We spent most of the day shopping, getting ready to go to the Amirsoy Ski Resort. We are renting a chalet for 3 nights starting tonight. It is nice to cook in the chalet together. With travel still difficult, many expats are heading to the mountains outside of Tashkent for this break. I can’t wait for some skiing and family time! The Mirabod Bazaar, our suburb’s main outdoor market was full of New Year’s decorations and gift items. Fruit baskets, soda pop and juice are two popular gifts.
We watched “Lost in Translation” last night. I forgot how good that movie is! As I am getting closer to Bill Murray’s character in the movie, I related more to the film. Sofia Coppola, the director also really captured how foreigners see Japan when they first arrive to the country. Having lived in Japan for five years, we could relate and it brought back fond memories from some of the places we visited in Tokyo and Kyoto.
We are packing the car this morning and off for a few days of R&R!
Tashkent, like many of the former Warsaw Pact countries is not at its best during winter. Cold, wet, foggy weather combined with bare trees does not give a flattering backdrop to the Soviet architecture buildings. I went for a nice long bike ride yesterday around the city. Traffic was not bad and there are many side streets, pathways and trails away from the main streets. I always see a new part of the city on my rides. I wonder who painted the Beetles mural below on a shed on a side street?
It was a quiet day on the first day of our Winter Break. I worked in the morning, answering emails, completing references and following up with recruiting interviews. After my ride, I took a delicious nap and spent time with the family. I helped prepare a pork roast in a crock pot and we laughed a lot at the dinner table. Breaks give us more time to dine together as a family. I watched the movie Mosul on NetFlix. It is the story of a rogue Iraqi military unit hunting ISIS fighters in the final days of the war in the devastated city of Mosul. It was your typical military action adventure but the setting of Mosul made it interesting.
I like the year-end summary on Strava. I should go “pro” on Strava and use it more to track my exercise. I hope to get to the 3,000 KM mark in 2021!
We made it to our Winter Break! Our school completed 10 weeks of on campus learning on Friday, December 18. As always, it was a busy finish to the calendar year and I am looking forward to more time with my family during the break. We are nearing the winter solstice and I took the photo below while on front gate duty. As the director of the school, often I am out and about in the mornings, greeting students, parents and employees. The sun rises around 7:45 AM and I am usually out near 8:00 AM . The sun comes up while I am on the street in front of the school. It has been a cold winter so far with temperatures hovering around 0C daily. Next week we’ll have a high of 7C and daily lows around -3C.
I took Obi for a walk last night along a side canal and around some of the big apartment complexes near the airport. I noticed some new restaurants and upscale shops on one of the streets. The growth of economic development of Tashkent is amazing. I am looking forward to recharging my body and mind and welcoming 2021!
We celebrated my son Owen’s 18th birthday on Sunday. All of us had an emotional day in a happy way, acknowledging that he is now officially an adult and Nadia and I wondering how it went by so fast! Nadia cooked a delicious American brunch of bacon, eggs, pancakes and buttered toast. We all ate in front of the TV because Owen wanted to. We have a family tradition that if it is your birthday, you are the king/queen of the house and can do whatever you want. We bought Owen some new clothes at a Turkish men’s clothing store in the Samarkand Darvoza (Gate) the largest shopping mall in Tashkent. He is modeling one of the shirts Nadia selected for him.
In thinking of 18 years of raising Owen, I reflected back on when it started. I made a gallery of 2002-2003 when Owen was born. Nadia gave birth at the Clinica Foinini in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. We were teaching in Venezuela at the time. Nadia felt more comfortable with her family in Santa Cruz. I remember this was the time of political instability in Venezuela and I was lucky that our school closed a week earlier than expected, so I was able to take a longer paternity leave. Some colleagues came to Santa Cruz with me to see Bolivia during the extended Winter Break. I still remember the morning of Owen’s birth. I took my friends to get the Cruceno delicacy, saltenas, and received a call that Nadia was having contractions. We immediately went to the hospital. Later that day, Owen was born around 7:30 PM on December 13, 2002, a day I will never forget!
We all spent Owen’s birthday together and had a lot of laughs. We watched Christopher Nolan’s new movie, Tenet in the evening. On Friday night, Nadia and I went shopping for Christmas presents and getting a shelf and desk for Ocean’s room. She was complaining her room was empty and so we made it nice and cozy for her. The hope is she does more school work. Below you can see the result of Nadia’s design touches.
