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Monday, October 25, 2010

Its been a very long time since I last blogged. When I first started this blog, I thought it would be easy to keep up. I thought that my thoughts while I traveled would be easy to document and share. As I went through my experiences in the trip, the time to blog was nowhere to be had, and more importantly, the emotional upheaval the trip created for me, well its was too much to express in words.
The trip became something like self discovery for me. Wherever I traveled in Russia and Central Asia, my Azeri/Iranian looks, Soviet Past, and American present followed me. I would speak to locals in various cities in Uzbekistan or Tajikistan and realize that so much of who I am, found its roots in the people of these countries. I became confused, overwhelmed, upset, not to mention, exhausted by the daily travel of our study tour and the emotional battering that came from constant self reflection. I was singled out very often for my looks and my capability to speak Russian. I was offered marriage, offered sons, offered flowers and wine, even when hostile to such advances. I was confused by the gender divisions of the country, yet not surprised because I knew coming to the country about the conservative nature of society. I was shocked by the signs of Sovietization in every day life, from products sold in stores to music played in shops and silverware placed on a dinner table. The commercialization and explosion of tourist culture and that national dependency of its success as tantamount to survival became ever present. Culture was lived in, subverted, and exploited for the purposes of livelihood. Still day to day human interactions proved to be beautiful and real and organic in their ability to, cut through the bull shit, so to speak, to bring about the human behind the analysis.

I think as a way to remedy my inability during the trip to relate my experiences I will fill this blog with shards of memory. Ever so often, my mind brings up these images of the trip. Things, events that took place in Central Asia that have stayed with me. Rather than gushing every moment of my trip on this blog, I will use it as a reflective tool. I will remember what was experienced and try to understand what happened rather than just relate it verbatim.

Further, as I begin to write my senior thesis work, I feel sharing my ideas about some of the issues I touch upon in my research in this blog might help clarify my ideas and also share some of the many issues that this region of the world faces. Everyday, another idea pops into my head. Everyday another instance of misunderstanding and tragedy goes unnoticed, and if i take my research process and turn it into an awareness project for myself and those who choose to follow me, maybe I can make my writing experience more interactive and my research more meaningful.

That is all for today.


Friday, June 11, 2010

5/22/2010 - 5/23/2010

Uzbek Family, Bukhara

Pillared Interior, Mosque, Bukhara

View of the Naqshabandi Shrine, Bukhara

So instead of writing about the sights and sounds of Bukhara, I decided to make this post a bit different and write about the people that I met. Bukhara, a city of shrines, synagogyes, differing communities, and a bustling small town city center, is filled with interesting and colorful people. In fact, the people rather than the sights of the city, is what interested me most. The following shares a few of my experiences with the people of Bukhara.

Scarves and Suras
She smiled and opened her to us as we entered the shop. Her skin, taut and tanned by hours spent in the Uzbek sun, glimmered in the low lights of her little scarf shop. As she turned to us, the softness around the edges of her features transformed her somewhat tired appearance into a kind and loving hostess. Her eyes crinkled and glimmered when she spoke. As she took my arm to guide us to her best selection of scarves, warmth and kindness exuded from her every movement. She asked us in a gentle voice where we were from and as we explained to her our various origins, her face lit up with every response. We statres to chat and she inquired about our studies, education is valued highly in Islam and this pious woman wanted to know what we were dedicating our lives to. Soon she asked us what it was like to live in America. She asked me if it was better there or here. I told her what I felt was the truth. Its the land of opportunity, just as they say, but only if you work, only if you have a job, and you are willing to work hard. I asked her the same question. She said, " after the Soviet Union fell, those who work earn, those who do not, starve." Her son is studying in Tashkent. All of their earning going towards his education and building their home.
As we bought scarves from her she talked to us about the Koran. She said, we have in the Koran many great suras. Here is one to bless you all. And she began to recite to us in Arabic and then translated into Russian "God has no children, has no belongings, in this way God is everywhere, in everyone, in everything. There is one God and he is Allah, and Muhammad is his Prophet."

10-Year-Old Bargain Driver
A little girl in a nearby shop comes up to me and starts to speak to me in near perfect english. She has such a profession demeanor, I could not believe my eyes and ears. Life has forced her to grow up quickly - working at such a young age. Needless to say she got me to buy fourhats and a scarf. I could not refus this little being, this little bargain driver with perfect english. She was a small being but with a great spirit and charm. Her hair was in a bun and she wore a shawl around her shoulders. She stood ram rod straight and was always complimenting and ready to jump at an opportunity to bargain a price with me. She truly was a little woman.

