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I’m Telling You Guys, Uzbeks Love Foreigners

We arrived back in Tashkent at the crack of dawn. I had not really slept the night before, and was feeling particularly cruddy due to a bit of horse-meat sausage that I’d eaten that had spent some time on the floor of the train. All things considered, we decided it might be better to just haggle a ride in a cab over to the hotel that had been registering us.

We would, of course have stayed with Shoney, but his sister Luiza, bless her, had fallen ill and we were asked not to come round the house to give her time to rest and to protect us from whatever virus she might be entertaining at the moment.

So I weakly haggled for a while, and then we piled in a cab and drove across Tashkent to the hotel. We were by this point as well down to our last сум, since there had been no ATM in Bukhara, and we had depleted the last of our secret dollar reserves in Samarqand. So it was literally our last 8,000 сум that we paid the cab driver, and after unloading all our things from the car, and bidding the chap farewell, we headed into the hotel, hoping they would not want us to pay up front. The last thing we wanted to do was head out on our cycles in search of a dollar spitting ATM and an illegal money changer, before we could catch a little shuteye.

But the story turned out to be even worse than we’d feared. Not only did we not have a reservation at the hotel, but the place was full. We were told to come back at 10:00 am, (in four hours), when there might be a chance of a room. Fair enough.

So we sat down on the curb in Tashkent, exhausted, sick, and with nowhere to sleep. We’d been up all night on a God forsaken train; we had all our stuff piled around us; we had about 75 cents to our names; and the sun was growing ever higher in the morning sky. So we decided to nap in a park, with our stuff locked next to us.

We packed everything up, strapped our things down, and headed out in search of a park. The park proved hard to find, but we did spot a quiet looking neighborhood, and headed in thinking we might find a little interior park or bench… When we spotted this ratty old topchan (a Central Asian low lying table on which you sit to eat, we decided it might be the perfect place to nap.

We were just locking our belongings to a nearby tree when a fellow living in one of the apartments came over. He was smiling and asked us who we were, where we were from, and what we were up to. I explained our story, and asked him whether sleeping on the topchan would we okay. He laughed and said sleeping on the topchan would be fine, but that he would not let us do so. And from there, he began a furious campaign of insistence that we park our cycles in his garage and come up to sleep in his apartment.

We did our best to refuse, indicating that the ratty old topchan was plenty good enough for such rambling trash as  AsiaWheeling, but he stuck to his guns, and eventually we found ourselves parking the speed TRs in a rusty Soviet shed, which he made a great show of locking up tight, and walking us upstairs to his place. Somehow, although I never caught him making a call up to his wife, two beds had been made and laid out for us by the time we arrived. He showed us where to put down our bags and then invited us to sit at his dining room table.

The man’s wife then began bringing out a veritable torrent of food. Meanwhile, the man of the house lazed, smoking cigarettes and questioning us as to what we were doing in Uzbekistan and on AsiaWheeling in general.  After exhaustive conversation, and introductions to his children, he left us to snooze for a couple hours on the beds his wife had made for us.

By the time SIM city 2000 rang out to wake us up and call us to duty, he was already off to his shop in the market where he sold jeans, and it was his wife who showed us back down to the shed and unleashed our bikes.

As we rode away from the place, we could not stop talking about how fantastically friendly and warm the people of Uzbekistan were. That experience was unlike any of the whole trip, really amazing.

We got back to the hotel just in time to meet Shoney there. “I’m telling you guys, Uzbeks love foreigners.”

Fair enough, Shoney. Fair enough.


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