Wednesday, August 04, 2004
The Central Asian Information Dirt Road
I got about six or seven photos ready to post here today but the connection is so painfully slow I won't be able to get them up. Sorry! Hopefully I'll get them up in the next couple of days but as most 'internet cafes' are really only a room full of computers with boys playing games and no internet connection, I'd say this is unlikely. Finding a real 'internet cafe' with computers with (gasp!) USB ports is a difficult task. Then, there's the potholed dirt road that is the information superhighway in this part of the world to slow me down.
Back in Tashkent
I returned from the Fergana Valley late Tuesday, unavoidable backtracking given the shape of this country. Despite the hideous Soviet-era architecture (I was going to post some pictures of my favorite), I quite like Tashkent.
For some reason I have encountered the most offensive habit here amongst some Uzbeks, particularly taxi drivers but others as well. Language difficulties are nothing new for me, but generally negotiating a fare is not too difficult. Despite now being sure to be explicit in writing down the agreed to fare with taxi drivers in particular, they all seem to allow inflation to kick in as we're driving. This is terribly, terribly frustrating. I firmly believe that what I do or don't do will impact on foreigners who come after me and I detest the notion that I encounter from time to time that westerners have inexhaustible resources and therefore it doesn't matter if they're ripped off. I don't like but I'm well used to paying foreigners' prices but I don't think I could never get used to this sort of thing.
From talking to other foreigners, it doesn't seem like I'm alone in this and further discussion seems to always end at the same point, that people here seem to be more interested in making the 'quick buck' than building up a sustainable business. Sure this is a real generalization, but I've seen evidence of this and heard tons of stories from others that would support me on this.
Last week's bombings
I have yet to hear any mention of them from any Uzbeks. They're relatively common here -- supposedly the Israeli embassy alone has been bombed three times this year. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the government deliberately keeps press coverage of the bombings to a minimum.