Life in Laos through the lens of a diplomatic wife raising twin toddlers.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Contrast – Uzbekistan

Drink Vendors - Andijon, Ferghana Valley, Uzbekistan

This photo was taken in the fall of 2004, as I walked past these guys everyday on my way to and from work at an Uzbek NGO in the city of Andijon. When I first arrived earlier in the year as a Peace Corps volunteer, the demolition hadn’t started yet and these guys were selling drinks from a typical cement-block storefront typical of the average merchant, the exact same place you see them sitting here. Then slowly, as the government announced higher taxes for small businesses while at the same time threatening to demolish older buildings in the name of modernization (read: higher rent and taxes for newer stores to fill the state’s coiffures), the destruction began eating away at this small strip of buildings. But each day as I passed by them, the men and I would exchange nods and the typical Uzbek greeting, which is actually a series of questions after the initial peace be upon you, “Asalamalakum, Yakshimisiz? Tuzuk misiz? Ishlaringiz yakshimi?”* and so on until the questions end and both parties continue to nod saying only “Yakshi yakshi yakshi.”* They were always polite and cheerful. Each day I expected they would move away from the daily demolition going on around them. Their neighbors moved. They did not, not even when there was barely anything left but the ground underneath them. Not even when the road in front of them was dug up for expansion. They refused to cave into the government’s demands or threats. They knew they had rights, or rather, they wanted to have the right to stay exactly where they had always been or be given a fair alternative or compensation. Unfortunately, there was no such offer coming forth any time soon. And so they stayed, the only thing they knew how to do.

The contrast in this photo shows their quiet and peaceful form of rebellion against the literal destructive force of an unfair government decree.

Eventually, the demolition was complete and there was nothing left, not even these stalwart men. What followed was additional decrees against blanket vendors at outdoor markets, requiring the very poor merchants to rent stalls and pay taxes while (again) not giving them alternatives or compensation. There were also seemingly unlawful arrests of prominent businessmen and imprisonment without charges or a trial. By the time the following spring rolled around, the quiet rumblings of protest turned into a full blown riot after a prison break that resulted in a massacre of the city’s own citizens. It was the day that I was evacuated from Andijon.

This photo foretells the bloody ending of the battle of contrasting wills.

*Translate: “Peace be with you. Are you well? Are you healthy? How are things?” and “Good good good.”

Note: I’m adding more photos to support my narrative, but the first picture above is my entry for the challenge.

See my other Weekly Photo Challenge submissions:

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unusual – Uzbekistan

Weekly Photo Challenge: Through – Turkey

To add your own photo to the competition, visit WordPress Daily Post. Good luck!

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31 comments on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Contrast – Uzbekistan

  1. Naomi Baltuck
    June 7, 2012

    I am glad to have stumbled upon your blog–it is really well written and the photographs are great.

  2. Arindam
    March 15, 2012

    Great post. I hope you had a wonderful experience there. The photographs are also really nice. Nicely done.

    • Wanderlustress
      March 15, 2012

      Thank you so much. I really enjoyed living in Uzbekistan and was sorry that I had to leave unexpectedly. I would go back in a second!

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  5. Samsara
    March 10, 2012

    I like !

  6. Jonathan Luehrs
    March 10, 2012

    Asalamalakum sounds like arabic.. They say a similar greeting in Saudi as well. I love linguistics. Very interesting.

    • Wanderlustress
      March 10, 2012

      It is the same Arabic greeting used throughout the Muslim world. Uzbek is an old Turkic language.

  7. Jonathan Luehrs
    March 9, 2012

    I loved your description along with the detailed pictures! Do people use ‘yakshi’ as a standard greeting?

    Can’t wait to see more posts =)

    • Wanderlustress
      March 9, 2012

      Hi Jonathan, thank you for visiting! Uzbeks typically say the whole, “Asalamalakum, Yakshimisiz?…” and will sometimes shorten it to just “Yakshimisiz?” in very informal settings.

      • jasika
        April 24, 2012

        Asalomu aleykum yaxshimisiz?yaxshi yuribsizmi?siz uzbek tilini qatan bilasiz? how do you know ?

      • Wanderlustress
        April 24, 2012

        Asalomu aleykum Jasika, yaxhimisiz, tuzukmisiz? I learned Uzbek for three months in Tashkent before living in Andijon for two years. Rahkmat!

      • jasika
        April 24, 2012

        yaxshi raxmat oo WoW u are best manga yordam bera olasizmi ?

  8. Elena
    March 9, 2012

    Great post and pics! I used to visit Uzbekistan a lot to see my grandmother & aunt, Great country & people. ( Tashkent ) Have you ever tried “Chak-Chak” ?

    • Wanderlustress
      March 9, 2012

      Thank you Elena! Uzbekistan has such an interesting history and culture, doesn’t it? What is “Chak-Chak”?

      • Elena
        March 9, 2012

        delicious desert : )

  9. idha2908
    March 9, 2012

    Nice shots and great experience!

    • Wanderlustress
      March 9, 2012

      Thank you very much! I really enjoyed my time in Andijon and would love to go back there some day, maybe with my children.

  10. Louise
    March 9, 2012

    Great post. Love the pics and your experience. Yakshi! 🙂

  11. Robin
    March 9, 2012

    Excellent. Really enjoyed the back story to the photo.

    • Wanderlustress
      March 9, 2012

      Thank you Robin! I’m not much of a photographer but I do enjoy telling stories.

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  13. katehobbs
    March 9, 2012

    Wow. What a story. Traditions can be so good, but they can also stop progression. I can’t say if either is right or wrong. It seems very unfair to pressurise people who are only trying to maintain enough to live on in this way, but then I am not aware of every fact. Don’t know what I would do in this situation. The photo entry is a good one, and it has highlighted many contrasts in living conditions around the world.

    • Wanderlustress
      March 9, 2012

      Hi Kate, thank you. Yes, it’s difficult to know all the facts in every situation, especially when a culture has a long history of political and ideological dominance like Uzbekistan experienced during it’s recent history.

  14. xandimusic
    March 9, 2012

    yay, really nice photos and nice background!!!
    like them 😉

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