My Name is Stone
Stone, Nigina, the jewelry trader. She was a young woman selling Bukharian jewelry in a nearby bazaar. Her wide set almond shaped eyes were beautifully done with charcol and pink and purple shadows. She is going to Santa Fe she says, and then NY city for an exhibition on Bukharian jewelry. Funny how, by chance, we manage to run into her at a near by bazaar. Soon we fell into girly banter, exchanging make up tips and marriage. Studying English also naturally comes up. She really wants to practice everything she has learned, five different lanuages simple from selling jewelry to tourists. Its time for us to go, and as we say our goodbyes her jewelry glimmers and shimmers in the midday sun. She smiles and waves, hopeful we will come back one day to see her.

Sabina The Warrior
She calls us over, yelling out " you there, where are you from?" We say to her " America!" She throws up her arms and squints, " wow such pretty girls come here pretty girls come sit with me!" We sit down on the carpets of her sisters carpet shop and she exchange stories about our background. Her quick smile, short hair pinned back, boucning back and forth and she gesticulates with her arms telling us about her past. She was so interesting. Sabina the Warrior. Not a typical Uzbek girl, she spoke with a British accent, having left at 16 to follow her boyfriend, who became her husband, to london to study and work. She got pregnant then stopped working for a while. She returned after she became pregnant with a second child and needed help from her parents. She has been though quite a bit in her life and its easy to see that although she is a year younger than me, life has taught her to be brave and wise. She tells about so many things. She tells us about the treatment of women in homes. Working almost as slaves sometimes for their mother in laws. She explains how many of her friends end up in Russia selling products, including her mom when her father left the family. She tells us about a friend who left to Russia with her husband who then left her alone with a child. Being from a village and traveling for the first time on her own in a city she was lost. She worked for months without pay, was threatened, was almost raped twice and almost sold, trafficked to a brothel by Azeris and Tajiks living in Russia. Her life seems hard and yet she is a warrior. She is full of energy and spirit. Ready to fight with any situation that come her way. Thats how I will remember her; battling, kicking and screaming for what she desires in life.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

5/20/2010 - 5/21/2010

Sunrise at the Yurt Camp

Caretaker of the Ayaz Qala Yurt Camp


Yurt II, The Girls Yurt

Children at Play in Khorezm
Tuprak Qala, Uzbekistan

We arrived in the Yurt Camp after scaling the Tuprak Qala and Quyulgan Qala. Climbing the Qalas was an adventurous experience. I love history, nature, and challenges, especially physical ones, so climbing atop of these ancients cities, was the perfect combination of all three. Built in the 4th century A.D., these fortresses provide insight into how the Khans of Korezm once lived. It was hot, and the sand beneath my feet crumpled as I climbed to the top of what was once a guarding tower. These places are archeological sights and so their stories are still being studied. Unfortunately, not enough people are interested in them, so excavations have stopped because of a lack in investment. More should be done for these sights. The history we could learn about the Khans would truly be extraordinary.

We got into our bus, walked across the flooding bridge of the Amu Darya, and arrived at the Yurt Camp two hours later. As soon as we stepped out of the vehicle we realized that the wind was too strong for us to climb the Ayaz Qala. Apparently, as we later found out after staying in our yurts for three hours, we arrived right in the middle of a sandstorm. It was impossible to see, to walk, to open your mouth and breathe in. The wind whipped the sand into your face, obscured your vision, and covered every possible surface on your body. My hair was filled with sand and looked like it was loosely dredded. My clothing, luggage, linen, pink pants were completely distressed by the wind and sand constantly beating against. The only refuge could be found in the Yurt, where the felt, straw, and clay, prevented the wind and sand from coming in.

The yurt was as I had imagined. Carpets lined the bottom of the circular interior, with mattresses, blankets, and pillows, available for our comfort. The girls and I pulled in our belongings, and exhausted by the constant pull of the wind, collapsed on our flat matresses. We played cards, attempted to go outside, but failed terribly as it was very hard to breathe and walk. The only way we could really manage it was to cover our faces completely with a scarf and breathe into the fabric. We made a few runs to the nearby bathroom, which as most bathrooms are in Central Asia, was a squat like device, and then tried to walk around the area near the Yurt. Almost like a mirage, we saw a camel struggling against the wind and sand in the distance and some donkeys cleaning eachother from the debree.

