Friday, February 8, 2013

Shymkent - the Bazaar

Today my friend's daughter had only ice skating practice in the afternoon, and our morning was free.  We took our time getting up, enjoying the free breakfast the hotel serves (I had coffee, eggs, and blini -- Russian crepe-like pancakes; Sophia had sausage and blini).  Then we decided to get a taxi to the bazaar, so we'd have time to shop before heading to the ice skating rink.

The taxi driver said there are many bazaars in Shymkent, which one did we want to go to?  ("Bazaar" is the Kazakh word; "rynok" is the Russian word, meaning market... Both words refer to a shopping place and not necessarily what we foreigners think of when we hear the word bazaar.)  I looked in my Lonely Planet and gave the street names of the one mentioned in the book; he said there is no bazaar there.  So we said the biggest; he said there are three.  The biggest and the closest, we said, and so off we went to one called Eurasia.

(I later learned that there is a large and extremely cheap Central Bazaar, which definitely was not the one we ended up at.)

It didn't look like what I'd had in mind, and it was rather dirty, but we decided to try it.  It was a large cluster of shops around dirty alley-ways, and several of the shops were empty.  But once we got started, I enjoyed myself, because I enjoy shopping.  I found a pair of gloves that I really wanted, but the vendor wasn't there, and so I wasn't able to buy them.  I found a dress I really liked, not cheap but not outrageously priced either, and so I bought it.

I've always wanted a decent fur hat for the winter, and so I tried some on.  One hat in particular suited me very well.  The vendor asked where I am from and then he asked if I am married.  He said he wanted me to be his daughter-in-law.  I told my friend to tell him that I'm married.

The vendor clasped my hands in his very tightly and seemed unwilling to let me go.  He told my friend that my being married didn't matter, he would kidnap me.  I know he was mostly joking, but I also know that bride kidnapping used to be a bit common in Kazakhstan, and it still happens from time to time here, and it happens with greater frequency in neighboring Kyrgyzstan.  So a joke about kidnapping me isn't very funny.

He said I would get the hat for free if I married his son.  It's a $200 hat, but that's not enough to make me want to marry some stranger's son!

I managed to decline and get out of there.  Once I had overcome my shock, I realized I had the perfect response to, "will you marry my son?"  I should have asked if the son can cook and clean, because, really, that is what I need--a stay-at-home husband (or live-in maid, that would be just as fine!)

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