Monday, December 31, 2012

December 31, 2012

Spent a very quiet day at the apartment just working on a presentation on listening skills for the upcoming winter break workshop. Nargiza had texted me the day before to indicate she was rescinding her New Year’s Eve invitation as the family was traveling to visit her uncle. Willoughby had invited me to spend the evening with her and two other Peace Corps volunteers and I had agreed.

Douglas had mentioned he had no plans for the evening and I emailed Willoughby asking her if she could include one more person to which she said yes. We agreed to arrive at five to have time to talk before dinner and we both offered to bring wine to contribute to her meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gingered carrots menu.

I stopped at two Narodni supermarkets on the way to the marshrutka and they both offered only non-alcoholic wine. Neither store personnel could speak enough English to explain what had happened to their full stock of alcoholic beverages. I called Willoughby to explain the situation and offered to bring a cake instead, but she declined the offer saying she had enough food for all of us already. I learned later on from Douglas that the supermarket chain had lost its liquor license.

As I waited for the minibus, I noticed a striking young woman standing next to me with her six-inch stiletto booties covered in rhinestones. I had to take her photo, fake eyelashes and all, and she gladly complied. We boarded the same minibus and she insisted on paying my fare and then handed me a piece of candy wishing me a new year, I surmised. I could see that Ala-Too Square was overrun with people, mostly families with young children, already celebrating the advent of the new year.

                                               Take a  look at those heels!

Douglas boarded the same minibus in front of the VEFA Center and using his smart phone got us to Willoughby’s building, a decaying structure inside and out, where she occupies a unit on the second floor. She pays $250.00 for a three-room flat full of darkness and as cold as an iceberg with little furniture but the incongruous presence of an old piano. Her stove and fridge are located in what used to be a balcony and lacks any source of lighting, so she uses a flashlight to cook by.

We sat at a banquet and had ginger tea, sans cinnamon sticks, and granola bars while waiting for Joanna, a Peace Corps volunteer of Filipino origin, who had just returned from a trip to Armenia. The food was delicious, especially the gingered carrots, and we even had gravy with it. I had a glass of wine while we discussed the differences between participating in the Peace Corps and being a fellow. Joanna is on her third year here and indicated the city has changed substantially since she got here in 2010.

When asked if we were going to wait around until midnight, Douglas said no as apparently he had other plans. I didn’t relish the idea of hanging around for the silliness of breaking a bottle of champagne and wishing for good things for the artificial construct that a new year is and indicated I’d leave when Douglas was ready.

I decided to take a taxi from Willoughby’s house since I didn’t want to walk in the darkness to my new place and didn’t want to risk riding a new route and probably getting off at the wrong stop. Douglass negotiated with the driver and got dropped off first. I got to read for a little while aware all the time of the fireworks going off every few minutes.

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