The next time we left the yurt it was time for dinner and we all piled into the fourth yurt. It was different and wonderful. Sitting on the floor cross legged we ate yogurt and plov with bread and tea. Tea was accompanied by raisins and nuts. Sweets must always be on the table for happiness and a good life. Later on, musicians from the region came to perform for us. A man with a beautiful voice and traditional Central Asian instruments, one of which was an accordian, performed songs in Azeri, Persian, Uzbek, and Kyril Kalpakian, an autonomous region in Uzbekistan. We were asked to dance and everyone got up and in traditional Uzbek style, which is quite similar to Azeri dance at its very core, and danced until we couldnt anymore.

Once the evening came to an end, we took a walk in the night air. The sandstorm had finally passed and all that was left was a beautiful breeze, the clear night desert air, and land for miles around us. We were in the middle of nowhere, as close to nature as you could be out here, and it was so peaceful, so beautiful. Some of us went to bed, others layed out outside on this structure that looked a bit like a stage but was for resting and sleeping. It was covered in sheep wool and was warm and comfortable. We stayed there for a while, talking about life, about careers and families, and slowly one by one, we went back to our yurts. Two of the members and I decided to stay out in the night air, to sleep on this stage under the night sky. We got our blankets and pillows from inside and fell asleep underneath the stars. It was one of the most amazing things I had ever done in my life. I feel asleep looking off a cliff into the desert, with the Ayaz Qala to my left and the yurt camp behind me, and the desolate landscape and lake to my right in the very far off distance.

I woke up the next morning to see the sunrise at 4:30 am. It was still dark outside but the world was starting to wake up. Little glimmers of light seeped into the dark night sky, giving the blackness a shade of gray and blue. The air was cool and crisp, and I nestled into my hoodie a little tighter as I stepped behind the yurts to watch the sunrise. As it got later into the morning, the colors of the sky began to change. The horizon was painted in pinks, white, shades of blue and deep purple. As I began to walk towards the lake, the sands of the little dunes crushing beneath my feet, the sun began to peak out of the horizon. Suddenly the sky exploded in yellow and orange, the pink dispursing, shooting out of the side of the sun as the sky transformed into blue and light. It was the most beautiful moment to see, the entire world waking up, the circle of the sun rising from the horizon of the desert to bring in a new day. It will be something I never forget.

Almost immediately the weather changed and the crisp air was warmed by the appearance of the sun. I felt the warmth of its rays warm my body as I trekked back from the lake. By this time most of our group was awake and sharing in the amazing moment. Some of us walked to the Qala, I opted to do some yoga with a few of our professors and I am very glad I did. My body really needed the stretch , and doing yoga while you are looking out upon a desert horizon, an ancient fortress, and a herdsmen with his goats, is truly an amazing and unforgettable experience.

After breakfast we all gathered back into the bus, said our goodbyes with the beautiful caretaker of the yurts and headed off through the desert to Bukhara. Until next time everyone!

5/19/2010 -5/20/2010

Shot Minaret, Khiva

Ichan Qala, Khiva

Pumpkin Filled Manti, Khiva

Naan Maker in a Tandoor, Khiva

Ichan Qala, Khiva

The city is a mueseum. Khiva, an old city that once functioned as a caravanserai, a resting stop for travelers of the silk road to drink, rest, and sell their goods, is a place of wonders. When you enter the gates of this city you are immediately transported into the times of old. The sand colored bricks, the fortress walls, the minarets and bizarres, all come to life as you step into this time portal. Here the past, the present and the future seem to meld into one and with a little imagination, the boy dressed in a soccer jersey and adidas sneakers stands next to a Chinese tradesman selling silk textiles to a Turkish merchant, and an ancient scene is recreated.

To get to Khiva, we took a flight from Tashkent to Urgench. From their we took a bus and drove an hour to our hotel, which was located right next to Ichan Qala, which translates to old city. Once the group was settled we gathered our cameras and belongings and headed out with our new guide, Mastura, to the Khiva, Ichan Qala. Mastura is quite a woman. Boisturous, energetic, out spoken, and a Sufi, she definitely enriched our experience in Uzbekistan. For every historical reference we got an anecdote. For every religious tale, we recieved a Sufi explanation. Her manner really, to some extent, reminded me of my older Aunts from back home. Same manner of gesticulating with her hands, same spirit, and worry over how much we all have eaten. Same warm hospitality.

