Life Lately

I’ve unintentionally been on hiatus from blogging for the last few weeks, as I ramp up to meet new responsibilities and additional training at work. All is going well and I have plenty to keep me occupied.

At work, more days than not I look up and ruefully see that I’ve been there 10-11 hours and probably should trudge home, through the dust, to my quiet sanctuary of a home. The only thing that could possibly make it feel more like home would be the much-anticipated arrival of my husband, and our HHE sea freight, in that order.

Some days I am filled with energy, and other days I just want to crawl into my bed and sleep. Some days I feel like it will take an act of Congress to get me out of bed in the morning. But I persist during the workday with high spirits, through tangly immigration law cases I am still learning what to do with, through cringe-worthy conversations in which I butcher the beautiful Russian language, and through the gastrointestinal disturbances that seem to be a daily part of life here.

The dry summer heat continues to scald my lawn but ease my joints, and last week I passed the two month mark living alone in Uzbekistan. On the weekends I tend to rest, clean house or mow the lawn if need be (I suspect I am about the only diplomat here without at least a housekeeper, gardener, nanny OR a cook), sunbathe and socialize with neighbors and new friends, as well as exercise, run errands and grudgingly devote some time to Russian study. Sometimes I read or watch films. Lately I’ve even tried an Indian restaurant here in Tashkent, which I’m happy to say was fabulous.

But as much as I would love to, I also cannot avoid a trip to the grocery store, about a 30 minute walk each way. I fill my North Face backpack with cloth bags, drape a shawl around my shoulders, grab one of my sturdy Nalgene water bottles filled with distilled water and head off.

When I return, I am laden with heavy bags, reflecting on all the awkward and ambiguous situations that can only occur in a foreign grocery buying experience…as I try not to step in the cow manure that is everywhere on my road. I’m strolling along listening to music on my iPhone, knowing I could take a cab or ask my friends for a ride but enjoying my independence instead. Uzbek neighbors stare at me, an obvious foreigner with my Reef sandals, blond hair, Prada sunglasses, long sundresses, and I sometimes wonder what they think of me. Probably that I walk too fast.

Here are a few highlights from life lately:

On July 13, a beautiful dinner with embassy colleagues celebrating Iftar, the nightly meal to break the fast during the holy month of Ramadan (photo courtesy of D.C.):

On July 19, a brilliant new addition to our home, which I jumped all over purchasing from a colleague departing post:

On July 20, I was ecstatic to check my email and learn that my car would shortly be delivered to the embassy parking lot. Half jumping out of my skin, I made it through more than four more hours of visa interviews, ate lunch while tearing through urgent desk work, and then went outside to see it.

As I walked towards the car, I felt a sickening worry that something would be dramatically wrong with the car. Like, oh, let’s say, the whole side bashed in, and no one knows nothin’. My car was trucked from Falls Church to Manassas, Virginia, then taken to port where it sailed across the Atlantic for Antwerp, Belgium on a cargo ship called “Freedom”, and then trucked all the way to Uzbekistan, a doubly-landlocked country.

When I saw my car in the distance, I jumped a little bit and did a weird skip. “My car has arrived!” I announced in Macedonian to no one in particular.  One local embassy staff member doing something by the commissary gas pumps looked on, bemused. I walked to my car and gave the back end a big hug, despite wearing a light-colored blouse. Filthy, for the first time ever, with weird shipping stickers on the glass, and with a mysterious 107 miles extra on the odometer, but safe, undamaged, and mine. Hildegaard is here!

Hopefully sometime this week she will receive her diplomatic license plates, and armed with my newly christened Uzbek driver’s license and not one, but TWO car insurance policies, I can hit the road. Until then, she sits in the parking lot waiting to take her turn on the rollicking streets of Tashkent. Yesterday a Russian-made Lada with a burned out headlight and a mattress barely strapped to its roof came flying through an intersection I was walking across, taking a dirt corner with an optimism I haven’t seen since the Balkans.

And finally, on July 24, this little desert tortoise joined our household:

He is a ferocious eater, when he’s not turning up his nose at the food I provide – including specially fortified tortoise pellets that I ordered from PetSmart that he wants nothing to do with. I will name him this week.

That’s all for now. My next post will feature Q&A to address many questions about my life here in Uzbekistan that I’ve been receiving via email and Facebook. Please stay tuned!

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Sarah W Gaer

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