Family Journal: January 16, 2022

Nadia, Shokur, Ocean

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%.

Bill, Steve, Jason

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.

Family Journal: January 9, 2022

Owen & Ocean outside of the Tashkent Airport – January 8, 2022

It was a bittersweet weekend for me. Bitter in that our eldest son Owen returned to university in the USA. Sweet in that we did get to spend a lot of time with him and it was so nice to have our family whole again. It was so nice to have family meals again and with 24 consecutive days of break, it gave us a chance to bond with each other and reconnect after our busy first semester of school. Owen flight’s were smooth and he landed in Chicago and stayed with my brother Andy and his wife until his flight the next day. However, Northern Michigan University announced over the weekend they are delaying the start of the semester by 2 days and going virtual the rest of the week. I wish they could have made the announcement earlier so Owen could have stayed with us a bit longer. šŸ˜¦

Family dinner – January 7, 2022

I drove around the Charvak Resavour on Sunday and went for a couple of walks with Obi in the surrounding mountains. I am always refreshed with the mountain scenery and fresh air. A strong, cold wind was bracing and made it difficult to walk on top of ridges. I noticed much less snowfall than in previous winters. I think that is definitely a concern in Central Asia that climate change is making it an even drier climate. The slow snowmelt in the spring and summer feeds freshwater to this dry climate.

Holiday Reading

I finished three books over the Winter Break. I like to review and post about what I learned from all books I read.

I first encountered Carl Hiaasen in the 1990s while living in Colombia. This was pre-internet and the only US newspaper we could get was the Miami Herald. He was a long-time journalist and columnist for the paper. I used to visit Miami a lot when I was living in Latin America, off-and-on from 1992 to 2008. Nadia and I got married there in the autumn of 1999 in Coral Gables and the state holds a special place in my heart.

September 17, 1999 – Our wedding night!

Many of Hiassen’s novels are set in Florida. Squeeze Me (2020) is centered on rich, elderly Trump (Secret Service codename “Mastadon”) supporters living in Palm Beach and the “Winter White House”, Mar Largo. Although Hiaasen never mentions Trump’s name or Melania (Secret Service codename, “Mockingbird”), you can easily see the likeness. The protagonist of the novel is a pest control specialist named Angela Armstrong. She is called over to the resort to take care of Burmese Pythons, which are an extensive invasive species problem in south Florida. Hiassen is inspired by his many years of covering Florida characters involved in crazy crime stories, corrupt politicians, rich retirees and the many different kinds of people that are attracted to Florida. I ponder his plot twists and think about what will happen next and it helps me go to sleep at night by taking my mind off my busy work and personal life. It was a light read and a page-turner and I recommend it for those who like humorous, crime fiction.

I like thrillers and crime novels to put me to sleep and I also love historical fiction and Adrian McKinty’s “The Sun is God” (2014) checked those two categories for me. When I think of Germany’s empire or colonies, I think of World War II and Hitler’s march through Europe. However, they did get into the colonies game at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. I didn’t know that they laid claim to parts of what is now Papua New Guinea. They held it until the Japanese came during World War II. McKinty focuses on a nudist colony/cult of Germans that eat only coconuts and bananas and take a lot of heroin. An ex-British soldier that fought in the Boer War, Will Prior, moves to German New Guinea to get over his PTSD. When an autopsy of a recently dead cult member shows that he drowned, Will is called in to investigate the cult. It was a pretty good book which I read through to find out who did it. McKinty is from Northern Ireland and is known for his Sean Duffy Detective series which I have not read.

The last book I finished was Kim Stanley Robinson’s “science-fiction nonfiction novel” The Ministry for the Future”. The book is set in the near future and is all about humanity dealing with climate change. The story is centered around Mary Murphy who heads the United Nations Ministry of the Future. The organization represents future generations and lobbies central banks, governments and multinational corporations to reduce their carbon footprint and lessen the impact of climate change. There is also an unbelievably successful shadow eco-terrorist group that murders oil executives, takes out commercial jets and attacks anyone or anything that is adding carbon to the atmosphere. The book starts with an intense heat wave in India that kills millions.

Robinson puts in a lot of factual essays and information between scenes from the main narrative. There is a lot to chew on in the book and I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot.