It snowed again this week! Large, soft snowflakes hit the ground early Wednesday morning making the walk to school a winter wonderland. I would guess it was about 3-4 inches, enough in the following days to make some impressive snowmen at school. My teenagers are out of that stage, but they do enjoy throwing snowballs. I snapped this photo of my son Oliver during my gate duty. All of the students need to take their temperature and check for COVID-symptoms in their household before coming to school. The measure helps reinforce the message to parents to be vigilant for signs of COVID and the school and families are in this pandemic together. I love snow and always have the philosophy if we are going to have cold weather, we might as well have snow to go with it. This is the second big snowfall of the winter and I hope we see a bunch more. As I am getting older, I feel the cold more and I am getting like my dad, who the first thing he did every morning was look at the thermometer outside the window and check the WIKB (our local radio station in Iron River, Michigan) morning news for the weather. I now see why older people talk about the weather so much.
I went for a bicycle ride on Tuesday because it was Constitution Day, a national holiday in Uzbekistan. This was before the snow came and with less traffic on the holiday, it was a refreshing ride. I rode along the Ankhor Canal to the Memorial to Victims of Oppression Park. It is difficult to find time to ride as we near the winter solstice. The sun does not come up until after 7:30 AM and sets before 5:00 PM, which means any outdoor exercise is in the dark.
The Uzbeks love Christmas/New Years and huge public displays are going up all over the city. The majority Muslim country only calls it New Years but they have adopted Santa Claus and the secular aspects of the holiday. I see an interesting competition between the North American/Western European Santa Claus and the Russian “Grandfather Frost” and his grand daughter, “The Snow Maiden”. I originally thought the grand daughter was Frost’s much younger wife. 🙂 I like that “Ded Moroz” is a skier!
One of the advantages of living in a developing nation with a low-cost of living is being able to afford services on an educator’s salary. I woke up on Sunday to a flat tire. In Japan or the USA, I would have to get out the jack and spare, change the tire, repair and put the old tire back on the car and put away the spare and jack. Instead, I made a call to my right hand man/driver and he got a “master” to come from a nearby garage to make the repair and change. My quality of life improves when I avoid tedious jobs. It is also nice to feel that I am helping local people make a living.
I took Obi out for a walk last night around the main square downtown (Amir Temur Square). The Palace of International Forums adjacent to teh square is such an impressive building. I would love to tour inside the convention center sometime.
On Sunday I noticed our local supermarket, Korzinka (basket in Russian) had its Christmas decorations displayed. Even though it is a Muslim country, Christmas and New Years is a big deal here. It is funny however, when I say “Merry Christmas”, no one understands what I am saying. The Uzbeks adopted Santa Claus and other secular items from Christmas and wrapped it in the New Years celebrations. There is also still a significant Russian population here that celebrates the Orthodox Christmas in January.
Today is Constitution Day in Uzbekistan. President Mirziyoyev sent out this message to the nation yesterday.
It has been a quiet weekend so far. Our school is in our recruiting season so lots of interviews, checking references, looking through resumes, etc. I am finding family time in between all of these activities. Yesterday afternoon I went for a cold walk with Obi around the Alisher Navoi National Park, a large green space full of statues of writers and poets. The sci-fi looking theatre, the National Friendship Palace is such a striking building that I love to walk around it. There seemed to be some action going on inside as I saw performers getting makeup applied through one of the windows. Temperatures are hovering around 0C (32F) all this week and into next week. It has been a much colder November and December this year from last year. It was also a poor air quality day in Tashkent, combined with fog and cold, it was a miserable day to be outside. I should go up to the mountains this afternoon to see some snow.
Friday night I was shocked to attend a Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony held at one of the major, international hotel chains. The American Chamber of Commerce sent the invitation around to its members. I thought it was going to be held outside. However, the event was held in a packed lobby of 150-200 people, half not wearing masks. I was uncomfortable being so close to so many people and only stayed a few minutes. As I was walking out, the choir was starting to sing… talk about a super-spreader event! It seems many people here think the pandemic is over and much of the city is back to normal. I am still taking precautions to avoid being infected and with promising vaccines on the way, at least I can see the possible end to this pandemic.
On a more pleasant note, my wife Nadia and I discovered an excellent Georgian wine. The Saperavi grape variety is new to me and is native to the Caucasus and Central Asia. This particular vineyard is from Kakheti, a mountainous region in eastern Georgia. It is very drinkable, consistently good, dry wine that I highly recommend.
