This trip was very interesting. The Eurasian Steppe is a region of considerable interest for Americans because we typically do not earn much about the region in parochial schooling. The silk road, Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan all have had influence here, yet for some reason Americans know next to nothing about the country (myself included). Here is a quick debriefing.
- The architecture is sweet. Remnants of the old Soviet Bloc are seen in some apartment complexes and old government buildings. Otherwise, the buildings have a traditional Islamic presence with a European flair.
- Cars are straight from the 60’s and 70’s. However, there is a large presence of Chevy vehicles (all white), from a trade agreement set up by Hillary Clinton but most of the cars are Lada’s from the Soviet period. Driving can be a little hectic but the roadways in Tashkent are well developed. Taxi’s are available but everyone in the country may as well be a taxi as “hitching” a ride with random people for a nominal fee seems to be the most popular mode of transportation.
- Uzbeki appearance is incredibly unique. A slight Arab influence is noticeable with distinct white features of the head while having an Asian/Mongolian type eye-set. Some natives looked almost Hispanic while many men held a clear resemblance to the Khan steppe dynasty.
- The food in the hotel was on point everyday. Real food, well prepared native cuisine with some western flavor dropped in and that made for an enjoyable two weeks of dishes. Plov is the national meal of the country and it is to be eaten Thursday and Sunday with intercourse to follow according to our translator. Horse meat and beef with vegetables and fried rice and a big glass of Qatiq. I will be crushing Plov at home in the near future.
- They love dairy and have some form of cultured dairy at every meal. Be it kefir, I-ron (spelling?), Qatiq or special yogurt, they were consuming cultured dairy like it was going out of style. I even found a small shanty on a walk selling Tvorog!
- Our hotel was nice but the bed was rock hard. Something I enjoyed but few others did. Our hotel did not like me hanging my wash outside the building to dry...whoops.
- The people were quite possibly the nicest individuals I have ever encountered. Everyone was pleased we were there and willing to help us with any questions we may have had. They were always looking to lend a helping hand in a very matter of fact way. Showing me that being hospitable is something heavily ingrained in their culture.
- One point of clear struggle was based around sarcasm. I befriended our translator along with Vernon Patao and we took him out for meals and socializing. He had a very hard time picking up on our sarcasm but as the two weeks progressed, he became more socially aware and even pointed out that his English teacher had warned him of this!
- One of the few negatives was the clear naivety based around their political system. It was clear to me that they have a dictator of some sort but they constantly mentioned he had been elected (99% of the vote?!?!). They struggled to question rules and normal processes, something I definitely take for granted here in the US.
It was a great trip, our women’s team returned World Champions and the country was very nice and the experience will be unforgettable for the lifters!