Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Got any T-Sod? More shopping occurences.

Here is another post about shopping! Because some people like shopping, and a few people even like reading about it. This time, however, I will discuss the pertinent issue of clothes shopping because, in Uzbekistan, it is simply wonderful.

Hardcore fans may remember this from a few weeks ago:

So disappointed that people in Tashkent aren't just wearing these all of the time.

But it turns out that there is more than meets the eye to shopping for clothes. This weekend, I was a little saddened after receiving an ASOS order. It’s quite exciting that a website that I know of delivers to Uzbekistan, but the perks of being able to shop conveniently (albeit with a 10-20 day wait on delivery by which time the weather/your waistline has changed) has its downsides. I bought a coat which I fell in love with more and more every time I thought about it and how I couldn’t wait for it to be delivered. On the day it arrived, I was almost crying with excitement. It was like Christmas, but just for me. So, I suppose, more like my birthday. But it was not to be. Not wanting to wait to get home, I tried it on at work while cleaner looked at me and tried to say  positive things while watching my face gradually crumple as I realised not only that the sleeves were a couple of inches too short, but I was now £80 out of pocket on something totally hideous.

One of these women is perfectly proportioned. The other is on the right.

So after having a minor breakdown about this massive dramatic event in my life, another of my wonderful colleagues offered to take me shopping. We went to the Samarqand shopping centre, which did confuse me a little bit when it was first suggested, as I expected to get on a train for a few hours to go and see some lovely domes and mausoleums while shopping. But no – Samarqand shopping centre was in Tashkent and perhaps the most 'western' thing I have seen since being here; it even had a BHS. There was a huge supermarket in which we were allowed to try every kind of cheese before buying, and a huge selection of sweets. Here are a few pictures of my favourite things that I saw:

There were a lot more, but I didn't want to scare the shop assistant by taking a photo of her.

Ever wanted to drink Aloe Vera? Now you can!

If I'm expecting it to be better than I expect it to be, will it actually be better than expected?

The next day, after a small cry in the pub with another friend about our mutual lack of mascara, we were invited out to another shopping centre. I never realised a city could have so many. Not only did we discover mascara and face powder at about the same price we’d pay in the UK, but we bought some pyjamas from a shop called T-Sod. The people in the shop were lovely and did not question why we kept repeating the name of the shop to ourselves and giggling. This was a bit of a contrast from another shop in which we got told off for laughing at and talking loudly about a £130 grey jumper adorned with hideous pink, turquoise and mustard yellow squares.

So life is becoming a little more familiar and comfortable for us in Uzbekistan. Although it could seem a shame that they have modern shopping centres with escalators and shiny floors, there is still a lot of room for quirkiness. As you can see…

Is that our country's motto?

Just in case you didn't believe me.

Stay tuned next week: I should be going pole-dancing.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Eat my goal! - More football and shopping.

These past few weeks, I have not forgotten about my blog, but I have been a little too boring to write about anything! So here’s a really exciting blog about day-to-day life in Tashkent. Contain yourselves.

I am writing this from my sickbed, as I have caught a cold. All of the local staff have been assuring me that it is because I stood outside for a couple of hours two nights ago to watch our school’s male staff play football against another school’s male staff. I have been disputing this, as I was wearing a lot of socks, two pairs of trousers, two jumpers and a coat. Also, underwear.


But snot is no fun to talk about, so let’s talk about football. We arrived safely at the pitch, after worrying slightly about the fact that the taxi driver was taking us in a completely unexpected direction. Funnily enough, it turned out that local people actually know their city better than people who have lived there for two months, so we arrived just in time to drink a few cups of tea and finish off our imaginative banner before the match. Unfortunately, the referee had not had red and yellow cards provided so the supporters were asked to search their bags for red and yellow card-like objects. The first option was a red tampon and a yellow tampon, but luckily someone located a red discount card and a yellow-ish post-it note before any boys were made to cry over holding or seeing a tampon in a wrapper.
You try coming up with a hilarious poster, then.

The match was fine for the first twenty minutes or so, but then the worst thing possible happened: the other team scored four goals in ten minutes. Thankfully, everyone woke up a bit and we ended up drawing 4-4 – something which our school was elated about, and which definitely made ending up in the same pub as the other school’s staff afterwards a lot less awkward.

Honestly, one of the reasons I think I have become poorly is to do with the fact that I am eating takeaways in the manner of a first-year student who has not realised that their student loan is for the whole year. One excuse is the fact that shopping is a little faffy. I think it’s lovely that, out here, there are no Tesco Extras dominating the suburbs, but trying to plan a meal that relies on a certain ingredient can be a bit risky, as shops seem to stock different things depending on what day it is. Also, where is the basil?!

There is the other option of going to a bazaar, such as Chorsu, but on the whole they are pretty big and involve a lot of shouting. I feel the need to know exactly what I want, so that I can just go to the tomato section, the root vegetable section, the herb section etc. without lurking around a stall browsing for too long and getting told to pay £10 for some special Samarkand tea while being proposed to for having ‘different eyes’. Don’t get me wrong, I love the liveliness and character of it all, but sometimes I just want to buy some peppers without having to explain to each stall owner why I look different and why I don’t speak Uzbek. I am trying to remedy that situation, though.

On the whole, it is a bit of a whine about a place that I am really fond of, and these things I’m sure I will learn to love. So I’ll even it up with the things that I enjoy. I love the fact that there are 24-hour chemists on every street. You can just go in and tell them about your ailments and they will give you something to sort your life out. However, one of my friends did go into one for some advice about a sore throat and got told to just live off cabbage for a few days. I’m not sure she took that advice completely, but she did get better eventually. The other thing is, I say these chemists are on every street but that is a huge understatement. I can think of four that are within five minutes’ walk of my house, and there might even be more undiscovered ones. How exciting!

Another great thing is getting around the city. The metro stations are quite pretty and usually not too busy. It’s not the most extensive metro in the world, but it is comfortable and usually possible to get a seat. It costs about 25p a go and you get a little blue token to put into the barrier which squishes your legs if you don’t wait for the light to come on before going through it. I think it also counts how many people use it a day, which is quite sweet. For fancier people, there’s also standing in the road until someone in a car picks you up and drives you somewhere while chatting to you about your “strange accent!” It’s always ridiculously cheap compared to British taxi prices, but we always end up arguing over that last 1000 sum (or 25p). I love travelling like this because they often put on music and I get to hear all of the Russian and Uzbek classics on the way home through the traffic and I feel all international.

The best thing about Tashkent has to be the people. I have probably said this before, but they are brilliant. People always want to help out, even if they are not totally sure about the advice they are giving. For example, in my first week, I went on a huge lip balm-related adventure. In any other country, everyone would shrug and say “sorry, we don’t have it.” In Uzbekistan, when they don’t have something, they list all possible shops and draw big blobs on my tourist map. With a little help, it only took me four days to find it, and I made lots of new friends who helped in my mission.
A nice-ish picture because this entry only has 3 of them and one was of a broken roof.