There’s a new rule this year that students at public schools must wear uniforms. Before the rule, it might have looked like students were in uniform; everyone wore black pants, a white shirt, and looked a thousand times more put together than American kids at public school. The girls came home from the big bazaar in Bishkek, excited to try on and show off their new school clothes. Albina, the 11-year old, stood tall and proud, with her jacket buttoned and socks pulled up tight. 8-year old Samira was a bit more sassy, moving outside the box of her normal personality, and whipped the jacket over her shoulder while spinning around.
While walking past the mosque with another volunteer, we could hear noises coming from the minaret’s loudspeaker. It seemed a little early for ezan, the call to prayer, but the timing of the five prayers a day changes with the seasons. Only once we heard giggles did we realize that local kids must have been playing with the microphone.
My host apa asked me to come with her to get groceries the other day. The first store was selling only old, hardened sausage. The second store, which is much smaller and usually offers less selection, had the fresh sausage she wanted. The storekeeper casually slid the freezer’s glass door, which had a half-drunk juz gram (100 gram plastic cups of vodka for 20 som, or about 33 cents – you make a judgment about the quality of that booze) sitting on top. The old man drinking it didn’t mind, but the three teenagers waiting to buy a bottle of wine and lemonade cared that it took so long to pay and take their party elsewhere.
Parked in a car with my host family outside a corner-store in Jalalabad, waiting for host apa to buy bread. Out the window, I see a man squatting on the sidewalk outside an auto-repair shop. He is doing ablutions with water leaking from a pipe; spitting and gargling and snot rocketing right onto the concrete.
On the last leg of the journey from Bishkek to International, find a taxi driver who is eager to leave. “Gettik! Davai! Let’s go let’s go!!!” There’s a traffic jam behind the train tracks; what are the chances that the car that pulls up next in line is carrying my host family? Almas, the 10-year old son, calls out “COLLEEN EJE!” The driver looks confused, “Is that your teacher or something?” But one by one, the occupants of the backseat – two of my host sisters and my host mother – peak their head forward to say hello and inform the driver that I am their sister, their daughter.