At our embassy here in Tashkent, there is an active Federal Women’s Program group that meets once a month for a brown bag lunch discussion. The group is inclusive, made up of Americans and Uzbeks, men and women – usually embassy staff but sometimes spouses, too. Participants take turns facilitating discussions on topics we want to deconstruct or bring more awareness to, like maternal and gender bias in the workplace, perceptions of power, communication, diversity, work-life balance, leadership and management, and more.
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 colleague and friend of mine who works as a management officer in the embassy recently posted on Facebook about how many different kinds of jobs she performs under the umbrella of “diplomat.” Some of the positions she mentioned were curator, travel agent, pet shipper, motivational speaker, lawyer, property manager, financial manager, party planner, and operations research analyst. As I read the post, I thought, “That’s so true!”
In mid-February, something happened in Tashkent. Flowers started to bloom, the days reached temperature highs in the 60s and 70s, and the days noticeably got just a little longer. Being in the car in the afternoon without cracking a window became uncomfortable.
And yesterday, one more telltale sign of spring arrived: our two little desert tortoises emerged from nearly four months of hibernation under the front lawn.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I talked about whether or not we were homesick, and what, if anything, we missed from the United States (the “who” being a given).
It started when I made a comment about missing something I wished I could have (which usually goes hand-in-hand with an inadvertent failure to be grateful for the present and whatever’s right in front of me). I don’t remember now whether it was avocados, or Ambar, our favorite Balkan restaurant that we frequented on Capitol Hill during our years in DC, or something else. But it was something I was surprised to learn my husband had really enjoyed at the time but didn’t much miss.
The day before yesterday marked eight months since I arrived in Tashkent, which technically means that my tour here is one-third complete. (The obvious question that comes to mind is When are you leaving and where do you go next? I am slated to be in Tashkent until May 2017, and should find out my next posting in a few months.)
With each new year comes a period, however brief, of looking back and seeing where we’ve been.
I established the Collecting Postcards blog on WordPress in April 2014, and one year later I discussed blog stats in One Year in Blogging. Now that 2015 has ended, I have my first full calendar year to analyze. I’m always curious to know how readers find the blog, which posts get the most views, and from which countries do readers visit?
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.
On November 1, Secretary of State John F. Kerry visited Uzbekistan as part of a whirlwind five country tour through Central Asia.
A Secretary’s visit to an embassy or consulate is a pretty big deal. It’s like your boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss has come calling. And the amount of preparation that goes into an “S visit” would probably surprise even a seasoned officer that hadn’t yet experienced one.
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!)
I have been having some technical problems with my blog during the last three weeks, so I’m a little bit behind on posts. A lot has been happening lately, so I will try to catch up with a few posts this week.
It’s been two weeks since we returned from our trip to Samarkand. I am currently working on a half-baked theory that the life of a diplomat is especially suited to extroverts, although according to what I’ve heard and seen, many of us in the State Department (myself included) are in fact introverts.
There are a lot of misconceptions about what an introvert actually is – some people categorize introverts as shy, socially awkward, or bookworms. That may be true in some cases. However, the introversion-extroversion scale is more about where one receives their energy.