We woke up this morning, our final morning in Fergana, and our amazing host at our hotel made us breakfast. Oh my god! I love this place and I love the guy that runs it. It’s like he lives just to make his guests happy. He runs the kind of place I would love to run one day. He explained something to us at breakfast that made me want the dog even more. He told us those guys had bought the dog to use it as a fighting dog, but it was too sweet and docile, and wouldn’t fight, so now they’re just trying to get rid of it. I WANT THAT DOG. But how? I spent a good long time talking to my husband about it. We had to leave Fergana today but our friend, Mr. Hotel Guy, has the dog owner’s number and I’m plotting and scheming.
We packed up and left. I must admit I was a little sad to leave. It’s so strange how we can form such strong attachments in such a short period of time but science says when we pack lots of experiences into a short period of time our brains process it as if it was a long period of time. So I had as many experiences in three days as many people have in six months. I feel bonded to Mr. Hotel Guy. I feel bonded to Muhammed, the Palestinian guest, and I only knew him for about 8 hours, but they were an intense 8 hours. Any serious traveler like myself that’s reading this will understand what I mean. The friends you make on the road are often become your deepest and best friends for life.
Our first stop for today was a town called Namargan. We had two destinations marked: a mausoleum and a museum. Both were a bust. C’est la vie! Here comes the story. We arrived at the mausoleum and it turned out it was on the same grounds as a mosque and it was prayer time. Ugh. We wanted to be respectful so we stood outside and waited for prayers to end. It was hot, we were hungry and getting a bit grumpy, so we decided to call a Yandex, the Russian version of Uber, to our second location and then come back. Right when our Yandex was almost there prayers ended and there was a mass exodus from the mosque! All the men were really friendly and excited to see us. One even wanted a selfie with my husband, As the last of them walked past our Yandex pulled up.
We went to the museum and they were excited to see tourists. We bought our tickets and walked upstairs. When we walked in the woman spoke to me and I told her we didn’t speak Russian, only English. She ran said oh English! English! And she ran off. A couple minutes later a young woman came back and very excitedly greeted my husband. My husband. Not me or our daughter. Then she proceeded to give my husband a tour of the museum. She spoke to him and only him. It was as if my daughter and I did not exist. She never even looked at us. I spoke up and asked questions three times and she gave no response. She only cared about the man. I’m guessing only men care about history? Only men know about history? The woman even asked him “Do you have children?” And he said yes I have a daughter. The lady replied where is the? And my husband said right here and he pointed to my daughter that was right damn there they whole time. I swear it was as if we weren’t even there. Eventually I got so angry I left. I took my daughter and we went to sit on the couch in the lobby. I am equally as interested in history as my husband is. I am not going to follow behind him and be ignored. I.WAS.MAD.
When my husband’s private tour was over and they came downstairs the woman suddenly noticed me for the first time and she asked me if I liked their museum. I said no. She asked why not and I said because you ignored me. You only spoke to my husband. You did answer any of my questions. How did she respond? She said oh! Please come back to our museum! No, lady. I will not be coming back to your museum.
If you remember we were hungry and grumpy before the museum so maybe you can imagine how I was feeling now. We checked Google Maps for restaurants nearby and found Super Golden With good reviews. Um. I love Google Maps and I love reading people’s reviews, but people’s ideas of what good food is is always relative and this place sucked. It’s now on my all time top three worst places I’ve eaten list in the past year an a half. I might even for with two years. It was bad.
We were so burned out on this town we decided to skip the mausoleum and hit the road. We even decided to skip the next small town on our list and leave the Fergana Valley all together. Due to our car issues we had stayed in the valley two nights more than we had originally planned anyway so this would get us only one day off track instead of two. We started driving toward Samarkand. It’s an eight hour drive from where we were.
We had only driven a short way out of town when our car started beeping at us that we were out of gas. That didn’t make any sense. We had just filled up in town. What was going on? Were we having car problems again? Conveniently, there was a gas station not too far away, and that really was convenient because they’re hard to find here, and we pulled in. We really were out of gas. Shit! Something happened. We have two working theories:
#1 The gas station in the city cheated us, didn’t really fill our tank but charged us
#2 Someone siphoned our gas from the parking lot while we were having a terrible time in the museum.
I’m happy we had such positive experiences with people all over the Fergana Valley and even people outside the mosque in Namargan so a few bad apples didn’t really ruin much for us. Meh. Some people suck. Overall people are awesome.
When we were in Namargan I noticed something interesting. There’s an unusual amount of very, very short people. I’d say pygmy short. Not little people. These people were different. All their proportions were “normal.” They were just extremely short. We also saw a disproportionate amount of people with just one bowed leg. I wonder if there have been studies on this? It’s got to be a genetic thing in the town/region. I mean, it was obvious to us. We were looking around and were like… whoa… are you see this? There are a LOT of extremely short people here. We haven’t noticed it anywhere else we’ve been so far.
The next time we needed to stop for gas the owner of the staton came out and wanted to meet the people driving this car. They don’t see UAZ Patriots everyday in Uzbekistan. This is the land of Chevrolets. Chevy has a monopoly here and white chevy cars are all you see so people get really excited about us. Then, when they find out we’re American oh boy! It’s even more exciting. He came out we had a conversation about life, work, travel, and family. I think… He was speaking Russian and we were speaking English and well.. I don’t speak much Russian more than where is this, where is that, please, and thank you, and he didn’t speak any English at all, but I picked up on cues. I got that he’s building his own hotel in Chust, Uzbekistan and he has a daughter the same age as mine. When we were about to leave he signaled that he wanted us to wait so we did. My husband was annoyed. He wanted to get on the road, but this is how it goes when you’re traveling, you meet people, they’re not in a hurry, it’s special to them to meet strangers, and they want to welcome you. I knew something nice must be coming. And it was!
A whole plate of garden fresh cucumbers! He told us he grew them out back and they were organic! Slight cultural differences like that are interesting to me. If you were to stop at a random gas station in the middle of nowhere somewhere outside Atlanta, Georgia the gas station owner might give you some of his fresh cucumbers but he’d never brag to you about how they were organic. I love this place. The guy was really great. He gave us his phone number and told us if we had any problems anywhere in the country to call him for help. It’s becoming a theme. We’re collecting numbers from Uzbeks. I think I’ll have contacts from Uzbeks all across the nation east to west and north to south before we return home.
The rest of the day was just driving. Driving. Driving. Driving. Driving.
One interesting thing happened. We stopped the car and sent our kid out to buy Coca-Colas from a small shop on the side of the road. When she got back, they weren’t Coca-Colas. The packaging said Coca-Cola but the liquid itself clearly wasn’t. We could see right through it. Something was off. I opened one just to see. The bottle was sealed, so it was direct from a factory, so I took a sip, it was not Coca-Cola. It was either factory rejects they had gotten ahold of or knock-off packaging. It wasn’t coke. We don’t even drink Coke that often. It’s just that it’s SOOOOO hot here and it was such a long day! That Coca-Cola sounded good.
That’s it. We stopped at a hotel about an hour and a half outside Samarkand. We knew we were at the right place when we saw the hotel cat.