This story is told by a 34 years old Brazilian lady who always had a thing with the Russian speaking world. My first international crush, the best books I have ever read, the best grades in History at school. Everything connected with this turbulent side of the Globe that I have never had the chance to visit. Despite of living in Asia for 2 years and a half. And it is China precisely where this story begins.
It was back in 2007, in a city called Wuhan, where I met Bobur, a charming Uzbek guy that never gave up of the dance floor at the only disco in this countryside city in China. I was attending a professional assignment when I came across this Cossak way of having fun: endless dances and toasts. Not forgetting to mention the joy and friendly way of being. Just a sample of what was to happen almost a decade later.
- Rio 2016 Organising Olympic Committee has me as one member of the International Relations team. Asia was my territory for developing institutional affairs. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) sets the mission for attending a couple of meetings in Uzbekistan. My eyes shined. The former Soviet Union. Bobur’s place. Time to live the dream to listen Russian spoken by locals in the street. I would never imagine that the trip would go further than that. To the point that this is the first time that I try to put in words what I had seen and lived.
The professional calendar starts on Monday. After arranging an hectic journey with several different flights, I managed to arrive on the Saturday before. By hectic, please, understand spending 24 hours in Istanbul as the leg to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, was canceled as the air traffic was interrupted for the Russian air force to train for an attack against Isis in Syria. When the plane finally lands in Tashkent, the speakers pronounce my complete surname that comprises five long names. Something that only happens when my mother is really angry at me:
– Ms. Ana Carolina Addobbati Jordão Cavalcanti (Note: Perfect pronunciation). Please, get on board in the van waiting for you on the lane.
As one of the few foreigners in the plane, I was honestly scared. For my surprise, the first of several courtesies I had during my stay. A VIP room for passing through the Immigration.
Immigration sorted out, it is time to take a van in the middle of the night to Samarkand, the Ancient City, the starting point for the Silk route towards China.
The Blue City
Samarkand is the most beautiful city where I have ever laid my eyes. Blue minarets. Blue domes. Mosques. Mausoleums. Madrassas. A stronger blue than the sky. Under a cold weather of 6o Celsius. Before the tour starts, a stop for breakfast. The radio plays The Lady In Red, success of the 80’s. A Landau crosses the street.
Inside the Madrassas – the so called religious schools in the Muslim World, families remain working throughout different generations selling the traditional pottery. Despite of what the definition says, the madrassas became secular since Lenin arrived during the Soviet Union domination. Being surrounded by those walls of pure blue made me cry. Tears of emotion for what the Human Being can build and preserve. More than this: make use. Sincerely, witnessing locals around was a prove of respect to this heritage and an evidence that will be everlasting. Thanks, God! Or Shall we say Mashallah?
The sun was setting. Time to take the van back to Tashkent.
When in Tashkent, do like the Uzbeks.
When Bobur got noticed that I was arriving, in the impossibility of canceling a trip to Hungary, he asked his cousins to show me around. These two gentlemen took me to a car ride at night with a stop in a glamorous restaurant for dinner. Food was generous. Vegetables were big and colorful as I never saw before. Later, I would be explained that most of them are organic as pesticides are too expensive for the local Agriculture. After finishing the meal, we drove back to the hotel – the only place with Wifi I found – across empty streets, large avenues and blocks of building in Soviet architecture.
- Oh! People sleep early here! – I said after checking 22:00 in my mobile.
- Now, it is just the curfew. Don’t worry. If the Police stops us, we can manage, replied one of the Bobur’s cousin.
A deep sight and a feeling that should reach home asap!
The ballet and the toasts
On the next day, the agenda consisted on visiting the Uzbek Olympic Committee headquarters for an official dinner. Crystal chandeliers decorated the halls of a classic building. The dining hall was organized for the guests to watch the traditional folk dance group performing. Ladies in beautiful, colorful, long dresses and plaits dance as the live music starts. Delicate moves with arms and neck. The band had exotic tambourines that once in a while were flipped in the air in acrobatic movements. An accordion made the music in a dramatic melody at certain moments.
As a Brazilian, I cannot listen to music and stand still. My muscles involuntarily move. The dancers smartly noticed and dragged me to the dance floor. In a glance, the Uzbek guests broke into the dance floor dominating the scene with typical moves of a Cossak. Followed by endless toasting with vodka in a single sip. I felt like at Dr. Jivago’s movie. A character of Chekov. This scene directed me to the times when I was a teenager and there was no way to Google old pictures for a reference. The imagination relied on the pictures and description from the books. I could finally feel like one of those Soviet ladies drinking vodka surrounded by gentlemen with furry hats.
Before leaving the hall, a gesture of Usbek hospitality.
- Please, Ana, make a toast.
Gosh! I only had time to build a quick and swallow speech wishing to Tashkent to host Olympic Games someday.
Actually, I had much more to praise. The smiles of the locals are unforgettable. I had never come across such sweet people. Never afraid of foreigners, regardless not being used to see tourists around. Doubtless, the statues of locals embracing orphans from the War represent this big hearted nation.
Time to go home. With a feeling that I had went through the most fulfilling trip of my life. When my teenager dreams came true.