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Uzbekistan Duuuh!

We woke up the next morning at the Yakubjanov residence, and the smell of more Plov was already wafting through the residence. Not to be outdone by Shoney’s grandmother, his mother too was eager to try her Plov out on us. Shoney had already been telling us about the majesty and wonder of his mother’s Plov. Nothing she’d cooked yet had been anything other that a home run, so we were excited to try it.

First we had to go on a mission for washers. I headed out with Shoney’s sister to go searching. You see, during the previous day’s open heart surgery on Scott’s Speed TR’s dynamo hub, we had been forced to remove and jettison quite a few pieces of the wheel, meaning that now the hub was a fair bit too small for the fork. My idea for a temporary solution to this was to simply fill the extra space with washers. So I looked up the word for washers in my Russian dictionary, and we headed out.

Eventually, after striking out a few times, we wandered into an auto mechanic’s shop. The man was not only swimming in washers, but he was more than happy to give them to me for free. “As many as you can carry!” he laughed.

By the time we all arrived back at the house, it was Plov time. And my goodness did she go all out.  The rice had been steaming in meat juices, and meanwhile she cut up a large piece of lamb, some horse sausage, a couple of hard boiled eggs, and unstrung a necklace of stuffed grape leaves. She then piled all this on top of the dish and presented it to us with a big smile, some apologies as to the out-of-season nature of the grape leaves. “You’ll have to come back when the grapes are in season. I’m sorry about that.” Mrs. Yakubjanov, we would be more than happy to come back and eat your Plov any time.

It was too tasty, the rice all filled with raisins and nuts, the grape leaves succulent and juicy, the meat salted and spiced to perfection. I just couldn’t stop eating it. It was served, as is the tradition, with a fresh salad of onion, tomato and cucumber.

Once again, we felt so full that we might have to be rolled out the door. And then it was time for melon! Another dynia, perhaps even sweeter and more delightful than the last.  My goodness do they eat well in Uzbekistan.

Then it was time to split. With so much gratitude that we could not tell which was more busting, our stomachs or our hearts, we thanked them again and climbed on the bikes.

“Now remember, my father has booked a room for you guys at the Caravan Sarai hotel. It’s the same place where he sets up his U.N. guests! The manager will meet you at the station. Good luck!”

The conductors on the train took one look at the Speed TRs, and saw an opportunity to extract a bribe. In the end, not knowing the rules of post Soviet rail travel, we paid them nearly $5.00 for each cycle.

As the train rumbled through rich Uzbek farmland, we chatted with our fellow passengers, all citizen of Samarqand. They seemed thrilled to be sharing a car with us. It was one older man, a cartographer by trade, and a mother and daughter. The woman ran the front desk at a hospital, I believe.

About every five minutes, I would hear “VooDya!” and the little girl would have sprung up with another question for me. My Russian was terribly rusty, and had gotten little better since I’d come to the Uze, so reliant had we been on Shoney to play translator. But now I was getting to use that old muscle, and it felt good, exhilarating in fact.

Near the end of the ride, they noticed the ukulele and asked for a tune. I was happy to oblige them with a little Doobie Brother’s “Long Train Runnin.”

We arrived at the station in Samarqand and were blown out of the water by how beautiful it was. It was the most impressive station Scott or I had ever seen, lit up dramatically in the night, and built out of gorgeous materials. We were just about to leave with the young manager who had come to meet us and take us to the Caravan Sarai Guesthouse, when I realized we had left our keys and helmets on the train.

I sprinted back and caught it just as it was leaving. The words for helmet and keys came back to me in a flash, and I was able to ask for them. Sure enough one of the women cleaning the train had found them and placed them in a large metal bin.

I came back out at a triumphant jog, the only words to describe my emotions at that point were in Lao: Uzbekistan Duuuh!


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