The Novelty

Shashlik?Im still having a great time, though the novelty is starting to wear off. Yes, Im American. Yes, I like Uzbekistan. Yes, I like Osh (not really, I can only take so much. Osh, or Plov, the national rice dish that has a little bit of carrots, yellow peppers, sometimes chickpeas and is cooked in TONs of oil. Then some kind of meet is put on top. Everyone eats a TON of it. Every Friday we go to group meetings, at our hub site and we are served lunch. Last Friday one of my fellow trainees that I was sitting with, who has the healthy, large appetite of an average 25 year old guy, went with only eating the soup and didn’t touch the…..yes, the osh, we were served because he had had it at his host families for the past 2 days and just couldn’t take another bite of it. And that includes breakfast. Cold. Anyways…), no I don’t make alot of money, no, Im not married, and no, I don’t drink vodka (you have one shot and your expected to drink as much as everyone else and let me tell you, these boys can drink. To much. We Americans Chorerliemy call it a bit of a “problem.” Here, totally normal. Um, yea.). And yes. Really, you can stop staring at me (this is the first time most of my village, if not all, has seen an American.). Learning the language and lesson planning for my practicums is alot of work to keep straight. Im so busy that Im beginning to stress out a bit. But I expected this to happen. All that, along with all the guesting my family plans for me. Which sounds like fun, and sometimes it is, but its alot of work to be someone’s guest all the time. People are very formal in Uzbekistan. I dont mean their dress but their social interaction. There are alot of dos and donts, especially with the older people and there are usually elders around so your busy trying not to offend, and trying to ‘play your roll’ as a woman, yet your a guest as well. Uz prime example of a culture based on indirect communication. All for the sake of not offending. Ahh. Do you help serve the food or do you sit, like they asked you to, with the elders? Did they really mean sit when Non Housethey said “Sit! Sit!” or were they just saying that and I should really be helping in the kitchen? Do you drink the vodka that the men offer you because if you dont, they will be offended or do you refuse because a) your a woman and the women at the table will frown and b) thats some nasty, harsh sh**? Note how all of what Im talking about is based around meals. I dont know how I haven’t gained weight, yes I do, more on that later. All the while, I am trying to understand all the rocket launched questions aimed towards me and trying to get by with “yes/no/good/great/Uzbekistan is great/I love the osh” for answers to every question because although I am really beginning to understand enough that I may know what they are talking about, it takes me about a minute to form a 5 word answer, and maybe a run to the dictionary. And let me tell you, all of this is entertaining and a riot at first but Im to the point where I have homework because I didn’t understand a chunk of my language class today and I have 3 lesson plans to do for tomorrow and, “Oh great” more family just walked in the door unannounced (which is how it goes alot because not alot of people have phones here). Now, although all this is true, this isn’t alllll the time. My family is less formal with their friends who occasionally come over for dinner. And in both cases I laugh and say “Men tushunmayman (I dont understand)” alot and when I am with just my family, its like any other, laugh, act silly, relax. Actually though, my family is really a riot, more than some of my friends. They love to come visit (also, Husnora cooks with the least amount of fat/oil and her food is really good so that maybe why too). So as you can tell, it is all very up and down. And even though this is a little bit of a humorized “downer” blog, I WILL HAVE YOU KNOW that I, at least once a day (ok, or every other), have a moment of “this is so awesome. Relax. Enjoy this Jen.” And a good U2 song starts sound-tracking in the back of my mind, I smile, sit back and I do just that. Life could be worse. I get a pretty warm shower 2x a week (and not everyone gets that so…), I have a family that DOESN’T serve me osh but maybe once a week, by family gives me my space and Ive learned to say, “no thanks, Im full” in a way that is culturally not offensive and they seem to respect that Im serious but Im not sick. So, I’m coping and so far it doesn’t take but for me to give myself a little pep talk and maybe a journal entry like this one to shake it off a serious sh** mood. Im still laughing alot, love my family, shocking, crazy things still happen. Maybe not daily, but still. We just went on a weekend excursion to Samarkand, a ancient , beautiful city (see my next blog) so things are still A-OK. Peace, love and groovy thoughts ya’all!

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