Breakfast in Tashkent:
Eating at Sim Sim an Uzbek Restaurant in Tashkent:
Uzbek Song at Bektemir Region Society of Persons with Disabilities
Setting the Table at Disability Center:
Q&A about Body & Soul:
Diana talks about inclusion:
Handblock printing scarves:
US Embassy, Tashkent Film Festival Screening
Diana talks about passing her driving test:
Diana shows off her hat & scarf
We had a screening today with 14-16 year olds in the English Access Micro Scholarship program from Angren at the US Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. If you ever wonder if your tax dollars are doing anything worthwhile, I suggest you look out at 50 faces of young people from low-income households who are hungry for knowledge and want to learn English. I find my cynicism and shame about some of America’s actions fading as I see this program. The depth of commitment and the real energy that is being expended to bring these young people to the Embassy, screen films that show the spectrum of American life, and invite thoughtful discussion makes me humble and proud of my good fortune to be raised in a free society. Thank you to the staff of the Embassy, the drivers, guards, and all the people who are working so patiently to bring about opportunity to all.
Yesterday we had a meeting here in Tashkent, Uzbekistan with a group of disability advocates, PWD, and a few parents. All of our programs outside the Embassy have not been approved by the Uzbeki government. So every meeting has to be held in the US Embassy. Anyone who come to the Embassy becomes a marked person. Their name, license plate, everything is taken down. (My access to my blog has been blocked the whole time I’ve been here.) So it takes courage to come to an event in the Embassy. And this is about disability rights a pretty non controversial issue.
We were able to show Body & Soul to about 22 people. At the end we talked about how they could use the film. One woman wanted to give it to every member of the Uzbek parliament because there is a disability rights law pending. Molly Stephenson from the US Embassy offered to make copies of the Russian and Uzbek version for all the people there to use. We made a pledge that each person would show their copy to at least 4 other people. I wanted to chose a number that was do-able and not put too much pressure.
I had a moment where I actually thought, “What would Judith Helfand do?” I stood up and got several people to volunteer to make study guide that is culturally sensitive to Uzbekis. They can use it as they show the film to start discussion, and move toward action.
Update: March 14th, Tashkent
Left hotel to try the famous Tashkent subway. Diana and I were stopped by the police, as I had been warned in both my guide books. Gave them the photo copy of our passports, not the originals. Two little plastic tokens were our entry and 500 som. We figured out where we were going and hopped on. Found no one to speak English at our transfer point, but figured it out from good signage. Thank goodness the subway is in Latin letters, not Cyrillic. We got out at the Kosmonavtlar station, and walked to the Museum of Applied Arts through a very elegant neighborhood (CLICK HERE to check out their website) After a lunch of sushi, we went back to the hotel to be briefed for the afternoon event by the ever reliable Sardor.
No pressure, but everyone was coming along to the screening: Molly Stephens, Cultural Attache, Carrie Lee, Cultural Affairs Officer, Nadira, from the Embassy, having something to do with grants, Muhayo Aliyeva, Cultural Affairs Assistant, and Sardor Djurabaev, our accordion and coordinator. We arrived at the Bektemir Regional Tashkent Society of Disabled People and were greeted by Larissa Khodjaeva project manager. She is an alumni of an exchange program.
After being offered tea, we proceeded to the screening. It was held in a multi-purpose room with about 5 people in wheelchairs, their parents, and 15-20 guests.
Afterwards we had a wide ranging discussion with questions posed like, “Why wouldn’t parents take care of their child?” To specific questions to Diana about her funding. Accessibility continues to be a major issue.
Then one of the clients played the accordion. He had a strong, melodic voice. His mother was also very active in the discussion. Many rounds of photos later, we were asked to stay for dinner, Plov is the Uzbek National dish. It’s made with rice, chickpeas, raising, carrots, and onions, and then pieces of meat are put in the center. They had also made delicious pumpkin somsa’s, a triangular pastry dough with pieces of sweet pumpkin squash inside. Really tasty.
Video of Bektemir Regional Tashkent Society of Disabled People:
People seemed to thoroughly enjoy the screening. Larisa praised Sardor’s work. He does fundraising for this center and puts on a Halloween event that raises money for them. After many lovely and moving toasts, we departed. It really was a meaningful and emotional experience.
The Birds of Bukhara:
Passing Rice Paddies on our way to Bukhara:
Kids playing soccer in Bukhara:
Sweeping Steets in Bukhara:
Restoring Lyia Hauz in Bukhara:
Bike Rider in Bukhara:
Driving to Uzbek Embassy: