Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Of Uzbekistan: A Girl, a Boy, and a Bird.

My home for one night in the Nurata mountains was a guesthouse in the village of Hayat. This is part of a program that some development agencies started to try to use sustainable tourism to support the villagers in the mountain valleys. On a select few families' land, the development program had built a simple structure for housing a few guests. The one where I stayed even had a basic shower.

The family was courteous, and served me ridiculous amounts of food, all of it tasty. But they weren't really friendly, per se. The women served meals and cleaned up, as seems to be the role for women in Uzbekistan generally. The men did some work with the livestock and in the garden, and spent a fair amount of time drinking tea. The unmarried son was clearly assigned to be social with the guests, and sat with me at meals, and sat near me even when I was just leaning against a tree, reading a book and enjoying the fresh air. He also seemed to be assigned to trying to sell me additional services, such as a motorcycle trip to see some ancient petroglyphs, or renting a donkey to ride rather than hiking, or visiting a traditional Uzbek sauna. (In another halting conversation mixing my few words of Russian and his few words of English, it took some time to become clear that the "sauna" was maybe not the right word, and that "brothel" was maybe closer to the truth.)

This left the grandchildren of the family, pictured here, who were too small to have too much assigned work, and seemed to really enjoy hanging around and staring at me while I ate or read or whatever. They were more than willing photo subjects. I don't know why the girl's head was shaved. A lot of young girls had extremely short haircuts. The boys usually didn't, which makes me doubt it was lice-related, but it's hard to be sure. There was also the bird at the top of this entry, in a small wooden cage hanging from a tree -- I think more pet than food source. It may or may not have been a willing photo subject, but it didn't really have much choice.


Anonymous said...

What a marvelous adventure! It's great that you studied a bit of Russian in prep for Latvia.


Gil said...

At Noa's daycare there is a Mongolian baby that showed up with a shaved head one day. Turns out there is a Mongolian tradition to shave girls' heads when they turn one. Now, being that Mongolia and Uzbekistan are both "Far from the Inner Sunset", I'm sure that explains what you saw.

MLE said...

I love the photo of the little girl. She looks like she's really amused by something and even more amused that she's not going to tell you what it is.