Little did I think when my family came to Uzbekistan in July of 2019 that it would be almost two years later that would be finally leaving. We were not able to travel last summer because the pandemic closed the border and we were afraid that we were not able to get back. I am optimistic that this summer we’ll be able to return next month without difficulty. Nadia usually flies business class because of her lower back issues and because of my shoulder injury, we are both flying business class this time. We are on the Uzbek Airlines direct flight from Tashkent to JFK airport in New York. I do not fly business often, but when I do, I am amazed at the different passenger experience. Business class passengers use a different terminal that economy class passengers at the airport. This includes check-in, customs and boarding. We had chicken somas (an Uzbek empanada) and coffee in the restaurant.
It is nice to have a “right-hand man” and Ahat helped with baggage and drove us to the airport. We are with mixed emotions this morning, happy to be returning to the USA after two years, but leaving our puppy, Obi behind and the fact the school purchased a one-way ticket for Owen as he graduated and will not be returning with us. He is taking a gap semester and will live with my uncle in Pennsylvania. He plans to get a job and driver’s license and experience life outside of the expatriate bubble and a get true Americana experience.
The flight was uneventful. The direct flight to the USA is convenient. The seats were huge and we were able to sleep. The flight in economy class was 85% full. My critique of Uzbek Airways is the food was subpar and the cost difference between economy and business was too much. The attendants were thoughtful and polite. There was only 1 English movie to choose, but I didn’t care because I am not a big movie person. We had an over 1 hour wait in the JFK passport control line. Customs officials were only in 4 of the many lanes. I was surprised no one checked our PCR test results in New York, or in Tashkent for that matter. No one also asked if we were vaccinated. We voluntarily filled out a contact tracing form for the state of New York and handed it to a table outside of the baggage area. It was very easy to enter the USA and I am proud of our country for producing so many vaccines. Our children have an appointment on Tuesday to receive their first Pfizer dose!
We had to change plans because of my shoulder surgery so took a private transport from JFK to Freeland, Pennsyvlania where we are staying with my uncle. AJ, our New York Sikh driver made good time and we were delivered in about 2 hours. Freeland is directly west of New York City in the Poconos Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. I was shocked at the amount of garbage on the sides of the road as we made our way through Queens and the Bronx. Congress really needs to pass an infrastructure bill. After living in Japan, America’s roads and airports are not up to world-class standards. We were excited to see the great sports stadiums of the US Open in Flushing Meadows, Citi Field (New York Mets) and Yankee Stadium.
As I finish this blog post, I am on my uncle’s deck listening to the morning birds and it is a misty, cool morning. I learned that I prefer dry climates to wet ones. Tashkent is classified as a Mediterranean climate and that is my preferred one. However, the humid cool of the Poconos is a welcome change