Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit an older part of Tashkent, the Hazrat Imam Complex (sometimes written as Khast Imom Square) with a few embassy colleagues, including our ambassador, led by local historian, author, scholar and inventor Boris Anatolevich Golender.
On Tuesday, thousands of pounds of household effects (HHE) including consumables were delivered to our home.
Given that I live a short drive from the embassy, I scheduled the delivery in the late afternoon so as not to interfere with visa interviews. I had a couple of business days’ notice while my shipment sat in Customs, so I was ready. Before the appointed time, I zoomed home to sequester my free-ranging yard tortoise into a shoebox. I dug out the shipping inventory in preparation to oversee the unloading of four huge wooden crates of our stuff, and steeled myself against possible aggravation.
Last Friday morning, I learned that within a couple of hours my vehicle would have its green diplomatic license plates and become street legal. I was already in possession of my Uzbek driver’s license and diplomatic accreditation card, so the issuance of dip plates was all that stood between me and the open road. The car had been sitting in the far corner of the embassy parking lot for nearly three weeks after clearing Customs, and I was grateful and elated that I would finally be able to take it home and stop going everywhere on foot or by taxi.
This blog post is dedicated to the people who sent me questions about my life here in Uzbekistan via Facebook, LinkedIn, and email. If you have a question you would like me to answer in an upcoming post, please contact me through one of those mediums or comment this post to let me know! I will tag these posts “Your Questions” in the future.
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.
Over this past three day weekend (Happy 4th!), I have noticed two predominant types of posts on my Facebook newsfeed: those of my friends in the United States barbecuing and enjoying fireworks while decked out in red, white, and blue, and those of my Foreign Service colleagues taking the opportunity granted by an extra day off to travel to nearby countries.
I was fortunate when I arrived here in Tashkent last month that the consular officers and local staff already working in the section facilitated a great orientation training and familiarization period for me. This helped me quickly learn what consular work looks like relevant to conditions in Uzbekistan; it was a specific and fine-tuned addendum to my ConGen training that took place in this spring.
And what is consular work about, exactly, for the uninitiated? In my opinion, it is very important work – protecting the borders of our great nation, while facilitating legitimate travel, study and even immigration to the United States, as well as serving the needs of our fellow American citizens traveling through or living in Uzbekistan.
As those who know me well would attest, I’ve never been much for competition. I used to work for someone whose top strength, according to StrengthsFinder 2.0, was Competition, with a capital C.
I wasn’t surprised to discover this fact during a staff retreat/training because it described her perfectly. Her competitive nature was an incredibly useful attribute for her, especially in leadership and in motivating teams. But I was surprised to read in the book’s description that such a person isn’t happy just to win, but must absolutely outperform (crush!) all competitors in order to be satisfied.
And now, some of my observations that may – or may not – also be facts!
Thursday, May 21, the night I arrived in Uzbekistan, I heard that my UAB (otherwise known as unaccompanied air baggage, or “air freight”) had beat me here. This was totally shocking for me (in a good way), as my air freight had only been packed out less than two weeks before.
I’ve heard dozens of times from officers in all different parts of the world that it generally takes UAB at least three weeks to arrive in Customs in the host country, sometimes longer.
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.
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.
Over the last few weeks since the holidays, my focus has begun to shift towards finalizing my Russian studies (I just concluded week 21 of 28), and preparing to depart for Tashkent in less than four months.
This month has been correspondingly busy on the administrative side. The year unfortunately started off with a young lady sliding in the snow and rear-ending my car as I sat at a stop sign waiting for traffic to pass so I could make a right turn out of a parking lot. She did $1,700 worth of damage and then became escalated, hysterical and unreasonable (all conditions I tolerate, but barely), culminating with her dodging my calls. However, my insurance company (props to Travelers!) hunted her down and forced her to be liable. Additionally, I was not injured, nor was she (or the two small children in her vehicle), and all ended well.
This is week 14 of my Russian class, LRU100. This week marks the halfway point of the 28 week language program that many in my new Foreign Service Officer cohort (the “too big to fail 178th”) embarked upon in September. Fourteen weeks in, we are in the thick of it – regardless of whether we are studying Russian, or Mandarin, or Spanish, or Azeri, or Bangla, or Arabic, or whatever else.
At this point, I have the unsettling feeling that I should be precisely halfway to the level of language proficiency required for me to travel to post. However, it’s probably more true that by now I should have established the solid foundation upon which to continue building and expanding, while simultaneously consolidating and fine-tuning what I’ve already acquired.