now that i’ve completed the draft of my thesis (finally), i can catch my breath and take a step back. taking a step back somehow still intimately involves my “fieldsite.” while reading through my field notes from osh, i realized there were so many bits i couldn’t tie into my official academic output; i want to take this chance to come back to osh on this blog.
a few days before i was to leave osh, i took a walk with my friend, her young son in tow. she told me about the dishes she dreamed to try–pumpkin pie (pumpkin, sweet?) and fresh seafood. we trudged up towards holy mountain suleiman-too to visit a museum embedded in its side. as we walked past a graveyard cradled on the slopes of this millennia-old pilgrimage site yellowed by october, she pointed out her grandfather and great-grandfather’s graves; she said when she was a girl she loved coming to the museum on this mountain because she could look down and see the whole city, and in spring she could see red poppies dotting the hills all around. then she once again sighed to me, “i really want to go, really. i want to go anywhere, leave from here.” she had been saying this since our first meeting and i finally asked her why she so wanted to leave. “because of the war,” she said, “before the war i really loved osh, my city, my fatherland.” what changed? she thought for a minute and said, “now there is no hope.” when she said hope her eyes flashed like she’d really captured the right word.
on our descent, we detoured through cheremushki. my friend said, “my husband’s best friend’s house was here. he was a lawyer like my husband. his house was set on fire in the war and he took his family including a pregnant daughter-in-law and small grandkids to hide in the cellar. the house collapse and they all died–twelve people died.”
the day i left, i took a shared taxi to bishkek but we first stopped in cheremushki to pick up a couple–a kyrgyz man from bishkek and his uzbek wife whose family home was in cheremushki. ruslan, a young kyrgyz guy going to bishkek for his friend’s birthday, waited in the car with me as our driver went to help the new passengers with their bags. ruslan kept blasting the same two club songs on repeat (with some pretty explicit lyrics) pumping his fists and promising me a good time in the bishkek clubs (as a side-note, despite a very good tip from my advisor, “never turn down an invitation,” i did not go). he was clearly very excited about his trip. meanwhile a large group of old uzbek men filed out of the mosque; cheesy electro beats rocked our tiny car; dressed in their velvety traditional robes and embroidered skullcaps, the old men walked slowly with hands folded behind their backs; they flowed around our car like river water over a rock. the juxtaposition was so strange. then ruslan lowered his voice and said, this neighborhood is bad because uzbeks live here. i nearly burst into tears.
my life has now really become entangled with lives here, i thought, i’ve thrown my lot in here. my heart felt so heavy; i was loathe to leave. once again i had to bid farewell to my osh, for the time being.