0 In Central Asia/ Stories and Reflections/ Uzbekistan

Culture Shock in Central Asia

Well, I’ve arrived. And I officially now live in Central Asia.

I can’t really remember the past 3 days of my life. I remember leaving on Thursday, spending a short bit in Istanbul, and now I’ve seemed to land myself in an apartment in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Of all the distances I’ve gone, traveling to Central Asia has been the longest and most exhausting. I slept all of Saturday and still feel in a bit of a daze. Teaching starts tomorrow so I better snap out of it quick. I’m starting to have the normal first day jitters—although I have walked far into the unknown already.

After unpacking this morning I wandered out to see if I could find the school on my own. I had a rough idea of where it was but naturally I walked in every wrong direction before finding it. The dirt streets surrounding it are filled with potholes and from clothes hang from the tall soviet style block apartments.

The school itself is hardly more inviting.

It’s surrounded by a huge fence that is usually guarded. I only really noticed it was the school because of the gold placard on the fence that read, Tashkent Ulugbek International School. I decided to approach the “guards” and ask to see the inside. Not understanding me, I guess they found me less that threatening because they let me in. To my relief, the inside was far more welcoming. Artwork covered the walls, the paint wasn’t chipped, and there seemed to be order to how the school runs.

As I was walking the dark halls I ran into the fourth grade teacher, Mr. Peter. Its been a few days since I’ve talked to someone so I was overly happy to see him. He gave me the run down of the school and then mentioned that he was headed to the Chorsu Market, the largest market in Uzbekistan. I jumped at the chance to see Tashkent with someone more familiar with it than me.

Honestly, I’m having major culture shock right now, which is leaving me a bit terrified of everything.

Mr. Peter showed me how to get a taxi and told me how much to pay. Anywhere in Tashkent shouldn’t be more than 3000 Soum. If you just stick your hand out anyone will stop and take you to where you need to go. He seemed to imply it’s perfectly safe to get into anyone’s car. I have nothing else to go on so I trust his advice. Within seconds someone has stopped. We hop in and head down the wide streets of Tashkent.

The market is huge and filled with anything you can imagine. Women selling sweet corn, aisles of meat and fruit, men selling sunglasses and shoes, every open space is filled with someone selling something. The women sit chatting, I notice their embellished clothing and gold teeth. No one is bothering me; the odd westerner. Far taller than the rest. This is a first for me and then I’m reminded of how removed Tashkent sort of is from the travel scene. Mr. Peter tells me I’m probably the only American in the market. This is both exciting and terrifying.

Love Love.

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