We entered through the north gate to the city and the first thing to hit you was the immense dryness of the air. The city arises from what once must have been a desert like climate, providing an oasis to those walking along the silk road. Walking through the gate we saw a large group of Uzbeks dressed in suites. As we turned around we realized that a wedding procession was on its way to entering the gate. The bride, dressed in a very modern western white dress floated in on the arm of her husband. All tourists, workers, moved to the side walls of the gate to let them through. We were all mesmerized by this procession, not only by the very westerness of her dress but the sheer magnitude of people accompanying her through this ancient fortress.

As they passed us by we moved to our first destination; the shot minaret. This minaret is made of beautiful layers of blue tile. Never finished, its current height bespeaks of what it should or could have been had it been fully constructed. Various legends surround its creation, but none really resonate. Everything in the city is made of the sandy color brick in enormous sizes, and every inner oasis, inside home, is made of the same torqouise or variation of blue tile to decorate the home. Inscriptions of prayers and blessing in Arabic or Persian script can be found in these decorations and each one, though seemingly the same, varies in design and detail.

We visted quite a bit during this day. We saw the Muhammad Amin Madrasa, Mahmud Mausoleum, Islam Khoja Minaret, Tash Hauli Palace, Juma Mosque with 200 wooden pillars, and ate lunch at a national chaixona. By the evening, everyone was exhausted and awestruck from the heat of the city to the awe inspiring architecture and general wisfulness of the atmosphere.

After a light dinner, where in Mastura and I compared Uzbek traditions to Azeri ones, the group split into those willing to see Khiva at night and those too tired to do anything but sleep. I opted to see nightime Khiva and am so glad I did. The night air, cool and wonderful against my dry skin was the perfect way to see this ancient city dark and lit up by specially placed lightening. The sky was clear and stars could be seen above us. Children with their mothers who earlier this day were selling their products in the bazaar were sitting outside their homes drinking tea or telling stories and the men stood in separate groups playing Nardi, backgammon, or watching passersby. It was the perfect way to end my time in Khiva, the ancient Central Asian city of the Silk Road.

Monday, May 24, 2010

5/17/2010 ~ 5/18/2010

Plov in Tashkent

Independence Square in Tashkent

Turkish coffee and Baklava, mmmmm tasty

The Blue Mosque, Istanbul Turkey

We arrived in Istanbul, Turkey around nine thirty in the morning and the weather was unbelievable. The air was fresh and a slight breeze greeted us as the glass doors slid open. It was amazing to step out into this world again; its been five years since I last walked the streets of this beautiful city. Things of course have changed and the glimpse I got this time was very brief. Still just being here and the anticipation of seeing the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia again was outstanding. As we approached the images and the feeling of spiritual serenity and history that I felt at sixteen entering the sites overwhelmed me in a very extrasensory type of way. This feeling did not leave me until I entered the Blue Mosque again.

It is interesting that the same spiritual connection that I had the first time I entered the Blue Mosque as a young girl did not repeat itself. Rather, I was overwhelmed by the masses of tourists and locals visiting the mosque. It is still active and clearly very much used by Turkish residents from all over the country. The complex is beautiful. There is no doubt about this. The High ceilings, the dome, the tile and the low lights and soft carpets of the mosque made me feel so comfortable in that setting. It made me feel more at home all those years ago and again this time around. It wonderful to come into a place of worship and not have shoes on, walking barefoot enjoying the atmosphere without the iconization of religious figures.

The Hagia Sophia is a perfect fusion of the Christian faith and Islam. Its cathedral like appearance yet function as a mosque makes it quite a fascinating building, especially since both traditions were embedded into the structure. Of course, all of this blew over me when I was 16. Now everything has so much more significance to me. History, politics, everything becomes illuminated once you can connect what you have learned in books to its presence in every day life.

After the Hagia Sophia we has some free time and a few of us went to get some Turkish coffee and baklava. We entered into a small restaurant with a garden courtyard in the center. It was beautiful and so relaxing to be there. The waiter brought us our coffee in the tiny cups they serve them in with water, since Turkish coffee is a bit strong, and then handed us our delicious baklava. Turkish baklava is the very best. I have tasted many different types of Baklava and Turkish still takes the cake every time. Though my mother's is quite amazing as well. There is just something about the flaky dough and pistachio all drenched in honey that makes it incredible. Apparently I struck it good with the waiter. He brought over a warm strawberry sherbet drink for free. I smiled and accepted. In these lands, everyone thinks I am one of them. A girl from Azerbaijan with pale skin and dark hair is apparently very noticeable here and the features of my face are immediately taken to be some sort of Persian.

