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Part I: Homeward Bound

Thursday, December 14th, 2006


It’s kind of strange thinking about going back to Uzbekistan this trip. So many of our friends have gone and moved on. Quite a few are working in Afghanistan right now for a variety of companies, but you’ve also got those who went to Russia, people who’ve gone to Dubai, and several who made it stateside. There are only a couple of people I can think of to visit with that are non-family at this point.

We get a bunch of gifts for various family members and her huge rolling suitcase is dedicated solely to that, so that once we distribute, it should be much easier to lug our stuff around. This is foreshadowing of the ironic sense, of course, and will return later.


Sharjah is Dubai’s little brother. Sharjah has a number of facilities of various types, but Dubai has made “bigger is better” it’s watchword and of course the glamorization of it’s marvels makes a big difference, too. I can’t figure how it successfully promotes itself as a shopping destination (it’s typically noticeably more expensive than American prices by a good third or more) and a tourism destination, since of course it’s a desert where there’s only so much to do and you’d want to avoid it close to 8-9 months of the year. Now I’m not trying to slam Dubai, just demonstrate it’s relation to Sharjah. Somehow Dubai has managed to put a nicer sheen up against the sand and does actually promote itself as a business and play center for the Gulf region. Good for them. Anyway, the point I’ve taken a long loop around getting to is that we flew out of Sharjah airport instead of it’s much larger, better equipped, and better staffed cousin in Dubai.

We are pleasantly surprised at the short flight. I was thinking it was about 4 hours, but it’s only about 2 ½ hours instead. Hardly long enough to get really bored with Tomb Raider II: Lara Croft and the Cradle of Boredom and Crappy Movies. Soon enough, we were landing in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.


We flew into the airport, and for the second time in all my trips there, the plane went right up to the terminal instead of having to take the bus back and forth. We helped this little old babushka with huge heavy bags (as they always seem to have) but she was almost hard to keep up with. When we got close to Passport Control, she took her bags back and pushed her way to the front. Shortly thereafter, she was gone.

We got through passport control, got our bags, moved through customs, and made our way through the mass of humanity waiting to greet people. The problem with them of course is that they seem unable to get out of the way. We exit the airport into a city where it’s rained recently. OMIGOSH! Water falling from the sky! What a novel concept. We don’t see Katya, who is supposed to meet us. My phone isn’t getting a signal (the old Uzbek SIM card that I dug out of my wallet is not longer fully functional, but we don’t realize that yet) and we don’t have money changed yet so can’t use a pay phone. We can’t just take a taxi, because if they haven’t forgotten us, then they won’t be there to let us in at the apartment. Guli goes off to find change while explain to a persistent taxi guy that we’re ok for now. He still hangs around in semi-concerned fashion. Guli brings her sister back instead of change, so it’s all good in the end.

Madina, Katya’s daughter, is a really cute kid but too shy to be able to speak to me in any of the potential languages. Making faces is the best we can manage, though mainly she blushes and hides. I figure she’s too old for peek-a-boo, but that seems to be what we are left with. We decide to steal her and take her back with us. Once the suitcase full o’ presents is emptied we will have more than adequate room for her, since she’s small, and it’s a short flight.

We wake up the next morning to find several inches of snow on the ground. Snow, if you will recall, is semi-frozen water that falls from the sky. What a novel concept. It is like an old friend after a long absence. We take off on a documentation run for some school paperwork and then to update Guli’s passport. We still haven’t changed money yet, so we have to track down an exchange point first. We find one with a small crowd around it and expect to have a little wait, or to find a new one, but it turns out they have no dollars to sell. Luckily we need to sell dollars and buy soum so we go straight through. One of the militia guys looks at me and asks if I’m with Guli, which is kind of a stupid question as we came in together, are walking around together, and as a guy who sticks out like a sore thumb as being “not from here” no one would expect me to be able to do anything for myself anyway, so you’d expect a translator of some sort to be in tow. :)

