Thursday, August 11, 2016

Looking for Song Kol in the Mountains of Kyrgyzstan

Flounder is still feeling sick, though he slept through the night so I am hopeful. I know, however that he needs another day to rest in Kyzart, another day in the tiny village we’ve already been stranded in for three days.

As for me, I want to glimpse this famous Song Kol, the alpine lake we travelled to Kyzart to see in the first place, so I decided to walk. Not to the lake. That’s 15 kilometers and over 1500 meters of elevation gain then 500 meters descent away. No, I’d walk up to the ridge of the mountains that separates our little village from the lake and get some exercise and maybe a nice view of Song Kol and the yurts that surround it in the summer months.

With the help of Flounder and google satellite images, I find my starting point—a road that looks like it snakes into the mountains, passing over the small but rushing and ice-cold rivers that run in the way.

Over the river and into the mountains

I head out around 8:45 am, optimistic that I can reach the peak by noon. But I am soon surprised by the distance of things. It takes me around an hour just to reach the road we’d scouted on google, and that was walking on a level, cleared path. As I walk out of the village, the houses behind me, I begin to scan the mountains for any sign of a path. I see a small cluster of buildings on the gentle slope at the ridge’s beginning and I head there, thinking I might at least ask someone if I’m going in the right direction.

‘Salam alaykum,’ I call out the woman who just stepped out of the house. She motions me toward her, tying up the madly barking dog at her side.

‘Song Kolga kiteym. I’m going to Song Kol,’ I say, hoping I’ve remembered the words right. I point up and ask, ‘Mumkun mu? Is it possible?

She nods, and the younger man who walked toward us also confirms that it’s possible. She says a lot of words I don’t understand, but I am able to make out her offer of chai, and after brief consideration, I agree. I follow her into her house. There are two rooms—a kitchen and a multipurpose room with a twin bed on one side and a low-to-the-ground table on the other. She ushers me in and mixes me a cup of tea much in the way they do in Turkey: a small pot contains strong tea and a larger pot contains hot water. You mix the two to your desired strength. As we drink tea, I nibble on the bread she offered and try to use the little Kyrgyz I can remember.
With the mother who invited me in for chai

I tell her I’m American, but I live in Dubai. ‘Dubai’da jashaym.’

She asks if I have children and then I ask her the same question.

She holds up four fingers. ‘Tort,’ she says, then quickly corrects herself, ‘besht,’ adding a fifth finger as she speaks. She points to the younger man outside, indicating he is her son. I wonder if he’s the fifth, rather forgettable child.

She pours me a second cup and would have poured a third, but I needed to get going, so I thank her and again confirm the correct direction to Song Kol before I leave.

I wave to her and her son and set off, following a small, rapid stream and trying to stick to the horse path I found. Plagues of grasshoppers jump in every direction as I walk, clicking and rattling as they fly through the air. Soon I lose the horse path, then find it, then lose it again.

I follow the stream

I try to follow the stream, but the dry ground that was a haven for grasshoppers soon turns lush, fragrant with clover and wildflowers of blue, purple, red, and orange. Something underfoot smells spicy, like a wild cousin of the more cultivated thyme. Soon the undergrowth isn’t so much under as it is around me, up to my knees, then up to my waist, as high as my shoulder.

I push through, following the stream’s path up and up and up. The slope is gentle, so I hardly need to stop, but the going is slow, obstructed as my path is by the verdant riverside flowers and the unseen and uneven ground.

Through flowers up to my shoulders

I am making progress; for proof I need only to look behind me at the tiny village of Kyzart below, but when noon comes and goes I can see that my idea of reaching the peak by noon was clearly too optimistic.

‘Maybe 1 o’clock?’ I muse. But at 1 o’clock I round a bend in the path and see, not the blue sky I hoped for, but rather a large green mountain still looming above me. It’s time to change my plan.

My view at 1:00 p.m. Still a long way to go.

I set a time limit of 2:00 p.m. If I haven’t reached the peak and seen Song Kol by then, I would still turn around. That would be more than five hours of hiking and I don’t want to worry Flounder and I definitely want to be back in the guesthouse before dark.

I forge up, out of the gentle but overgrown riverbed, up a steep slope, in the hope of lower growth, better footing, and a faster path to the top. The slope is so steep I need to use my hands in places and I quickly discover that the flowers and plants are taller than they had appeared. In short, leaving the riverbed behind was a change, but perhaps not a good one.

