A social game like that was probably not the best choice for the party. I wouldn't say it spoilt the atmosphere, but as our host announced what we would play after eating, I cringed with apprehension. I still put the thought off until when I'd have to face the situation. Maybe, when my turn came to publicly present the person sitting next to me, I would be inspired with something really witty, although chances were I'd just be stuck for words, or ideas. I would certainly not sacrifice good taste or the loyalty I owed to my victim for the sake of being funny, and so the risk of making a faux pas would be likely to make my speech dull. I could always hope I would not be chosen to speak – in fact the rest didn't seem particularly keen on playing either, and the game was likely to die down after few presentations.
I was in Verona for Marmomacc on Friday and, as usual, I had planned to prolong my stay in the area, only this time my excitement was spoilt by two negative thoughts. This first had to do with a relative's state of health, which kept my mind uneasy as long as I was away from home. The second was the sinking feeling that this edition of Marmomacc would be the last I was attending because of a change of policy at work. I could always console myself thinking I could take a trip to where and when I decided, but somehow this was the end of an era. This tradition of mine dated back to quite a long time ago and it was doomed to end miserably.
The elderly couple were fit enough to have climbed up to the mountain hut, but who knows at what speed. They were sprawling in the sun after eating a sandwich and a banana, and it was a bad omen that I should sit on its skin. They seemed to be familiar with the area when I enquired about the path I meant to take but the startled expression they put on was not reassuring. They wondered between themselves if I'd make it by nightfall.
It was a night train from Samara to Saratov. The carriage attendant had already woken up the passengers long before the train entered the outskirts of the town. I poured some boiling water into my cup, added some instant coffee and had some breakfast while exchanging a few words with the couple who had been shopping in Samara over the weekend. We parted on the platform: the man was hurring off to have a quick shower before reaching his workplace, whereas I headed for the upstairs area of the train station and tried to organise my day.
Last night I took a stroll through an exciting night market that made me fall in love with Kashgar at first sight. It was unlike any other Chinese market I had seen so far, full of visitors and stalls offering food ranging from whitish cow’s lungs, to sheep’s heads and more commonplace noodles or watermelon, all under dangling light bulbs. Whether the hype was ordinary or due to the approaching end of Ramadan, I perceived a rocking festive mood and found it electrifying.
The plan, however, was to leave the next morning to Karakul lake and be back by the great Muslim festival on Sunday, when an unheard-of mass of worshippers would gather on the main square and take part in the moning prayer after which all would be free to eat even by daylight.