Monday, May 30, 2005

Last post but not "Last Post" (I hope)

With the lack of renewing our Visas Peace Corps Uzbekistan has had no other choice but to remove all volunteers from its UZ 18 group. The government is in a position where it feels that most outside influences, are not welcome here. On a lighter note I am hosting a party at my Blog tonight. Crack open a beer, be careful not to stain the rug, and enjoy all your favorite posts. Laugh when I make a funny joke about my first pit toilet experience; cry when you read about losing our first volunteer to the call of the American Homeland; form visual pictures in the noggin of my two wonderful host families. I bid you farewell friends, family, and Government agents. As most of you have already heard I will be flying out of Uzbekistan this Wednesday morning at 6:30 AM. I am trying to figure out what step is next as they are offering us some options for the future. I have my heart set on the Ukraine which I may hear about today but as I have learned with my service so far, nothing is as it is expected.

My highest and most heartfelt feelings for the people of Uzbekistan,

Damien

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Sorry to just copy and paste/post as update but there's not much more I can add:
"To All Peace Corps Volunteers - These are difficult times and our
thoughts
and prayers go out to hundreds of innocent Uzbeks who were caught up in
the
violence at Andijon. We also share the anguish of the Volunteers in
Andijon
and the rest of Ferghana Valley who have been so directly affected by
recent
events.

I wanted to take this opportunity to up-date you all on events and
issues
that are directly affecting the Peace Corps program in Uzbekistan. In
so
doing, I want to emphasize that there is no intention on our part to
close
down the Peace Corps program in Uzbekistan. I continue to believe
strongly
that the work the Volunteers are doing is important to the Uzbek people
and
that, for this reason, we will do everything possible to ensure that
all
Volunteers have the opportunity to complete their full terms of service
in
Uzbekistan.

Volunteer Status: In Ferghana Valley, the five Volunteers in Andijon
have
been withdrawn to Tashkent for safety reasons. Because of the nature
of the
recent violence in Andijon and the unlikelihood that the situation
there
will stabilize anytime soon, it has been decided that these five
Volunteers
will not return to Andijon. We are now talking with them about there
options for the future.

The Volunteers in Kokand and Ferghana City remain at their sites and
there
are no plans at the present to bring them out since both areas appear
safe
and stable. The remaining two Volunteers in Namangan are on vacation
and
the decision on whether they will return to their sites in Namangan
will be
made when they return.

The Visa Issue: Fifty-two Uz 18 Volunteers and two other Volunteers
currently have visas that expire on June 1. Working with Ambassador
Purnell, we have informed the Government that these Volunteers will be
withdrawn from Uzbekistan unless the MFA immediately regularizes their
visa
situation. We have set next week as a deadline - if there is no
progress by
that time, we will have no option but to begin processing the departure
of
these Volunteers. We have no choice in this matter since we will not
permit
groups of Volunteers to remain in Uzbekistan in an irregular status
with
expired visas.

For the present, plans to bring in an additional 30-34 Volunteers to
Uzbekistan in August continue to move forward, although the outcome of
our
discussions with the Government about the June 1 visas will directly
affect
our final decision on the August group.

I will keep you all informed as these issues evolve. I understand that
many
of you are understandably concerned about what the future will bring.
We
urge you not to despair - we have faced similar challenges in the past.
I
myself remain hopeful that the visa problems can be worked out with the
Government. But it is important for all of us to understand clearly
where
things stand at the present. If you have any questions or concerns
that you
want to discuss with me or Mary, please don't hesitate to call or to
email.
All the best,
CD Country Director

Friday, May 20, 2005

Difficult Spot

Just got this from the PC HQ in Tashkent.
I'll state it to make it official (although I have been careful when regarding this policy so far) that all opinions expressed are my own and do not represent the policies or opinions of Peace Corps Uzbekistan.

