Autumn arrives in Tashkent!

Trip Start Sep 04, 2003
Trip End Dec 20, 2003

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Flag of Uzbekistan  ,
Sunday, September 14, 2003

The heat wave has finally broken! I could comfortably wear the long sleeves and slacks yesterday that comprise most of my wardrobe, and last night was actually chilly! This is a very welcome change from the searing 100-degree-with-blinding-sun weather we have endured since arriving. Now the sun can be as blinding as it wants, and I don't care! Especially since my sunburn is finally fading. How stupid am I to take 3 days to remember to wear sunblock when EVERY day is sunny? Oh well.

Dilfuza and I went to the state art museum on Friday. Her friend the guide gave us a really nice tour. (And apparently she gave the Ambassador of Malaysia and his wife a tour the week before, so she's a real pro!) It's a very cool place, with Uzbek artifacts; Russian and Uzbek paintings; Uzbek rugs; Uzbek robes and skullcaps (dripping with gold embroidery); Uzbek jewelry; Uzbek, Russian, French, English and German furniture and porcelain; and special exhibits for Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indian pieces (furniture, clothing, jewelry, etc.) mostly donated by those embassies, or, in the case of a beautiful carved Chinese bed, by a private collector (none other than Duke Romanov himself). Even with the dual-pricing system for foreigners, a guided tour was a steal at 900 soum (about $1).

Yesterday, Anna and I went to a concert at her Uzbek teacher's high school. It was really amazing! Anna isn't sure she understood completely (from an explanation in Uzbek) but she thinks that the students involved in the production are preparing for an Uzbek-American exchange, and we're guessing that the Uzbek students will be traveling to the United States soon to perform. There were about 6 girls in traditional dress, singing and dancing various traditional routines, along with 2 boys doing the same, and one boy accompanying them with a large hand drum (I forget what it's called, but I'm going to find out for Uncle Joe.) There was also another boy in charge of the recorded soundtrack that would occasionally be used. Everyone did an amazing job, but I think I was most impressed by the kid with the drum. He played it almost continuously throughout the hour-long program, and just had this calm look of "What? What's the big deal? Oh, there's an audience here? Whatever." It's hard to describe, but he looked like he was there and elsewhere at the same time.

The concert basically portrayed the rituals followed throughout a boy's life: birth, childhood games, meeting girls, and getting married. After the concert (concluding with a rousing rendition of a patriotic song-- made rousing by a loud, patriotic contingent of teenage boys in the back of the audience), the girls came and started pulling fellow classmates and teachers out of the audience to dance with them. Anna and I looked at each other and were like, "Um...No. Not comfortable with that." But then I felt this tug on my arm, and one of the girl dancers with a face you can't say no too was pulling me down to dance. Oh well. We flailed around a bit until released, but I guess I can now say that I've performed a traditional Uzbek dance! Well, close enough.

After the concert, Anna and I walked down the famed Broadway. It wasn't what I expected at all-- I knew it was busy and tree-lined and rather European-looking (like a leafy French boulevard), but I expected regular shops lining it. Instead, it looks more like a Boardwalk, with tent-like kiosks with food, drinks, carnival games, portrait artists, etc. Lots of music everywhere. It was very cool, and the best part was that even though it seems kind of tourist-y, it was full of locals. Then we found the Mir Supermarket! Finally! My neighborhood supermarket is usually fine (if very expensive) but Mir can't be beat! I was so excited! I fed my strengthening addictions to diet pepsi, snickers and sour cherry juice (it's concentrated sour cherry juice that, instead of being reconsituted with water, has even more sugar added to it instead, so it ends up not being sour at all and containing more sugar than I used to consume in a week! But it's so good!) and also picked up some butter, cheese, veggie scrubber, etc., so I could finally cook for myself.

When I got home, I made myself my first baked potato, and it was so good! I think the satisfaction of mastering a foreign microwave really put it over the top. Then Bahodir came over, and looked over my Uzbek homework for a while, correcting some things, and we swapped some Uzbek and English. Then we went for a walk, heading back over to Broadway. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I had already been, and I'm really glad I didn't-- it's even better at night, and we walked from my apartment. I didn't realize I was so close to the center of town! Very good to know. He also showed me the Oliy Majlis (Parliament) building, the Amir Timur (Tamerlane) statue, and the wedding hall. Now that I know I'm so close to it all, I'll be wandering that way more often!

So, I'm off now to try to pick up some rice thingies from the bazaar, and then home to attack my mountain of Uzbek homework. I have a lot of phrases to memorize for tomorrow (not my strength) as well as 5 chapters of grammar to read over. Wish me luck!

P.S. I can't get into my email right now, but will reply to emails as soon as I can. Also, I have finally found the post office on my city map, so I am going to try to get there tomorrow and successfully mail the letters I have dutifully written. :)
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