Well, it isn’t a holiday for me. Today is International Women’s Day (Дорогие женщины, с праздником!), and I observed it by heading to the bazaar after congratulating the landlady at the guesthouse as well as the cooks and waitresses at the nearby cafe where I regularly enjoy cakes and coffee.
I had hoped to spend the afternoon explaining my project to the administrators at the Kara-Suu bazaar, and (ideally) getting to talk to them about the organization of the stalls and other material of interest for my dissertation. However, upon arriving I found that the office was close for the holiday but most of the stalls were still working. So I spent a few hours getting a lay of the land. When I visited Kara-Suu in October, I went on the cleaning day so that the only people there would be those who had come in for a quiet day of inventory taking or doing minor renovations to their container-shops. It was good, because I was able to find out some of their takes on the June Events and their effects on trade. However, it prevented me from seeing this sprawling bazaar, the second largest in Central Asia, in its full glory.
Today, I wandered down the long alleyways of shipping containers, piled two high and fanning off in all directions behind the archway that marks the entrance to the vast marketplace. I found areas devoted to the things one sees in all bazaars in the region (curtains, clothing – divided into women’s, men’s, and children’s sections, shoes – with the same divisions, electronics, lamps, etc.). After getting turned around in the candy and cookies section of the bazaar (it’s huge!), I found myself in the back row of containers, where men sold coal from their containers, shoveling it into bags or truck beds, as the consumer wished. Following the coal section, I came across a sheepskin/pelt area of the bazaar, which I followed until I found a path leading back into the labyrinth of stalls. There, I came upon the bicycle repair section, and the antique sewing machine area!
Although this is mainly a wholesale marketplace, like Dordoi, it contains a higher percentage of retail outlets than its Bishkek equivalent. It is both smaller and more interesting, by virtue of the fact that is serves a wider variety of clientèle. Before leaving the south, I will return several more times and get a better idea of the layout, management structure, and supply chains.