Thursday, December 07, 2006

Coming Back to Osh

It’s both good and hard to be home. The company can’t be beat and the evening conversations around the dinner table are enlightening and missed. In the past two nights, we’ve had plov, boiled duck, homemade raspberry jam, home-baked round loaves of bread, and fried apple pastries. We’ve talked about tourism, about the political situation, about the educational system, about Uzbekistan, about Kyrgyz/Uzbek relations. They are all kind, energetic, thoughtful and insightful.

But I’ve definitely gotten unused to the simple living conditions. Last night I ate dinner, indoors, with a blanket over my shoulders and another over my head. It was so cold walking out, across the icy pathway, to the bathroom, that it’s easy to skip on teeth-brushing or other evening rituals, with the goal of just getting back inside where it’s warm. Knowing that the bathroom was available to me until morning made it seem that much more desirable.

My paper-hoarding habits returned, with my seeing any possible piece of unneeded paper as a potential source of heat.

The stove and heavy blankets kept me warm at night, but by morning the fire had already died. And I needed to go back out in the cold to take a shower. Hot water poured from the spigot, but the tiles below, on which I went barefoot, were frigid.

I stayed under the spray for a long time, dreading the thought of having to drip in the unheated bathhouse, then walk back outside across the courtyard to my now unheated room.

As soon as I got back to my room, I crawled under the covers, finding bed the warmest place. Nigora came in to bring me tea and soon after carried in the small space heater. I felt bad causing her to worry.

For the first time I went into the regional administration building today, the hulking white square structure across from the Lenin statue. A long strip of cloth, which looked like a rag, ran down the front steps. A similarly ragged cloth lay across the four flights of steps leading upstairs. I suppose it was to protect the carpets from wet feet. But it looked tacky.

The building itself was nice, with high ceilings, red carpets under the rags, and large golden nameplates on the doors. But it smelled like a stolovaya, with the scent of cabbage and lamb fat wafting through the halls.

I saw many of our staff. And it was especially rewarding to see the people I’d hired myself in the past 1-2 years, as well as other inexperienced staff I’d worked with and trained, now in positions of responsibility.

“The results increased by three times since I’ve been in charge,” one man in his mid-20s said with evident pride.

Another young woman from a rural area, who looked quiet and modest in a headscarf, I know is actually extremely intelligent. She got a scholarship to a high-quality Turkish university in Bishkek, speaks fluent English, and is now in charge of a team of one.

“I’ve selected another person who is now in training and we’ll soon get one more employee,” she said, her eyes glowing at her team’s growth.

I could see their confidence, their leadership, and their professional development in their appearance and demeanor, not to mention their dialogue. Best of all, a market for such people, with experience, knowledge and skills, is starting to develop. While before, only connections mattered. Now, some employers are clearly willing to pay for the people who can do the job, whether they have connections or not. This trend ensures a promising future, professionally and financially, for our staff and I’m happy to see them gain such opportunities.

It’s cold in Osh now and there is not much to enjoy in terms of the scenery. Like usual, it’s the people who really make Osh the welcoming and colorful place it is.

1 comment:

Alyclepal said...

I have just finished some wool mittens and am finishing a wool hat. It's really too hot (73 degrees yesterday afternoon this week before Christmas)and I would be happy to send them for you if you could use them although I don't know how long it'd take to get to you! Email me privately if you would like. Lisa in NC