The smoke seemed to create a kind of fog as I walked outside the building. The tangy taste in the back of my throat, and the quickening of my heart made me realize someone was burning trash nearby. I had almost poisoned myself in Ukraine by burning trash and now, whenever I smelled burning trash, my body immediately started reacting to it.
I turned the street and started walking towards the fountain that contained what looked like an Indian goddess, which stood across from a she wolf nursing two boys. I hadn’t decided yet where I would go, but I knew that I had to get out of my house for a few hours.
Tajikistan is not a bad place to walk around in. Most of the cities dont grow up, they grow out, like the waist line of America or (according to BBC) China. The houses range from recently rebuilt buildings, to those built around the time of World War 2, to those built just after the Russian revolution, or before. I realized when I was in college that I enjoy looking at architecture, not really doing anything with it, but I liked looking at it, seeing how people had made a home or a building into a piece of themselves.
As I walked past the fountain I decided I would walk towards one of my favorite places, the Panshanbe market. The main part of the market is housed in a pink, my mom would call it a sick pink (because the sight of the color makes you sick to your stomach), building with the hard realist statues from the Soviet Union standing on the roof by the doors inside. Directly above the entrance there is also what seems to be a dome cut in half, thats been beautifully tiled. The market is the insanity of capitalism that you can not get in America, unless you stand on the stock exchange floor.
When I first came to the market, I was overwhelmed. The amount of people selling fruits and vegetables, lepushka (a local flat bread), meat, dried fruits and nuts, spices, tea, candy, cookies, it all overwhelmed me as I walked on the main floor. Hundreds of people selling, and hundreds of people buying in a curiously clam and yet hurried way. Young boys pushing carts with bread or someones purchases forcing their way through the crowds. I looked out of place, and I felt like a giant light at night, and that the peoples eyes were moths that were attracted to me right away. I didnt really enjoy it, and I have a feeling neither do lights.
My favorite part of the market is not the color scheme, which I think some Communist Party boss decided on so that it would look like a Leningrad (now again St. Petersburg) palace, its a small round piece on the outside on the western side of the building. Its a picture of Lenin and Stalin’s heads standing next to each other looking very stern and purposeful North… towards Russia. The reason I like this is three fold. One, it show cases, incase you needed more examples, of Tajikistan’s past, linked to Russia and the Soviet Union. The Second is that most buildings in FSU (former Soviet Union… not a university) have dates on them, kind of a made on date. This one has 1954 on it. Making it a building that was finished after Stalins death (1953) but before Khurshev’s secret speech caused most Communists to tear down Stalin statues (1956). and the Third reason is tied to the first, in the FSU you will see lots of images of Lenin, but very few images of Stalin. In fact, in front of the Simferopol train station there sits a statue of Lenin, and when I first got there the statue was brown and tan (now its grey), and you could see that its head was not the original head on the statue, making one think that Stalin had originally sat there and that his head was cut off and replaced by Lenins sometime in the past.
But here is Stalin and Lenin, Stalin in the front, Lenin behind him. It gives one an idea of what it might have been like around 1952-53 after the Great Patriotic War (Soviet Unions name for WWII), with Stalin having achieved God like status.
As I walked past the market, the minaret across the square errupted into noise, and I jumped a little. I continued on walking through the people from “the village” who spilled into the street as if the market was a bucket with a hole in it.
I continued walking not knowing where to go, but I continued on, turning here and there. I suddenly decided I’d try and walk to the Somon market, a market that is about 5 km out of town, but is also known as the Chinese Tajik friendship market (most of the signs are in Russian, Tajik, Chinese and English).
I began walking and thinking about the town, and how everyone thought it was funny I walked everywhere when I had so much money and could take cabs. I thought of how sad it is not to be able to see the stores I drive by. I thought of growing up in suburbia and how I am sure if I walked to school people would look at me like I was crazy, or high, or both.
I was thinking about where I grew up when I hit my first cotton field. Not far out of the center of town, about a 50 minuet walk, the cotton fields start. I began to walk towards them and then suddenly realized that this is where I had wanted to go to all along. I had wanted to go to cotton fields and look at cotton, never having really looked at it before. I wanted to pick some, and see how it was done.
I remember hearing about cotton when I was younger and just was hypnotized by the plant that grew all our clothes and caused so much pain to so many people.
I walked threw fields for a while. Stopping to examin cotton, stopping to watch work groups pick it from the age of 8 to 80. Then I went home, to my air conditioned apartment, and began to read again. The smoke outside had cleared.