I wrote most of this a few weeks ago but wasn’t able to send it.
Like it or not, I am a city girl. I love to travel and get out of town, but too long away from a metropolis and I freak out a little. Or too many times around Uzbekistan in a circle (eight now) and I freak out a little. I really must figure how many miles it’s been. I love to mile drop.
What I’m saying is that it’s oh-s0-good to be back in Tashkent. I’m at Hotel Tsorbi now using a computer in an air-conditioned office all to myself. The chair is even reasonably comfortable. It’s quiet! I’ve even been room-serviced a piping hot cup of Nescafé.
And all free of charge, thanks to Victor. He complained that I criticize him too much last night, as he pulled out a bracelet for me to inspect, a birthday gift he bought for some twenty-seven year old colleague. His generosity is boundless, really.
It is. I come here every night to use the office and I am more than welcome, even though I’m not staying at the hotel (I’m at Gulnara’s while off tour). Though I am tough on Victor, I do quite like him. He entertains me to no end.
I take him out to dinner once in awhile to thank him, though it’s a constant struggle to convince him I that will pay. He’s fond of Taj, the best Indian restaurant in town, which only wins him points with me.
At our last Taj meal, quite awhile ago, Victor came clean about the whole Natalya mail order bride debacle. This is also when he reassured me of his concern for women’s rights (you should have known I wasn’t going to let this go).
I must have been sitting there with a very skeptical look on my face because he said, exasperated, “Why don’t you believe I am sincere about this problem!”
Oh Victor, thank you for the beautiful entree!
“Victor, did you not tell Mario that you have four American girlfriends?” I asked.
“Yes.” Victor replied unabashedly, not quite getting the connection.
I was thrown. How to explain that in America, if you have a wife and children, it is not acceptable to have four girlfriends, American or otherwise? And that somehow this in itself is very obviously an insult to womankind? AND that if he wants to help women, he should start at home with his wife and daughter?
“Um, Victor,” I asked, “Is there any concept of male monogamy here in Uzbekistan?”
Victor took a drag on his Davidoff cigarette, furled his brow as if confused by the idiocy of the question, and said simply, “No.”
Okay, new tactic. And your wife. If she allowed to have other lovers?”
Another (perhaps creative?) pause. Then he leaned toward me and confided, Well, yes. But we have a special arrangement because she lived with the kids in Samarkand for a year before I brought them to Tashkent. She knows I have girlfriends. I don’t tell her everything only because I don’t want to hurt her, but she knows enough.”
And then, recalling my question, added, “And she is allowed other men.”
“Yes, you say that, but does she? And if she did, would you still approve?” I responded, knowing full well that he says ‘go ahead’ only because she doesn’t and won’t.
So I was wrong.
“Yes, she has. Once. But it wasn’t very good for her. It wasn’t a good experience,” he said, shaking his head sadly at the thought his little wife subjecting herself to a lesser man.
I laughed like a madwoman. Haven’t I heard this line from Victor before?
“Okay Victor, so if your wife had an affair and it was good for her, would you still approve?”
Victor laughed, only slightly embarrassed, and swiveled the subject back to Uzbeks, “But this is definitely not normal here in Uzbekistan. Wives here are not allowed other men.”
Okay, Victor. That I believe.
On the drive back to the hotel we passed Bar Emir, an ex-pat and mafia hangout with outrageous prices for the same mediocre food and drinks as any other western-style bar/restaurant.
“That’s my favorite place to get a coffee and sit,” Victor said, then quickly added, “Outside, outside I mean,” so that I wasn’t inclined to think that he went to watch the women stripping and pole dancing inside.
Of course he wouldn’t do that.
He will, however, call my male colleagues over to appreciate the pornographic ‘newsletters’ that he receives in his email every day. I try not to take being left out personally.
Shucks I’m hard on him.
More very soon.