25 November 2006


Snapshot 5: Thanksgiving morning, I saw two women standing next to the dumpsters where I was going to discarded some refuse before heading into the icy cold for a run. One of the women wore a long tweedish coat and a thin scarf covering her head and ears and was digging through a dumpster looking for something salvageable, maybe even edible. I caught a three-quarter view of her face, which appeared squashed to one side, as if two thirds of her features were on one half of her face. Maybe it was congenital, maybe the result of abuse. She could have been alcoholic or mentally disabled, though she was almost surely another elderly person driven into homelessness by their meager, post-Soviet pensions. Elderly homeless persons are commonplace in Bishkek, especially in the morning, walking the alleys without making eye contact (or maybe because there are tired of trying), rummaging through litter and waste, often in pursuit of plastic bottles that can be recycled for cash.

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