|The beautiful entry to our house :)|
Please excuse my absence!Even though this may be somewhat boring, I thought I'd give you a little impression of what daily life in Tashkent is like for me and how I spend most of my time here. Excuse if it may be somewhat incoherent as I try to fit as much information in here as possible.
Monday to Friday, I usually get up at 7.30am. First thing in the morning is to make myself a cup of coffee with my much-beloved mokka/ballerina/coffee maker (however you want to call it) which I got as a present in November from a very dear friend of mine. Uzbekistan doesn't really do coffee, and if, it usually has a Nes- in front of it. If bought in a restaurant, it also contains a ridiculous amount of sugar, so having a good cup of coffee here is something pretty special. Also, coffee is only really drunk in winter for some reason. Saskia always brings in the newest edition of German Spiegel magazine from the office, which we often read/discuss during breakfast.. sometimes this involves quite philosophical or depressing conversations about the deteriorating state of the world. And once this ritual even invoked shrieks from our side related to an incredibly disgusting article on sodomy/zoophilia which disturbed me for the rest of the day.
Work starts at 9am and finishes at 6pm. I work in two different projects which are located in two different buildings..one of them is a 15min walk away from where I live (office 1), and the other one is a little further so I usually take a taxi (office 2). The fact that I am one week in office 1 and the other week in office 2 is indeed a little annoying as it makes communication with the other project a bit difficult, but I don't really mind. The first weeks in the offices weren't easy in both cases, as I found it difficult to find my own place and role within the teams who hadnt really worked with an intern before. Luckily the ice was broken after two months and now I love going for lunch with my colleagues who appreciate my interest in travelling, Uzbekistan and in their lives. In one way or the other, I am part of both teams now and I will be sad to leave them in September.
What do I do at work? I write meeting reports, co-design and co-write factsheets (in general or specific ones for conferences), translate and correct already written texts, create presentations and posters on monitoring and evaluation of our projects and a few other bits and bobs. It's a step-by-step work really in my process of trying to understand how my company and development works in general. It's complex but fascinating at the same time.
I love my way to office 1 as I pass by a little bazar and flower market where one of the ladies already knows me. Every morning and evening, she greets me with a massive smile on her face and always asks me how I am. She truly is absolutely adorable. As I get home, it depends on the day of the week what I do. I usually stay away from the internet, which is pretty slow and frustrating anyway, and pass my time with household duties (woop woop), baking a ridiculous amount of cakes and Sachertorten for colleagues who have their birthdays, hanging out with Eric with whom I've watched way too much of the Ricky Gervais Show, knitting, watching a movie with Saskia, making music (with my amazing old Russian guitar which I got for my birthday), playing with our tortoise Undine or meeting up with some of the other expats. I also used to go to a belly dancing class twice a week where everyone kind of knew me as the "German girl" and all those who had learned German in school would try to talk to me in German. I also absolutely loved that Dinara, the dancing teacher, would always mind her little 4-year-old daughter during the lessons, so sometimes the girl would join her mum (and us) and try out some of the movements. Never seen such a cute thing! Oh, and in case you were wondering about language barriers - she doesn't really talk much but simply dances so all I had to do was do exactly what she did. I no longer go because I think it is too easy for me now as my dancing skills are somewhat improving, so I am looking for a new teacher at the moment. Another thing I love doing is to take care of Ernest's (my boss, neighbour and very good friend) birds when he is away. He has three canaries and two lovebirds and they are the cutest thing ever when they sing or take a bath.
In Tashkent itself there isn't that much to do.. you can't really go to the cinema as movies are mostly dubbed into Russian (with one male voice for all characters) and it's similar with the theatre. One of my students took me to the theater once to see a play by Pushkin, but I only got laughed at when I told my student that all I understood was "dog" and function words such as "why" "because" "when" etc. However, even though Tashkent isn't the most cultural of places, I kind of feel that there is always something going on, mostly because most expats are always interested in trying out new things and because local friends try to show you as much of the city as possible.
For example, I took part in the Performing Arts Festival of the British School.. Helen and I were judges and had to listen to various perfomances by children and decide on the winner (surprisingly we didn't cause too many tears).
|Cheesing away with Helen with our rewards for judging children's performances all day|
Then the other week, there was a European film festival which even showed an Austrian movie (named "Atmen"):
I obviously went and probably was the only one who understood the Austrian dialect...with an exception of the Austrian ambassador (who is usually located in Vienna) who came exclusively for the festival and who held a little speech before the film started. Knowing him from my brief visit back in Vienna, we briefly chatted after the movie and then went to Chester Pub to chat about a few Austria related issues and its non-presence in Uzbekistan. Interesting meeting indeed, although I found it somewhat disconcerting that I had the feeling that I knew more about Uzbekistan than the ambassador..
Then, one of Tashkent's expat couples, namely Lola (Uzbek) and Martin (Danish), got married. In Uzbek traditions, before or on the day of the wedding, men are invited to join in the wonderful tradition of morning plov. This means you have to get up at 6am so you can have a massive portion of a greasy, oily rice dish with chunks of mutton (fat). Not sure who invented this tradition but it must have either been a plov addict (which, in fairness, applies to almost all Uzbeks), someone with a very strong stomach or someone with a bit of a sadistic tendency to torture fellow men with a dish like that that early in the morning. However, since the couple wasn't fully Uzbek, they decided to gender the morning plov and invite both men and women - which only earned strange and confused looks by the guy who prepared the dish. Despite my feeling sick for the rest of the day, it was lovely to gather that early in the morning with some lovely people to enjoy some tea and bread and, oh, I almost forgot about the plov in the early morning hours.
|Lovely morning plov on tapchans|
|All you need is plov(e).|
|The hats we are wearing are called doppi and are traditionally worn by men to festivities or traditional occasions, e.g. weddings, parties or funerals|
We also try to keep ourselves entertained by exploring the area a little bit, so the other day we went for a trip in the mountains. Tashkent is surrounded by the Greater Chimgan (part of Tian Shan), a beautiful mountainous range where I have also enjoyed skiing in winter. Initially our plan was to go to a lake to go swimming because we couldn't stand the blazing heat anymore, but then we thought we'd combine a brief hike with a jump in the lake which was close by. Long story short, our trip ended a bit disastrous due to our stupid driver who stood us up and had us wait in rain, 5 degrees and with no food for almost 2 hours. It was still worth it and I'll definitely try to go again, but next time with another driver...
|Rare tulips in the mountains that are only in bloom for a few weeks in spring :) So pretty!|
|Kristina. And snow.|
I suppose I can consider myself quite lucky!
I'll end this blog with a picture of Undine:
|Munching away..isn't she adorable?? :)|