Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Another day in the heat

June 22, 2006

Today, for the third day in a row, the sun beat down, heating our surroundings like a clay oven.

“I looked at the thermometer, in the shade, before the sun had fullen risen, and it already said 35 degrees,” Shavkat said.

“My dishes were in the shade and they were hot to the touch,” Nigora said.

I made it to the central market today and was stuck by the scent of ripe melons, rotting garbage, and sweat. I saw a cow’s head, with a bloody neck, lying on the ground near a butcher’s stand. A little later, a cart, piled with three cows’ heads passed me, the appendages shaking from the moment.

Basil, peppers, green onions, eggplant and cauliflower piled high on tables into a row of greenery. Apricots, cherries and peaches lined the fruit aisle. Raspberries were sold at the end, from large alumimum vats, the vendors with red hands, dyed from the juices.

In the afternoon, we ate peaches and apricots in the office. In the evening, our departing office manager fried strips of eggplant in egg, then used them to wrap slices of tomato and garlic. Nigora had made me this oily, but delicious creation, for breakfast this morning.

We had to hire a few new staff members today. We chose three people out of 23, one of whom came from a rural area outside of Nookat. Her family paid her tuition with the potato harvest, an especially productive Holland potato.

In the evening, I rested with the family on the porch. Over plov and our season’s first watermelon, we heard the stories Shavkat repeats over and over again – about his love of nature and the simple life (Nigora threatens to marry him off to a Kyrgyz women in a pasture during his retirement), about how he used to work non-stop during the summer, followed by almost nine months of playing cards, about how he wanted to start a tour company, but never felt that the situation in the country was secure enough.

“Sometimes I’m not very decisive,” he said. “If I was alone, I could be decisive, but I feel responsible for my family and for all the people who would work with me.”

“And in the time that you think about something, the opportunity goes by and we age,” Nigora said.

The soccer game between the U.S. and Ghana playing in the corner of the patio, slowly garnered our attention. Ghana scored its first goal, the U.S. followed suit, then the Ghanaians pulled ahead 2-1.

“The Americans have a bad trainer,” Habib said.

“No, it’s because of their psychology,” Shavkat said. “They are lazy and don’t run enough.”

“The Africans play so well because they know how to move. They are such good dancers,” Nigora said, as she wiggled her shoulders forward while seated.

I miss the idle evening talk, the way that dinner flowed into evening which flowed into bedtime, the evening breeze that lifts the lace curtain, the wind that knocks sweet, round, firm apricots, like grape tomatoes, from a neighbor’s tree onto Nigora and Shavkat’s roof for consumption.

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