A few weekends ago, my husband and I took a two day trip up to Charvak Reservoir, a man-made lake about 60 miles northeast of Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent.
The reservoir is located in the western part of the Tien Shan mountains, and it definitely feels like Central Asia. Because of the road conditions, it can take a good 90 minutes to get there. Nearby Chimgan is also popular in the winter for skiing and sledding, and features lots of bare mountains, daunting as they are treeless. We stayed in a hotel some people call “the pyramids”, set literally right on the water. I’m sure it’s very crowded in the summer, but in the winter we had it all to ourselves.
It was actually my first time driving my personal vehicle out of Tashkent, and I was worried that we would get lost on the way up there due to lack of internet, run out of gas, or break down on the desolate road around the reservoir that is dotted with livestock, rickety one-lane bridges and fallen boulders. In places, the road looks more like a footpath than a proper road. I carried an extra five gallon bucket of fuel in the trunk, just in case.
But in the end the worst thing that happened was I took a wrong turn leaving the city that ended up becoming a 12 minute mistake, because heaven forbid the road allow any normal intervals at which drivers can turn or exit. Luckily we have a four wheel drive Volkswagen SUV I affectionately call Hildegaard, and for the last nearly six years she hasn’t let me down yet.
The rest of the short weekend trip was delightful, despite freezing weather and our relatively expensive hotel’s bare-bones amenities. Fortunately my husband thought to pack bar soap and toilet paper, because we needed them both – the lack of hairdryer just meant that I didn’t wash my hair the next morning.
The color of the reservoir’s water with the foreboding snow-capped mountain peaks hulking in the background was truly a sight to see. We even found some new haunts that we will definitely visit again.
We didn’t see much out there, except villagers who stared at our car with its green diplomatic plates as if it were a spaceship.
In the past few weeks, we have also been invited to Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations at the homes of the Deputy Chief of Mission and our Ambassador.
At our house, we bought, ferried home and decorated a Christmas tree with our ornaments from the U.S. It was quite a trick to get, from the side of the ring road around the city where trees and shrubs ready to plant are sold to commercial landscapers for upwards of $150 apiece.
We enjoyed a beautiful Christmas Day, despite being evacuated from our home for over an hour that morning due to our carbon monoxide monitor sounding off and an earthquake later that night that shook our bed and balcony furniture…
…we visited the Navoi Theatre on a frosty December night to see the Nutcracker ballet…
…and we celebrated our ninth anniversary together.
I also found someone to do my highlights and lowlights in my hair the way I like!! And it’s an Uzbek guy, and he is awesome.
Today is New Year’s Eve, and although we spent most of it working in the embassy, we did prepare a low-key taco and margarita feast at home to celebrate the holiday. Given the security situation in the country, it appears that nothing much will be open past dinnertime, and a strong militia presence on the roads has us keen to just stay in. And it’s just as well, because I’ve got tequila!
On the way home after early dismissal at work this afternoon, we stopped at two different grocery stores, both of which were so mobbed I lurked on the edge of the parking lot with the engine running while my husband went inside. A guy ran by my car dressed like Father Christmas, jumping and waving a white tinsel-covered walking stick at passersby, and I really had to laugh.
I look back on last NYE and the relief I had saying goodbye to 2014, and it strikes me that I’m in such a better place 365 days later than I was then. Everything seems just so much clearer now.
In 2015, I finished Russian, got my consular commission, moved to Uzbekistan, visited a handful of new countries and learned how to be a consular officer. While 2014 brought a lot of good change too, my life this year has been filled with positive people and new challenges. I surprised myself this year, in the best ways.
In 2016, I already have plans for trips to Malaysia and the Maldives, and both my parents will also likely visit. I am filled with hope and gratitude for a new year, new travel, new opportunities to learn, improve my health, and continue to challenge myself in expected ways.
All the best to you, and yours.
As the Russians say, С Новым Годом! And in Uzbek, Yangi yilingiz bilan!