We were not sure if we were on the right road, and we kind of hoped we were not. The unpredictable pattern of potholes did not invite to stay on the road the next 150 kilometres which we had calculated to the next town. We also knew we had to find somewhere to camp very soon, as it was almost sunset – and the dark would be over us in within an hour.
We stopped by an old Lada in a junction to ask for directions. Smiles and handshakes as usual, and the men were curious about these three women driving around on their own. A boy on a bike showed up, and he surprised us big time: “Hello, how are you? I´m Oman”. He spoke English!
He was one lucky young man: his father sent Oman to private English lessons every week. The young boy was so happy to meet someone to practise with, and in the beautiful sunset in a junction in Uzbekistan we shared our stories.
Dinner With Locals
More stories were shared over dinner with Oman´s family. The hospitality of this family was warm and snuggly – Oman´s father was overwhelmed by happiness when we told him his sons English was excellent, and we were treated as queens. As we were visiting during Ramadan the evening meal was simply overwhelming, the family members had not been eating since early morning.
Rumours about strangers visiting was spreading like fire, and people kept popping in to great us: uncles, aunts, cousins, neighbours and great grandfather of almost a hundred years. Oman was the only one speaking both languages, and he had a busy evening translating all the conversations going on around the table.
Despite that Uzbekistan has the fourth largest gold deposit in the world and is rich in other natural resources as well, in our eyes most people may be considered poor. Only three quarter of the younger generation are enrolled in school due to shortfalls in the educational budgets, a scary number when you consider the fact that the population is very young: in 2011 34% of the population was younger than 14.
The family we visited was among the lucky middle class though: the father in the family is a dentist in the capital Tashkent, and the family also run grape production with their extended family in the countryside house that we visited.
They are able to send their only son for private lessons in English, which make them a quite resourceful family in Uzbekistan. Despite this fact, they were surprised to hear about living conditions in Norway and see photos from our homes.
Spending the Night
After an amazing evening we were invited to stay over. On the veranda, under the nests of the swallows, they made us beds. Have you heard the story of the Princess and the pea?
That was how we felt, lying on the countless layers of mattresses and blankets, breathing in the fresh night air of Uzbekistan – our mind as full of impressions and traditions of Uzbekistan as our stomachs from the rich traditional meal.
I was still trying to wake up, sitting on my bed with Oman eagerly telling me “Come, come – we have guests who wants to meet you!” It was six in the morning, an inhumane time to wake up in my opinion. As I entered the yard it was already full of people, and a young girl showing off a traditional wedding costume for in their region.
One of the uncles had got the car keys from one of my friends, and happily changed between tampering with the engine and driving back and forward in the yard with this wonderful machina.
We were invited to join the women for a tradition that we did not quite get the meaning behind, where female guest should colour their eyebrows together with the host. The bowl with the greenish liquid was passed around with a cotton stick, and all of us had to apply the colour.
After breakfast the moment was there – time to say goodbye. Addresses and telephone numbers were exchanged, Oman were busy translation all greetings, and then we were hugged and wished all the best on our way. With our greenish grey eyebrows and with lovely memories we continued our drive for the next and yet unknown adventures of our journey.
About the author:
Elin Reitehaug is a writer and the funder of Taste of Slow. She has a passion for independent and slow travel, vegetarian food and photography – which is what her website is all about. She is based in Norway, but every year she takes gaps of a few months to roam the world. She has been travelling solo in Africa and Asia combining volunteer work and travel, and the summer of 2012 she spent driving an ambulance over 1/3 of Earth´s surface for charity and adventure through the Mongolia Charity Rally. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.