  • Humanity soon realizes that “the planet is incapable of sustaining everyone alive at Western levels, and at that point the riches pulled away into their fortress-mansions, bought governments or disabled them from action, and bolted their doors to wait it out until some poorly theorized better time, which really came down to their lives, and perhaps the lives of their children if they were feeling optimistic.”
  • The UN measures inequality, which is a big driver of climate change, through their Human Development Index. The Happy Planet Index created by the New Economic Forum, measures reported well-being, life expectancy and inequality incomes, divided by econlogical footprint. The US scores 20.1 out of 100, ranking 108 of 140 countries. Gini Coefficients,devised by Italian sociologist Corrado Gini in 1912, is a measure of income and wealth disparity in a population. It is expressed as a fraction between 0 (everyone is equal) to 1 (one person owns everything). In the mid twenty first century, social democracies like Norway are a bit below 0.3. USA and China have risen from 0.3-0.4 to 0.5-0.6. Cumulatively, globally the number rises to 0.7 because of so many poor people around the world. Disparities in wealth have been rapidly increasing since 1980 and we are nearing the Gilded Age of the 1890s and perhaps even the feudal ear.
  • “The assumption is that future people will be richer and more powerful than we are, so they’ll deal with any problems we create for them.”
  • Since there will be so many more future people, estimates of 800 billion, then the current 7 billion humans should be doing more for them.
  • India features prominently in the novel as one of the leading countries in the battle against climate change.
  • Jevon’s Paradox proposes that increases in efficiency in the use of a resource lead to an overall increase in the use of the resource, not a decrease. William Stanley Jevons wrote this about coal in 1865. Other examples are better gas mileage results in more miles driven; faster computer processing time results in more time spent on computers.
  • Leopoldian land ethic, often summarized as “what’s good is what’s good for the land”.
  • “Humans evolved in ice ages, and properly dressed are good in the cold. Just deal!”
  • Worker owned enterprises in Basque country are the way of the future. 1/3 of profits go to employee/owners, 1/3 to capital improvements and 1/3 given to charities chosen by the employees. The wage ratio between management’s top salary and the minimum level of pay is set at 3:1, 5:1 or at the most 9:1.
  • Los Angeles after WWII changed dramatically because developers were getting rich making ticky-tack suburban neighborhoods – that an putting in freeways, which cut the coastal plain into a hundred giant squares with no plans, no parks, no organization.
  • If all central banks went block-chain and digital currency, that would put an end to tax havens and hiding money.
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death tells the story of the elites having a masquerade ball on a castle on a peak above a plague-wrought populace. The syndrome is an assertion that the end is imminent and inevitable so you might as well party while you can.
  • Some of the solutions for climate change include rewilding 50% of every country and/or continent and creating wildlife corridors between huge areas of wilderness. People are diurnal and animals nocturnal so lots of motion on the corridors at night. This was called the Half Earth Movement.
  • Navy admirals’s salaries top out at $200,000 which is a ratio of 8:1 to the lowest sailor. Admirals are “normal” and there is a great espirit de corps. In the corporate world, the median is 1,500:1. Some executives make in 10 minutes what starting employees earn in a year. If the lowest level of salary of any company is enough to live a decent life, the CEO should be limited to a 10:1 ratio.
  • Public goods (food, water, shelter, clothing, electricity, health care and education) should all be public goods and never subjected to appropriation, exploitation and profit.
  • Save the earth through a new earth religion.
  • Housing coops are common, single people sharing kitchens and yards.
  • When Mary Murphy retires and settles in Switzerland, before she felt “an international person living an international life. Now she was a foreign-born Zurcher, living in Zurich. “Their culture doesn’t matter so much just language. That I find is the great connector.”

Vocabulary

  • Earth’s “albedo” – proportion of the planet’s light that is reflected back into space
  • India’s way has always been “syncretic” – merging of different religions and cultures
  • “lacuna” – gap
  • tautology – saying the same thing twice in different words
  • fiat – a decree
  • Gordian Knot – a difficult problem

Family Journal: January 5, 2022

We have been exploring some new restaurants in Tashkent this week during the Winter Break. Most of my family are “foodies” and they enjoy going out and trying new places. There are a couple of new places in the Tarasa Shevchenko area that I thought were excellent. There is a new pan-Asian restaurant called Tom Yum and their eponymous dish was delicious. The kids had Pad Thai and another coconut milk-based soup. Overall, I give it a 7.5 of 10. We also went to Roni, an Italian restaurant nearby. Authentic and tasty pizza and salads. It was definitely a step-up from your standard Italian restaurant and with the cool music and atmosphere, it received a 9 of 10 from me. There are so many new restaurants opening in the city that it is difficult to keep up. These two were a little expensive ($15 per person with drinks) but very good.

I went for a long run yesterday and I always encounter interesting sites along the way. We’ve had quite a bit of rain the past couple of days and the Ankhor Canal was full and the hydroelectric dam looked like Niagara Falls. Despite the rain, I’ve been able to get out walking with Obi and getting some exercise. Memorial Park was beautiful in the trees with the sun just coming through the clouds for a few moments. I also saw this hearse in front of the cemetery.