Why does everything here have to be so much harder than it needs to be? It’s not even that the documentation translation and legalization process is necessarily complicated, it’s that so much doesn’t work. Go to change money, they don’t have any, though we got lucky there. For the passport update, we need a copy of the marriage certificate, even though the fact of our marriage is actually stamped in the passport itself. I have a scanned copy on our machine at home so all we need is an internet café and we can process. The first internet café has no working internet. The other one we go to isn’t actually there. The third one works but is slower than Christmas for a child. I finally get termed into our computer back home and send off via email the document we didn’t know we’d need, and it turns out the internet café doesn’t have Acrobat on the machines. I term back in, convert the scan to a series of images, and send it off again. Oops! Turns out that the printer connected to their server machine isn’t actually installed. Crap. Well, we’ll save the images to our flash drive and print them somewhere else. What? Flash drives are locked out? Later we find a working internet café with decent speed and a working printer, so all was not lost except for those several hours and my patience. My perfectionist streak doesn’t help matters, so I need to remain uninvolved in getting things done I guess.

Well, we jump through those hoops, but they won’t update her passport, because she’s registered with the consulate in Dubai, who’s supposed to do those things, but don’t. At least the notarization and legalization of her university diploma seems to have gone well. This is foreshadowing of the ironic sense, of course, and will return later.

Eating philosophy here is different. While in America, we want to finish our plates because of the starving Ethiopians (and Armenians for your older crowd), whereas they cook the huge feasts and want to have some of everything. That ends up in far too much food that I personally end up requested to eat. This is tough because while I have lost several kilos (about 5, or 10-12 pounds) post surgery, I am still a bit swollen around the stomach and I’m not currently buttoning my pants up top and am depending more on my belt. It’s quite sad, really.

I am kind of sad to find that “Broadway” is no longer a lively walking street full of eating places, drinking places, trinket shops and crapsellers. They’ve moved everyone out and it looks so sterile now. We did have a small encounter with a fortune teller wandering around the empty avenue though. She was pretty good, I must say. “You’re preparing documentation!” Really? Could you tell that because I am obviously a foreigner? “You’re preparing to take a long journey!” Really? You figure I’m not from here, and I’m going to leave at some point? It was kind of funny and I was willing to listen to the spiel at least, but frankly she took too long getting to the point and kept going over the same stuff, so I told her I was bored and we moved on.

An Empty Broadway in the Snow

2006 11: Uzbekistan

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

For our trip in November of 2006 we went home to Uzbekistan. We’d be there over Guli’s birthday and we just barely missed her sister Malika’s birthday, but we had to take care of some medical things first and had to delay our departure somewhat.

The Expat Gallery has approximately 80ish photos from this trip in the 2006 11 Uzbekistan gallery. Some of them will be in the Trip Report and some will not.

2006 11 Uzbekistan Trip Pics Uploaded

Tuesday, December 12th, 2006

The Gallery has been updated with 80 some odd pictures from our recent trip to Uzbekistan. Primarily we just visited family in Tashkent and Karshi (this implies lots of eating), though we did mount expeditions to Shahrisabz to see some things, in addition to visiting still more family, and also a short trip about Karshi to look at some things.

Check out the 2006 11 Uzbekistan gallery pictures. Trip Report to follow before too awful long.

Wow…has it really been 4 years since I got there the first time?:!:

Some of you may be a bit surprised to receive an email notification on this, as I subscribed you without asking, but only because you’re family. It was a lot quicker that way. Let me know if I missed anyone or if you want out (no hard feelings) and also you can unsubscribe / resubscribe here at the site if you like.

Back Home from Uzbekistan

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006

Well, we had a nice little vacation where we didn’t do a whole lot. I didn’t take all that many pictures (619 total) and many of those are redundant so the number will shrink quickly and the editing time oughtn’t be too long. Aside from Tashkent and Karshi, where the millions of relatives reside, we only went to Shahrisabz, birthplace of our friend and yours, Amir Timur. Luckily we were able to use my recent surgery to good effect explaining why I couldn’t eat or drink so much, as otherwise they would be sure I was about to die of starvation. You couldn’t ask for a nicer family though, they’re great.

You will see pictures up in the Gallery soon and I might even whip up a trip report on it! :mrgreen: Incidentally, while I had stopped doing those, this format combined with the Gallery might make it much easier to do and get caught back up on. I’ve still been taking notes on all the trips so I’ll be able to use those.

