A Halloween Anniversary

21 City Restaurant – October 31, 2020 – Tashkent, Uzbekistan

My wife Nadia and I celebrated 23 years together last night. Halloween is not really a romantic holiday, but for me it is, remembering back to 1997. I was teaching biology at the Santa Cruz Cooperative School in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Nadia was a first grade teacher assistant. For some reason I can’t remember, there were no classes on the Monday after Halloween. We took advantage of the long weekend to book a holiday to fly to neighboring Brazil. I wanted to visit the world’s largest tropical wetland and UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Pantanal. We were supposed to go with Nadia’s sister and her boyfriend at the time, but they pulled out at the last minute, so it ended up just being Nadia and me.

The wetlands support a diverse array of life and we saw caimanes, jabiru storks, purple macaws, etc. on our truck tours through the park. We stayed at a nice resort outside of the park. There was a karaoke bar at the hotel and Nadia sang Chris Deburgh’s “Lady in Red”. She has a lovely singing voice and I remember looking across the table at her. From that moment, I knew I was in love with her. 23 years later (and three children) we are still together and I still am in love with her. I was lucky to have met her and that we get along with each other for the long term.

We had a pleasant meal at the 21 City Restaurant in the newly built Hilton. The restaurant overlooks Tashkent City, a huge development near the center of Tashkent. In the center is a park with restaurants, a running track, a pool and of course this being Central Asia, lots of colored LED lights. Around the park are apartment buildings that are almost ready for occupancy and in the corner, Nest One, a 76-floor skyscraper has about 25 floors erected. It is a Pan-Asian restaurant and we both had the pad Thai. We love Thai cuisine! There was live music and it was excellent, a mix of jazz, opera, pop music. The only complaint was the music was a little loud.

I had a quiet halloween because of COVID. On Friday night, the school hosted Scary Night. I dressed as a wolf and had a table distributing candy to groups of students who were together in their learning pods. I used hand sanitizer on my hands between groups. There was a full moon and with the trees and decorations on campus, the campus was beautifully “spooky”. Walking out of school after cleaning my station, I saw kids in their cars, happily counting their candy and parents glowing because of the sense of normalcy in this crazy year of the pandemic.

The pandemic is causing the leadership and teachers at school to adapt our programs, so I spent most of the day working with the leadership team on campus. In the late afternoon I took Obi for a walk around our neighborhood. In the morning, Ocean and Oliver had a virtual cross-country run in the park near Pakhator Stadium. The 3km and 6km event was hosted by the Anglo American School of Moscow. The rest of the day was spent shuttling teenagers around to their friends’ homes. We do not use taxis during the pandemic.

Our lives have changed much since the simpler times of being young teachers without children. We still are enjoying life together

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