andijan | uzbekistan

It’s not the flocked wallpaper or the massive cream and gold Persian rug on the floor or the drapes embroidered with crystals beneath the chandelier of your apartment.  It’s not the red velveteen toshaks with their matching pillows.  It’s not the eighth floor of the new bulding still under construction.  It’s not the ten liter water bottles you carry from Macro or the uchuch you take for 3000 som from behind EVOS to the INCETTI.  It’s not the shop windows of manikins in blue and pink floorlength hijab next to those in skinny jeans and tunics.  It’s not the taxi pit with the guys yelling Asaka! Baluchi! Jalaquduq! It’s not the smell of petrol or of shashlik grilling on skewers in front of Mosaffa or of samosas frying in a vat of oil on Amir Segur.  It’s not the great statue of Babur mounted on his horse in front of the Andijan train station.   It’s, rather, because the speeding taxis down the double wide street blink their headlights so you can cross.  Because the students in a class you walk into stand up to greet you. Because in the registration office,  the beautiful girl with an indigo band beneath her white scarf, eyes lined in black,  takes your US passport–the first she’s ever held–in shaking hands.  Because walking down the street, a boy in a black jeans jacket and running shoes says “what’s your name?” and says he’s never spoken to a foreigner before.  Because when you get into a taxi, the driver greets you Asallahmalecum and because the old man with his square black dopi smiles at you with a hand over his heart.  Because Eshnut in his great fur hat greets you at the gate with a grin, hosht kellisiz. Because on the way back from your teacher observation in Quergonteppa,  Olim stops for the valley’s famous lemons and because Shokizjon invites you to his family’s home to make sumulak for Navruz.  Because Saodot runs to get a key made for your red-carpeted office where an American flag and an Uzbek flag in gold plastic holders stand paired at the front of the massive desk and because the girl who cleans wishes you good health, a long life, and much success, smiling with her grill of gold, proferring a round loaf of naan speckled with sesame seeds. It’s because when your husband Ebrahim goes out into the street, everyone he meets calls him Brother.