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Uzbekistan Gallery Uploaded

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Well, it only took 6 weeks this time, but the 2008 03 Uzbekistan Gallery has been uploaded.

We flew into Tashkent and took the train down to Karshi the next day to hang out with family.

The next day we ambled up to Navoi to see Malika’s (Guli’s youngest sister) family and their place.

Part IV: Back in the Stan Again

Thursday, December 21st, 2006


I run into Don and we head out after meeting another guy. We decide to check out the Star Club, which is owned by the same guy that owns FM. Sure, I’m up for something different. FM is closed tonight, and every single person you would expect to find there is at Star Club instead. It was a more disco type environment though, so it was minorly different. I wasn’t terribly impressed.

I went home with a waitress
the way I always do…
How was I to know
she was with the Russians, too?

I’m trying to split time between clubs now, since FM is getting old, and of course Cher works at Istanbul. We didn’t go there the first night, because it was closed, too. For some reason certain clubs closed early that night, and we didn’t get to the hotel from the airport until after 11 PM anyway. Istanbul is more laid back and more comfy, with great big couches everywhere. They also have black lights all over the place, which is great for realizing exactly how much fuzz and crap you have all over your shirt.

Don and I run into a few militia guys on Broadway the next day. It starts off with just one brave one, who wants to make sure we have all our papers, because he’s our buddy and he’s looking out for us. We’ve got that, so he wants to make sure we are registered. Of course we don’t need to do that. Nope. He switches tactics and starts babbling something about drinking. He starts miming a bottle of something. We stand there in utter confusion, and he moves towards a shop at the side. I start walking off, and tell Don it’s time to go. He is still standing there, not yet fully grasping the situation. He wants us to buy him and the boys a bottle of vodka. I tell Don it’s time to abandon this guy, and keep moving. Sometimes you wonder if everyone in this country is out to get something from you. Crying or Very sad

On another trip out from the hotel, we run into a beggar kid. He is quite persistent, whining about how “hungrod” he is, and he has no money, only 100 soum. That’s about 10 cents. Eventually he gives up. He catches us on the way back though. I ask him how much money he has. He shows me the 100 soum note. I tell him to give it to me. He does. I am shocked. I explain to him how if he wants money from me, the very last thing he should do is tell me he has money, much less hand it to me. As much as I consider it would be a great object lesson to keep his money, I just can’t do it. Silly me.

Another strange occurrence happens out on the street. We are walking along, and a guy paces us, then makes a quick motion, and picks up something on the street. We aren’t paying attention to him and keep going. He catches up to us with a roll of $20 bills or something, asking if it’s ours. Of course it isn’t. Do you think somebody dropped it? We don’t know (or care.) He goes on about how lucky a day it is for him, and for some reason wants to split his new-found fortune with us. We’re not real interested, and just being polite enough not to tell him to piss off. He walks with us seemingly forever, and another guy comes up from behind asking if anyone saw his money roll, which he had marked so he’d recognize it. SCAM SCAM SCAM! We don’t know shit. He gets a little grabby and narrowly avoids becoming a wet smear on the pavement before we leave. It seems like a crappy scam to me, I mean you’d have to whip out money and wave it in front of his face so he could grab it and run. I suppose if you were dumb enough to split the “bounty” with his lucky partner, you’d be in a different spot. Maybe good blackmail there.

Later that night it’s FM time. All the girls are going nuts to see us, all wanting us to buy them drinks. It’s so much pushier than usual, I guess they are getting too used to us and trying to take too much advantage. Fishnet girl comes up to me and is giddy happy to see me. It’s a bit over the top. I think she is drunk. Later she stops by and gives me a sob story about how her mom had come down from Moscow to buy her an apartment. Her phone had been shut off. Ergo, her mom could not get in touch with her. So she turned around and flew back to Moscow. Since she hadn’t paid her phone bill, it was all her fault. Oops. She’s very drunk at this point. I notice at this point ChickDude is trying to be engaged in meaningful conversation with Don, who has an almost horrified expression on his face. ChickDude is nice enough, but from the neck up looks like an ugly man. It’s a shame, but there it is.

I look around the club wondering what the hell is going on. Everyone here has gone crazy and sappy. ChickDude is at our table, sobbing and looking pitiful, hard luck stories abound, buy me a drink…WTF? Turns out ChickDude propositioned Don and he had to let her down. Poor guy, I think he tried to be nice about it. I’ve had about enough of this bullshit. No more FM. I know everyone wants to make a buck, but when it edges over to simple mooching you have to draw the line. At least provide value. Sometimes I feel like this country exists to draw out money from me. Everybody wants to have their hands in the pocket.

Now of course that’s not actually true. But as a rich American you do stand out as a target for those kinds of people. There are quite a few who aren’t like that at all. If you don’t want to trust, there are ample items to fuel your paranoia.

