Tashkent to a foreigner is sort of a different planet – language, culture, human interaction, laws and code of conduct are just way different from most things one would experience elsewhere. Thus a good way to approach settling in here is to start out from a blank page. I am by no means a foreigner here, but definitely a stranger. Given this is my homeland and I have some family here it is easier for me than it would’ve been should I be a complete outsider. That being said, I am still experiencing learning curves and going through hurdles mastering the art of settling in.
You start out from basic necessities such as home, food, phone and Internet connection. Since I have family here, home and food is not a problem, but even a complete stranger to the region, I doubt, will have an issue finding place to stay or food to eat – we are in the home of the most welcoming culture in the world after all! Food is delicious and abundant; it will take me many posts to even brush over options one may choose from when it comes to breakfast, lunches and dinners. To give you an idea in one sentence: by the time I spent a day and a half in Tashkent I managed to be fed eight times!!
After loading up on melatonin and getting some good amount of sleep to fight the twelve-hour difference jetlag I ventured off to accommodate my next necessity – getting connected. To get a SIM card in Tashkent is incredibly easy if you are a citizen or know one. All you need is a passport and money, small shops are one very corner and they will get you connected to your choice of provider in the matter of minutes, and you even get to pick your number. For numbers that are easy to remember, or look good (953-53-53, 953-33-33 and so on) you can pay a premium if you wish and those types of numbers are considered “cool” and give out a higher status of their owner. I did not care much for a “cool” number and decided to stick to the budget. Provider of choice ended up being Beeline, as advised by many due to its good connection (in comparison to other) and reasonable charges (also when compared to few other options). I paid the initial connection fees, roughly $4 (10,000 sum) and decided to get the larges data package and paid $30 for it (5000 Mb of data), so my total was bout 112,000 or so. One thing I missed is that the data package is a monthly thing, and if I don’t use up all of it in the next week and a half, my money and data will go to waste. So from the time I learned about this I had about two weeks left in a month and was using mobile Internet like there is no tomorrow, pun intended.
My next project was to get the Wi-Fi into my grandma’s apartment since she is using her neighbor’s Internet at the time and I don’t really want to freeload on all that data of theirs, which is pricy nonetheless. To get the Wi-Fi in the apartment took me a while. Life here flows in much slower pace than what I am used to, so getting things done naturally (without the paying extra or throwing a tantrum) can take a while. After buying a router ($33 give or take) we finally got the service provider rep in (3 days of phone calls!) and he got me all set up. Internet is expensive here and limited by data usage. For $30/month I got 20,000 MB of data – definition of sad. This also means restrain, less uploads, downloads and videos online. But the provider has few sites where you can watch videos, movies; download music and apps without tapping into the traffic you paid for.
As for the challenges, I would say they are not much different than adjusting to living in any other unfamiliar setting – you just need to learn the rules and adjust accordingly. One of the silly challenges I have is handling money. In Uzbekistan if you live and work here you have a debit card issued by national banks. When visiting you will only be able to use your Visa or Master Card at the hotel, other than that cash is king. Cash means easier transaction and a better deal. The challenge with cash it that you need a lot of it, and by a lot I mean loads of it! This means that if you want to go and do basic grocery shopping you will need packs of money since you are likely to spend 100,000 sum and then some. Counting out this much money in banknotes worth 1,000 sum requires money-counting skill I do not posses – hence the money handling struggle.
These are some of my first experiences and thoughts. I will try to explore some other peculiar to an eye that, as one of my professors liked to say, came to this land wearing western glasses. So, glasses off and heart in since I am settling in!