Yangiabad Bazaar

I spent Sunday taking Nadia around to the Yangiabad Bazaar, a massive weekend flea market located on the abandoned railroad yards and factory. She loves looking for antique glass and kitchenware and I like the Soviet-era stuff. It has been 30 years since the Soviets left and I wonder how much longer you will be able to find this stuff. I am always amazed at the vast range of items for sale and what has value. As you can see from the table above, this guy has everything from old SLR cameras, light sockets, a spatula, door hinges, handles, wire and other bric-a-brac. There is a Wuhan-like animal section, thankfully they are not slaughtering the animals at the market, but they are closely packed and the cages are not exactly the example of hygiene. I was tempted to buy a live turkey and hedgehog. I also loved the 1960s Soviet Zil “Moscow” refrigerator. It would look great in our basement bar in the US. The Zil company based in Moscow, built cars and trucks for almost 100 years (1916-2012). I did not know they also built appliances.

I purchased some unique gifts for family and friends. My son Owen is a big history buff so I got him a metal bust of Lenin and I got gas masks for Oliver and my brother. I also bought a cool metal nutcracker and bottle opener in the shape of a dragon. This sells as a vintage piece on eBay for much more than the $3 I paid for it.

Nadia loves unique furniture pieces and with inexpensive labor, she can get wood refurbished and chairs reupholstered for reasonable prices. She is getting two chairs for our new movie room redone with suzanis, the traditional embroidered needlework tapestries common in CentraL Asia. I joke that suzanis are “catnip” for female expats in Tashkent. We are also looking at doing something with this beautiful Bukhara door. Woodcarving is an old Central Asian tradition and the door below would be a beautiful display piece in a home. It could also be fashioned into a headboard or coffee table. We visited the workshop of one of the best wood craftsmen in the city to discuss the chairs and door.

Family Journal: Chimgan Mountains

Everyone obviously enjoying a Dad-prepared meal!

We enjoyed a couple of days in the mountains between Christmas and New Years. It was so nice to get away and enjoy the blue skies and white snow of the Tian Shan mountains. The nearby ski resort only opened partially on our last day and Oliver did go up with friends for the day. I enjoyed walking with our dog Obi near our rented chalet. He was so funny in the snow. It was the perfect depth for him, about 6 inches and it forced him continuously leap to propel himself through the soft snow. He seemed to take much delight in prancing through the fresh powder. I also took pleasure in the refreshing air and inspiring views of the Chimgan peaks. I should get up to the mountains more often to restore my soul.

Obi bouncing through the snow

The best thing about the experience was the lack of internet at the chalet. It forced our family to spend lots of time together. Nadia allowed me to plan and prepare the meals, not a strength of mine. I added a 4-cheese sauce to a Marinara sauce and Berelli pasta and it was a quite delicious combination. We played chess and I realized I need some strategy and Owen suggested taking a short course on Chess.com which I will try to find time. I also want to start playing backgammon with the kids.

Nadia and I love spending time with our three teenagers. They are so funny and we love learning their opinions, interests and their personalities. That is the best thing about school breaks is getting to spend more time as a family without the rush of getting off to school or having our oldest in university.

My view of Chimgan Mountain

2022 ATP Season Preview

Owen destroyed me in tennis today, 1-6, 1-6, 2-6 and I think that he has surpassed me too, in tennis as in most other physical activities. This is normal for a 54-year-old father and it brings me joy to watch the athletism of a 19-year-old young man. I can’t keep up with him and Oliver, but I am just happy that I am able to participate with them. I think with tennis we’ll have to move to “I get to play his doubles court and he plays my singles court” format and we’ll see if that gets us more competitive. I did beat him one set this Winter Break 7-6 (7-4) and if he is not playing well and I am playing at my best, I can stay with him.

We are excited for the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) 2022 season. It is an passion that Owen and I share. I wanted to write a 2022 tour preview and make some predictions. Our favorite player is Novak Djokovic. We lived in Belgrade from 2008 to 2014 and watched several Davis Cup matches and the Serbia Open, played in a clay-court tennis center named, Novak, on the banks of Sava River in Belgrade. Nadia and I also played on the courts Djokovic grew up on in the mountain resort town of Kapaonik adjacent to his family’s pizzeria. Being a fan of Djokovic, I am interested in what player is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) and ultimately, who will win the most Grand Slams and how the 2022 season will change this. First I’ll address the GOAT debate.

