So I complain, do I? It keeps me sane and entertained, though the locals do an even better job of it. Yes, and even some of the tourists, but let’s talk about them another time.
I’m at Hotel Tsorbi now and Victor has already had a go at me. “So, did you get your work done yesterday? Wake anyone up?” He knows damn well I did. He claims that he’d promised use of the computer (and the couch) for the night because one of the 17 year old girls wanted to write her autobiography. Oh, that explains everything. And here I thought they were all made up on a Saturday night for less literary reasons.
When I have no tourists I do not stay at the illustrious, internet accessible Hotel Tsorbi, but at Gulnara’s Guesthouse in the old town.
Gulnara Karimova is possibly the best person in Uzbekistan, though her husband, Nasibulla (at left), is also quite worthy of note. They have a big house with a large, decadent, lush courtyard. It’s heavenly respite from grimy Tashkent. Gulnara is one of those angels who convince me that some women actually do enjoy housewifery. She’s up at dawn and in bed after midnight and seems to work every moment between. Rarely does she go out, other than to Chorsu bazaar down the road.
Each morning she makes a huge breakfast spread (breakfast is one of the four English words she knows) and is prepared at any moment to serve hot tea, fresh bread, homemade jam or whatever else I fancy. “Melon? Melon?” In addition to housing travelers, she and Nasibulla feed and entertain groups of up to 40 tourists with dinner and traditional Uzbek music and dancing. Yes, she does my laundry too, though she doesn’t like to iron (luckily Rufshan, her 19 year old son, does).
The other guides (all guys) call her old, but I doubt that she’s much over 55. She has a big, comfy, babushka look about her and she’s always, always smiling.
The guys love her as much as I do and no doubt wish she had daughters (the perfect Uzbek woman, she has only two sons).
One wall of the courtyard has a little window that opens (and shuts) onto her neighbor’s courtyard. Gulnara can stand there for hours talking to her friend through the window-it’s the most excellent sight. One day I took many, many photos of her there. I hate that I must wait until autumn to see them.
When I have time between tours, this is where I stay. One morning after I returned from a tour, Gulnara came to me after breakfast and handed me a small plastic package with something black inside. I thought, “Oh heavens it’s a bra; she’s upset I don’t wear a bra to breakfast.” But she looked more concerned than chastising, and began a very long, very fast explanation in Russian. The words I understood were ‘sorry,’ ‘flowers,’ ‘iron,’ ‘white,’ ‘hot,’ ‘sorry,’ and ‘okay?’ (This was back in May; now I am sure I could understand at least ten of those words.) The gist of the matter quickly dawned on me. I reassured Gulnara that there was no problem and thanked her profusely.
The package held an extremely small silky pair of black underwear. A few weeks prior, she accidentally burned a hole in my white flowery unders with her iron and while I was on tour she found me a much sexier replacement. I still can’t get over it.
Later that day I went to Hotel Tsorbi because a new tour (the Tourist Nancy Nightmare Tour, actually) began that night. I’d left laundry there to be done and asked the manager (Victor) to see that it be placed in the room I’d not yet checked into. When I arrived, there was a note directing me to my laundry, which had been left in his office-my unders all neatly ironed, folded, and left waiting on the desk. Fabulous!
Updates: The black marketeers have learned they need a higher rate than the gov to get business. The black market rate is up to 700.
Tashkent Plaza has changed their prices to cym; Levi’s has not. Perhaps it’s time to ditch the jeans and start wearing make-up.
Next time: the story on Victor, his wife, his American girlfriends, and his concern for women’s liberation. “What can I do to help?”
Just got word on my next tour: only two clients, Oeyvind & Gunda. They’re Norwegian. The fun begins Saturday.