Touring the Ferghana Valley in Uzbekistan

I am writing tonight from the Ferghana Valley. It is the first time in two days that I've had access to WiFi. When we arrived, there was no ekectricity; someone in  the city had cut a cable. But by sundown the lights came on.However it's been another 24 hours before we hqad access to the internet.

We took a caravan of 4 taxis over the brown mountains to get here. At one point we stopped at the pass where the two mountain ranges meet at 6000 feet and could see snow on some of the mountains across from us. Our driver could not speak English so he played traditional music on his radio  (which I certainly preferred to some of the music played on American radio) and stopped at a fruit stand to buy us some apples.Instead of the Chicago Interstate Oases or the Pennsylvania omnipresent Howard Johnsons, fruit and vegetable stands manned by local residents line the roads at periodic spots.

The Ferghana Valley is basically a peninsula between two other countries, Tajikistan and kyrgistan. Under the Soviet regime, because the three counties were under a single government it was comparatively easy to  travel from Tashkent to Ferghana. However, after the fall of the Soviet Union, with the spread of nationalism in this area, traveling from country to country has become more difficult. For this reason, we wound up going over the mountain so that we remained in Uzbekistan rather than going straight across Tajikistan. This nationalism is causing  problems in terms of the resurces and infrastructure of Uzbekistan. Under the Soviet Union, Tajikistan had the water that came down from the mountains, uzbekistan had  the electrical power stations and the two countries shared. Now the Tajiks are building dams and the Uzbeks are worried they will not have water.

Today we visitted a silk craftsman's home to see the process of making IKAT silk scarves, table cloths, jackets and even rugs. It was fascinating. We watched one woman extract the silk thread from the cocoon and then another basically boil the threads to make them flexible so that she could combine about 15 threads to make them thick enough for weaving,

Many of the craftsman here are attempting to bring back the traditional crafts and methods that were used before the Soviets closed most of the private craft shops and decreed that everyone should work in a factory and mass produce their products.  Thecrsaftsmen use all natural products. Thus, the colors for the silks are all from natural grains and minerals.

At this place, the master craftsman was not only still using the traditional methods but also mass producing some products by machine. But themachines were from the 1930s that had been made in Germany and then purchased by the Russians and brought here. The noise in this areas is terrific and the women work without ear plugs.

Regardless of the method, the scarves are beautiful and I bought several. More about these methods at a later time.

Tomorro we cross over to Kyrgystan.

Filed under: Uzbekistan

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    Carolyn Boiarsky

    " I am an American," but not "Chicago born" like Augie March. Only Chicago aged. I'd like to think that if Henry Louis Gates were to investigate my geneology, he would discover in my past three women who traveled around the globe, chronicling their adventures. Sarah Kemble Knight traveled 112 miles by carriage from Boston to New York in 1704, a journey most women did not embark on alone (and men did so only with some trepidation). In fact, women were only just beginning to exercise their independence in the 1920's when Emily Kimbrough took off with her friend, Cornelia Otis Skinner, to explore Europe. But it is Auntie Mame, transforming herself from a New Yorker to the wife of an Austrian Baron and climbing the Matterhorn, whose mantra I have adopted. "LIFE IS A BANQUET...LIVE!" I began travelling in the 1960's when I traveled around western Europe between graduating from the Univiersity of Pennsylvania and my first job as a statehouse correspondent for UPI (United Press International) in Charleston, West Virginia, which was about as foreign a place as Europe was to someone who grew up in the environs of Philadelphia. Since then, I've also travelled to Kaunas, Lithuania, to teach at Vytautus Magnus University and to Sheffield, England, to present a paper at an engineering conference. I've been to the Alps and seen Auntie Mame's Matterhorn while climbing, by a series of cable cars rather than by foot, toward the peak of Mont Blanc. For the past 10 years my husband and I have been traveling to unique places: a sheep farm during lambing season in England's Lake Country, a hotel on one of the Barromeo Islands in the middle of Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy, and a cottage in Dun Quin on the Dingle Peninsula which the Irish claim is the last parish before Boston. Between excursions, I'm a professor in the Department of English at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Indiana,. My husband passed away recently and, Auntie Mame-style, I am in the process of transforming myself. Last year I joined a tour to Central Asia. This year I'm going to China to work with the pandas. A new adventure. Another banquet.

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