It was the first Saturday of the month, the day the old Soviet empire set aside for neighbors to clean their parks, their roadsides. Some people were out in their dusty gardens. The town was raw and new, founded in 1958, born yesterday to prospect for oil, for uranium. Beyond its last blocky house lay the steppe of Central Asia. Eight-thousand-year-old campsites speckled with shell beads tinier than sunflower seeds lay slumbering within sight of the town’s glass towers. I was late. I walked fast. Outside the town, at the edge of a sea of grass, a cargo pony was waiting.