Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

As Winter Hits Rural Northeast Kazakhstan, Everything Dies

As Winter Hits Rural Northeast Kazakhstan, the Lights Go Out

The moment we had walked out of the school building the lights had gone out and a wave of darkness had splashed over rows and rows of neatly placed identical one story houses. The village was usually dark enough at this time that to walk down its ice streaked paths meant having to slowly place each foot cautiously in front of the other, a faint light the only means to differentiate between earth and ice.
This faint light came from the last remaining street lamp, a flickering bulb that sat at the top of a not too sturdy looking steel pole attached to the side of Ivan Vsilivich's store. The only reason it worked was because Ivan Vsilivich fitted the monthly electricity bill, a marketing strategy that had backfired horribly. Instead of real customers, the sole street lamp attracted a swarm of hooligans who loitered in front of his store like gnats around a frat house porch light. Occasionally they bought a 2 dollar bottle of vodka or a pack of 50 cent cigarettes but it took only one glance across the counter at Ivan Vsilivich's all to hardened face to see that the business wasn't worth their presence.
The street lamp flickered its last few breaths of life before it too was consumed by darkness. The hooligans began to slowly disperse now in search of a more suitable place to congregate. A steady snowfall had begun and was beginning to blanket the ground, creating a soft protective layer over the ice.
Instantly the shape of the village changed. Time within its modest borders had lost its rhythm and the shadows of assorted automobiles and satellite dishes now peered curiously against the an unfamiliar darkness.
Inside the rows and rows of neatly placed identical one story houses, people lit lanterns and carried them beside their dinner table. The food that they ate, the cabbage, boiled meat, carrots, salt and potatoes had been there for as long as anyone could remember, as were those creaky wooden chairs and light tin utensils.

As I walked down towards the store, I thought about walking in and seeing Ivan Vsilivich sitting there, his face smooth his demeanor undisturbed. I wanted to see him with his comrades, drinking to a future where he and his family would be protected from the evil that permeates life so often and so deeply. He would raise his arm, bellow a toast and confidently empty his glass. I wanted to see him before all the other streetlights turned on and then so abruptly turned off, before he became so frustrated, so confused.

Just as a deep uncertainty comes from the darkness, so does a hope. What's that they say, its always darkest before the dawn?

The light turned back on, the hooligans regrouped and the rhythm of the present reclaimed its rightful place.

Outhouse Toilet Paper

For those of you who don't know, I've been wiping my ass with this for the last 15 months.