1:15 p.m. I take as many steps as I can, before pausing, counting my breaths and waiting for them to slow down. Progress is slow, but I am gaining elevation.

1:30 p.m. I can see the rocky peak of the slope ahead of me (but mainly above me).
Beautiful view, but I'm still far from the peak
1:45 p.m. I finally reach the top and suddenly can see the valley to my left as well as mountains in the distance that had been hidden from view. But no sign of Song Kol. Instead I see a higher peak wrapping around my mountain and jutting far up above. 15 minutes left. Should I give up? Or try to scale this new peak?

1:50 p.m. I forge my own switchback as the slope up the peak is steep and my legs are feeling weak and wobbly from hours of hiking uphill.

My final view. Time to turn around.

2:00 p.m. I reach the top of my peak, but instead of Song Kol, I see yet another peak rising up. It’s time to turn around, to give up and head back. Giving up is difficult for me; stubbornness often trumps safety. But it’s made easier now by my worn-out legs and my worn-out husband waiting for me back in Kyzart.

I take one last picture of the mountain that defeated me, then put my small pack on and turn around.


For the first time I hear a sound other than the buzzing of bees and occasional call of birds. I look in the direction I think the sound came from, but I see nothing. I scan the mountains around me, hands on hips. Did I imagine it? Could it just be a bird?


It’s definitely human, but I still can’t see the human making the sound. Tired of looking and seeing nothing, I start my descent.

‘HELLLLLO!’ this time I hear some other words, not in English, and it occurs to me that maybe this voice is not speaking to me. Maybe he’s hailing a friend. So I continue my descent with more confidence but not more speed; the growth is so high that it makes walking downhill nearly as slow as walking uphill was.

Looking down at the village of Kyzart

I’ve forgotten about the voice and the unseen human attached to it. I’m focusing now on each step, on the pressure in my knees from the steep descent, and on the pain in my toes as my feet smush forward in my shoes.


This time the voice is closer and I turn around. I can see him now. It’s a man on a horse, accompanied by a very shaggy dog. He motions me to join him and I, not wanting to climb up the same hill again, make an exaggerated shrugging gesture as if I don’t understand. He rides downhill toward me.

As he comes closer I have some time to look at him and also some time to think. I don’t mean to sound alarmist or untrusting, but as a woman walking alone in a very remote place, my mind immediately tries to gauge the threat and simultaneously map out my options in case something goes wrong. He’s an older local man, wearing a wool skullcap and sporting a small moustache. But more than these things, I notice the gun he’s carrying. It’s a long rifle, likely for hunting and likely good only at long distances. Still, it’s a bit of an intimidating sight.

He gets closer, dismounts from his horse, and smiles at me.

‘Song Kol?’ he asks.

Jok, Kyzart,’ I say. ‘Song Kolga kitbeym. I’m not going to Song Kol,’ I say, hoping I’ve got the words right.

He sits on the ground, pulls out binoculars and invites me to join him. I think he sees my trepidation because he says, pointing to himself, ‘Hrasho. Good.’ And then, pointing to me, he says ‘Hrasho. Good,’ and hands me the binoculars. I sit down and look through them, but I don’t know what I’m looking at and I can’t focus, so after a polite interval I give them back and get up to leave.

He points to a different buttress leading off the mountain, just over one valley to the left, and indicates that it would be a better place to descend. But I notice that to get there I would need to walk down into the valley then back up a steep slope and I decide it’s not worth it.

Again, I think he sees my trepidation, because he motions me toward his horse and leads us, me astride the horse, shaggy dog at our side, over to the next mountain buttress. The horse is surefooted, but not as surefooted as the man leading the horse.

My kind guide and I

Along the way he asks the usual questions and I respond. We’re using a mix of Kyrgyz and Russian to talk about where we live, our spouses, our number of children (he has 8!). He asks if Flounder and I might like him to guide us to Song Kol. I’m tempted by the option as he clearly knows the way and seems like a kind man, but I know Flounder is too weak to make plans.

At the ‘path’ to Kyzart we stop. I take a few photos and he joyfully poses with me. As I lift my backpack he eyes my water and asks if can drink some.

