Day 559

Jul. 26th, 2010 08:47 pm
allochthonous: (Default)
Tashkent this summer is all fountains and flowerbeds and sprinklers and slightly unfortunate new architecture, and I bought an old coke bottle of fresh mulberry juice from the bazaar and wandered through the parks and boulevards drinking it and thinking that the Peace Corps are right to do it for two years. I feel like I'm only beginning to get the hang of things here, that I'm balancing on the edge. And I'm going home tomorrow, and it's not enough time.
allochthonous: (and in the mosquitoes too)
So, often I am lazy about things like water purifcation tablets and drinking bottled water not tapwater and most of the time it is OK, and then sometimes it isn't. God, I feel terrible.
allochthonous: (communist party)
Crossing the border to Uzbekistan felt like coming home. I had a stupid grin on my face all the way to Tashkent, and I rode the metro to my hotel which stopped at all the most bizarrely-decorated stations (astronauts and chandeliers forever) and I bought samosas in the bazaar and when I walked into the hotel one of my best Tashkent friends was there fixing somebody's bike, and all was right with the world.

Then I went to look for things and found out that the main Uzbekistan Airways booking office has moved the cafe with decent wifi (cafe. singular. Freaking Dushanbe has more wifi hotspots than Tashkent, which is at least three times the size) had closed and my UCell sim card, worth its weight in diamonds now tourists are forbidden to buy at all, had been blocked and my taxi driver tried to grope me and I would've bought a flight ticket to leave this evening were it not for the fact that no one knows where the bloody ticket office has gone.

And then I bought a drink and received a single teabag and a piece of bubblegum as part of my change, which is possibly my favourite Uzbekistan quirk of all (I have wrangled thirteen-odd currencies in the past six months and the Uzbek sum is still the most inept I have to encounter; guys, your biggest bank note is now worth less than fifty cents, suck it up and print bigger ones already) and I'm reluctantly forced to admit that I still kind of love this stupid place.

I do really need to find that ticket office though.
allochthonous: (Uzbekistan)
My Iranian visa application has been approved! I AM GOING TO IRAN \o/\o/\o/

OK, so I haven't got the actual visa itself yet (pfft, details), but I was really worried I wouldn't receive the invitation, as a lot of UK citizens are being rejected at the moment. Now to practice stylish headscarf-wearing (actually, for the moment I will settle for "headscarfs whch stay on").

Snow envy

Jan. 6th, 2010 12:12 pm
allochthonous: (Uzbekistan)
Happy new year to all. I am recovering from a week of overindulgence in Bukhara, where I learnt why it is a very bad idea for your stomach to visit three Uzbek houses in one day (just when you think you've finished the meal and are fishing around happily in the fruit bowl, you are blindsided by another main course, appearing in front of you as if out of nowhere, and this is repeated several timesover the course of a couple of hours. Uzbek matriarchs are food ninjas.), and that I do actually like pomegranates after all (the ones I'd had at home were terribly boring, and more trouble than they were worth, but here they are truly magniicent).

I am cursing - cursing - my luck that I happen to be away from home during what's turning out to be its coldest winter in thirty years, and stuck in a country that seems to be having one of its warmest. Unlike almost anywhere else in the northern hemisphere, Uzbekistan remains at a balmy 8 C (although this doesn't stop anyone here from swathing themselves in fur hats and coats and apartments blocks and offices being heated up to a ridiculous temperature). I stuck it out through the endless summer here because I was promised a proper winter, and now looking at my friends' Facebook feeds is making me almost weep out of envy.

Fortunately, I have German sweets with which to console myself. Time for a lebkuchen binge, methinks.

PIE

Nov. 27th, 2009 04:56 pm
allochthonous: (Default)
I have been sitting on a Khiva post forever, but I am too full of pie, and smugness that I managed to make five pies in an oven that barely breaks the "tepid" setting (seriously, the pumpkin pies took nearly four hours to cook), to get off my arse and finish it. I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for an assortment of ex-pats, locals and backpackers, and while there was no turkey, there was fondue, kimchi, dodgy local cognac and plenty of pie.

In the meantime, I am (slowly) putting my photos up here. Just Kyrgyzstan so far, but plenty of Uzbekistan to come if the internet copes. Oh, and Kyrgyzstan looks like this:

Crossing a pass
allochthonous: (Default)
Since Tashkent was persistently failing to honour the "get colder" part of autumn, I fled, as soon as I was decently able to Kyrgyzstan, about which I knew little but that it was high, and therefore cold, and that it had to be better than dusty Tashkent with its sputtering fountains and artificially green flowerbeds that serve only to emphasise the dryness of the air. I believe it was at the point at which I was stuck in the middle of a blizzard on the ascent to a 4000m pass, clinging frantically to my horse as it floundered through snow up to its chest that the thought occurred that perhaps there were less uncomfortable ways to escape. Surrounded on all sides by the massive peaks of the Tien Shan range, I felt that such a setting deserved slightly better than my flailing. One hundred and fifty years ago, British and Russian spies disguised unconvincingly as Turkmen horse traders were sneaking through these mountains, vigorously intriguing against each other all the while, and now here I was, trying not to fall off my horse and feeling utterly incapable of even the smallest intrigue. I couldn’t help feeling that I was lowering the tone of the landscape somewhat.

Here be mountains, yurts and eagle hunters )

Just writing that is making me feel less than happy that I am in grimy Tashkent again, and the view out of my window is of grubby apartment blocks rather than rolling mountains. The school I wwas working at has been closed, so I am somewhat at a loose end at the moment, and Tashkent is more or less entirely the wrong place to be at a loose end in. Since the only other option seems to be joining the cotton harvest (the cotton picking season is beginning, where the universities shut for a month or two and the students are sent out into the cotton fields to bring the harvest in) and this sounds rather like hard work, I am dashing off to see the rest of the country to put off making a decision about what to do next. Procrastination forever!
allochthonous: (bombay sapphire)

So. I am leaving for Uzbekistan in under a week. I am visa'd up (complete with bonus "You want to stay for how long? Are you nuts?" reaction from visa guy, which is mildly offputting when you're forking over nearly two hundred quid for a piece of paper), in posession of an air ticket (tricker than it sounds) and have memorised the Russian for "I don't speak Russian" and "I don't understand", which may or may not get me through the airport safely.

The fact that I probably wont be back home for a good eighteen months is only just beginning to sink in, which is probably why I waited until yesterday to begin sorting out various crucial bits and pieces that a more efficient person might have attended to at several weeks ago. Things that have made me yell "Shiiiiiit!" in the past 24 hours include, but are not limited to: a), discovering that  75% of my travel vaccinations expired last year, thus leaving me defenceless against any combination of hepatitis, typhoid and rabies that Uzbekistan cares to thow at me; b), realising my contact lens prescription expires next month, precluding me from ordering any more online; and c), being informed that foreign ATM cards don't work anywhere in Tashkent and that I need at least $2000 to cover my expenses during the first couple of months. WHY AM I SUCH AN IDIOT.

Consequently, today has been full of needles and opticians and travellers cheques, so I am now alleviating the ache in both my upper arms (stupid intramuscular injections) with fudge (I have rationalised all of my junk food decisions over the past month with the refrain "But I won't be able to get that in Uzbekistan!", and it has worked out very well for me) and thinking about making a list of all of the other stuff I need to do before Sunday. This includes packing at some point, I suppose. Organisation really, really sucks.

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