2012
05.02

SYNOPSIS:  IT’S A BORING START – TRANSIT

I left Michigan on April 30 at the end of the day and will arrive in Tashkent on May 2 in the morning. 36 hours in transit – that makes for 28 real hours since I supposedly will gain 8 hours crossing a few time zones. It still makes for two lost nights of sleep, too much food at the most ungodly hours, and explains why I feel like a zombie walking on cotton right now.

I already forgot who I was sitting next to on the plane to Frankfurt or Istanbul. I usually sit down, put ear plugs in and radiate an air of “leave me alone”. I read my travel book and try as hard as I can to sleep. It never works. I already forgot what I read and I didn’t sleep a wink. During times of misery like this, I ask myself why I like traveling to so much and usually find no answer.

In Istanbul, I had to get through customs as I needed to check in my luggage in person, sending it on its way to Tashkent. Over the loudspeakers I listened to the usual airport announcements from flights boarding, people being summoned to the information desk, to don’t leave your luggage unattended! I recognized the word “thank you” in Turkish. Oh yes, I had learned that one last year while on sabbatical traveling through Turkey. Look it up. It’s probably one of the most difficult “thank yous” in any language. I wondered why the Turks make it so difficult to say “thanks”. Shouldn’t that be one of the easier words of any language? Like yes, no, mom or dad? I wondered if cultural differences, or wide-spread rude behaviors originate from roots like that. When it was my turn to show my passport, I decided to put my newly-found language skills to task and thanked the custom officer in Turkish. In response he whipped out a lolly-pop and a big smile! I think I blushed! How often do you get a lolly-pop for saying thank you?!

I had no idea how to survive 8 hours of layover when I already felt like keeling over. I decided to search for showers. A nice cold shower should do the trick. But first, I had work to do: Get hold of Uzbeki money. It’s called ‘sum’ (with a “u” as in “oo). It was no surprise to me, that Uzbekistan was not known in the U.S. and that most people who had asked me where I was going didn’t get beyond the Uz-what? But when at the money exchange in Turkey, the clerk behind the desk was equally clueless, I had to wonder. No sum in the U.S. No sum in Germany. No sum in Turkey. And the travel books had already warned about banks and ATMs in Uzbekistan with no money at all! So much for money.

Back to a shower. I was directed to a traveler’s lounge. 15 Euros for a shower… But it came with unlimited food snacks, drinks, free internet and a safeguarded, quiet environment in which I could sleep if I only could. That sounded much better than a hotel or a noisy, crowded airport gate and I went for it. And that is how I found myself showered, rested, fed, and even chair-massaged before heading out to the final stretch of the long transit to Uzbekistan. Everything I needed had manifested itself as always when I am on the road, except for money. Minor detail.

ET