August 17: Tashkent, Uzbekistan
8:30 I’m up and ready for a big day of relaxing around the poolside bar. If it were a bit cooler I might walk into the heart of the city but I can’t muster the energy at 44C.
17:00 The entire group heads to a popular restaurant by the name of Caravan. It’s clearly a high-end joint, catering mostly to foreign tourists and well-to-do locals. Prices are about the same as you’d find in Toronto. The food is okay but the service is beyond atrocious. They simply aren’t prepared for a group of 24 even though we made reservations several days in advance.
17:20 I’m seated near the three people who have joined our truck as of today. Vanessa is from Mexico and currently living in Iran where she works at the Mexican Embassy. Ynez is a high school teacher from Berlin. Tim is a decade or more younger than me, born in Peterborough and currently living in Toronto. He’s a travel writer on assignment for The Globe & Mail. With 106 countries under his belt in the last five years and a dozen or more countries in the last few months, he clearly gets around. When I ask what part of Toronto he lives in, he replies “Cabbagetown.” After selling my house I lived for a year in a rented loft on the edge of Cabbagetown. I ask him where in Cabbagetown and he says, “close to Moss Park.” I lived about a block from Moss Park so naturally I ask him what street he lives on. It turns out that we lived on the same street, exactly 100 numbers apart. His mail was occasional delivered to my building in error.
18:00 The highlight of the night at Caravan was a visit to the washroom. They have a Japanese toilet that plays music, has about 60 different spray options, and a mechanism that automatically stretches a fresh sleeve of cellophane over the toilet seat after each flush. I’m afraid I wasted about four meters of plastic just playing with the thing. I justify it by reminding myself that I haven’t used a dry cleaner in a year.