Ticket and one month visa in hand, I set off from San Diego with no real plan. My first stop was New York where I was suppose to have a 24 hour lay over (it is not easy to get connecting flights to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, from San Diego). The lay over in New York would have sucked big time, were it not for meeting up with The Gang a bunch of consultants who happened to be returning to New York after doing some work in San Diego. Guess I was living right cause I had a limo ride into town, partied with Steve and Ali who Welcomed me to the world of high maintenance chicks on the east side. After a night of checking out the club scene, I crashed on the couch. The next morning I walked (staggered actually) to the Metropolitan Art Museum and checked out the Middle eastern art section.
Still feeling more than a bit tired from jet lag, and a nite of checking out east side clubs, I took a taxi to JFK in search of the Uzbekistan Airways ticket counter. Checking in with my fellow passengers at the terminal, a realization set in that most of these people look, dress and act differently than most of my friends and family. Guess the tip off was most people dressed in what can best be described as dark (gray or black) Soviet mono-color fashion, and they carried with them under arm, every thing from a bike, to a lawn mower.
While in the departure lounge two passengers struck out in my mind, a mother and daughter, they just somehow did not fit into the scene with their Banana Republic attire and their water bottles. It is hard to be incognito in Uzbekistan, (western clothes, attitude, and accessories like a backpack will make tourists stand out).
After an 11 hour flight to Kiev on which I picked up some much needed sleep, I started talking to the mother (of Aron a PCV) and her daughter in the Kiev terminal. It was kind of funny that somehow we had a discussion about toilets in the terminal. In Uzbekistan, you will eventually feel compelled to compare notes with others about personal toilet experiences (more on that later).
In Kiev many of the individuals in Soviet black fashion deplaned and were replaced by what appeared to be Koreans for the flight down to Tashkent. I would later find out that Koreans living in Russia just north of the end of the Korean peninsula were shipped in mass during the Stalin period to Central Asia. There they settled in Uzbekistan 70 plus years during the Soviet era. During the summer, the Uzbek-Koreans I saw on the plane work on farms in the Ukraine, where they earn more than they can working in Uzbekistan. The migratory pattern is similar to Latin Americans working on farms in the Western United States.
When one arrives in Tashkent, most people rush down the steps and head for a waiting bus. The herd like mentality of the people I saw running, pushing and shoving their way out of the plane would be repeated throughout my trip. In general if you are traveling with the locals in Uzbekistan, expect them to move like a herd of wild animals.
Waiting for a second bus with Barbara (the mother of Aron a PCV) and her daughter Caitlin, paid off because it was only filled with about five people. In the terminal, waiting to clear customs is a slow inefficient process of filling out forms, and talking to inspectors. While in the cue to clear customs, another mother of another PCV (Josh) would reveal herself (I did not notice her right away because she blended in color wise, with the majority of the other passengers who were attired in dark colors).
Upon exiting customs, we four visitors from the states met the three waiting PCVs: Aron, Josh and my friend Christine (all of whom were in the sixth PCV class in Uzbekistan). Not many people go and visit PCVs (at least in Uzbekistan) so it was ironic that we four visitors and the three PCVs would randomly meet up in another part of Uzbekistan a few weeks later.
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