more on Zhupar Alzhan
I stopped by Zhupar Aizhan’s after my classes yesterday, as I do about once a week. I go about once a week, at lunchtime these days, because it’s dark by 5:30 and there’s no one to walk me safely home. During the summer and early fall, I’d go in the evening, like a guest. She gets excited when I come. Retirement chafes a bit – she, a sanguine by any personality scale, finds herself with only a husband to talk to and a whole cow to grind by hand. She and her husband both speak to me at once, as if the other one weren’t there. It doesn’t bother them that I seem confused about whom I should be looking at. Maksot Aga’s gaze never goes away from my face, (he’s a 100% eye-contact speaker). In spite of this, there are silences, during which Zhupar counts years on her fingers and Maksot Aga, with his eyes rolled up, tries to think of words like “vengeance.” They both speak very good English. Set off by the same event/topic, they each take it in very different directions. These directions, if pursued long enough, always lead (from Zhopar’s side) to her travels in Eastern Europe and from Maksot Aga’s side, to conspiracy theories. I am always told to sit and watch tv, like a good guest, and I do for only about 5 minutes, unless it’s Marty Stauffer. When a nature program’s on, as it often is during the day, we sit and watch it together. We all love nature programs. In Zhopar’s words, “we are biologists!” She was thrilled to death to teach biology in English with me last year. She bought a Kelly green housecoat with lizards and fish all over it. I think there are birds, too. She got a good deal on it at the bazaar because her argument was “Come on, who else will buy this? You’ll never sell this to anyone but me.” She makes me wear it when I cut onions. If there are no nature programs, I sit with her in the kitchen to peel, chop, and talk (really, to listen). When the food is ready, she dumps a bit of the crazy strong vinegar on the dirty silverware sitting in a cup, wipes it off with toilet paper and hands it to me.