‘Ich, ich. Drink, drink,’ I say, encouraging him to have as much as he likes. I see now that he doesn’t have any water with him. ‘Ich, ich,’ I say, repeating what the older woman who offered me tea near the beginning of my hike had said to me. He drinks and as he does I get out my little chunk of sunflower seed halva to offer him. He nibbles the halva, has another drink, then asks if he can kiss my hand before we part. I smile and laugh as he kisses my hand, then wave goodbye as he swings up onto his horse.

‘Paka paka. Bye bye,’ I shout.

‘Paka,’ he calls out in return and I head down the mountain, knees feeling the pressure and toes squished again into the fronts of my shoes.

I turn around only minutes later and already the group of three—man, horse, and dog—are so small against the immense green mountain that I can barely spot them, slowly climbing up the pass to Song Kol.

And I, I’m slowly descending toward Kyzart, my joints aching and my toes bruised. With the monotony of the downhill hike and of passing the same landscape for a second time, the disappointment of what I haven’t managed hits me and rattles around in my bored brain. I was looking for Song Kol and I didn’t even glimpse it. I didn’t even glimpse it. I didn’t even glimpse it. The thought is stuck on repeat.

Perhaps it’s the snow-patched mountains in the distance, or the green-covered mountains around me, or maybe it’s the tiny remote village waiting below; something stops my rattling, repeating thought.

‘No, you didn’t glimpse Song Kol,’ I interrupt myself. ‘But you were invited in for chai, sampled some bread and Kyrgyz hospitality, you breathed fresh alpine air, hobnobbed with wildflowers, surrounded yourself with green mountain peaks, and you rode on a horse and shared your water with a gentleman. And you’re heading back now to the sweetest gentleman of them all.’

A pretty good day.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

A taste of Kyrgyzstan

Osh, our first taste of Kyrgyzstan
We tried to get to the border early, as we’d read accounts of chaos, pushing and shoving, cramped tiny rooms and hours-long waiting. But when we arrived in Dostyk at the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border we wondered if we weren’t at a different place entirely.

We quickly passed through the first checkpoint, then entered an almost empty room. There was only one group ahead of us, an Uzbek family. When a border official saw us, hard to miss with our giant packs, he told us to fill out the exit form, then come visit him.

He asked a range of usual questions, all with a smiling, friendly demeanour. He asked if we visited the Burj al Arab in Dubai.

‘We’re teachers!’ Flounder exclaimed, ‘not businessmen. Just having tea, chay, with biscuits costs $100!’

He seemed shocked by the price, and we later heard him telling his colleagues about the outrageous chay in Dubai.

The entry and exit form. Note it's only in Cyrillic

We x-rayed our bags and a couple of border officials looked through them cursorily, asking me questions and about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, asking me to turn on my laptop, but hardly looking at it. In contrast, we met a traveller who, upon entering Uzbekistan from the Tajikistan border, had photos deleted from her phone—photos of her in a bikini and photos of her friends, a gay couple—and had her laptop searched for illicit pornography.

But our border officials quickly told us to repack our bags, and smiled and waved to us as we crossed into Kyrgyzstan.

If I was looking for a signpost that we were in a different country, I found it in Osh, the second-biggest city in Kyrgyzstan, just three kilometres from the border. Along with the low, square or round skullcaps worn by many Uzbek men, we suddenly saw dramatically tall, felt-embroidered caps worn by Kyrgyz men.

‘It’s like a 10-gallon hat,’ Flounder remarked, referencing the cowboy hats that also add about a foot in height to the wearer.

The money was different (no more black market) and would be easier to access here, there were more people of Mongol decent, but still, Osh felt much like Uzbekistan had.

The hospitality, so much a part of our time in Uzbekistan, continued in Osh.

When we couldn’t find our guesthouse, a young mother and her two children tried to help us. She found a shop where we could buy a sim card (about $0.50) and called the guesthouse owner to get the exact directions.

When we later wanted to add data to that sim, we asked in a DHL office (after walking in search of the phone company for over an hour), and Ulugbek, who worked there, insisted on driving us to the phone shop in the official DHL car.

Our sweet ride

I wish you could have seen the pure joy on Flounder’s face when we were able to buy 8 GB of data for about $1.50. He was so excited and became even more so when he discovered just how fast the 4G was.

