Ten Years Later
Tashkent Travel Blog› entry 4 of 83 › view all entries
If being up for nearly two days with a few intermittent hours of light napping didn't disorient me, it must have been the relatively unobtrusive passport control procedures upon arrive in Tashkent that really did it. Within one hour from disembarking the plane, I was standing in front of the airport fending off persistent taxi drivers. I didn't even get to argue with the militsiya officers, none of which seemed the least bit interested in me. "This is a good sign," I thought, wondering if I missed a checkpoint or two. Within minutes, a smiling face approached me asking if I was John McKenzie. Assuming my popularity would only be known to my host family members, I acknowledged my identity and was relieved to discover it was Salohiddinn, my host sister Gulchehra's husband.
Their flat is a basic Soviet-style apartment on the top floor of a 9-storey building surrounded by dozens just like it. From Zarqaynar Street their building is blocked by the towering Milliy Bank. The taxi bumped along the potholed streets and weaved around irregularly parked cars to the fourth entrance, where we unloaded my cargo. Uzbek babushkas wearing a classic rumol, or headscarf, were sweeping the dirt and leaves from the street or sitting on the rickety benches in front of each entrance. We barely fit in the 6x6 elevator that only went to the 8th floor and stopped with a jerk.
It wasn't long before I was eating fried eggs and non, the circular bread that is found in every Uzbek household. It was still rather early and I was fairly exhausted but time moves in a much different form here and somehow the day managed to pass without me having a chance to take a nap. After breakfast Saloh and I went to another nearby bank and changed money. I changed $300 and ended up with 402,000 sums. The largest denomination of currency, the 1000-sum note, is worth about 80 cents. I then went on an errand with Saloh that took us to yet another bank where he had to do some business. I sat on an empty chair next to the guard on duty next to the door. I nearly slumped over on the desk from falling asleep before I caught myself--and a glimpse of the pistol on his hip. By the time we got back to the house, my oldest host sister Shohsanam was there with the woman who had hosted her when she lived in Tacoma, Jackie. A family friend was also there and served salads, berries and a plate of meat and potatoes for lunch.
After lunch we ventured to the bustling Chorsu Bazaar where we did some shopping and I followed in a semi-catatonic state. There were certainly more prodcuts available now than there were ten years ago, and I was wishing I had saved some of my cash until I got here to get clothes, since they were relatively cheap and in some cases good quality. I already had to buy a new daypack since the one I brought had a hole in it. Sanam helped bargain the price down to 20 of the white banknotes, or about $15. Suddenly it became windy and cold then started raining so we took a taxi back to the apartment where I was finally able to get to sleep after a good dinner.
The next day, October 1st, we met again at the train station where we were to embark on our 20-hour journey across the Qizil Qum desert on the new rail line that actually stopped at Ellikqal'a, the district where I spent my Peace Corps years. While I hadn't explored Tashkent and was still recovering from jet lag, I realized I had made that transition into "traveler" again, although seeing host family members again really made me feel less like a tourist and more like a relative.