Speaking of paranoia, or at least misunderstandings, I had an interesting conversation with Cher. Turns out she was married and had a kid. She wanted to be honest with me. Now the tricky part was that she had actually been married, but had gotten divorced. A small nuance of the language had me spooked about that for a while, but later during the conversation I caught on. Whew! We had a good time together. I was actually somewhat glad she didn’t speak any English, it made me try harder. Too soon though, my time was up and it was back to the grind.

Addendum to this: Cher and I wrote daily for a while, but I realized that I simply did not have feelings for her. She was very nice, and we got on well, but something was just missing. I saw the difference between having that spark with someone, and not, and had to end things. She was really low maintenance and it would have been easy to fake it for convenience of having someone available whenever I was up there, but I just didn’t want to use her that way. Over the course of time, the boss would end up eliminating Leave Without Pay trips (the entity formerly known as MWR) entirely. Given that you can no longer take extra days in Tashkent, and losing the break between actual R&Rs, we have no time up there anymore anyways. Of course we are also restricted to the hotel at this point, so it’s even worse. So ends another trip report…

Part III: ‘stanward Bound

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

Flight Out – ‘stanward Bound

And as always, sooner or later it’s time to leave. Don’t you just love airports and planes? I don’t.

Going down the escalator to somewhere, an old couple is in front of me. The lady slipped somehow and fell backwards. Her husband supported her, and she didn’t truly fall, but she began totally squawking. “I’VE FALLEN! I’VE FALLEN! I’VE FALLEN! MY JACKET, MY SHOE, HELP ME!” I know that sounds strange, but it’s a direct quote. I typed it in to Mr. Ipaq shortly after. I don’t want to become old and decrepit. It terrifies me. I hope to go out with some measure of dignity, if not any at all of grace. Smile

I stop in the airport shops looking for some Denver / Colorado trinkets to bring back to a few people. Generally I’m not terribly creative when it comes to that, but I happened to see a decent t-shirt. Ah, that works. What’s this? Made in Uzbekistan?!?! Oh, the irony…

Finally it’s boarding time. Speaking of fat Americans, there’s a huuuge guy in the window seat — thank God I am at the aisle with someone else in between for him to crush. He has his hand on his companion’s leg, but it does not appear to be mere affection — the armrest is folded up out of the way, and from the looks it’d be up under him in any event. He’s also a wide-awake snorer. He puts his stuff on her tray table because he can’t get his even remotely level.

My seat will not stay upright. If I lean back at all, I’m going all the way back. Of course the kind individual behind me keeps using it to pull her out of her own seat, resulting in me reclining. I hate people. I seat leaning forward for 3-4 hours.

You can now buy your own airline meal for $10. The snack is still complimentary, as is your standard array of drinks, but still…that’s just ridiculous. I forget the restaurant company, but it was presented as a new partnership bringing to you the benefits of blah blah…

Actually HugeGuy isn’t so bad, but a bit ignorant. Though his wife is afraid of all the terrorists, he convinced her to go to Vienna & Budapest. I tell him to try and hit Prague, but he needs reassurances that they don’t hate Americans there. Why Prague would be different than the other two I am not entirely sure. Of course, we may not be hated, but we may not be universally loved. It’s too easy to generalize about whether country X hates or loves Americans. I’m sure they have better things to do on the average day. That said, I think there are general areas where it’s easy to generalize one way or another, but at the same time the actions of individuals swing it a bit. Waiters and other service types are different, because of course you are a pain in the ass to them!

Dulles International in Washington DC is a crap airport. Thankfully our flight from there to Frankfurt is full, because…I end up in business class! Business class on a 777 rocks. I could not reach the seat in front of me. I had a reclining seat with all sorts of neat gadgetry and good service.

What kind of fucking moron has to look for seat 1a in a plane? These 2 dipshits were wandering around 1st Class looking over and up at all the numbers, making a kind of figure-8 type pattern. Eventually they get to the very front left of the plane — “Oh, here it is, seat 1a.” Those guys had the ‘we’re CEOs’ look. One kept pestering another lady who appeared to be the one who actually runs the company and makes it all work. The clueless get overpaid because they are the dealmakers, but people who actually do the work make nothing in comparison. The average CEO makes some obscene multiple of the average paid workers in their company. That’s an eye-opener. I don’t remember the multiple, but I want to say something in the several hundred range. It used to be much less than that, but times change.

Big Fat guy + short shirt + reaching overhead = eewww! I think he may be pregnant.

