Thursday, October 05, 2017

Uzbekistan: Our First 24 Hours

All good things must come to an end, so after five weeks of vacation, Eitan and I set out for our new home in Tashkent.  Traveling from Newark to Frankfurt to Istanbul and finally to Tashkent, the trip took about 28 hours door to door.

Our flight landed in Tashkent around 12:40 AM, and I was feeling duly beat-down as I made my way down the planeside stairs to the buses waiting below.  It was a brisk 40 degrees outside (4 C), but it felt glorious, even in short sleeves, having flown sauna class on Turkish Airlines for the past four and a half hours.

All the plane's passengers were packed into three or four buses, and when the buses offloaded everyone at the terminal building minutes apart, unsurprisingly there was a substantial bottleneck.  With only a few stanchions to organize the passengers, a mob basically formed in front of the passport control area, in which there were three or four immigration officers working the windows.  Two facilitators were in place to keep the crowd at bay, but it wasn't an easy task.  These two gents spent their time pleading and reasoning with, and sometimes barking at, irritable passengers who just wanted to go home.

In addition to the passport control mob, there was a smaller mob outside the visa-on-arrival window.  I needed to avail myself of this service, so Eitan went through the normal line, and I queued up for my visa.  Having identified me as a diplomat, one of the facilitators moved me to the front of the line, and I didn't have to wait long.  As my visa was being processed, however, trouble was brewing at the window.  Three young men from Israel had popped up at the front of the line to "ask a question," but the others were convinced they were simply trying to cut.  Tempers were rising as I left with my new visa and cleared passport control.

I made my way to baggage claim and met up with Eitan.  He was standing with our sponsors, Dale and Sandra, two kind individuals who had made logistical arrangements before our arrival, stocked our new house with supplies, and shown up to the airport in the middle of the night to meet us.

We made our introductions and chatted as we waited for Eitan's and my bags to appear, but after 10 or 15 minutes, I noticed that our bags had already arrived.  They were sitting beside the conveyor belt.

By the time we got home, unpacked a few things, and went to bed, it was 3 AM.  At noon we went into the office.

On that first day at the Embassy, we met with the human resources staff to begin the check-in process, took a tour of the compound, and met our new colleagues.  Neither Eitan nor I had slept well, so a light day of administrative processing was enough.

In contrast to the mega embassy we had left in Kabul where the average person knows a few dozen faces out of the hundreds on the compound, the much smaller embassy in Tashkent had a friendlier, small-town feel.  And just like on Cheers, everyone knew our names.  As we walked around the compound we were approached several times by new colleagues.

"Are you Chris and Eitan?" someone would ask.

People were expecting us so when they spotted two new guys walking around with blue badges, they put two and two together.

The same thing happened with some of the Uzbek staff too.

When we went to talk to the cell-phone technician, we introduced ourselves.

"I know who you are," he told us.

Everyone we met, including my immediate officemates, seemed nice.  As usually happens, though, I shook maybe thirty hands that first day and I retained only about three names.

After work, Eitan and I took a walk around our neighborhood.  Our house is located about five minutes from a major road, lined with shops, restaurants, and a Metro stop, so we had plenty of things to see.

After we had walked around for about 45 minutes, we went to an open-air market and Eitan bought us some pumpkin somsas to try.  Somsa is the Uzbek name for samosa.  Fresh out of the oven, these were a nice treat.

While we were at the market, we browsed the produce, and I was pleasantly surprised at the prices.  At first glance I didn't see any fruits and vegetables priced at more than 50 cents per pound, and many items were considerably lower.  The selection was nice as well.

Before we went home, we made one last stop to check out the supermarket.  The layout was pretty user-friendly, and even though I don't speak Russian or Uzbek, it was easy to find everything.

As always, I kept watch for anything unique as we made our way through the aisles, and it was in the egg section that I hit pay dirt.

I picked up some chicken eggs for the house, and then I noticed boxes of quail eggs next to them.

"Wow," I thought, "quail eggs!"

Then I looked past the quail eggs and noticed something much cooler: ostrich eggs!  These made the quail eggs look boring by comparison.

chicken eggs are so old fashioned

Costing only about $8 an egg, I definitely see some ostrich omelets in my future.

Having explored for two hours, though, we called it a night.  Sandra and Dale had prepared us a pasta dish, so we warmed it up for dinner and paired it with a local wine.

We went to bed twenty-two hours after we had landed, and I reflected on our interesting first day.

"It's going to be another good tour," I thought as I turned off the bedside lamp.


Wallyworld said...

Good luck with the new assignment. I look forward to reading the exciting instalment. As for a title in this new stage in your life, how about “Uncovering Uzbekistan”

Unknown said...

Thank God you are in it cold ?
People are calm ..warm ..

Ollie and Floyd said...

Tashkent - wow! What a perfect place for a writer. We're excited to read about your new adventures and my kids will eagerly await this year's Christmas card. :)
How can I send you our new address?

Have a wonderful day!

Anonymous said...

Great to hear from you and your adventures. Have fun.

Mary Ann said...

Thanks for helping me see the world while I reside in Alexandria, Virginia. I look forward to hearing about the ostrich omelet.

Mary Ann

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post Chris, very enjoyable.

Rena said...

Congratulations on your new assignment Chris!! =) I look forward to reading about your adventures there.

Anonymous said...

Uzbekistan! I am so there! Lydia

Unknown said...


Congratulations on your new assignment in Uzbekistan! I expecting hear from you more interesting stories. I am so blessed that I don't have to go places to find out more detailed information because of you!!
Thank you so much again your fantastic journey!!


Tamara said...

I still love reading your stories Chris. They are grammatically excellent and the detail is vivid. All in all, a pleasure to read. So happy to hear you're enjoying your new post. Please send me your new mailing address.
Tam :)