We had a nice relaxing weekend in Tashkent. One of the highlights was finding Rakhimov’s Ceramic Studio, located on the east side of the city. Nadia and Ocean are starting to take a ceramics class and they really enjoyed it. Both of them have an artistic bent and I loved watching them have so much fun. Ceramics and pottery are a big deal in Uzbekistan and Ocean felt a connection to Uzbek culture through pottery. They will be going every Saturday. The owner, Alisher Rakhimov, beside the workshop, has a nice gallery and courtyard on the premises. Shokur is the grandson of the founder of the studio. He is studying applied arts here in Tashkent and was a good teacher. The father, Alisher, gave me a tour of the gallery and explained a bit of the history of ceramics in Uzbekistan and the region.
I went for a bike ride on Saturday morning along the Ankhor Canal. As you can see on the left, there is a nice forested area along the canal between the Tashkent Tower and the Zoo. The weather was cool (11C) and overcast with intermittent rain both days. Tashkent gets most of its precipitation in the winter and unfortunately, it is not cold enough for snow in the city. Hopefully, it is snowing in the mountains while it rains here because I want to take the kids skiing during our next break in two weeks.
It was a strange week because last Saturday, a dinner guest we hosted came down with COVID, making us primary contacts. Unlike the USA, it is very easy to get a PCR test and the results back on the same day. Each test cost $21 and the results come back by 6:00 PM the same day. All of us tested negative on Tuesday and again on Thursday. The Omicron variant has reached Tashkent and I sense we are on the verge of a big surge of cases. Over the weekend, the school COVID Response Team got a lot of reports of positive cases. All schools in Uzbekistan are ordered closed by the government so we had to move to Virtual Learning on Friday for grades 2-12. The early years classes can be on campus. As in other parts of the world, all of the cases we are hearing about do not require hospitalization. I am concerned that there is a low vaccination rate in the country. Uzbeks are vaccine skeptics and I would guess the vaccination rate here is between 20-40%.
I played tennis this morning at the Olympic Tennis School with friends. The big news from the world of tennis today was from the Novak Djokovic saga at the Australian Open. He is my favorite tennis player and I am disappointed that he is not vaccinated. He lost a lot of money this weekend by not being able to play in what could have been his 10th Aussie Open title. He would have at least won several rounds. When someone is deported from Australia they are also banned from returning to the country for 3 years. That would effectively take him out of his favorite grand slam until he is 37 years old. The public sentiment against him I think will also hurt his future endorsements and perhaps his legacy. All because of his belief that a vaccine that literally billions of people around the world have received would harm him. What does he know that global science doesn’t?
Everyone knows that if you want to travel internationally, PCR tests and vaccinations are mandatory. Djokovic is a supreme health specimen, spending millions on a team of experts fine-tuning his body through flexibility e, diet, strength, speed, reaction time, etc. I understand why he believes that he does not need a COVID vaccine and is skeptical of mainstream health and medicine. However, someone in his team must let him know that by being stubborn about getting a vaccine, he is costing himself a lot of money and ultimately, hurting his legacy internationally. It won’t get much better for him. Tennis is a global sport that requires global travel. He may run into similar situations in other tournaments. The Australian Open and Australian Government didn’t handle the situation well either. In hindsight, there should have been no vaccine exceptions granted for players. These are young people and I would guess none would have risk against taking a vaccine. The Australian government has a “zero Covid” policy so granting exceptions would not work.