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A Visit to the Dordoi Simone Poirier-Bures Biskek, Kyrgyzstan It starts with a bus ride. My husband and I stand on the corner near the big TsUm store with the crowds waiting for various buses and masharutkas (minivans that serve as group taxis), and look for a bus with CyriUic letters that speU out Dordoi orTolchuk. When we find one,just to be sure, I point to it and ask a woman, "Dordoi?" with my best questioning intonation. When she says "Da, da," we get on and pay our five soms each, about twenty cents total. There are no empty seats, so we stand in the aisle with the rest of the overflow; I keep a hand on my purse andAUen guards his pocket, as we've been warned about thieves. None ofthe windows are open, which means we are aU breathing the same air, so I'm hoping no one close to us has the flu or TB. The bus lurches down Sovietskaya for about six kilometers, farting diesel fumes the whole way, then turns offinto what looks Uke a huge muddy field fuU of cars and buses. The people on foot are aU streaming in the same direction , so we know we have arrived. It's hard to get a sense ofhow large the place actuaUy is, for parts ofit are covered by makeshift roofs whüe other parts are entirely open-air. And there are people everywhere: Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Koreans, and Uigurs with their Asian faces; Russians with fair complexions and green or blue eyes; everyone bundled and hatted, for it is mid-February and quite cold. The first thing we notice are the tables of bright orange mandarins and rosy apples, aU polished and neatly pfled, and vendors offering a huge variety of the square plastic tote bags used here for carrying almost everything. Other vendors offer socks, electric plugs, cassette tapes, dishes, or an assortment of many things piled on what look like ancient chaise-longue lawn chairs. Behind them are long rows of staUs and tables and plastic awnings— they seem to go on forever—so there's a lot of exploring to do. 35 36Fourth Genre But we also smeU food, for already the women are cooking up batches of pirogis at Uttle tables, and the large clay pots used for cooking samsa (triangles of dough filled with ground mutton and onions) are steaming. It's only 10 A.M., but suddenly we feel hungry. We go over to one of the women seUing pirogis (her dark complexion, oval face, and colorful scarf identify her as Uzbek), and I ask "Skolka?" (how much). She points to two Uttle piles and teUs us two soms and three soms, about four and six cents. It's not clear why there's a difference in price (both pues look the same), so I ask for one of each. She hands them to us in a smaU square of what looks Uke old office paper. There is nothing resembling a napkin anywhere in sight (they are considered an expensive luxury here), so we try to make do and not drip on ourselves . The pirogis are surprisingly tasty. Whüe we stand there eating, we watch how she makes them. She puUs a smaU baU ofdough from a large mound, flattens it out on an oiled pan, folds in a pinch of chopped cooked potato, presses the dough out again, then drops it into a pot ofofl bubbling on an electric hot plate on the ground by her feet. What it's hooked up to is anyone's guess, and I shudder at the tangle of cords and wires stretching to a shed behind her. Another small bowl holds a mixture of chopped green onions, parsley, and a tiny bit of cooked meat—for the more expensive pirogis, no doubt, the ones that cost a som more. I note, now, that the same bare hands that handled the money handle the dough, and hope anything bad is kflled by the hot oil. Other women have similar stands and are aU doing a brisk business. We decide to sample one from someone else's table. It is equaUy...


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