Assalom Alaykum! Yakhshi Misiz?

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


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Flag of Uzbekistan  ,
Thursday, September 11, 2003

Wow, so much happens everyday that is probably trivial but seems important to me, that it seems like there's too much to update! I'll do my best, though.

The most important thing is definitely that I finally started classes yesterday. My teacher, Mekhrabon, is such a wonderful, wonderful lady, and a good teacher. I have so much to memorize every night, but after two classes (I just finished one) I already feel like I'm making progress! It is SO exciting! Uzbek seems like a really cool language so far-- easier than Russian, for starters, and much more logically constructed. I like it a lot, and I look forward to learning other Turkic languages with the same structure later. :) Even though I thought I would be at the Alisher Navoi Language Institute at the World Languages University, I'm actually at the University of Diplomacy, where Mekhrabon teaches. Apparently, it's one of the best universities in the country, so that's really cool. I hop on the metro in front of my neighborhood (mahalla) and go one stop to the Amir Timur station, then two more to the Pushkin station, then walk a while to the University. It's actually not too bad (maybe a half hour all together) except that my feet feel like they're going to fall off, so even that was a big challenge today and yesterday. I have never had blisters this bad, courtesy of the new sandals I bought at the enormous (and famous) Chorsu Bazaar the other day with Anna and Mavjuda, who insist I trade them for my loafers on account of the 100-degree heat we've been having. (Just my luck, I hit an unusual heat wave, and even native Tashkenters are wilting!) Plus, I do so much walking everyday, and I haven't done that for a while.

As for other things, I think I'm going to have to resort to bullet points to hit them all:

Monday:
- I did successfully navigate my way home solo after posting my last entry, thank you very much
- Was later invited to dinner at the Niyazovs. Successfully purchased a good bottle of wine at the local grocery store to bring with me (had to actually ask for something off of a shelf behind a counter instead of just grabbing something and paying for it without having to really talk at all.)
- Had a nice dinner, followed by card games and card tricks with Anna, Scott, Bahodir and Rahima until midnight.

Tuesday:
- Met Anna and Mavjuda, then went to the Accels office with them, where I met the Accels staff and my teacher, Mekhrabon.
- Was informed that the office had hired me a friend. (Yes, that's right. Doesn't that sound terrible?) They were worried about me shopping and taking care of myself until I had better language skills, because the DC office had faxed them saying that I might have some difficulty because of medical and dietary issues. Of course, this would have been more useful the previous weekend, but the office had been closed, and I did get a lot of help from Anna, Bahodir and the Niyazovz, so it's ok.
- Got pictures taken for my Tashkent ID (so I won't have to carry my passport everywhere.) If the police ever ask for it, I should have no problem being released without incident-- the picture is so horrendous that they'll be laughing too hard to take me seriously. I look like a deranged, dead man. Yes, that's right. It will be quite the souvenir.
- Tea at the Niyazovs
- Visited the Accels resource office elsewhere in Tashkent, where Uzbek students prepare to come to the US
- Chorsu bazaar, where I got the Sandals of Pain and some dried chickpeas (excellent snack)
- Fell asleep really early

Wednesday:
- Went to get ID photos retaken, since I decided I couldn't live with being immortalized as a deranged, deceased man after all. Of course I gave the office the wrong set, though, so that's what's going to happen, after all. However, I conducted this transaction all by myself! :)
- Went to the Accels office to meet my new friend. I arrived early, so I decided to walk down the rest of Konstitutsiya Street. It's a really nice residential street- nice houses, and very shady with lots of flowers (especially roses.)
- Met a very elderly Korean man who, upon encountering me, wanted to know everything about me. I didn't understand everything he said, because he spoke very softly, a little slurred, and with Korean-accented Russian. But I understood more than I expected. He wanted to know my name, where I was from. Then he wanted to know what kind of American I was-- Russian American, Chinese American, etc. (his examples) I decided to simplify and say French American, with a family tree explanation. Apparently this was the right answer-- he seemed really really happy about that. I'm not sure why. Then he wanted to know how old I was, and if I was married. By this point, the swelling in my fingers from the flight and dehydration here had gone down enough so that I could where my rings, so I pointed to my ring finger and said "Nee yeshoh" (Not yet). It's the ambiguous answer I chose to match the ambiguous ring-- I don't want to pretend I'm someone I'm not, but I also don't want to find myself being set up by people. I don't know if that's likely, but it's a cultural complication that I really don't need. So hopefully I have portrayed myself as taken but not yet married. I have no idea if it translated or not.
- Had trouble finding the Accels office on the way back, after helping Elderly Korean Man (I couldn't catch his name) with some heavy boxes. Apparently, it's the building behind the dumpster that sports the graffiti "Chris de Burgh rules." Remember Chris de Burgh? "Lady in Red"? Yeah, that guy. I found that hilarious, but maybe that's just me. Well, I walked right past it, thinking it was on the other side of the street, and right into someone's private residential courtyard (there's an exterior door that leads to a courtyard in all of the homes on this street, and then eventually an interior door). In my defense, the house numbers were difficult to see, and the window design was the same, and that's all I remembered from the Accels building. Oops. Well, the Accels people saw me walk past their window and found me (and I don't think they saw my faux pas) and I met my new friend, Dilfuza.

