another New Year post   1 comment

“Those are the little snows,” Maya says to me. “Do you know?” The first form girls are dressed in white gowns, glitter on their faces, glitter in their stiffened, sculpted hair.
“Oh,” I say, “snowflakes?”
“Yes. Snowflakes.”
They circle Aýyz Baba and his tree. Their young faces remain somber. They kneel and stand and twirl. With a lilt to match that of the music teacher’s (she’s playing a bit of Russian parlor piano on the other side of the room), they wave their silver garlands about, in homage to Father Frost. When they take their leave, a girl in rabbit mask and fur hemmed coat hops in. She finds her cardboard house occupied by the boy in what should be a tiger costume. He’s got a bushy fox’s tail pinned to the seat of his pants. Arms crossed, he shakes his head. He will not go, though she cries and begs, though every other critter from the enchanted forest that is Chinese Zodiac entreats him. With a sweep of his wings a bird enters, says something profound in Turkmen that I don’t catch. The old fox sulks away and the rabbit takes her rightful place. All the students join hands. They circle the tree now and sing, for Täze Ýyl geldi! The New Year came!
“This is a Russian holiday,” Maya tells me. “Muslim people, they celebrate the New Year on March the twenty-first, I think. Do you know? But the people, they want to celebrate this holiday. There is no point in telling them, ‘You can’t do this.’”
Later I find her at the teacher’s party, sitting at one end of the banquet table with the Russians. Before everyone has begun filling their plates, we’ve started on a bottle of Turkmen wine. The stuff—which tastes much like a bad vodka, sugar added—is soon finished, grimaces all around. Then the girls pull out one of the several two-liters of Berk beer they snuck in and keep hidden under the table. For the five of us, every glass of beer is alternated with a glass of juice or cola—either to save face or keep the beer to ourselves. Meanwhile everyone fills their plates with beet-currant salad, egg-meat salad, steamed meat-stuffed cabbage rolls, barbequed ground meat, fried chicken.
She calls herself DJ Maya now and takes a disc from her purse. Although she doesn’t stay on any one song for more than a few bars, the mood has changed. Shemshat grabs my arm, asks me if I will dance. Before I’ve answered I find myself at the far end of the room. Here, we dance, stepping in time, dimly lit by the New Year tree. The large sweater-vested gym teacher grabs my hand and stomps to the center of the circle, where he coaches me to land each foot heavily on the first and third beat.
Shemshat moves in, laces her fingers with mine. “Op! Op!” We move our arms together in wide circular motions. “Op! Op! Op!” We shimmy at each other and toward the floor. “Op op! Berekella!” she says with a wink and a thumbs up directed at Maya. Maya and the other English teachers all shake their heads. She says something in Russian, then she looks at me. “I told them, ‘No! She is ours!’”
A couple of days have passed now, and it is New Year’s Eve. The bazaars are full of people, a cake for every cluster of them. The amount of booths have tripled, but the variety of goods available hasn’t. I return home, having purchased nothing, in time to see the spread on the floor. So, this is the miniature banquet my host mother hinted at: champagne, juices, soda, kiwi, oranges, bananas, chocolates. I enjoy a cold bowl of potato and meat broth soup while the housekeeper tears into her barbequed chicken. The family is already out, stopping in at the neighbors’ own miniature banquets. Everyone is out, wishing everyone happiness and health with this New Year.
The two of us having finished, go out “guesting”, arm in arm. We only make one stop. Here, I drink tea and eat cake and doze to some Russian New Year programming. Jennet has gone out to find someone or something.
A cold draft startles me awake. Jennet has returned, and she is pointing at the clock. Three minutes till midnight. “We have to go now!” Our hosts invite us to stay and bring in the New Year with them, but Jennet is insistent. She grabs my hand and we run out into the smoky street, past the shops, past the people in the gravel streets waving their flaming sticks. I pick up the pace, but Jennet stops me. “Laura,” she gasps, “I am tired!”
Then she begins to run again.
All at once the town is filled with shouting. We look at our clocks, then at each other. “No!” I cry in English, “We missed it!” She expresses a similar sentiment in a sort of Russian-Turkmen cocktail. There is nothing to do but join the shouting and run home.
I kick off my boots at the door. Inside, I find my host father sitting on the floor with the bottle of champagne in hand. He smiles at me and pops it open before Jennet has her second foot in, then describes the way he would have shot the cork across the room if he were in Pakistan. On the television, fireworks explode over Ashgabat. He fills my glass and we toast to the New Year.
It is a New Year for me, I can feel it this time.


Posted January 2, 2011 by turkmenlaura in Uncategorized

One response to “another New Year post

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  1. You are just beautiful, Laura! Inside and out!

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