Friday, February 22, 2013

The Rhythm of Life

Ahh, the rhythm of life.  Every morning, rain or shine, I know it's time to rise and face the day, for the simple reason that no one, even the soundest sleeper among us, could possibly maintain a placid slumber when the city starts growing again.  Like the proverbial rose, Astana by any other name would still resemble a playground for giant toddlers playing with human-sized erector sets.  Toddlers with a twelve-hour attention span who start their work when this city is still under cover of dark, and end long after the nine-to-five crowd has made its way homeward.

Like the worn-out refrigerator in my rented apartment kitchen, years older than the building itself, there is a rhythm, a predictability to the sounds here.  I can always count on my refrigerator motor coming on, like clockwork, at about the time I'm drifting off to sleep, in the middle of the night when I'm in the middle of a particularly pleasant dream, about twenty minutes before my alarm goes off in the morning, and pretty much any time I'm sitting in the kitchen trying to Skype with someone back home over a particularly choppy internet connection.

Just so, the city wakes and slumbers to the time-keeping of the industrial-sized triphammer, more regular than any pendulum, that somehow still manages to pound holes in the ground even in the dead of winter.  So regular is the construction here, the rampant growth of everything, that they measure time, not in hours, days, weeks, months, years, but in height—at this rate, I estimate, we'll see spring again when one more story has been added to the building sprouting above the roof of the apartment complex immediately out my bedroom window.  Just so, I imagine venerable old grandmothers telling tales of the city in their girlhood, when all the buildings stood less than three stories in height, and no one ever had to buy an elevator card.  And do you see that plump-cheeked boy toddling about the snow-covered playground?  He only learned to walk when the ice layer was just beginning to grow on the sidewalks and every other paved surface, and now look: it's a mere four inches thick and he's running like he was born to it!

In December, when the snow and ice just began to take hold, I caught a glimpse of these ant-like workers adding another story to that far-off building.

And now they are preparing to begin another story.  I wonder, do they even know when they'll stop?

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