Part VII: Dublin, But Primarily Newgrange

Sunday, November 5th, 2006


So this day I have set aside to head up to Newgrange. Contradictory name for a very old place. This place is about a couple hour bus trip north of Dublin. Therefore, I get to go find the bus station. I have my nifty tourist map and a keen sense of direction, so off I go. If you’re thinking what follows next is some story about getting lost, well you are wrong. It sure as hell was further away than I thought it was though. Smile Ireland’s public transportation system seems to be pretty good. I sure wasn’t going to rent a car and wander about their roads though. They could use some work. And some widening, but I’ll get to that later.

Again the sea! Out the bus window it lies, tantalizingly close, yet still out of reach. Soon…

Here’s some of the area around Newgrange, near the visitor center, next to the River Boyne.

Newgrange is a passage tomb on a hill in a river valley. It’s the most well known of a number in the area. These next pics are shot from in front, facing out across the valley.

It was built approximately 5000 years ago. That’s right, those stupid caveman types were a bit more advanced than you might have given them credit for. At the tour, they gave a detailed explanation of the contstruction methods involved. I won’t go into that so much here, but it was laid out with mathematical precision by people who could easily be described as engineers. In a nutshell, there is a small passage way that leads into the center of the mound. Every winter solstice the sunlight shines through for a short period of time, illuminating the burial chamber itself. It is thought that these people may have been sun worshippers, but no one is really sure. Very little is known about their actual beliefs. What isn’t difficult to say is that they must have felt whatever it was, quite strongly.

As you can see from the scale, with the people to the left, this is no tiny construction. It took massive effort to build this. They brought in stones from miles and miles away. They appear to have journeyed out in lil’ crappy boats out on the ocean and up the river to get from where much of the rock was quarried.

I borrowed this picture to show you the scale better.

This site has informative explanations on these tombs as well as other sites. Well worth a visit for a better description than I have provided here.

Wondering about how this place was built and what was in the minds of the people who did it, what they believed in…I couldn’t help but think of Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer.” It’s about the Aztecs, and of course a certain Conquistador. The relevancy is this idealized image of a society where they all worked together for the common good…

And the women all were beautiful
The men stood straight and strong
They offered life in sacrifice
So others could go on.

Hate was just a legend
And war was never known
The people worked together
And they lifted many stones.

They carried them to the flatlands
And they died along the way
But they built up with their bare hands
What we still can’t do today.

This song kept coming to me. Obviously Neil was heading towards the deep end here Wink, but it puts you in mind of a fascination with these people from long ago who did something amazing.

Here’s a couple of pics from the backside.

I’m not sure when this building dates to, but it certainly seems to be newer.

Between the two trees there seems to be another mound on the next ridge over. It’s harder to make out in the picture though. There was something bright and vertical in the center, but I could not tell what it was.

So after a late lunch in the neato yet surprisingly good cafeteria in the visitor center, and a meander around the exhibits in the center itself, it was time to hop back on the bus back to town. Yaay! Let’s hear it for public transportation. Couple hours on a bus is good for the soul.

Heading back from the bus station I wrangled down the waterfront. Here’s the Irish Navy.

There is also a replica Viking boat. Those pesky Vikings used to stop by for a rape and a pillage with irritating regularity. It’s not really a good picture, as I could not get close enough and they seemed to be closed for the day.

Hey, remember what I said about Irish history in general being sad?

Still ambling down the waterfront, I run into this cheerful bunch. It is a collection of sculptures representing Irish emigrants during the time of the Famine. In the 1840s the main crop, the potato, decided not to grow and just rot in the ground instead. The population was decimated. Increasing numbers left their homeland for some hope of a new life, or at least not having the current one end soon. This was actually quite moving, another case where the photo doesn’t do it justice. They are all gaunt and raggedy, having nothing but a glimmer of hope. Crying or Very sad

As a counterpoint to the haunting and depressing famine statues…we have Butt Bridge. (not the rail bridge) I tried to get a closer photo also, but the sign is on the bridge itself, cut into the marble. You can read it, but it just doesn’t come out well in a photo. Anyway, I’m just immature enough to enjoy the name, I don’t know why. I got the same enjoyment out of the name Butts Field, the airfield out at Fort Carson, Colorado. Sometimes I just can’t help myself.

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