Uzbekistan – At Luneczka’s place

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At Luneczka’s place we sleep with our feet under the table. The table is low and square and covered with a thick, heavy coverlet. Under the table there’s a hole in the floor where Luneczka pours hot ember. We all hide our feet under the coverlet and stretch out on soft beddings covering ourselves with warm blankets because nights in the mountains are still cold.

Luneczka stops me on the road where I cycle slowly uphill and she despairs that I must be very tired.

„You’ll eat some bread and kefir. You’ll rest,” she says concerned taking me home.

Getting to her house is the most difficult thing on my road full of uphills. The house stands on a hill by the road and we need to climb a steep and bumpy path to reach it. We both push my bike: I gasp, Luneczka is joyous.

„Come on, I will help,” she cries out.

Beyond a wooden gate there is a clay, village house and some garden patches. The house has five or six chambers accessible from a long porch. Each chamber belongs to a different part of the family. The kitchen is common and is situated in a bunkhouse nearby. Further, there is a cowshed and an outside toilet.

„Bring chai, quickly, quickly!” Luneczka rushes her 10-year-old daugther.

Inside, on clay walls there are cloth curtains. Luneczka takes out a table cloth and food from wooden shelves behind them. She serves three types of bread, one harder then another. Local bread, if not freshly baked, becomes so hard that you can easily harm someone with it. Luneczka peels apples and brings fresh milk vigorously.

„You need to have strength,” she says adding lots of sugar to my tea and milk.

Lots of children peep into the chamber and other women of the family come inside.

„She’s come from Poland. On a bicycle,” she explains happily to everyone.

Women just nod their heads in disbelief, the kids play around my bike trying to see their faces in the mirror. Luneczka springs up to carry my bike inside.

„They play around, they are kids, they don’t understand,” she explains worried about my belongings.

The darkness falls and the lights are lit in the chamber and with the lights also a small TV. Luneczka sings along with the musicians from the screen.

„And the book? Where’s your book?” she suddenly remembers, calling to her daughter.

The girl brings her English schoolbooks and reads out some words from them, at her mother’s request. Luneczka looks at me to check, if everything went well, then claps her hands laughing.

„You see, you have to learn English,” she tries to convince her daughter contented.

The light goes off so the girl resets crocodile grabs of a small accumulator.

„That’s how we live, the light appears and disappears,” Luneczka laughs.

She is curious about my route and repeats patiently names of all the countries I’ve cycled through.

„Ah, ah… thirteen. And how many kilometres?”

„8500km,” I answer.

Luneczka must sense that all these abstract name will fade in her memory so she pulls out a piece of paper and asks me to start again. This time she writes them all down. Maybe tomorrow she’ll read them out to her colleagues at the surgery. Putting the notes back to her bag, she finds a bag with money and decides to give me some life lesson. She takes out the smallest bill and says:

„You see, this means cheap.”

She looks for other bills and explains:

„You pay 5000 soms for kurut. 10000 is expensive.”

Luneczka can’t write the number 500000. That’s what she earns, it’s about 70 dollars. She asks the girls for help to figure out how many zeros there should be. Then we talk for a little more with the light going on and off. Then Luneczka pours hot ember in the hole under the table near which we warm our feet, lying comfortably on soft beddings and trying to understand our worlds.

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