Observations Written As Facts

And now, some of my observations that may – or may not – also be facts!

  • When it’s a religious holiday in your host country, head to your nearest place of worship and try to learn something! In this case, a Russian Orthodox Church on Pentecost…
Holy Ascension Cathedral (photo credit to M.A.)

Holy Ascension Cathedral
(photo credit to M.A.)

Holy Ascension Cathedral

Holy Ascension Cathedral

Holy Ascension Cathedral

Holy Ascension Cathedral

  • Leaving the windows open in my home invites in an absolutely fantastic amount of dust. I was the only one surprised by this. I’m still getting to know my house, which has approximately 42 different keys to its various windows, doors and gates.
  • On my street, wild horses, goats and cows graze on the green grass along the roadside and amongst the dirt foot paths. Screechy birds whose call I can’t identify hop from roof to roof, and a lone turtle dove coos peacefully many mornings and evenings from my bathroom window.
  • When the official exchange rate is approximately 2,350 soms to one U.S. dollar, the ensuing stack of cash when 13 people pay a restaurant bill makes one feel rich!


  • Advice: When spotting a spider or one of various trundling insects inside the house that needs to be caught, resist the urge to grab the soft nice Kleenex or toilet paper that you shipped from home. Instead go for the scratchy Kleenex from the Welcome Kit. Once those are exhausted, you will have to make some tough decisions.
  • Every time I walk to a grocery store or a little market, I pick out produce, bag it, and place it inside my cart or basket. What I’m actually supposed to do is pick out produce, bag it, and then hand it to the attendant standing nearby with a scale so he/she can weigh it and affix to it a price tag. Every time I get this wrong there is a flurry of activity and stares. When will I ever learn?! In all seriousness, in those moments, I am a stranger in a strange land. I am temporarily reduced from a civilized person who behaves properly and understands her context to a weirdo who doesn’t act right in public and attracts surprised stares from others. Ha! At least there are some products that I can quickly identify and put in my cart without assistance:


  • When in New York City a few weeks back, I really wanted some Chipotle. I asked my iPhone where the nearest Chipotle was, and marveled that there were 10 different location within less than a dozen blocks of my hotel. The other day, out of curiosity I asked my iPhone where the nearest Chipotle was from my couch in Tashkent. Where, you ask!? Why, only 3,339 miles from my house! I also learned, just for grins, that it would take me 45 days and 4 hours to walk there. (I wonder if that factors in border wait times.) I’m a fan of eating local, but I have to be honest when I say I could really go for a Chipotle steak salad with guacamole and sour cream right now. Looks like I will need to make my own.


  • Learning a language outside of the safe bubble of the Foreign Service Institute (or FSI) is an entirely different thing than re-learning and expanding your knowledge of a language once you get to post. Or, in my case, trying to learn trade-specific words while already at post, and after doing consular and security training for two months after passing the Russian end-of-training test (EOT) and not hardly having spoken Russian since. I have a feeling that next week will consist of standing in front of the visa window and not finding the words I need. Or I’ll find them…in Macedonian! Last week, while intending to say “Today’s Friday!” I announced to one of my Russian-speaking colleagues: “Today’s fifteen!” I think I also asked a motor pool driver why my neighbors at a construction site were burning garbage, in a Russedonian mix of nouns and verbs. He looked embarrassed and didn’t say anything. The mystery continues.
  • When embassy staff tell you to water and mow your lawn, do it, even if it looks like a drunk gardener got ahold of your place. Watch out for the grass-stained tire streaks on your tile, too, because lawn and tile are friends here!


  • Streaming video consumption will (or should) come to a screeching halt when living in a country with limited data and home wifi that costs around two hundred bucks a month. When I’m in the U.S., I constantly watch things on my iPhone. Dateline NBC, documentaries and films on Netflix Instant Watch, YouTube news reports about September 11, and various other shows that I find interesting or entertaining. Every day for the last three or four years, while getting ready for work, I put on some documentary series on my iPhone via Netflix – about the Dust Bowl, or the Civil War, or Hitler, or anything historical – prop it nearby the sink, and listen to it while I’m getting ready for work. I can’t do that now, and so, I’ve replaced the tendency with…podcasts! Podcasts, quick and easy to download and listen to. At about 40-50 MB a pop, downloading a bunch won’t put you over your data, and makes sure you don’t start talking to yourself alone in a big house.
  • I graduated from high school eighteen years ago today, on June 7, 1997. That is, indeed, a fact.

  3 comments for “Observations Written As Facts

  1. Cody Littlefield
    July 6, 2016 at 15:33

    That last one, 18 years out of high school, has definitely made me feel a lot better about my situation! I’m 10 years and 1 month our of high school and just now beginning my journey towards becoming an FSO. It’s never too late, right?!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. September 29, 2018 at 14:11

    I’ve been rereading some of your Tashkent posts now that I’m here, and I totally do the same thing with produce at grocery stores! The worst is when the produce is pre-packaged, but it still needs to be weighed and stickered. It’s also crazy that you were here only a couple years ago, and now it’s 7,800 sum to 1 dollar. BTW – where in this country can a girl get pasta sauce?? And not tomato paste??

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 29, 2018 at 22:23

      I know! I think that was the black market rate around the time, too, and I tried not to be mad about spending twice as much money because diplomats have to follow the law! Oh well. We imported tomato sauce in our consumables shipment from the U.S. – never saw any in-country. Sorry! Consider it your time of trying new things? 🙂


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Sarah W Gaer

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