‘I’m basically a cyborg,’ he explained as I chuckled at his reaction. He didn’t look up though as he said it, too busy researching the forgotten racist Disney movie Song of the South.

We were on our way to the rambling Osh bazaar, built largely of shipping containers and straddling the central Ak Buura river. I like bazaars (stay tuned for my post about the joys of bargaining) and the Osh bazaar is a good one—bustling and frequented, the undisputed commercial heart of the city.

The sprawling Osh bazaar

When you’re shopping in a new country, I recommend learning the numbers. Every time I bargained using Kyrgyz numbers instead of the more-often-used-by-tourists Russian, the sellers would smile and tell their neighbours of the strange woman who spoke Kyrgyz, and those neighbours would smile in turn.

I bought some dried apricots, eyed the pistachios and other mounds of nuts. We passed by clothing stalls, candy shops, fresh fruit and vegetables. I turned away from the butcher shop with the dismembered cow head sitting in front, staring straight ahead with lifeless eyes. I talked Flounder out of buying rope from the hardware vendors. (‘But you should always travel with rope! I don’t know why I didn’t pack any,’ said my grownup boy scout.)

We passed fabric stalls, saw a few spools of ikat, but nothing like the selection and quality in Fergana and Margilon in Uzbekistan.

And while we walked, crossing the river, under shaded stalls, past aromatic spices and rusted shipping containers now filled with sundries, a soft, calming voice was broadcast over each speaker. It was a woman’s voice, almost a whisper, speaking in Kyrgyz and then in Russian on a never-ending, soothing loop. I couldn’t catch the meaning, but heard lots of numbers—25, 10, 80. Was it exchange rates? Exam results? Current market prices?

Walking through the bazaar

I don’t know and probably never will. Travel is full of mysteries and sometimes the mundane can seem sublime. The soothing number whisperer is a mystery, but something sublime also happened in the Osh market. To explain it, I’ll need to back up a bit.

I’m vegan. By all accounts, Central Asia is not an easy place to be vegan as meat is in every famous dish from the region and eaten at every meal, with the occasional exception of breakfast. In addition to serving meat-heavy dishes, the area is also well known for yogurt, ayran, fermented mare’s milk, and dried yogurt balls, eaten as snack. Now, after having travelled for more than three weeks in the region, I can confirm this account. Being vegan here is difficult. At many restaurants the only thing I can eat is what should now be coined Sarah’s Salad—a fresh mix of cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions. Delightful and very tasty, it nonetheless gets old after eating it every day for lunch and dinner. If I’m lucky a restaurant might also serve french fries, a welcome source of starch and fat in an otherwise lean diet. I supplement with nuts, but have still lost a few kilos so far.

The Sarah Salad

It is dispiriting, for one who loves food as I do, to not be able to eat any street food, to eat essentially the same thing at every meal, to barely be able to engage with the enormous cultural richness of eating and mealtimes.

So when I found a dumpling (manty) in the Osh bazaar, a manty that somehow, miraculously did not contain meat, was not even flavoured with meat juices, I was overjoyed. (Something akin to Flounder’s 8 GB-of-fast-data joy.) It was ravioli-like, stuffed with thin shreds of potato and topped with paprika and raw onions, and I ate manty after manty, revelling in the unusual sensation of full-to-bursting. The feeling was sublime.

We were leaving the next morning for Arslanbob and entering the mountains so much at the heart of Kyrgyzstan, and I wondered, my belly gloriously stuffed, what other sublimities awaited us on our travels.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Ikat in Bukhara: More hopped up than a kid in a candy store

Bukhara’s not the best place for ikat. I know this. Margilan, in Uzbekistan’s Fergana Valley, is where most ikat is woven.

Standing in front of Feruza's shop, glorious ikat behind me

But when I see the streaks of color hanging in Feruza’s window, the stacks of ikat, brightly colored jewels lining the shelves and towering high on the tables, and the flawless tailoring of the clothing she has ready made, I decide that my first ikat purchase will be here.
Some of her ready-made garments

I’ve loved textiles for as long as I can remember. As a young child I admired the carpets my parents had brought back from Pakistan, admiring even the mistakes that showed the carpet had been painstaking made by hand. In my childhood bedroom I had an embroidered wool wall hanging from Kashmir, and though it was covered in animals, gazelles and elephants and birds, they were not the stylized, cuddly animals that usually grace a child’s room.

