Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ak Emir Bazaar

Of all the bazaars in Bishkek, I like Ak Emir the best. It's only a twenty minute walk from my apartment, which is nice, but that's not why. I like it because it's small, it's not muddy, and the sellers take pride in their displays, constructing pyramids of oranges, apples, eggplants, potatoes and garlic and guarding them with care. I like the pancake seller and the Korean salad stands and the little smoked meat stalls. The produce is generally good quality, but you have to watch carefully, or even be assertive and choose it yourself, else the sellers will deftly switch it for something bruised or second-rate that they keep behind the stacks for just such an occasion as a silly foreigner. That's to be expected, so you keep a careful eye on them and act sure of yourself, and they won't pull tricks. The idea of developing a repeat customer base has never occurred to most market sellers, but I get the sense that these ones, who are beginning to recognise me, might not be averse to the idea.

I also like Ak Emir because many of the vendors, particularly the young ones, understand English, even if they don't speak it. However, I'm determined that the next time I go I'll speak only Russian, and not rely on gestures either. I tried this morning, but fell into English at the first difficulty. I promptly forget my rehearsed lines under pressure. However, I did end up with a kilo of decent-looking oranges, half a pumpkin, some sad-but-there's-life-in-it coriander, a jar of nice honey, shiny eggplant and, amazingly, a plastic container of chickpeas. This has the makings of a delicious dinner, so long as I can get my oven to roast my vegetables, rather than turn them to charcoal. It would appear that with the passing of Winter, I can actually choose the produce that appeals to me, rather than relying on potatoes and carrots and apples. This is extremely exciting. So, too, was the discovery of porridge oats (sadly, Em, no spurtles).

I don't often do this, because wearing white iPod plugs in your ears is a blatant advertisement that you're a) foreign and b) comparatively well-off, but I did listen to music as I walked today. Jon Foreman's four seasonal albums are rapidly becoming the soundtrack to my break. His music is beautiful through and through, and I love to wake up to it, walk around to it, do the dishes to it, go to sleep with it. If you're looking for some new music, and you like simple, wistful, beautiful folk songs, I can recommend these four albums which are named after the seasons. They're listed inexpensively on iTunes and they'll enrich your Sunday mornings or your evenings or whatever time it is that you listen to music.

Having packed all my groceries away, I'm going to wander in the sunshine for a bit, maybe take a detour to school to see if any packages have arrived for me. It's my birthday soon, and several people have indicated in less than subtle terms that I should expect mail in various sizes. I'll try to maintain a casual demeanor to the guards as I stroll through the gates, but really, I'm desperately interested in the mail that may or may not be on my desk.

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