it.”

Interesting how we can take the same rule and see it in different ways. I agree that a dashed line can be crossed, but I expect it to be crossed in the process of choosing a new lane. He views it as freedom to cross it continually, even to drive right down it.

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