Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Family news

Habib has been named class leader. He replaces a girl who was originally named the leader, then failed to fulfill her duties.

He was proud of his new position. His responsibilities include negotiating with teachers on behalf of classmates and serving as the liaison between students and administrators.

“Do other students respect that position or do they get jealous?” I asked.

“They’ll be jealous,” the quiet Lutfulo piped in. “You’ll have nothing but problems. Why did you put yourself in that position?”

“I won’t have any problems,” Habib said. “There are basically only three active people in my class. One was the girl who used to be leader and the other agreed to be the deputy. Half the students don’t know Russian and the rest don’t care.”

Nigora was proud. “They usually choose the smartest person in the class to be the class leader,” she said. She looked at Lutfulo. “Lutfulo is even smarter. Why aren’t you class leader?” she asked him.

“I don’t want those problems,” he said. But more likely, he probably lacks the outgoing personality needed for the leader.

Nigora and Shavkat are seriously looking into buying a selling space at the market. They went and found that prices had increased from 10,000 ($250) to 15,000 ($375) som in the last month alone.

“We’re thinking of buying a couple of selling places. Nigora can sell from one and we can hold onto the others and sell them in a few months,” Shavkat said.

His geological company is low on work right now. They are shutting down one operation. He makes $150 a month on a retainer basis, which isn’t bad by local standards. But he considers it a pittance. Now that he has more time though, and less income generating opportunities, he seems to be more supportive of Nigora’s venture.

I’m hoping she goes through with it and that it’s successful.

There has been a lot of talk about money lately at the dinner table. In September, the family spent almost $1,000 – largely on repairing Shavkat’s car after his accident and on entering Habib into the university. That’s quite a large amount and they felt the sting. Habib recently asked for $5 to go to a party at a restaurant with his classmates. This $5 has been discussed and joked about almost nightly.

“Habib is our most expensive child,” Nigora said. “He always seems to need money. Lutfulo on the other hand never asks for it.”

“Sitting at a cafĂ© for $5?” Shavkat repeatedly asked in awe. “Where do they think they get this kind of money?”

“It’s only one time,” Habib said.

“Yes, once now. Then it will be New Years, then Men’s Day, Women’s Day, student’s day, some other kind of holiday.”

The family is not wealthy, but they are comfortable by local standards. The fact that they have a sit-down toilet (even though you have to go outside to get to it) and the ability to take a hot shower daily (even though that requires a walk in the cold as well) is pretty nice by local standards.

One evening we had a talk about bride stealing.

“Everybody talks about it, but I don’t know of anyone who has stolen somebody,” Habib said, with teenage derision. “That only happens in the mountains.” This was just after he said he expected 75% of the girls in his class to get married before graduation.

I told him of the several cases I’d come across in the year I’d been in Osh, including our own staff members stealing each other.

The whole family, and especially Nigora, really looks down on the practice. But they are Uzbeks and the Uzbeks don’t practice bride stealing.

“If the Kyrgyz can be faulted for bride stealing,” she said, “our weakness is that we often marry relatives. Luckily, my family didn’t allow that. But Shavkat’s family did. And he has a sister who married a cousin. All three of her children are abnormal. They got certified as invalids. They look normal from the exterior, but even when they were babies, they lacked the ability to tell when they were full. They would just eat constantly, then throw it up later.”

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