Thursday, October 06, 2005

Shavkat Loses His Job

Today Shavkat went to work and was told that since his geological company hasn’t found any gold in the area, there will be no major operations in the near future. He was told to consider himself free until spring.

So not only does he lose his $150 a month salary, they are losing the $180 a month I pay them. Together, that’s a tough hit. But now Shavkat is fully in support of Nigora’s new business venture.

“He doesn’t think it’s very likely I’ll have much success though,” she said. “He’s not very respectful of trade. He’s spent all his life working with tourists, alpinists and geologists and has become a sort of wild person.”

Today they spoke to the person who owns the land in an area where they are interested in selling and tomorrow he will show them a good spot.

Tonight for dinner we had a wonderful Uzbek corn soup, with little cobs of unsweet maize inserted in the soup, together with corn kernels, potatoes and small chunks of meat. That was followed by a late season watermelon that I brought home. We sat out on the porch, people coming and eating whenever they arrived. Together, we caught up on each other’s news and listened to the sound of the mosque calling worshippers to prayer from far off in the dark sky. I’m really going to miss those moments.

We’re now in the third day of Ramadan. I don’t notice it so much since I’m not fasting this year. I thought it started on the 5th of the month and it turns out it started on the 4th.

Nigora held the fast for one day. She said that the neighbor women were all planning to fast and were having a contest to see who could lose the most weight. Faruh also lasted for one day. Shavkat bragged about how he could go nine days without eating, but didn’t last a single day on the fast. No one at work is fasting.

There seem to be a less buyers at the food market during the day and I try to not eat conspicuously out in the open in the day. But other than that, it hasn’t had much impact on my life here.

Today I got home with the police officer/taxi driver who has taken me home several times before. I came right out aerobics into the taxi in my shorts, which I know is culturally borderline, but I’m too lazy to change back into pants just for the ride back home.

Obviously, this driver hadn’t had many passengers in short shorts before and he asked all kinds of questions about aerobics and what type of body I thought was attractive. Then he said, “You should be careful. Someone could steal you.”

“That’s illegal,” I said. “It’s against the laws of Kyrgyzstan. You’re a policeman. You know the laws.”

“Yes, but it happens.”

“Do people ever come in and complain about a kidnapping?” I asked.


“Do you help them?”


“What do you do?”

“First we listen to the situation and try to understand what happened.”

“Does it ever happen that you put a man in jail for kidnapping a woman?”


“How often?”

“Not very. If people fight the case through the end, it’s possible to put someone in jail. But usually people don’t follow it through until the end and it’s very rare for someone to end up in jail.”

There are several reasons for this. A big one, I’d guess, is pressure from family members and neighbors who think kidnapping is OK. Another, I would venture, is the unsupportive atmosphere they are likely to receive among the almost all male police force, many of whom accept kidnapping as a local tradition.

Today as I left aerobics, I walked by the wrestlers and was surprised to see at least three girls there. Two had their arms locked together and were busy trying to throw each other on the mat.

This morning as I biked to work, I saw a boy on a donkey carrying a large cart load of hay. A foreign car was behind him on the narrow road and was unable to pass the donkey. So, instead of accepting the situation and waiting a bit, the car pulled right behind the cart and honked several times, as if the boy could make the donkey go faster. I realized that I’d be unlikely to see many scenes that day in a typical day in Bishkek.

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