Statistically, Djokovic is the GOAT. Ultimate Tennis Statistics.com is a fascinating website with many databases that give much insight into the sport. One of the Big Three, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic has been the dominant player in the game for the past 18 years. The Dominance Timeline shows during this stretch since the 2004 season, Nole (short form in Serbian for Novak) was the best player 7 times, Federer 6 times and Nadal 4 times. Andy Murray broke through in the 2016 season, but for three players to be the best for so long is unprecedented in tennis.

Ultimate Tennis Statistics has a formula that combines Grand Slam, Masters and other tournament with rankings, head-to-head and rankings in different aspects of tennis (serve, return, etc.). Nole is number one with 968, Federer second with 936 and Nadal 847. My quick analysis agrees with this in the table below. Djokovic is the only who has won all four Grand Slam titles twice, has the most Master Series titles and has the most weeks with the #1 ranking. Nadal is clearly the greatest ever on clay with 13 French Open tiels and 70% of his titles coming on clay and he has won an Olympic Gold medal, something the other two have not done. Nole does hold the head-to-head against both of them (30 to 28 versus Nadal) and (27-23 versus Federer) and I think that is another reason he is considered the GOAT.

CategoryNole (age34)Federer (age 40)Nadal (age 35)
Career Total989-199 (0.832)1251-275 (0.82) 1029-209 (0.831)
Grand Slams202020
Masters Series373628
Year-end #1755
Career Earnings$154 million$130 million$124 million
Australian Open Titles961
French Open Titles2113
Wimbledon Titles682
US Open Titles3 (6 runner-up)54
Tour Finals Titles560
Table (Bill Kralovec)

However, they are old for tennis, and one of the questions of the 2022 season will be; Can they continue this dominance? Watching last year, a cadre of younger players (Medvedev, Tsitsipas, Zverev, Thiem) which I will call the “Next Generation Big Three +1” looked bigger, faster and stronger than the original Big Three. I could see the difference in generations and it reminded me of Agassi at the end of his career, using guile and strategy to win his last couple of Grand Slams. I think with Federer’s age and injury history, for him to win another Grand Slam is improbable. His only chance would be a favorable draw and some breaks at Wimbledon. Nadal has had a lot of injury problems too, but he always must be the favorite at the French Open. Nole defeating him in last year’s French Open might be his greatest victory ever. It was a monumental effort and an injury-free Nadal will be tough to beat there and in other tournaments. Nole was the dominant player last season, winning Australia, French, Wimbledon and losing in the US Open finals to Medvedev.

I think it depends more on the younger generation than Nadal or Djokovic. Medvedev must have gained a lot of confidence wiping out Nole in last year’s US Open. Zeverev also made strides, winning Olympic Gold and the Nitto ATP Finals titles last year. I think on the hard courts, Nole is facing a tough task to beat at least 2 of them. The Big Three has won 15 of the last 16 Australian Opens, 16 of the last 17 French Opens, 16 of the last 18 Wimbledons, and 12 of the last 18 US Opens. The last time none of the Big Three has one at least one of the 4 Grand Slams in a season was in 2002, 19 years ago. I don’t think 2022 will end the streak and here are my predictions for the Grand Slams.

  • Australian Open – Danil Medvedev
  • French Open – Dominic Thiem
  • Wimbledon – Novak Djokovic
  • US Open – Alexander Zverev

I think the changing of the guard has started and over the next three seasons, the Grand Slam of the Big Three will be broken, but Djokovic will win one of the three non-clay tourneys for the next two years and will finish with 22 Grand Slams. Nadal will win one more French Open to finish his career with 21. I also don’t think Nole will finish as the World’s Number One again, but of course, I hope I am wrong.

Some other things I will be watching this year are as follows:

  • The USA has 12 players in the Top 100 but nobody in the Top 20. Taylor Fritz is the highest ranked man at #23. When will we have a breakout player again at the top of the tour? The last American to win a Grand Slam was Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi in 2003 (18 years!) and I would love to see a top American player again to support.
  • What newer players will move into the Medvedev/Thiem/Zverev/Tsitsipas tier? Owen’s favorite player is Canadian #22 Denis Shapovalov has yet to win a Masters Series title but has shown promise. I think #10 Italian Jannik Sinner has the game of a top player and he is my pick to break through. Fellow countryman Matteo Berrentini is the reincarnation of Juan Martin Del Potro and has the potential to win a Grand Slam.
  • I always support #13 Diego Schwartzmann from Argentina as he is bucking the trend of tall tennis players. He is 5-7 and looks like a dwarf compared to most modern players who are at least 6-2 and above. He hits the ball hard, moves well and being 5-8 myself, I love watching him beat players like 6-6 Zverev.
  • There are no Uzbeks in the Top 100, but #36 Alexander Bublik is from neighboring Kazakhstan. With the world opening back up again for international travel, it would be nice to attend a live event. Tashkent usually hosts a Challenger tourney and I see there was an Astana Open as a 250-level event. Both were held in September. It might also be nice to see some matches in the USA in July in the lead-up to the US Open. It would be a nice trip to visit the Tennis Hall of Fame and watch the tournament in New Port, Rhode Island. It would also be a new state for me. The other option would be the Atlanta Open in late July. Perhaps even a summer family tennis camp for a few days would be awesome!

