At the end of April, I unexpectedly spent just under a week in New England. The work-related trip was on my radar for a couple of months, and as it relates to streamlining immigrant visa case processing I knew it was a priority for the Department. In spite of this, for a variety of reasons it looked like it was going to be cancelled or at least postponed up until nearly a week out.
After the last time I posted from poolside in Penang, Malaysia, my husband and I eventually continued on to Kuala Lumpur where we spent a few days sightseeing and shopping.
We found nice malls and Mexican food; visited the Petronas Towers, aquarium, and bird park; and learned how to ride the monorail. We saw an Uzbekistan Airways office and popped in to say hello. The city was a lot of fun. I even bought my first ever iPad. (I know, I’m way behind. I never even owned a flat screen TV until 2015, ha ha. I’m all about keeping things until they don’t work anymore.)
For the last ten days, my husband and I have been on R&R travel outside of Uzbekistan. We left Tashkent and started off with a day’s layover in Turkey on the way to the Maldives, and we are currently in Malaysia.
We came to post knowing that Tashkent has an annual R&R entitlement, so I planned this first trip for almost four months with a lot of anticipation. Part of the allure of an R&R is to “rest and recuperate” from difficult working and living conditions in a post of assignment, and I have been really looking forward to this break. When our expeditors arrived to take us to the airport, I practically leapt out the door.
A few weekends ago, my husband and I took a two day trip up to Charvak Reservoir, a man-made lake about 60 miles northeast of Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent.
The reservoir is located in the western part of the Tien Shan mountains, and it definitely feels like Central Asia. Because of the road conditions, it can take a good 90 minutes to get there. Nearby Chimgan is also popular in the winter for skiing and sledding, and features lots of bare mountains, daunting as they are treeless. We stayed in a hotel some people call “the pyramids”, set literally right on the water. I’m sure it’s very crowded in the summer, but in the winter we had it all to ourselves.
This post is the second of two in my travelogue about my November trip to Prague, Sarajevo and Istanbul. If you would like to read the first post, you can find it here.
Sunday, November 8 was the first night that I was in Prague, and I slept deeply in my white, fluffy hotel bed underneath the vaulted wood ceiling. On Friday night, I’d been awake for most of the night, coughing and congested, and on Saturday night I’d never gone to bed at all, instead attending the Marine Corps Ball and then catching a 02:00 motor pool ride on Sunday morning to the international departures terminal in Tashkent. It was going to be my first trip outside of Uzbekistan since my arrival six months earlier, and I was thrilled.
On November 7, my husband and I attended the United States Marine Corps Ball in honor of the corps’ 240th birthday. The celebration was held here in Tashkent, and although I had a brutal cold, was lost and late, and forgot to have my dress hemmed, we rolled with it and had a good time.
In October, I had the opportunity to get out of Tashkent and see more of Uzbekistan not once, but twice – the first time on a three day work-related trip, and the second time on a short weekend trip with my husband and friends. (Actually, I did make one more trip out on October 30, but I’ll talk about that in my next post!)
In the first half of my Samarkand travelogue, I talked about our visit to the Amir Temur Mausoleum and Registan Square. In this follow-up companion post, I will describe our visit later that day to the Shah-i-Zinda (“Living King”) complex, a masterpiece lined with tombs.
The complex was founded between the 11th and 12th centuries, named for Samarkand’s patron saint, Kusam ibn Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. A serious list of rules greets all visitors just past the ticket booth, where I paid barely two dollars for V and I to enter.
Two days ago marked four months since my arrival in Uzbekistan, and for that entire time, I’ve been settling in here in Tashkent. But finally, last Saturday, two weeks after my husband’s arrival at post, we traveled to the ancient Silk Road city of Samarkand along with eight others from the embassy community. It was a great opportunity to change the scenery, even if only for one day, and begin exploring other parts of this beautiful country.
Thursday, May 21 was a day I intersected the sun while flying thousands of miles east. As midnight struck on the east coast of the United States, I had already set my watch six hours ahead and arrived in Frankfurt, the only time during that day that I held still for a few hours.
On the morning of Wednesday, May 20 I awoke early in my New York City hotel room. My taxi was coming at noon, and my flight would take off just before 16:00. So I set purposefully and enthusiastically about my morning: picking up my shoes from a repair shop nearby, strolling 25 minutes through midtown to get a glorious deep tissue massage, enjoying coffee and breakfast, and of course – strategically re-packing my carry-on baggage so I could have a clean outfit to wear when picked up in Tashkent by embassy staff.
I even walked to Times Square and reveled in the big lights, buying a banana from a street vendor and leaving my change to him. Walking down the street, I was all smiles.
On Saturday, May 16, my husband I had a relaxing morning and afternoon. We went from our “hotel” (otherwise known as DOS temporary corporate housing at Oakwood Falls Church) to my favorite nail salon in Arlington. I’ve been getting my nails done there by the same person since 2006. She has always done a beautiful job, and whether it’s routine or for a special event they’re always perfect.
This past Monday marked the start of ConGen, the six week training that prepares consular officers for overseas work in embassies or consulates with visas, passports, and American Citizen Services.
While I was in my class today completing a module on non-immigrant visas, my first travel orders cable came through! It was in response to the request cable I sent in February, in which I proposed a PCS (permanent change of station) plan routing me, my husband, and all of our stuff from Washington DC to Tashkent, via New York City and Frankfurt.