More on Dilfuza:
She's really nice. She is a grad student studying languages, and her English is perfect. Everyone seems really worried that I won't practice my Uzbek with her because of that, but we agreed to start next week. What a relief to have someone around who speaks perfect Uzbek and English! The only person I know like that is Scott, and I hardly see him (and he leaves for the Ferghana Valley in a few weeks) and Anna to a lesser degree. It will at least be like having training wheels when I start to use my Uzbek in the bazaars to have someone to back me up if necessary! Plus it's of course exciting to get to know more people here. Dilfuza showed me around some more of the city yesterday, and I showed her Mirabod Bazaar today so she could help me pick up a few things, and we're going to the art museum tomorrow-- her friend is a docent there, so that should be really nice. Then I will have to run to my lesson, which was moved back and hour and a half, but it should be ok.

Back to Wednesday:
- Dilfuza showed me some concert halls, the Eternal Flame for Uzbek WWII soldiers (a really beautiful memorial), public gardens, beautiful fountains, the Central Department Store, a bookstore where I picked up some "postcards" (they're like regular sized cards without envelopes, so I'm not really sure how they work, but I still don't have stamps or know where to mail letters from, anyway, so I guess it doesn't really matter.)
- Went back to Accels to meet Mekhrabon, who showed me how to take the metro to the University, and then had my first lesson.
- Came home and studied for the rest of the night.

Today:
- Met Dilfuza and went to Mirabod Bazaar
- Went to class
- Now writing my entry

Wildlife Report:
- One pigeon and eggs in nest in my window
- One small dog and loud bird in my neighbor's apartment
- Two mules pulling cart driven by two small boys as seen in my courtyard, and driving down the street with traffic
- At least two noisy cats in my complex that like to fight at 1:00 am

To Do List for How to Fit in Better:
1) If it's 100 degrees, dress like it. Although the program manual recommended dressing in long cotton sleeves, they didn't anticipate this weather. Their intention was for us to blend in and not attract attention, but that has become counterproductive. Skimpier clothes in this situation are actually preferable (not a lot skimpier, just a little), and it's ok to do that in Tashkent (say, versus more conservative parts of the country.)
2) Wear jewelry and makeup. I gave up on that my first day here because of the heat, but Uzbek and Russian girls are expected to do both. Prettiness is important here. It seems to have stamped me not only as an American, but a 16-year-old American. I thought I did better today, but my teacher didn't think I was wearing any makeup, so I guess not, after all.
3) Get a pretty purse. Oh, what a hardship that will be.
4) Trade nice, handy Humphrey Program tote bag for a plastic shopping bag with handles, available at the bazaar for 15 cents. :(
5) My shoes seem to be receiving disapproving looks from women. Stylish shoes are the norm here, but my feet just can't handle it yet.
6) Stop hurrying everywhere. It goes back to 1)-- it's unnatural to hurry in this heat, even though it's a bad habit for me to break.

Anyway, those are some observations from the past couple of days. I don't know if I'll follow up on them, but it shouldn't matter that much if I do or not. I'm going to stand out no matter what I do, by my inability to tan if nothing else, but once I can speak Uzbek, it won't really matter.

Ok, I think that's all for now. /Whew!/ I'm sorry I haven't had the chance to email individually more, but my internet time has been really limited, and I frequently have trouble accessing my account. I will try to be better, though, so please email me too! My sphere of communication here is still pretty small, even though I'm making more friends slowly, so I would love to have some interaction!

I hope everyone is well! You're all in my thoughts!

P.S. "Assalomu alaykum! Yakhshi misiz?" means "Hello! Are you well?"
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