Somebody else got awarded my seat also – oh heeelllllll no! Fortune continues to shine on me, and he is escorted somewhere to the rear of the plane, where people like him belong. Twisted Evil

Make short shirt guy stop doing that. He keeps standing around in the aisle, staring around at everyone with his best “I’m a badass” look. I think he’s trying to figure out which of us is the terrorist, so he can live out his “9/11 would have been very different if I was on board” fantasy. Sigh…

Oddest thing on the baggage carousel – 2 containers of Tang mix and a small plastic bag from some grocery store chain. The Frankfurt to Tashkent flight wasn’t terribly interesting, but it’s always fun to see who’s on the same plane with you. Since there are only a certain number of flights, you are guaranteed to see someone you know. In this case, the flight was mostly empty. Without KBR people, it would have been almost completely empty.

Part I: Homeward Bound

Thursday, December 21st, 2006


Eventually it became time in December to leave for R&R again. I decided to go back to the states this time. Of course I arranged a few extra days in Tashkent both on the way out and back. Shortly after they said we couldn’t do that anymore, but I snuck in under the radar. Supposedly there were security concerns for this, but I’m sure it was more of a case of people causing trouble instead. Many people were taking R&R around this time, so the hotel was full of familiar and unfamiliar faces. We had made possible plans to meet Guli and some other friends up in Tashkent to hang out. I suspect it won’t happen, and so does DJ, but for different reasons. It doesn’t, as sometimes happens.

As it often happens, there was a theme song on this particular trip. It seemed everywhere we went, and even more so on Broadway itself, they were playing “Aisha” by Outlandish. It’s a very good song that is a re-make of a Cheb Khaled song of mostly the same name. He’s Moroccan I think. The original was in French with probably some Arabic thrown in, but I am not sure.

DJ and I go out together. We hook up with a friend of ours and wander around in a limo for a while. Our guess is that somebody else actually had requested it, and they were driving around while he was in the club. We certainly didn’t stay in it all night. My gimmick is even better with DJ around because he speaks fluent Russian, and I generally sit there without saying much. I listen to everything going on of course. Invariably, somebody gestures at me, asking him if I can speak too, and I always respond that of course I can’t. Very Happy

Following my normal first day pattern I get completely and totally sloshed. It isn’t really all that interesting. Tim was due to come in the next day, and I think we were going to meet downstairs for a beer at 11 or noon. I was awake, but just couldn’t move. I think I finally made it out of the room 4ish in the afternoon. Of course you just have to eat and go out again. Around 6 PM I called Tim in his room, and he quite lucidly said he’d be down in about 5 minutes. 15 minutes later I called his room again, and more after a half hour. No answer. Eventually we take off without him. It turns out later he’d bought himself a nice friendly bottle of cognac and was quietly trashed. I didn’t even suspect when I talked to him on the phone.

Walking down Broadway we are accosted by the standard array of touts. I generally smile and keep going while making the no thanks gesture. DJ provides more detail: we already ate, thanks. No tout worth their salt could rest there for overcoming objections, so of course the responses are “but we have beer! And pretty girls!” I tell DJ it’s easiest just to ignore them. Obviously, the beer response is easy…”we’re already drunk.” I just don’t want him to get to the point of saying why we are passing on the pretty girls, folk might get the wrong idea. Laughing

There exists a vast difference between beggar types here and back in the states. In Denver, they are on all the street corners, holding (or not) the nifty sympathy sign. Here it’s simply a hand thrust out, and repeated “please please please” or variants thereof. The old ones simply mumble, and don’t even try. I remember a guy in Denver that always hung out down Platte St near the river at a particular intersection. He had a bad limp and his sign advertised that he was diabetic, and God Bless You. He shuffled with this odd sort of almost-dance, back and forth, while waving maniacally yet in a friendly manner. At least he was willing to provide some value for your charity dollar. At any rate, nobody here has a sign. I wonder if we should import some beggars here to teach the locals how it’s done. I notice the local beggars never bother the other locals, but they flock to us like white on rice. DJ has a good one, “I’m a poor student.” This always throws them for a loop. How could Americans ever be poor? We haven’t any idea how rich we are in fact, nor in how rich we are perceived to be.

We get a bit of a scare while walking through a park. There’s a burst of snap-crackle-pop explosions like somebody lit off a whole magazine from their AK-47. The first half-second startled me, but as I am preparing to throw myself flat my spider sense is tracking the noise. It tells me it’s a ways away, so I am not dead yet, and as I snap my vision that direction while leaning forward I see a bunch of kids throwing firecrackers. Someone had lit the fuse on a pack attached together is all. I straighten up with all my dignity and hope no one noticed anything amiss. We tell ourselves that the slow reaction was ok, because at that range, anyone burning down a whole magazine wouldn’t hit anything at all if they didn’t pop it with the first 2-3 rounds. The chances of that, given the range, would be almost nil anyways. Oh well. Shocked There are a few random car backfires the rest of the trip, so we stay somewhat on edge, but laugh it all off.