We left for Turkey in a rush and flew 4 and a half hours to Tashkent. We arrived around 2am and were exhausted. I remember getting to my hotel and just quickly unpacking a few things to brush my teeth and just completely passing out on my bead. Our group was beyond exhausted and the next day was going to be hard and early.
Tashkent is a beautiful city with great Soviet and National influence. Every where you go there are signs in Russian and people who are either Russian, Uzbek, or a mix of the two. One of the first people we met was our tour guide Nazima, a woman very nostalgia for the Soviet years when she had money and enough to live comfortable and had lost everything with its collapse. She helped us get our money exchanged. The national rate is 15, 000 sum to a 1 dollar, but the rate you really exchange by is the Bazaar rate which is 20,000 sum to a 1 dollar. This means every dollar I own is 2, 000 sum. quite a convenient exchange rate. Later she took us to the Ministry of Islam, a sort of Religious center that regulates the faith in the country. The complex was beautiful, especially since it was the first piece of Islam architecture I had seen so close and still used. I met up with a group of souther Uzbek woman who saw me as an interesting person while I was perusing through a building for the Koran of a famous Imam. The saw my face and decided that they wanted to take a photo with me. It was such a great experience, to speak to them and talk to them in broken Russian. I had no idea what I had done to deserve their attention in the first place.

After visiting a few more building we went to lunch at a local restaurant. There I realized how similar all the food was to Azeri food. With the exception of this one dish, thats name escapes me. It involves having noodles mixed in with horse meat. Well, I tried some of the noodles and steered clear of the horse meat. I did however have some amazing plov. The men make it here in a huge wok looking thing. It was quite good though a bit too oily and greasy for my taste.

The next day we had another guide. Her name was Julia. WHAT A CONTRAST?! She was Russian. Her parents were Russian and she could not speak a word of Uzbek. She spent the entire day walking around spewing nationalistic data statistics, talking and texting on her cell phone, and just being unbelievably rude. By the end of the day with her, the professors on our trip were in uproar and sent that girl packing without a tip. Younger and Russian, she stood in such stark contrast to the older and Uzbek Nazi. Nazima was reminiscent of the Soviet Years but she was genuine about the history and a great help to us. She was a great guide and never once was she rude, always looking to make sure we were given fair prices and fair deals. Julia was scamming us left and right and getting kickbacks , lurking in a nearby corner, for every sale a master made to us. Needless to say I was infuriated with her.

There was one good thing about that day. We got to go visit the Oriental Institute which was where our professor did most of her Phd dissertation work. It was wonderful. I spoke to a man who is a specialist on Iranian studies in Russian about his life and work there. It was quiet great and so interesting to get his perspective on the politics of the region, especially since he just came back from Iran that friday. He made a joke saying, " you know i have been going to these conferences since 2004. For some reason the U.S. was not there this year. I wonder why?" he grins mischievously. A nearby scholar and I answer in one voice, "Ahmadenijad".

Well its getting late and I fear my internet connection for the hour will soon be up. I will update you with Khiva and the Yurt camps some time tomorrow. Until my next post!

Safe Landing

I apologize for not blogging sooner. Getting internet here has been difficult and so has been finding the time to blog. Our schedule is tight and down town exists, but its usually used to recuperate from the day. Its now been 11 days now that I have been traveling and there is so much to catch you up on. From now on the following few posts will have the dates of the information and events covered. The only thing I can say is that this trip has been amazing. Everyday is a little bit of self discovery and a new adventure. The country is full of life, happiness, sadness, political corruption, poverty, and ostentatious wealth. Every emotion possible has been drawn out of me during this trip and I know that as it goes on, more of these emotions and experiences will come out.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pre~Departure Procedures

Well the time has arrived. It is t minus 12 hours until boarding and I cannot sleep a wink. The past twenty four hours have been a whirlwind and it seems as though I am still very caught up in the swirl. Everything about this trip seems different than anything I have ever done before. I feel like I am more off on my own than when I had lived in Spain for four months, though the number of people I knew and could depend on was by far fewer and more distant. Maybe it is the fact that there is a slight element of danger in the lands I am going to, or maybe it is the fact that its four countries in three months, or maybe that on the other end of this study tour there is an internship waiting for me involving my activist passion. I am not really sure! I just know that this trip is mine, and that it is going to be life changing! Even now as I type these thoughts at four a.m. I can see flashes of all the images covered in class, on the news, in books and dreams, passing through mind and the excitement and butterflies just overwhelm me.