Jumping on the bed (I'm on the left). Kashmiri wall hanging in the back, floral embroidered bed covering in the front :)

I saw ikat for the first time in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, where I, a very frugal traveler, lusted after the glorious antique silk robes that had come from Central Asia. One robe cost more than I spent in a month of travel, though, so I could only look on longingly.

I found ikat again in northern Thailand and Laos, in regions where each stilt house has a loom under it and where, it’s said, a girl is only ready for marriage when she has mastered weaving.

In Laos, riding on a soviet-era Minsk motorbike, I saw for the first time how ikat is made—how the patterns are tie-dyed into the unwoven threads in a mishmash of dots and lines that somehow, magically, turn into flora, animals, and bold splotches of abstract design.

There in Laos I bought my first ikat. I bought a meter from the woman who had woven it. With a pair of scissors she had borrowed from her neighbor, she cut the fabric directly off the loom.

In Feruza’s shop in Bukhara I saw hundreds of meters of ikat, more brightly colored and abstract than in Laos, made of silk and cotton. I needed only to choose one, tell her what I wanted, and it would be mine in 36 hours. I felt like a kid in a candy shop, only much, much more excited. I felt like a kid in a candy shop with $10 and permission from her parents to go nuts.

Just some of Feruza's fabrics

I showed Feruza pictures of the two designs I wanted—a fitted dress with a flared, 50s style skirt, and a wide-leg jumpsuit. She took detailed measurements, reading them aloud in Tajik to her mother, who jotted them down. All that remained was to choose which candy to buy.

I feared the decision would be difficult, but it wasn’t. I picked cotton—cooler in the heat and (vegan alert!) no silkworms needed to be boiled alive to produce—in colors and patterns that looked different from anything I owned.

100% cotton ikat on the shelves here. The colors tend to be more subdued than the silk or silk/cotton blend.

The next day, Feruza came to our hotel and brought the rough, unfinished garments to get an idea of the fit. I gave a few notes, we decided where to place the zippers, and I promised to help her the with an English application to a craft fair she wanted to go to in the US the next day when I came for my final fitting.

Less than 12 hours later, I saw the finished clothes and felt a mix of excitement and tremendous relief. The tailoring was professional—with hidden zippers and finished seams—and as I was spending more money than I’ve allowed myself before, I was enormously pleased to see this result.

The finished dress
The jumpsuit before a final minor modification

The dress and the jumpsuit fit well, with only a minor modification needed. But before we sent them back to the tailor, Flounder and I did a little photo shoot in the historic area around Feruza’s shop with the idea that she could use the images as advertisement or in her applications to craft/art shows.

From our photo shoot in historic Bukhara

To take a look at one such application, Feruza invited us to her family’s home, a beautifully restored house in the old Jewish neighborhood of Bukhara, where we were welcomed by her mother, plied with tea and sweets, and attempted to make sense of the convoluted application process and demanding English-only questionnaire.

Two hours later we parted, having only made a small dent in the process. I picked up my garments after their final adjustment—jewel-like and perfect—and knew that could Feruza only get direct access to more American and European buyers, both she and those customers would be richer for the exchange.

Until that day, if you travel to Bukhara, stop at Feruza’s shop and, like that kid with $10 at a candy store, go nuts.

Another photo from the photo shoot :)
Feruza’s shop is located near the archway just southwest of Lyabi Hauz. Approximate opening hours 8am – 8pm.
Str. B. Naqshband #78
Trading dome ‘Toki Saraffan’
(+99865) 224 15 70
(+99891) 413 97 37
(+99890) 715 99 99

Monday, August 1, 2016

Glimpses of Samarkand

Unique geometric patterns on a mausoleum in Samarkand

‘Where are you from?’ a man in a white Daewoo slows down to ask us this question as he passes.

‘America,’ says Flounder.

‘How is my country?’ he asks, the car now past us.

‘Great!’ says Flounder.

‘Beautiful!’ I chime in.

The man drives off smiling.

We’re in Samarkand now, our sixth stop in Uzbekistan, and we’ve been met at every turn with warmth, curiosity, enthusiasm, and kindness.

