Small Scenes of Central Asia 4

Winter is gray; Mondays are hard. The gloominess of Jalal-Abad on an especially overcast day is relieved by the sight of an older eje pushing a pram with a plaid basket and a mountain of neon pink cotton candy around the city. I saw her four times in one day, in totally different corners of the city.

My bounty from the sevet included four apples, already bruised and a bit mushy. I took them home and chopped them into an apple cake, hoping to impress my host brothers, who had enjoyed banana bread so much. I plugged in our huge easy-bake oven, but it didn’t feel like mustering up heat for my baking project. The next day, I came home to the smell of baked apple goodness. Thinking the oven was magically fixed, I pulled open its door, expecting a cloud of warm air and yummy smell – instead, I hear a beep and my apa pulling the cake out of the microwave. “This will be good with coffee,” she mused, helping herself to a second piece.

The windows of the marshrutka are fogged up, but I can still see a brother and sister fighting on the sidewalk through the mist. The young girl is shoving a chicken (alive) into a paket (plastic bag); the young boy is having a fit behind her. My bus drove away before I saw how they resolved the moment.

I often see young girls with shaved heads playing in the street. For months, I thought parents shaved their daughters’ hair to get rid of lice – only recently, I found out they do this until girls are 4 or 5 to make sure their hair grows back thicker and fuller. A young woman in my literature class has hair so long and so full that she braids it and then sticks the end in her coat pocket to keep it from bothering her.

While walking back from a delicious pizza lunch with other volunteers, we stumbled on a crowd of young people in bright traditional dresses. A few in beautiful white gowns with pointy hats were practicing a dance routine on a wide bridge; they were the first to see us and yell something along the lines of “The Americans are coming!” Who knows what they were doing, all dressed up near Toktogul Park, but they sure looked lovely and were so sweet when we walked over to say hello.

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