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Friday, January 24th, 2003

I remembered some other things about housing that I found interesting. In Tashkent I think the majority of people live in the massive apartment buildings. I didn’t see anything that approximated your typical (or even non-typical) stand-alone American type houses. Even so, there hasn’t been money to build things in general, so what they had 10 years ago when the Russians left is what they have today. Now that isn’t totally true, but it gets the idea in your head.

Aside from these buildings, you have many (usually single story) structures lined up against the streets. Long lengths of unbroken wall, with a singe gate that leads into a compound, and hovels or shacks clustered around open courtyards. Looking at them, I can only think of this as a defensible block. The wall has no windows or openings other than that gate. Imagine an old Western fort on the plains, but it’s only a single story, and it’s dingy white bricks instead of wood. It’s hard to get much detail on the interiors, since of course you can’t in general see them, but that’s very much the sense I got from the glimpses I did have. Some of that I was able to tell from flying into and out of Tashkent, getting the aerial view made a big difference.

Out in Karshi, didn’t see any apartment buildings at all, though we skirted the city. There were scattered groups of structures. Imagine your typical American red barn, but smaller. Paint it dingy white (let’s call it concrete!) and beat it up a bit. Now a bit more. Knock some holes in the walls, and figure people are living in the bottom area. These are grouped as well, but not so much in the fortress style, though you can still see the influence.

A few thoughts on having nothing, and REALLY having nothing

Tuesday, January 21st, 2003

Did some talking with an individual today. It gave an interesting perspective. I was feeling like I had nothing, which was why I left…ok, among the reasons why. Now keep in mind that I didn’t feel like I had nothing in a “nobody loves me I’m gonna eat some worms” type of way, but more of needing to get away and having nothing tying you down somewhere. In some ways I felt sorry for myself, having been kicked in the ass and not having done the best job in the world of getting back on my feet.

Well consider this, little chilrens, gather round the fire and listen to a tale. Imagine you are in a place where you have nothing to look forward to. You aren’t starving to death, and you’ve got clothes on your back. But it’ll probably never be much more than that. You can’t just stroll down to the 7-11 for a snack, or go clothes shopping at the mall. You can’t just hop in your car and go for a long drive — because you don’t have one. You can’t just up and decide to move someplace else, because you want a bigger house. You can’t live in a different city. It’s no land of opportunity that you live in, unless you happen to have one of those jobs where people might pay you so they can keep their own stuff, or not be hassled. You’re not in any capitalist wonderland with a bright future. Your hope is to leave your home and your family behind and get out somewhere else where you do have a chance of having a future. You’ll leave everything behind, be totally on your own in some new country where you don’t know the rules or how anything works. There’s no guarantee you’ll even succeed, even if you make it out in the first place.

It’s easy to talk about starting over, or starting fresh, when that isn’t really what you are doing. Can you imagine truly giving up everything? I suppose it’s easier when you actually have nothing, but no matter what we say, we as Americans can’t truly concieve of that. Take a look around at all that you’ve got, everything you can do, and all the conveniences and luxuries that surround you. Percentage-wise, you are in a very elite group. No matter how poor you are by American standards, you are still rich to the vast majority of the world.

And you don’t even realize it.

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