Travels with Penelope

Travel, Food, Wine, Spirituality and Everything Else

June 17, 2015 Kyrgyzstan-Return to Normal

All quiet on the mountaintop. No signs of tourists or locals. I reveled in the solitude that can only be had at the peak. As darkness descended, a donut of light from Osh encircled Suleiman Too with a silver halo. I was but a small atom in a universe whose limits reached beyond anything my imagination could conjure. Time dissolved into nothing more than an illusion of the recent past. After awhile, I had no idea how long I stood there, I began to hear a distant sound, a subtle echo that gently played off my heartbeat. Slowly, I recognized that home was calling; I had to return.

I had chosen to travel to Osh not only because of Suleiman Too, but also because of its position on the ancient Silk Road. Back in the day when all things led to silk, to obtain it one had to go to China. That is, until the seventh century when as legend would have it a Byzantine monk stole the secrets of silk production as well as the worms from the Chinese. By then the ancient land Road having grown as complex as the routes through an ant hill looped from the East China Sea, up to the Gobi Desert to India, paraded across Central Asia into the current Stan’s, onto the Middle East, eventually as far as Rome, back to Shanghai and visa versa. The complexities of the routes with all the comings and goings of tribes, armies, mercenaries and merchants aroused my curiosity. I had to visit the Silk Road. If only I could touch my feet to its surface, I would have direct contact with the collective energy oozing from the historical layers of what had gone before. Holding that thought, I closed my eyes and drew my intention inward. Momentarily, I felt what had become a familiar lurch.

In Osh, the 2000-year-old Silk Road Bazaar stretches along the banks of the Ak Buura River for about a mile. Historically, it is one of the most important markets because of the confluence of routes that crossed through Osh; in 2010, ethnic violence between the Kyrzks and Uzbeks (Osh on the border, has a sizeable population of Uzbeks) destroyed much of the bazaar. Efforts to rebuild have restored much of the market: a farmer’s market, a department and appliance store (with goods from China and Russia) so to speak, a place to buy crafts, clothing, everything from toothpaste to cell phones, and perhaps most important a place to gather with friends, share tales and eat. I wanted to get a bite and buy a kalpak for my partner before I returned to the US.

I landed near the meat department. No, I was not interested in eating jimmy, the famous lambs head delicacy, but I noted several European tourists as they scooped out and ate the eyes and brains from a head, or the olovo (sheep’s lungs). Nor was I interested in beshbarmark with the memory of Mierum’s noodles still lingering on my palate. I walked on through the spices. Nearly knocked over by aromas coming off mountains of bright red paprika, stacks of colored peppercorns, cinnamon sticks and cumin, I hurried on to what looked like a bakery-deli a few stalls over. As a vegetarian, I knew I was in luck when I found oromo being prepared with potatoes and onions. I watch a short elderly woman roll out a small pastry, spread the veggies, roll it up and place it in a kagan for steaming. I ordered two along with a plate of ashlam foo. I figured the spicy noodles in jelly and vinegar topped with eggs would be offset with the oromo. I was not disappointed.

After eating, I picked up a kalpak and tucked it in my purse. Then I withdrew to a quiet place along the river and prepared to return to normal. Return to Normal? A drop of the tongue, tongue in cheek, but the very thought of return to normal posed an interesting question. Am I out of normal or am I within the bounds of normal? I looked about the world for an answer. When Elon Musk is putting the plans together for the first hyper-loop in California, when members of the former Baathist army are trying to redefine borders in the Middle East, when Trump says he is really running for the presidency, when Goldman Sachs says it is setting up a small loan department for ordinary Americans, when a top athlete shows up on the front cover of Vanity Fair in a new guise, when His Holiness the Pope puts out an encyclical on climate change, when His Holiness the Dai Lai Lama speaks at the Honda Center where the Mighty Ducks play, when waves of kayaks try to thwart a major oil schooner, perhaps the fact of my astral hyper-looping is not too far-fetched.

Unfortunately, in my haste to get to the Bazaar, I left my camera back on the Suleiman Too, but not to worry. The internet has reams of pictures of the old and new bazaar in Osh. Simply Google. Is that not where we find the source of all information

1 Comment

  1. So now I’ve had a chance to catch up with your astral hyper-looping and I’m staggered. It really is as IF you were actually there, rather than virtually there… Extraordinary. I can’t wait for our next opportunity to share the truth serum together – maybe in the foothills of the San Gabriels? So much love xxx

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