As I sit here, I can’t help but recount the last two days. It’s hard to think of all that one needs to pack when you will be gone for three months, and in two totally different environments no less. I am so relieved that I sent a suitcase with my clothing for Russia ahead of me to Moscow with an Uncle. I really can’t recall what I packed in there per say, but I know that it is much more business oriented. My internship with the International Organization of Migration in Moscow will be very much a 9 to 5 office work type of thing, though the work I will be doing will well make up for its seeming mundane regularity. The issues arise much more so with finding things to wear in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. One must have modest clothing that is lightweight and that covers the shoulders, with a head scarf always readily available to enter into sacred spaces and such. Wednesday I spent the entire day shopping and buying linen based clothing. Old Navy and Loehmans turned out to be great finds in buying reasonably priced linen pants and shirts. I highly recommend looking in these stores if traveling to areas that are quite dusty, with dry hot summers, and require modest dress. I made three lists, with all of the items I needed, this included electronics, books, supplies, clothing, toiletries, medication, and any extraneous items I might need. This tends to be a perfect way of keeping track of everything I need and will need to pack once the trip is over. Once all of my items were attained, all that was left was making it fit into a medium sized suitcase, a book bag, and a messenger bag. No easy task, but not impossible!

On Thursday I spent the day with friends and family. I won’t be seeing them for quite a while. It’s going to be a long time away and with the countries I am going to, everyone is just a little bit worried. “Stay Safe!” has been the buzz phrase on everyone’s lips. I am not that concerned, I can’t say I ever was. The adventure of it definitely trumps the danger, and its inherent unpredictability makes it that much more appealing to me. Still spending time with my family and friends is also very important for me. I am going to miss them terribly and having them here the past few days to support me and be concerned for me makes me feel connected and safe.

Yesterday, after having dinner with my cousin and close friend, I returned home to have my mother inform me that the polio outbreak in Tajikistan spread to Russia and that Russia is taking strict precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus. This means that at customs, anyone flying in from Tajikistan will have to be vaccinated upon entrance. Well, that was a wonderful shocker! I really didn’t want to be vaccinated upon entrance into Russia. I can just imagine the lines and the chaos I will have to go through to get in. I quickly scrambled Friday morning for my family doctor’s phone number and told him about my polio situation. He was quick to advise me to get an updated polio vaccine because the drops you get as a kid may not be potent enough for an area with exposure in the virus and that I could get it done in the office that same day. So I made an appointment, got my shot, and made sure I got an official letter, stamped, and signed, saying I had the vaccine and that it was not necessary for me to get another one. I am very adamant that I do not have to get the vaccine at customs! I only hope that Russian customs control will find the document official enough to let me pass through. There will be some explaining to do I am sure.

After that was all settled, the remainder of the day was spent packing until the Flyers game at 7:30 pm, when my extended family was to join us for a final goodbye and hockey bonanza! It was great! The Flyers made history by being one of only 6 teams to make it to the semi finals in the playoffs with such a great come back, and that was proven in the game, when they came back from losing 3 to 0 to winning 4 to 3! We all had pizza., shouted at the t.v., yelled at each other and the dogs, and finally everyone gave me the “Ekka ( my Azeri name) be careful over there. Don’t do anything crazy. Stay with the group, be safe. Have fun!” It was a great way to spend the night before the trip. Now if only I could fall asleep!

Before I finish this blog, I thought it might be useful to put up an itinerary of the trip. This may be the last time I can blog for a while until we get settled. So here it is:

May 16 ~ Istanbul , Turkey
May 17 to 19 ~ Tashkent, Uzbekistan
May 20 ~ Khiva, Uzbekistan
May 21 ~ Ayaz Kala, Uzbekistan
May 22 to 24 ~ Bukhara, Uzbekistan
May 25 to 27 ~ Samarkand, Uzbekistan
May 28 ~ Penjikent, Uzbekistan
May 29 ~ Fann Mountains
May 30 ~ En route to Dushanbe
May 31 to June 3 ~ Dushanbe, Tajikistan
June 3 to August 5th ~ Moscow, Russia

Well that’s all for today! The next time I will be blogging, Global Gypsy will be in Central Asia!

Khoda hafez!