"Due
to the intense media attention to this event, many reporters have been
seeking out PCVs and their communications, especially their blogs, to
use as
quotes in news stories. It is imperative that PCVs follow the attached
manual section as guidance for what to write in their blogs since they
are
accessible to the public. If you feel you have written anything that
violates the manual section below, including " identifying [you] with
controversial or political issues of local interest or local political
issues or movements," you must remove it immediately. This is also a
reminder that you are not permitted to distribute any information,
including
web articles or pictures, to locals. While you may feel an obligation
to
inform local citizens of events in Uzbekistan, especially if they do
not
have access to news, this is not allowed and is covered under the
manual
section listed below. Also, if you are contacted by the media for an
interview please inform the office immediately and do not talk with the
representative."

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Resistance

The recent events are very sad to all of us here right now. We are all safe and accounted for (they moved all volunteers out of Andijan and into Tashkent) and things appear to be settling down. I would be treading on sensitive terrain if I give to much of an opinion on the events but I can say that we're all keeping our eyes and ears open for news and hope for the safety of those that we are here to serve.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The City

Gulistan is a city of around 75,000 people. A small city that has a couple main town squares (centering mostly around government buildings), a park that is fighting to return to it's natural roots, a stadium (once I could hear cheers reaching to my house and have been trying to see when the next big game is), a small amusement park, and where most of the people hang out: two clothing and food bazaars separated by a bridge that takes you up and over the main highway and railway. There are tree lined streets and it is possible to walk from my house to almost anywhere in town with only half of it spent out of shade (I have been perfecting my routes over the last few weeks to maximize the shade). The temperature has been comfortable, although I hear from other volunteers that I should be expecting a hot summer. Not to fret thought since there is a public pool not that far from the home. There are a fair amount of Cafe's to choose from with about four of them getting the thumbs up from the seasoned volunteers. Yea, yea I know, Peace Corps life not exactly what I had imagined. Come on over and have a visit, we'll ride the ferris wheel together, and discuss politics.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The home

You either live in an apartment or you live in an Uzbek home. I have been told that the Russian population tend to live in the apartments while the Uzbeks live in the standard Uzbek home. I am not sure if this is entirely true but describing each of these gives a pretty good idea of the neighborhoods here in Uzbekistan.
In the apartment neighborhoods, there are plenty of, well, apartments. In Gulistan they grow in Apartment gardens. Mixed in this garden are small bazaars and magazines (small corner stores). They resemble most other buildings in that they look like they are still being built or are in need of a good paint job, worn down would be the best way to describe it. They are old, practical, and functional Soviet period block things. The outside often deceives the onlooker for what the various apartments look like on the inside (often but certainly not always).
The homes generally include a few staples: a walled in area with a main gate, a courtyard, rooms opening into the courtyard, grape vines growing along whatever structures happen to be close enough to grab on to, a garden for growing the seasonal veggies and fruits, a winter kitchen and summer kitchen that is outside for coping with the hotter weather later in summer, a pit toilet hidden separate from the main house, and a bath room (for bathing) and sometimes sauna. Inside the homes there is generally a dining table that sits close to the floor with mats to sit on for special occasions. My host family during training used this table every meal, my host family now only uses it when mexmonlar (guests) come over. My family is housed in one compound while I have a separate building where their guest room is part of. The house is fairly nice by Uzbek standards and they have quite a bit of space to move around in. Each of these houses neighbor with similar houses and are generally in specific districts further away from the "apartment districts".

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Family

Zakir-aka: loving father, not shy but reserved in his social interactions in the way that most men rely on their wives to provide them with the majority of their social interactions, accountant, 43, washes his hair every night

Dilorom-opa: loving mother, sometimes difficult to get her to laugh hard but once you do the work was worth it, a voice that sounds like it strains to come out, sort of high pitched but not squeaky, just figuring out to speak slower if she really wants me to understand what she is saying

Sahara: mostly absent oldest sibling studying medicine in Tashkent one hour away, gone all but Saturday and Sunday, hard working, the second mother in the family

Farrukh: the other man in the family, graduating from the secondary school this year, helpful sometimes to the point of annoyance, master table tennis player, and easily tricked

Rashana: host sister epitomizing youthful innocence, future diplomat, funniest of the family, learning to be a master table tennis player

Rida: protector, doorbell, playful, always hungry canine