Hours later, in the relief of the evening, we walk down the same small street—barely wide enough for one car—passing a mother with her two small children. The boy, toddly and a bit uncertain on his legs, greets us.

‘Hello how are you I’m fine thank you!’ he squeaks, the words sliding together to make a single sentence.

Next his sister, not older than five, takes her turn.

‘Hello how are you I’m fine thank you!’ Again the words slide together, this time in a melodic song, one that’s stuck in my head through the next day.

He asked Flounder to take his photo

It’s hot in Samarkand. It’s been hot everywhere in Uzbekistan, but somehow I feel it more acutely. Maybe it’s the wide, shadeless lanes and the grand, sun-beat plazas.

The majesty of the city is unmistakable, and even for one who’s not a history buff, it’s impossible to remain unmoved by the history of Samarkand. Situated firmly on the Silk Road, visited by Alexander the Great, by Chenggis Khan, ruled by Amir Timur (a venerated hero in Uzbekistan) and educated by his grandson, the renowned astronomer Ulugbek.

Registan at night

Much has been written of the Registan, a collection of gloriously tiled medrassas facing each other and somehow still standing through the buffeting of hundreds of years of earthquakes. There’s nothing new to say. Indeed, facing the fluted domes and the glittering tiles of the lion-tigers of the Sher-Dor Medrassa as the sun set and the colors shifted and glowed, I sat content in a wordless state. I couldn’t find the words, but in that moment I really didn’t need any.

The Sher-Dor Medrassa

We’re sitting in the precious shade near the Bibi Khanym Mosque. It’s midday and the air is starting pick up heat. Two teenage boys stand near us and it’s clear they want to approach. I smile and they come over, gesturing to their camera phone. Flounder and I stand up to pose for a few photos with the younger boy.

‘Rakhmat,’ he says.

‘Thank you,’ the older boy translates.

Commotion as the market closes

We’re walking past the Bibi Khanym Mosque when we spot a commotion near the Siob Bazaar. It’s 15 minutes past closing time and the sellers are keen to unload their wares before the trip home, while the buyers are looking to score a bargain. It’s whirl of activity, with changing money and bundles of herbs changing hands. We walk closer and the vibrant smell hits us. First a wave of dill, a high note above the medley of parsley, cilantro, mint, and basil. There are green onions too, small and pungent.

The fluted dome of the Bibi Khanym Mosque

Behind us the sun sets on the fluted dome of the mosque, tiled in designs and Arabic writing in shades of blue, and I turn away from the bazaar to admire the gleaming majolica of the dome and to notice the stock-straight weeds that have somehow burst from between the tiles of the 600-year-old and some 40-meter-tall dome.

From the dwindling din of the bazaar, a halvah seller calls out to tempt me. I bargain for a chunk of the fresh, flaky halvah made, unlike the more common sesame variety, from sunflower seeds.

The day is ending and we’re quickly losing heat and light as we climb a hill northeast of Samarkand. We pass through a modern cemetery, haunted by the etched portraits of the deceased looking down on us from each gravestone. Then, without warning the cemetery shifts from modern to centuries old. We’ve entered the Shoh-i-Zinda street of mausoleums, a row of beautifully tiled mausoleums from the 14th and 15th centuries. It’s a revered site and there are locals praying around us. As we walk, we hear the somber and melodic singing of a priest reverberating through the street while the pious gather around him, cupping their hands in a gesture of receiving blessings.

The doorway of a mausoleum

Walking back through the old city, we stop for two glass-bottle Cokes, the kind you drink in the shop because the small bottles are collected, sterilized, and reused. I don’t really like Coke, but I like these tiny, eco-before-it-was-cool bottles.

It’s our last night in Samarkand and we’ve spent the day among ancient ruins of the eleven-cities-deep Afrosiob and among young curious teenagers of Samarkand, excited to hear about our impressions of their city and country.

Cotton candy sellers in the fading light

After dinner, the light has faded by the time I walk back to the guesthouse and pass dozens of families, strolling and chatting, enjoying the night air. As I walk, I can feel the heat break and, at last, release its choke hold on the city. The clouds darkly roll in and for the first time during our travels in Uzbekistan, the sky opens, rain pours down, and I feel shiveringly, happily cold. Flounder, gone ahead to our guesthouse, somehow finds me with his umbrella and we walk back arm-in-arm through the narrow, dark lane.