The Sure Signs of Spring

It’s not the official holiday of Nooruz or the vernal equinox that signals spring. It is little girls wearing sunglasses as they are dragged behind their mothers on the city sidewalks. It is the first ice cream stand. It is the clusters of bicycles built for two at the edge of Ala-Too Square. It is short sleeves and sandals. It is cafes that have dusted off their outdoor furniture and the people who sat in them today relishing the return to life outside. It is the folding tables that have sprouted with big containers of jarma (a yeasty wheat drink) and maxim (a corn and wheat drink with a zest and a zing to it). It is birdsong and full park benches.

It is glorious. And it is welcomed.

Men at Work

jan 14-4

The ceremony of the military is an international ballet. The costumes, the orchestrated and precise moves, the focus, the dedication to form. These two are in front of the historical museum in the city’s main square, Ala-Too. At the top of every hour a trio of soldiers struts in precise choreography to perform The Changing of the Guard. They are boys in long coats, white gloves and black tall boots. They carry big guns and wear fuzzy hats. One soldier calls out the moves as these two descend the stairs and a new pair ascends.

If you click on this live webcam trained onto Ala-Too, you are afforded an aerial view of part of the square; the soldiers are in a small enclosure at the base of the large flagpole bearing the red-and-yellow Kyrgyz national flag. The soldiers also have a cameo in Bommalatam, a music video showcasing a jinky set of moves by dancing duo Srikanth and Sneha as they gyrate in front of a buffet of Bishkek monuments. The clip is from Bose, a 1984 Tamil Indian action film.

Father Frost

The Kyrgyz call him Ayaz Ata; legend says he was born of moonlight and cold weather. He appears around New Year’s Day, gives children presents and sports a white beard, a floor-length coat, a hat that stories say is fashioned from snowflakes, and a magical walking stick. He is often accompanied by his granddaughter, Kar Kiz, the Snow Maiden, who acts as his helper. The woman I saw in the square acting as Kar Kiz is far more fetching than any rendition of Mrs. Claus I’ve ever seen.