Small Scenes of Central Asia

Driving to the mountains with too many people in the car when we pass by a police road check. The 11-year old sitting on his mom’s lap in the front seat slides into the legroom of the passenger seat, while the driver fakes a motion to put on his seatbelt. Not a minute after we’ve driven by the police, everyone pops back to normal. It would require less effort to just wear a seatbelt in the first place, but I guess that takes away all the fun.

An old woman walks down the side road, with several recycled Coke bottles in her hand. She sings out “Ayyyyyran, suuuuuut,” alerting the street’s residents to the yogurt and milk she’s selling. As we pass each other, she smiles and tells me good morning in a similar sing-song voice, maybe just out of habit.

Preparing NesCafe for a morning meeting in the office, determining who will take one sugar or two. Mairambek, who declines the cup of instant coffee, tells us “I’m watching my health” and promptly pulls his fourth cigarette of the morning out of the box.

A baby sits on a toy car in the middle of the village street. Our car, definitely not a toy, honks at the baby to scoot toward his house, but the baby just stares until an older sibling comes to pull him away.

Our hosts couldn’t understand how we were full from so little plov, forgetting that we had spent half an hour dipping bread into tomato and onion salad and eating fresh bananas, cantaloupe, and nectarines. “It was only one kilogram!” they balked. “It takes 6 Americans to eat a kilogram of plov. 4 Kyrgyz people. 2 Uzbeks,” we were informed. Though our hosts might have been disappointed in our tiny stomaches, it was no problem that we left so much of the rice and sheep dish on the plate; the waitress packed up the leftovers into plastic grocery bags, tied up neatly for us to carry home.

What was supposed to be a quick snack while I waited for my host family to get home turned into a five-hour feast to celebrate one month in Jalalabad. Two bottles of wine, several rounds of toasts (all recorded on a Samsung phone with a blinding flash for posterity), and a performance of song and dance later, and it’s time for sleep.

Yurt through purpleplov tablesernyi mountains


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