Benign or not?
The girl behind the veil
Throughout our travels in Central Asia we have seen some interesting contortions of the English language. Sometimes the grammar is wrong, sometimes the spelling is wrong - sometimes it is just plain WRONG. We've seen quite an array, from Calvin Klain / Calivian Kolien / Galvin Klein underwear, T-shirts advertising the Bjeiing olympics, to NKIE socks, adibas tracksuits, fashion sprotswear, Mikey Mouse toys, MacDunduls baby clothes, and Samsunc television sets.
Walking through the Bazaar in Uzgen we were intrigued to find a line of children's toys under the label of "Benign Girl". To this day, we're still puzzled as to how this product could be named as such. Maybe this girl had a partner product, a super-hero called "Malignant Man"? Or maybe it's just a way of advertising the fact that this toy is non-toxic, or non-carcinogenic.
The next day we met a girl who was not benign.
We were on our way back to our host's house, walking past a series of shops in the centre of town, when Megan saw up ahead a lady with the full headscarf, with only her eyes showing. This was not at all uncommon in Uzgen as it is actually a very conservative region. However, after our recent experiences with religious extremism, we'd learnt that it is the man's responsibility to not look at the veiled women, it is not the woman's responsibility to hide. Since Megan is sometimes initially mistaken for a boy (due to her strange foreign clothes and short-ish hair) she averted her eyes to prevent any confusion or offence. Roger had also seen the lady up ahead and had averted his eyes.
However, as we approached, the lady lunged at the bag that Roger was carrying in his hand and tried to yank it from him. Roger, not allowed to even look at her, had to just keep walking through the crowd as if nothing was happening. But she didn't just stop there - she followed us for a few metres trying this time abit more forcefully to take the bag from Roger. We really had no idea what was going on but tried to just keep going, to not look at her, and to try not to draw even more attention to us strange foreigners. After a while she gave up and turned back empty-handed.
That girl might have looked like a conservative religious woman, but she was certainly not benign!