Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Of Uzbekistan: Thermometers and Fistfights
This is perhaps not the most striking example of the architecture of Uzbekistan, but it is the first one the photo editor came across in chronologically sorting through the pictures. This is in Tashkent. The first impressions of Tashkent, upon arriving at 1:30 in the morning because that's when all the flights get there, were these:
One disembarks from the plane, like at a crappy European airports, by taking stairs down to the tarmac to get on a bus. The bus takes you to the terminal. Then, unlike at any European airport I know of, you line up and before you can get into the terminal you are greeted by a nurse in a funny hat and a surgical mask who reaches into your shirt to put a thermometer under your armpit. You then walk thirty paces to the next station, where a doctor takes the thermometer and checks to see if it has climbed to an unsafe level during your short walk, and if not, allows you to proceed to passport control. I hear this is a temporary swine flue measure.
The second impression was in the car from the airport to my hotel, at 2:30 in the morning, cruising down one of the six-lane boulevards that is the hallmark of a Soviet-planned city. At this hour, there is no traffic at all. But then I noticed something in the street ahead... the driver shifted from the middle to the left lane to avoid what turned out to be two guys laying on the ground, wrestling and punching each other, in the very middle of a darkened major street, oblivious to the minimal traffic, with a woman watching them and occasionally stepping in to land a quick punch on one or maybe both of the combatants. It seemed weird - even surreal - but I suppose it's something one could come across in any city in America that happens to sell alcohol.