Family Journal: Merry Christmas

Nadia wanted a photo with matching Christmas pajamas so here you go! It was a bit cheesy, but it did get our teenagers out of bed and having a bit of fun on Christmas morning. The holiday is not the same without young children in the house, but it was still a good day with all of us spending time together. The focus has gone from Santa and gifts to appreciating our time together before they move out permanently and start families of their own.

We had a traditional Christmas dinner with turkey, cranberries, mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc. Nadia is such a good cook and we all enjoyed her mastery in the kitchen. I don’t do much cooking, but I am on the support team with procuring ingredients and cleaning. We invited a family that we are close to and their children wanted to experience an authentic Christmas. Owen also invited a couple of his classmates that also have not had a Christmas celebration so it was fun seeing the holiday through their eyes. Also, having young children around made the night much better.

It was not a White Christmas, but we did get about 6 inches of snow the following day, December 26. I took Obi out for a run in the morning and the weather turned from fog, to rain, to sleet, to snow during the 6 kilometers. We are heading up to the mountains today for a couple of days of hopefully skiing and winter fun

Family Journal: Winter Solstice

View of Winter Solstice Sunset from the Compass Mall parking garage

I don’t understand why solstices are not a bigger deal and acknowledged more in our society. We seem to celebrate artificial holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, which are fine, but the day of the shortest amount of sunlight should be celebrated as well. I always make it a point to talk about the solstices and equinoxes to my family and friends. I always thought we should have rituals around them. Perhaps some type of sunrise/sunset ceremony where people make a toast or sing a song or just gather in a nice spot to watch it.

Curious Obi

The beautiful weather held out all week. It is so nice to walk Obi in different parts of the city during the day. He loves exploring Tashkent as much as I do. I am so glad we got a dog, it has made our family closer and gotten all of us out of the house more to walk the little guy. He absolutely loves getting out and is irresistible when he gives you those (cliche coming) puppy dog eyes. I can almost hear him say, “Let’s go dad” in the photo below. Once I pick up his bag with the harness and leash in, Obi is all in! He gets so excited.

Obi waiting for me to take him walking.

Finally, it is so nice to have Owen with his brothers and sisters. The other night we were having dinner at a friend’s home and I snapped the photo below. We are a family of five again! I am secretly hoping his university goes Virtual so he can stay here for a bit longer…

Owen and Mom

Family Journal: December 24, 2021

Owen and I continue to play as much tennis as possible. As you can see below, I can’t compete with Owen’s youth and athleticism. He hits the ball harder, runs faster and is much more agile in approach shots to the net. We shot a video of our serves (Owen / Bill) and you can see the impact of coaching with Owen. He is also much more fundamentally sound. After losing 4-6, 5-7, 2-6 earlier this week, I beat him in a tie-breaker yesterday! My secret is to schedule court times early in the morning after a night that he went out with his friends.

Compare our service form with the slider

The weather this week in the lead-up to Christmas has been really nice. The air quality is especially good with deep blue skies and clear views to the mountains. We will be heading up to the mountains for a couple of nights early next week. Nadia and I did shopping to prepare for Christmas dinner by stopping at the Mirabad Bazori It is the big market of our suburb and my favorite. The vendors are spread out, ample parking, close to our house and a wide variety of products As you can see in the photos below, products range from fruits and vegetables, to chicken heads/feet to the famous winter melons of Uzbekistan.

I want to compliment the Uzbekistan Health Care infrastructure. It is convenient to get PCR Covid tests and the results back in less than 24 hours. Of course, the demand for testing right now in Tashkent is not like in the US and other places. This is partly due to the highly contagious Omicrom variant has not reached Tashkent yet and also most Uzbeks can’t afford regular testing at private clinics. Intermed, one of the best private clinics in the city has been stellar in providing quick, accurate PCR testing on demand. I noticed they even have temporary clinics set up in the city. The clinic below is in the parking lot of the Alay Bazaar near the city center.