Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Reacclimating to Osh

I’m getting back into the Osh lifestyle, spending the weekend at home with my family and finishing my first day of work. I’m still jetlagged, rising at 5 and going to bed at eight or nine daily. But I’m slowly returning to the rhythm of Osh life.

Unlike my last home vacation, when a revolution took place in my absence, these last two weeks have been rather quiet. The President was inaugurated shortly before I left and life seems to be continuing quietly.

The season has progressed and the fall harvests are beginning to come in. It’s now the height of watermelon season, a big treat for me after the pale, tasteless watermelon I found in the U.S. On my way home from the airport, the first thing I did was to buy a giant watermelon for 75 cents. I’ve since reverted to the habit encouraged by my family of slicing up a watermelon for dessert every evening.

Nigora’s new business is still petering along. I had thought we might go on a picnic this weekend. But she had an order for dishes and was going to Andijan on Sunday to fulfill it. But when the rest of the family wanted to go to Kara-Suu (on the Kyrgyz side) to buy back-to-school clothing, she decided that was acceptable, though her profit would be lower. She couldn’t find all the dishes she needed and only made a $5 profit. She plans a real trip to Andijan this weekend and since I’ll soon be getting an Uzbek visa, I hope I can join her one Sunday. I’d love to see firsthand the process of the cross-border dishes trade. I’d also like to see Andijan, the site of the massacre by government troops just a few months ago.

“People forget very quickly,” Shavkat said last night, when Nigora spoke of how normal Andijan is.

“I doubt the people in Andijan have forgotten quickly,” I said.

School started September 1, so all three boys are back in school. Faruh is now in the seventh grade. He got a new teacher, an older Russian woman who used to teach at a sewing institute. She seems to be quite popular. Habib began his university studies. He is studying in the same institute as his older brother, Business and Management, but in the Management of Organizations faculty. And Lutfulo moved on to his second-year of university study in Finance and Credit.

I rarely spend a full day at home, so this weekend gave me a good chance to listen to the rhythm of Construction Street, that helped to carry me back into the rhythm of life in Osh. I usually don’t hear the 5 a.m. call to prayer, except when I’m jetlagged. The first call of the morning comes around 8, the high-pitched wailing voice (almost always female) advertising airan. These women carry two, worn, heavy bags filled with fresh milk, sour cream, cottage cheese, and yogurt from the countryside and they come every morning.

Shavkat and Nigora took turns going to the anniversary of a neighbor’s mother’s death – first the men, then the women. Nigora didn’t invite me to attend, but she brought me back a little meat tucked into a piece of bread and a piece of candy wrapped in golden orange foil.

At 11:15, I heard a young man outside my window. He was yelling in a punchy voice, as if giving instructions to a sports team – tomatoes, watermelon, peaches, and whatever other produce he had in stock. Instead of going to the market, some farmers drive directly into neighborhoods. They shout out what they have, and those interested can come out and buy large quantities without having to lug it home from the market. The prices are about the same as what they would pay in the central market, cheaper than what they’d pay at neighborhood stalls. Nigora often purchases from such vendors during the day.

At lunch time, another airan call came, this time from a younger woman, and the cycle repeated through the afternoon. I went to bed with the sound of the muezzin, completing the song.

The afternoons are still very warm and sunny, but in the evenings, the cool
bite of fall is already apparent. I’m starting to treasure the ability to walk, bike and play outdoors and try to take advantage of it fully during the final months.

Yesterday I played tennis in Osh for the first time. It was great to find the tennis courts hidden away, not far from where I used to work, but difficult to find anyway. They were surrounded by trees that had already shed their goldish-orange leaves and the smell of composting filled the air.

There were two clay courts. We played on a black asphalt court, with a sagging net. The rises, fall and cracks in the asphalt often made the ball take some surprisingly turns. But it felt wonderful, and almost surreal, to be playing tennis in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. A local Peace Corps volunteer had gotten donations of balls and racquets and started providing lessons to children three times a week for 25 cents per lesson. An even nicer concept than me getting to play tennis in Osh is the local children (apparently, mostly girls) having the opportunity to learn and to play.

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