Saturday, November 12, 2005


The past few days have gone by so quickly, with unfortunately little time to actually gather with people. Sometimes I almost feel again as though I live here (“I’m going home,” I tell people, when I’m headed to Nigora and Shavkat’s), but always in the back of my mind is the fact that I’m soon returning to Bishkek and that this is probably the longest time I’ll be able to spend in Osh for quite a while. I pass many people on the street that I know and recognize. And I wish I could tell them all that they touched me during my stay here. There is something about the people here that moves me – a kindness, a simplicity, a vibrancy, the courage to continue on despite the uncertainty, a connection with the place and with their families that merge the individuals with the environment.

Of course, I recognized that some things are better in Osh. The drivers here really are awful. And it truly is cold to have to walk outside for a shower or to use the toilet. Granted, I enjoy seeing the ducks and listening to their music on the way, but I think anyone would choose an indoor toilet and shower if given the opportunity.

Weddings are back underway here. This morning I heard the fast-paced, loud, eager sounds of the horns and drums of a neighborhood wedding. Unbelievable that there are still neighbors eligible to be married. Two staff members got married this week alone, and several others are actively looking for potential mates. I heard about one staff member, Melis, who gave himself 100 days to get married. That period expired November 20th, so his coworkers were pressuring him to find someone fast. This is the same guy who told me a few months ago that he was planning on stealing a bride as soon as he was granted vacation.

There was an agricultural exhibition in town for the past three days and the city filled with rural men wearing dark clothes and kalpaks.

Malan, our driver, told me it was obvious these were rural people. “People in the city don’t like wearing kalpaks,” he said.

The agricultural market didn’t last long. I had planned to go see it during lunch one day, but it had already disappeared. It only lasted half a day.

“As soon as they mayor and governor came by and looked, everyone packed up and went home,” Malan said. He was also hoping to buy some fresh country vegetables. “The poor people didn’t have any chance to come buy things. After all that time they spent setting up things.”

Many of the seminar attendees, including my German colleague, were without light (and thus, electric heaters) during my time in Osh. Luckily our house was immune from the outages. Shavkat said it was because our house is located near a school. It was very rewarding to see a large group of leaders gathered from throughout the Osh and Jalalabat regions. All of them had worked for between one and three years and it was rewarding to see the building of a young and promising leadership layer throughout the region.

The big news during my visit was that one of Bayaman’s relatives set himself on fire in the central square in Jalalabat. He wanted his relatives who were involved in the shootout at the Hotel Alai released from prison, and he wanted the government to find Bayaman’s killer. He didn’t die, but apparently burned himself pretty well and caused havoc locally.

In the evenings, I sat drinking tea with the family, and joining in on their discussions. On my second night, the boys were criticizing Shavkat. He hadn’t worked since I’d left and he was resistant to the idea of Nigora starting a business. He’d recently spent $2,000 to buy the Tico, but wasn’t actively using it as a taxi – saying he needed to learn the city first.

“Next year Osh will be full of Russians,” Shavkat said, clinging to his dream of opening a tour firm.

“You keep saying that and every year they don’t come,” Habib said. “The Russian’s aren’t coming.”

When Habib criticized the lack of income in the family, Shavkat asked why he didn’t contribute to the family.

“Because you are the man of the house and it’s your responsibility to support your family. When I have children, I will support them.”

With his manhood insulted, Shavkat went drinking the next day and was asleep by the time I got home.

Nigora found a space to open a small market stall for 25,000 som ($500),
but Shavkat had only given her 16,000 som. I encouraged her to get the more expensive place, for the higher income she could earn there would quickly make up for the difference in price. Nigora didn’t think Shavkat would agree. “I’m worried that if we buy that, we won’t have any money left at home.”

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