Bits and pieces

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

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Flag of Uzbekistan  ,
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

A Girl's Guide to Being Instantly Recognizable as a Foreigner in Tashkent
(With additional [and likely biased] commentary from acquaintances)

1. Be in a hurry, or at least walk like you are, with a purposeful stride.

2. Do not style your hair. A ponytail is sufficient.

3. Wear sensible clothes and shoes. Do not wear anything with a bit of glitter, sequins, lace, or any other kind of embelishment. Value modesty above style. Expose as little skin as possible. Comfortable, thick soled shoes are a must-- you cannot walk through dirt piles in the local favorite (kitten heels.)

4. Wear glasses in public. Comment from Nastia, my 22-year-old English-speaking Russian neighbor: "No, we wear contacts. Men are intimidated by women who wear glasses. They think that women who wear glasses will compete with them for jobs," or something to that effect. Yup, girls can be smart, they just can't appear to be smart. Got it.

5. Do not carry a small, cute purse. Carry a messenger bag-- standard-sized in the US, but gargantuan here. Fill it full of books. Read those books in public.
Related conversation between me and my teacher, Mekhrabon (note that the translation is much smoother than the actual conversation, which was in stilted Uzbek):

Mekhrabon: What do you think the biggest difference between American and Uzbek students?
Me: I don't know that many Uzbek students yet, so I really couldn't say.
Mekhrabon: There must be something.
Me: Well... Uzbek students dress up a lot more. Some American students do, but here it seems like everyone does. And I never see any students on the metro carrying books. Do they leave them at school? Use reference books in the library? People always stare at me when I have my bag, and especially if I'm reading on the metro.
Mekhrabon: They don't study! When I was a student, every student on the metro had a huge bag full of books, like yours, and was reading- always! Now, no one does. Intellectual professions don't pay-- the only lucrative profession is business. So, students either study for business, breeze by in another subject, or dress up to attract an aspiring businessman to marry.
Me: Ah ha.
So I stick out like a sore thumb, but I'm resigning myself to that inevitability. I'm not willing to give up my messenger bag, sensible clothes or glasses-- all philosophical objections aside, it's just too much work trying to blend completely. Since I'm a curiousity rather than a target, I'll just have to get used to the staring and random people asking me on the metro if I'm American.

One upside to that instant recognition, though, is that I met a really cool girl yesterday who goes to my university and interns for a local NGO. She's going to introduce me to some people tomorrow, which should be really cool.

Cutesy Animal Update

- I have discovered that Nodira hatched 2 chicks. I have named the twins Alisher and Amira, after the poet Alisher Navoi and the conquerer/leader Amir Timur (Tamerlane). I kind of like that the boy is the poet and the girl is the ass-kicker (not that I know their actual genders, but I assigned them at random.) They're getting really big, and should be cute once they lose their greenish-tipped fluff. I thought I screwed up yesterday, though-- I finally got a good look at them, and looked longer than usual. A little while later, Nodira took off (the first time I noticed this) and was gone a really long time. I was afraid that my interest spooked her and she abandoned the chicks. I really didn't want to be responsible for the death of 2 baby birds! She came back, though, so all is well.

- Svyeta's adorable little dog, Daisy, is still trying to get me in trouble. She likes to bark when I come home and unlock my door. For a while, during the initial door drama, I didn't realize that there was a better way of closing my door than yanking it shut. This is a problem, considering that it is metal. Poor Svyeta, I would have been really annoyed, too. Luckily, she told Abdulla instead of blowing up at me, and he showed me a better way. I still get paranoid when Daisy barks (I think she hears my keys) that Svyeta is going to come out in a fury. So far so good, though, and I successfully mended fences with her a few weeks back, thanks to some chocolate and a note in Russian thanking her for her kindness when I got locked out. That won me some blintzes, that I couldn't eat but the Niyavozs enjoyed, and an introduction to Nastia, the girl upstairs who can speak English.

- I came out of my building the other day to find a donkey chewing on the bushes. It was a perfect Kodak moment missed. :(

Traffic Rules in Tashkent

1. Pedestrians NEVER have the right of way. This would be a naive and dangerous assumption.

2. If an oncoming car honks at you, it means business. MOVE IMMEDIATELY or it WILL run you over.

3. Donkey cart crossing signs also mean business. Don't ignore them.

4. Don't expect crosswalks or lights to cross by. More often than not, you're on your own.

5. When in doubt, cross one side of traffic, pause in the 2-inch "median" (ha!) then cross the other. When you are in the middle and still, you are safe; moving targets are fair game.

6. Jaywalking and hitchiking aren't crimes, they are the status quo and the only way to get anything done. Any way you can get across the street is fair game, and any private car can be a taxi, depending on if your destinations are compatible.

7. DON'T cross the street if you can avoid it. Use the underground walkways-- sometimes just a walkway, sometimes a metro entrance. It's the safest way to go.
Music Highlights in Tashkent

- Russian rap
- Russian reggae
- Russian rap videos
- Ok, any Russian music videos
- Mavjuda (host-mother-by-proxy) humming "I Know What You Want" (Is that the title? It's the Busta Rhymes/Mariah Carey duet)
- Most of the graffiti I've seen is: "Rap," "Rock," "Prodigy," "Metallica," "Iron Mayden" [sic],"Pink," "Chris de Burgh is the best! I love you!" "Rap" and "Rock" are the most common, and can be found everywhere.
- Seeing Russian guys try to dance to Eminem at a disco Saturday night
- The eclectic mix on the radio station that I listen to the most-- Russian, Uzbek, American, French, and Spanish music, as well as house music (or house-inspired) at all hours.
- Hearing Uzbek pop in the background while viewing iron-age artifacts at the history museum today
- Hearing music everywhere, all the time

That is all for now. Thanks for all of the hurricane updates-- I'm so glad that you're all safe and sound!
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