Uzbekistan | “Don’t worry, Jason! There’s more pilaf!”

We will be performing on Amir Timor Day, pictured here.

How exactly I ended up in Uzbekistan, alone, is another story for another time…

Presently, I’ve just returned to my hotel after setting the pilaf eating world record. This is how it goes when you’ve finished off the huge bowl at the center of the table, thinking you’ve valiantly matched magnanimity with grateful appetite, only to be told, “do not worry Jason! There is more pilaf!”

I cannot take for granted vegetarian pilaf —  such a thing is unheard of here, but they have made this special for me, their Californian VIP. So I humbly extend my plate out for more…

Tomorrow is my concert. I’ve been here for a week already. I was hoping to post regular accounts as the project progressed, but there has hardly been time to process as of yet. I’ve been putting together my band, working with Anatoly (director of the International Museum of Peace and Solidarity) to write press releases and programs (everything must be translated into two languages – Uzbek and Russian), meeting local dignitaries, and touring the sites of ancient Samarkand.

So, wish me luck in my concert! And as I spend the next 10 days traveling through different sites in Uzbekistan, I’ll backtrack and relate an-after-the-fact account of the project.

the two musicians -- the one Oskar with doira (drum) and Shaxzot with rubob (stringed instrument).

Until then… one quick anecdote: Back to the pilaf  — it was really good! I think Irena (wife of Anatoly) was quite proud that she’d made it so delicious without meat.

Each time our glasses were refilled with sweet Uzbek wine, someone at the table would raise their glass and give a heartfelt toast. When it was Irena’s turn, she told an old proverb – which Anatoly translated from Uzbek line by line. Her toast was thus:

“A man wishes to god for many more years of life. God says, “How many more years?” The man thinks for a moment and says, “As many years as the leaves on the tree.” God says, “That’s too many.” So, the man says, “Okay, as many years as apples on the tree?” God says, “That’s too many.” Then the man says “As many years as I have friends?” And God agrees. And the old man dies right there on the spot. Because he has no real friends…”

Later, we were discussing iPads and Irena told another story.

“Two men were next to each other, on their knees, praying to god. The first man was poor and prayed for money to buy bread to feed his family. The other man was wealthy and prayed that his new business venture would be successful and would bring him great wealth. As they pray next to each other, eventually the rich man turns to the poor one and hands him money so that he will go away and buy bread so that the poor man’s prayer doesn’t get in the way of his much more important prayer.”


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