Tidbits of travel

It’s impossible to do justice to the buildings I’ve seen here, especially until I can upload some photos.  So for now, I’ll offer a few snapshots of my trip.

1. I chatted with a guy this morning who spent almost a year in Columbus, OH as an exchange student. I tried to picture this nice young high school student in Ohio and introducing himself as coming from Uzbekistan.  Even I’ve never been to Columbus, and I’m American.

2. Speaking of “American”: it’s a word I almost never use. I associate it with George Bush and unironic patriotism and all sorts of disagreeable things. But here, one of the first questions people ask me – sometimes the first or even only question – is, “Where are you from?” And the answer they understand is “America.”  Most people are surprised. Some are excited, or fascinated, or tell me about a relative who lived there. The father or grandfather of the guy in #1 gave me a four-side Uzbek skullcap as a gift. It was so kind of him.

3. Unpotable water smells funny. Every place I’ve been to where the tap water is undrinkable, the water has smelled funny. Which means that showering smells funny, which means that it’s hard to feel entirely clean. As a side note, there is a brand of soap here called “fax.”  I wonder if they think a fax machine blows bubbles or something.

4. The bread here (called “non”) is round, with a shiny, crispy crust and a nice chewy inside. They tend to serve it cut into wedges, or at least into quarters, since the loaves are all way more than a person could eat in one sitting. Anyway, they seem to take the shininess very seriously. People who sell non tend to carry it in stacks, usually with a tea towel between hand and bread, and I often see them taking one end of the towel and carefully polishing the top of the bread.

5. Drinking a pot of green tea at every meal is not helping with my plan to cut back on caffeine. They drink tea out of little bowls here, the same bowls that, for example, my yogurt was served in at breakfast this morning.  Tea is so important that they even served it on the train from Tashkent to Samarkand. I don’t think it would fly in North America to serve hot liquids in shallow ceramic bowls aboard a moving train.

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