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MLA & An Hour from Tash-Kumir It was a typical bus trip. The crowds, the excess baggage, the hourly calls to dtink and the novelty of the American on the bus did nothing to lend this tip a special flavor. Only after the explosion did the specifics of the day's journey etch themselves onto my consciousness. At the roadside, the grazing cows scattered at the sound. Quickly, the travel-induced stupor loling around my head lifted as the noise brought a halt to my seatmate’s questions abo the cost of televisions in America and the bus limped to a halt. After disgorging its passengers, we watched it slowly list towards the right as the remaining air in the second faulty tire expired, We were going to be awhile; one blowout and one ‘leaker’, The silent men standing around the axle were exchanging knowing glances and giving each other discouraging shakes of their heads as the driver, a stout, balding Uzbek with a chipped chrome tire iron, wrestled with a tire over half of his size. It gave up its ghost and popped off the axle, scattering lug nuts and smaller children and sending the driver into the ditch, A small round of grunting approvals murmured through the crowd and fresh cigarettes were passed around in honor of the driver's mechanical prowess. Half as soon again as the second had been removed, two new ones applied and we were on our way again 1 crossed in front of my director's first-floor window, hoping to make it past without an invitation to plof and vodka and slip into my apartment quietly, After the bus trip I didn't want the hassle. I didn't know that I would be seeking him out shortly. Guided by fortune, I slipped past the bush in front on his window ensuring a safe walk up the three flights of stairs to my door. I slid the key into the lock and began to think of the those dishes I had abandoned, now waiting for a washing in the sink in the kitchen. As the lock clicked, I mused over the methods 1 was familiar with for removing week- old egg from ceramic. I leaned into the door and gave it a short heave and it groaned open protestingly because of the sixty pounds of steel that had recently been welded to it I dragged my bags in over the threshold. As I switched on the light a form on the coach rose, came out of the darkened living room and resolved itself into a pudgy Kyrghyz woman I had never met. “Hello.?", 1 offered. No response. Switching into Russian, I tried another noncommittal greeting. "Zdrastvootye”, she returned, offering no other clues to her presence in my flat. My mind was now clicking. Why was she here? My first thonght was that my director had given her the key to tidy up before my return, It would turn out that I wasn't that far off base. Since Russian was provoking at least reflex responses I plugged away. Her name it turned out to be Kumbat, When I asked the big ‘why’ question she dropped her bombshell. She bought my apartment while L was out of town. Right about now the feeling that she had only been here cleaning began slipping away. No my director hadn't given her the key to tidy up as a welcome home but rather facilitated my home's sale. The same man who kidnapped me on Teacher's Day for a little drive that turned into a two-day jaunt of vodka drinking (for him and various Talas oblast customs inspectors) in the mountains above Toktogul reservoir, had aided and abetted this woman by giving her the key. ‘A quick glance around showed that no time had been wasted in moving in and setting wp. My things were pushed aside or simply covered by their things. I then did something I rarely do. 1 called my director. Out of town. Later he said he was looking for new apartments. "At a house-opening party", his wife and my VSA said. My call to Martin got a "Keep us updated, If there isn't a new apartment by 5 tomorrow say good-bye and come to Bishkek.” 1 was making Kumbat more and more uncomfortable by sitting silently and thinking. I didn’t mind and I enjoyed it actually. She was making me uncomfortable by living in my place. Adil, my neighbor, came back from work and told me he had a key to another place, 1 didn’t want to look at another place. 1 Siked the one that I had. Kumbat should go I said. ‘That didn't fly, so Adil and I went and saw an apartment identical in every way except 1 didn’t live there. If the school had an identical apartment give that one to Kumbat et al. Why (there is that question again) should 1 move? Shoulders shrug. Why not give this apartment to the new guys who had only been here a short time and hadn't finished taking my pictures off of the wall yet? Shrugs again, Does that make sense to you? Shrugs again. What about squatters rights? What about my things? What about squatter's rights, rent control and lease negotiation? The shoulders. Have you seen the deed? No. "Aha, a kink in the plot to evict me", I thought. "They can’t find it", says Adil. "So", I summarize, "Aluby gave my key to a couple who said they bought my apartment." "Yes. I told him not to do it" Adil says shruggingly. Iwanted to go back a tell Kumbat to get out and find a hotel. When we came back she offered to sleep at a neighbors. "That's nice", I thought, "you couldn't have done that until my return?" Aluby came back the next day and arrived at my door early in the morning and instantly reminded me of my problem, "What can we do?", he shrugged. My suggestion about the other apartment was met with another round of shrugs. I was putting the supreme effort into not exploding at hime about having given the key to my apartment to a complete stranger and his shrugging wasn't helping me maintain my calm. We trekked to the Education Ministry for another round of shrugging and What-can-we-do's. 1 pointed out the fact that Kumbat had no deed and only set off another round of shrugging and What-can-we-do's. They kept saying there would be no more problems. "Good", I said, What about the one at hand, Back at my apartment Kumbat and her husband were playing cards on my couch. I reminded Aluby of the five o'clock deadline. He just shrugged. I rolled up the sleeves on my Russian and asked to see their deed. They couldn't produce it. I asked for the key Kumbat went to fetch it from her jacket. I asked how many other keys there were. Who had them and how soon before five o'clock that they would be in my hands, I told Kumbat that until I saw a deed she was welcome to sleep anywhere in Tash-Kumir but in my apartment. She smiled. I didn't. They agreed and soon 1 was putting their things in the street with relish. This was my first eviction and I was glad not to be at the working end of it. It has been two months I am still in my place, the pictures are back on the walls, my carpet is unrolled and I haven't seen Kumbat since.