We pushed open the front door of a one-bedroom apartment in the northern suburbs of the city. Two of our coworkers were gone for the summer, and they’d left us their keys, “just in case.” Such a case had come. We needed a new home. Looked like their place was it until they returned toward the end of the summer or until we found a place of our own.
We were both grateful and infuriated. We were grateful because this apartment had a toilet and indoor shower. For the previous month we’d used the public bath house once a week. We were infuriated because the night before, our other coworkers, the ones who’d set up our home stay in the village, had stopped by Eje’s house while we were out.
Eje had been upset. It got to the point at which she was screaming. We were bad people. We hadn’t paid rent. (We’d never been given an amount.) We didn’t do anything around the house. Laura wasn’t cooking and cleaning. We closed the door to our room when we got home. (Now we realize that most people leave their doors open in the summer and that the expectation is for people to come and go rather freely.) We took our clothes drying rack back into the house when we left for the day. (She probably thought we didn’t trust her.) In short, Eje had decided it would no longer work out for us to stay.
Our coworkers told us it’d be better for us not to go back to Eje’s house that night, that we should instead spend the night with them. A sleepover. Hurray.
We’d been in country a month, and we’d gotten ourselves evicted.
Of course, in order to move into our new apartment, we had to go pack up our old apartment. After spending the night at our coworkers’ house, we waited until we were reasonably sure Eje had already left for work, borrowed our friends’ van, and drove over to the village. We parked outside and got out. Then we pulled open the turquoise gate for what would be the last time.
Laura says it was then that the weight of the situation landed on her with all its force. Personally, I was still numb at that point. In short, we felt like we’d been wronged. We felt such deep disappointment. The idea of spending the first three months or so doing a home stay had seemed like such a great idea. We were going to learn so much. I suppose we had learned a lot. Just not what we were expecting.
We packed in heated silence. We got all our possessions in the back of our coworkers’ van and drove to our other coworkers’ apartment to unload both physically and emotionally.
Even there, in what had ended in a spectacular failure, stubborn flowers slowly pushed their way up from beneath the soil and eventually bloomed. Did I mention they had an indoor toilet? One that flushed? They even had a stove and a refrigerator and a mattress. So our getting evicted had resulted in more comfortable living arrangements for one.
But other fruit emerged, too, after that first long month. To a very infinitesimal degree, we had experienced what so many people here experience every single day of their lives. We’d gotten a taste of the shame, injustice, and hardship under which they toil from sunup to sundown, day in and day out. The fact that Laura lived in the village is something that still surprises many of her patients. It’s been a bridge to them, a way for Laura to say that, to some degree, she understands.
We’ve seen Eje a few times since “the incident.” But now we can speak at least one of her two languages. We’ve had pleasant interactions. On more than one occasion she’s looked at other Kyrgyz people sitting around us, laughed, and told them, “Just look at that! They speak Kyrgyz!”
We’ve tried to laugh, too. It’s much better than any other alternative. And probably much better for our health.
This post is the third in a series called “Places Where Flowers Bloom,” in which we seek to identify the flowers that have stubbornly bloomed despite what at times has felt like a long winter. Check out the previous two posts below.