Finally, I had to take a photo of my son’s lunch yesterday. He ordered delivery and had a large burger, steak and fries. My two teenage sons have tremendous appetites. It is incredible to watch how much they eat. We had a nice night, sitting around eating pizza (another delivery), laughing and talking in the kitchen. Later we watched Bridget Jones Diary, one of my wife’s favorite movies. It is almost 20 years old, but holds up well and is an excellent “Rom-Com”.
It was a quiet and cold Sunday for me. We had a nice breakfast with Ocean, Ollie and Ocean’s friend Asla staying over last night. We spent the morning looking at another house to possibly move to. We decided despite the house being twice the size of our current home, we are very comfortable with one of the few Western-style home in Tashkent. In the afternoon, I took Ocean over to her friend’s house and went for a run with Obi. I must be getting old because after about a mile, my calf started to tighten, so much so that I ended up walking for most of the loop. While walking with Obi I noticed the German Lutheran Church. It is nice to know that different religions are tolerated in Uzbekistan. Uzbek culture is very accepting and laid-back and it shows with their support of Lutheran, Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches in the city. There is also a small Jewish center that city officials and private citizens protected from destruction by one of the many housing and retail developers.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church, or the German Church , is the only Lutheran church in the city of Tashkent. On the street Sadyka Azimova, for more than a hundred years in the dense green shade of centuries-old trees stands the modest Gothic building of the German Church.The church was built in 1899 by the Tashkent Lutheran community, according to the project of the famous Tashkent architect and artist of the XIX century A.L. Benoit, with money from I. Krause. In Soviet times, the building was used as a warehouse. And at the end of the 70s of the XX century, the building was transferred to the leadership of the Tashkent Conservatory and after the restoration began to be used as a room for the opera studio of the conservatory.At the same time, an organ was installed in the building and organ music concerts were regularly held there. In the 90s of the XX century, the building was transferred to the newly created Lutheran community of the city. The church was built of brown-yellow brick with a layout in the spirit of the Baltic church architecture: the style of this building belonged to neo-Gothic architecture.The interior of the church is more modest than in the Catholic church. Also in Lutheran temples there are such traditional attributes as: crucifix, sacred fire (lamp) and candles.The main parishioners of the church are Tashkent Germans. During the revolution, there were quite a lot of them in Tashkent. Most of the visiting Germans were in the royal service – they were officers. Today, the church, which still works today, is visited by their descendants, as well as visiting foreigners. The service in the Lutheran church is based on the traditions of the Catholic Mass, but is more simplified.
I also noticed a Wendy’s franchise under construction. It is amazing the pace of development in Tashkent. All over the city huge housing developments, shopping centers, restaurants, etc. It will be a much different city years 5-10 years from now.
We decided to hold our annual Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, Saturday, because we were so busy at school this week. It was another outstanding meal prepared by Nadia with help from Delia and Shannon. We had a much smaller affair this year due to COVID. We invited one family that is in our social bubble and Owen’s friends from his grade 12 bubble. I ate too much, but we had a lot of laughs and good times. These moments mean a lot to me and I feel fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends.
I was expecting lots of snow overnight on Friday, but the temperatures were above freezing so it was mostly rain. I went for a 5-mile run around the Tashkent City complex and it was slushy and cold. Most of the day was spent preparing for Thanksgiving, with me running errands to pick up beverages and my usual shuffling our teenagers to their various engagements.
I also picked up a bottle of the “Anti Virus” vodka produced here in Uzbekistan. I see that it was a trend on Tik Tok with an American company stating it killed the coronavirus. The president of Belarus also claimed that vodka and saunas kill coronavirus. I will most likely not drink it, but it is quite the conversation piece to have in our kitchen.
We had two bouts of snow this week that took everyone’s mind off the pandemic for a short time. Snow brings out the child in me and I was excited to get out in the fresh winter air. Today I took my dog Obi for a long walk along the main canal in the city. He loves playing in the snow as much as I do! It probably snowed about 6 inches on Tuesday and again a couple more inches this morning. It has been below zero all this past week but this week will see the snow melting as we will experience highs of 8 C on Thanksgiving and to the weekend. Kids in the neighborhood have been pushing each other with sleds and the snow reminds me of my childhood in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I love the change of seasons.
I had a great day on Saturday playing disc golf with my son Owen. He loves the sport and coincidentally, our international school has a 9-basket course on campus. It was really cold, but as I always say, any day that I spend more time outdoors than indoors is a good day.