During my first tour in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, we only had one visitor – my mom. She came to visit in August 2016 and although I mentioned it twice (here and here) and shared a handful of photos before we then jetted off to Budapest and Moscow together, I never followed up with the promised travelogue about her visit. Since it’s been almost four years, some details have now faded, and there are hundreds of pictures that are hard to choose between. However, thanks to really good Facebook photo captions I made at the time, everything she went through to get there, and my ongoing belief that I could have done a better job showing more about Uzbekistan during my tour, I decided it was now or never to make this post.
If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I served my first diplomatic tour in Uzbekistan starting in 2015. Many of my blog posts while there were focused on things other than Uzbekistan; although I wrote about narrow aspects of my life, and chronicled our trips around the country, the list of unwise subjects to publicly write about in that particular environment was lengthy.
In retrospect, there may have been more “content” I could have produced about the unique parts of Uzbekistan had I been there under different auspices. There is no question that the high-fraud consular work, security posture, and challenges of being a non-mother in a society where women derive their place chiefly from motherhood all negatively affected my perspective at times. I also was very focused on not drawing attention to my whereabouts and activities too, especially when my blog “mysteriously” became accessible only by VPN. Another American I know succeeded much better in explaining and appreciating what he and his wife experienced during their three years in Uzbekistan. Thirteen months almost to the day on from my departure, it has been an unexpected delight for me to see Uzbekistan again through their eyes.
The baggage carousel jerked to life, and the second bag that trundled up the belt was mine. “Right out of the gate, that never happens!” I exclaimed to the man next to me. “Well, all right,” he responded with a smile. I had landed in San Francisco on a Saturday mid-morning after a fairly comfortable 11.5 hour flight from Seoul. However, I hadn’t slept for two nights in a row, and I still had a three hour drive ahead of me.
I recently traveled with my mom to Samarkand, and then on to Budapest and Moscow. It was amazing to share visiting the ancient Uzbek city of Samarkand with my mom, as well as to experience a couple of new cities together.
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!)
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.