The militia guys weren’t very active this trip, it seemed that they just didn’t have the numbers. Never saw a pack of more than two, and they weren’t in the mood for games. That’s fine with me, because they can be a pain in the ass.

4 in the morning
came without a warning
everybody’s got a place to be…

On the third night out we end up at Club Istanbul. I get tired of the whole FM / Wigwam thing. It’s beginning to get old, and people are starting to feel entitled to take advantage of us all. Some bit of that is expected, but it’s getting to be too much. I end up talking to Cher quite a lot. We had met before, I remembered her from a trip back in August with Cajun Joe, and she remembered me. I actually enjoy speaking with people who don’t speak English, since it forces me to use the Russian. When someone speaks English, particularly if they do it well, I get no practice in.

We have to meet downstairs at 4:45AM to go to the airport. Soon enough it’s time to go, but we exchange email addresses and all the usual promises to write. I am always beat on the trip out; it makes for a really long travel day…

Go West Young Man!

Our old friend the Afghan lady is at the airport to greet us with sleeve tugs and requests for money. It’s almost funny when they treat it as a game. They know the deal and we know the deal, it’s just a question of finding the ones who don’t, or give in during a moment of weakness.

A poor little kitty kat is scared and crying in someone’s carry bag. It’s one of those carriers that is made of cloth, not the hard plastic. You can’t really see inside, but it can see out. I feel sorry for it, especially since the sound is traveling throughout the whole terminal.

When we board the plane I get to watch some of the travel drama you find on any flight. We have a full plane this flight unfortunately, so it’s a bit crowded. Some guy sits down, gets all situated and comfy, whereupon Mr. Rightful Seat-Owner arrives. Some Guy moves over to the other side of the aisle, sits down, gets all situated and comfy, whereupon…you guessed it, Mr. Rightful Other-Seat-Owner arrives! This genius just can’t be bothered to look at his ticket I guess. Some other helpful passenger opines, “Third time’s a charm!” It’s a cute phrase and all, but I think in this case third time’s proof you’re a dumbass. But that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.


Flying into Frankfurt, we get to hang out in the pattern for a good half hour. I amuse myself by pretending we are going guns on the flights ahead of us. The Aerial Combat Maneuvers are amateurish at best, consisting merely of flat lead turns that never seem to pull quite enough to get on target. No working in of even a simple yo-yo or two. How sad. As always, the 6 view of atrocious and poorly modeled, but to be honest the view over the nose was pretty bad, too.

I hate Frankfurt airport. ‘Nuff said.

After a 3 hour layover, I hop a bird for Denver. It will be almost an 11 hour flight. I am cramped and extremely uncomfortable. The movie Seabiscuit is playing. I don’t bother to put on the headphones, since I have no interest in the movie. I do however, derive great enjoyment from putting my own spin on the movie, and making up the plot line and dialog as I go along.

You see, Seabiscuit starts around the time of the Great Depression and Jeff Bridges sees that automobiles are the wave of the future, and becomes rich off of them. Toby McGuire’s family is poor and can barely survive. They sell Toby as a sex slave to Mr. Bridges, who teaches Toby things no one wants to know, and forces him to be a horse jockey in his spare time, beating him severely for eating anything that might help him grow up big and strong, and possibly overthrow his oppressor. Toby finally accepts his slavery and vows to be the best jockey sex slave that he can. His family misses him, but not very much. Later, after mistreating his master’s horse, he is thrown off and dragged quite a ways, like in some old Hollywood western movie, only he wasn’t wearing a cowboy hat. While he lays up in the hospital being all pitiful, his master finds another sex slave jockey who he ends up liking better. Poor Toby has to cope with being a gimp who is no longer necessary nor even loved. This was about where I killed myself so as not to have to watch this tragedy unfold any further.


Finally I get to Denver. I don’t feel any different, other than real tired like. It’s 3 PM, which is about 3 AM Uzbek time. I pass through Customs and my dad is there to pick me up. He doesn’t recognize me at first on account of the beard. I forgot to shave for a couple of months.

I go out to dinner with Heather. It was nice. We were able to talk as normal people. We ate at Hops, which is a tasty steak place. Highly recommended. I think the beard threw her a little bit, too. We got along well, but never communicated after that on subsequent days if I didn’t start it. So I stopped.

I got back to the folks’ house around midnight. I’ve been up at this point for several days, notwithstanding plane naps, which of course don’t really count anyway. I crash hard.

2003 12: USA

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

At the end of my first year working overseas, I head back to the states to take care of things and visit people. Looking back I’d say it’s amusing how I spent 4ish days in Tashkent on the way out, most of the rest of the time equally split between seeing people and missing others (on both continents), and almost 5 days in Tashkent on the way out. That was the last trip we’d be able to spend extra time there, due to the PM’s continual worrying about our “safety” and the equally idiotic behavior of some of the morons there.

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