I’ve now been living in Tashkent for over a month, my first time spending an extended amount of time outside of the US, France, Spain, and Korea. Basically, my first time being somewhere that constantly challenges, frustrates, charms, and amazes me. The following are just a few of the things I’ve been adjusting to here, though it’s not in any way meant to be representative of the whole country, as I’ve so far only been in Tashkent!
- Toilet paper
I had somehow gone a month without needing to even pee at my university (that’s my cue to #HydrateToDominate more often), but when the day came that nature called as I was on the job, I was shocked to realize there was no toilet paper in the stalls. Everyone is supposed to bring their own, and my own happened to be uselessly sitting in my suitcase at home. I frantically texted my coteacher, S., “How am I supposed to wipe my ass????” She replied, “Wash it, baby!” Oh. That’s what the nozzle was for.
- Weighing vegetables
In the US, cashiers weigh your veggies for you. Here, you hand them off to a worker who weighs them and slaps a price sticker on them before you head to the check-out line. I have too often held up said line by forgetting to hit up my vegetable man. The worst is when I forget that I also have to get pre-packaged vegetables weighed. Good thing juice isn’t weighed.
- Impromptu taxis
There’s no Lyft or Uber here, but if you just stick your arm out on the road, random people will stop for you, ask where you’re headed, and give you a ride if it’s convenient for them. When I was young and stupid a month ago, I paid 20,000 soum (about $3) for a ride. I’ve since learned that rides should be only be 8,000-10,000 soum (a little over $1). And no, they don’t have seatbelts. You – yes, you. Stop fumbling around for a seatbelt. The seatbelt does not exist.
- School uniforms
Men wear a suit and tie, and women chic white blouses and sleek black skirts/dress pants. Backpacks? Never heard of her. Men carry briefcases and women colorful purses. At Tashkent State University of Law, where I teach, I almost feel like I’m on an episode of Gossip Girl, if Chuck and Blair were trilingual, lawyer-hopefuls, and not allowed to do any of the things they did till marriage. NYU was never the place to wear sorority sweatshirts and running shorts to class, but I do miss being able to roll up in jeans and sensible shoes.
- Milliy taomlar
Uzbek for “national dishes,” which includes osh (plov), manti, somsa, lagmon, non, the list goes on… From what my coworkers have told me, trying foreign foods isn’t very interesting to them because they love their milliy taomlar so much. They also “can’t live without meat,” so that crosses a few cuisines off the list. As much as I dislike meat, if I just eat around it, milliy taomlar are some of my favorite dishes too.
Make of this what you will since my informal job here is diplomacy. As challenging as it can be sometimes, I’m also a pretty spontaneous person myself, so being in a country where others can be last-minute camouflages my own, erm, need to more meticulously plan.
- Spring/Fall Showers Bring…
Every fall and spring, for 5 days as the centralized heated water is being changed, all you get from your faucets is the cold stuff. Those smarter than me mixed it with boiled water to produce something usable. I just stood shivering next to my showerhead, splashed water on myself, and threw on five layers of clothing.
“Women don’t run” is the message that silently screamed at me every time I notice people staring at me like I’ve sprouted an extra arm when I run, or when I see races that only involve men. I may still be horribly out of shape, but I hit Ecopark every weekend to, as Fergie said in 2006, “work on my fitness.”
The ups and downs of living and working here are what make the whole experience so rich, as opposed to past experiences abroad that were pretty “easy” and therefore did not allow for ample mental and professional growth. As often as I feel stressed out or confused, it’s all part of the ride. And I’m just thankful that my particular ride doesn’t (so far) include Imodium.