Samarkand is for Lovers… and Babies

Samarkand: Afro-Siab

Samarkand: Ancient Tombs

Samarkand… the city evokes names as diverse as Alexander the Great and Tamerlane, Marco Polo and Ibn Battutah, and images of lonely desert caravans and exotic colorful markets, sipping tea from samovars and slicing fruit with daggers. It must have been quite the vision in the desert after a week or two of travel from any direction. The present day reality is a bit different, and modernized of course, but still not bad.

So after a brief stay in Tashkent, I set my sights here, flight already booked in advance in the US. Knowing how bad I get jet-rag (“don’t touch me there!”), I didn’t want to create for myself the extra chore of seeking onward transportation on my only full day in Tashkent. And the Cheapo Air booking was hitch-free, sounds easier than booking in-country, in fact, but I don’t know if it’s the same price. There is a 4:3 difference between market and official exchange rates here. I recommend Cheapo Air for remote locations, though. The other large air bookers won’t touch ‘em.

Samarkand- On more smoke break

Samarkand- One more smoke for the road

Tashkent doesn’t seem too much different from any major ex-Soviet city, be it Yerevan or Vilnius… or Moscow, for that matter, with vestiges of the old guard still lingering, including much Russian language. That includes all the signs reading, “stomatologia,” which I had once mistakenly thought indicated that Russians had frequent stomach problems, but actually I think means ‘dentist.’ I’ll check my dictionary. Either way, it sounds like I better watch what I eat.

That Russian influence is less in Samarkand, but the Tajik influence is greater, it being the predominant language here, I think, in fact. That reflects old mixings and minglings, and probably a few misgivings, the original meeting of East and West, today still reflected in racial and facial lines, the Mongol-related Turks taking from the Persian Tajiks to compensate for what the Han Chinese took from them, no doubt.

Samarkand: Market

Samarkand: Market

So I claim my room at Furkat’s B&B—I call him ‘Fur Cat’—all booked in advance and ready to go. Only problem is that the ‘budget’ room looks like a crypt, with no windows and even fewer facilities, so no good. I have to have a window to the outside. So for $5 more I get a corner room with private bath and cross-ventilation from two windows. I’m good. It even has a view. In LA, they’d charge extra for that. Now Furkat is a funny guy, and he runs a funny place, modern caravanserai funky in décor. But I like it; and the breakfast is good. So what if my room is leaning a bit? In Pisa, Italy, they’d charge extra for that…

Samarkand: Registan

Samarkand: Registan

The only problem is that the national bread looks like a toilet seat, a gigantic doughnut all glazed and polished for consumption. If they’re looking for sympathetic magic, I doubt that it’s any substitute for fiber. That’s okay, the corn should work. The other problem is that they have these old Dutch (German?) style toilets where directly underneath you, when sitting, is a concave (dish-like) platform, so that the poop piles up, rather than going down, which hole is at the front, not the rear. Now that’s great if you’re a stool-watcher, or just like following corn through its many peregrinations, but it’s tough to clean. Imagine this: to flush the mess down, you have to lift this entire pile up and move it forward several inches to rid it from your life forever. This is especially difficult when flushing with water from gallon bottles a la Furkat. At least the room has a view.

Samarkand: Poetry in Architecture

Samarkand: Poetry in Architecture

There’s still one other problem. It seems like my jet-lag is lingering an awfully long time, but I know in my heart that it’s more than that. I woke up this morning and my entire body ached, more than should be the result of any 3-4 hour walk the previous day. I hope I’m not sick. It feels a lot like the beginning of the total wasteland of hepatitis. But I’ve already had that, a long time ago, so should be inoculated for life, or thirty years at least… oops, guess I lost count. I suppose I will be watching stools, then, for a few days. I remember the symptoms of hepatitis distinctly, and they aren’t all yellow.

I think I’m just exhausted. Working 12, 14, 16-hour days—every day—will do that to you. You’re fine… until you collapse. Add some personal toil and troubles to the mix and you’ve got the potential for major sturm und drang. I guess that’s why I’m here. Sometimes you have to travel half-way around the world to see things more clearly ‘back home,’ wherever that is. It seems like I’m only truly happy when traveling. But travel can be exhausting, too, surprisingly so, unless you chill by the pool, or the beach, or whatever. I’ve got a radio. That’ll have to do. Maybe it’s time to fix that cough. If I don’t blog anything for a week or two, could someone please give me a wake-up call? That’s 867-5309.

To be continued…