Some people are just never satisfied

Just to prove the truth of my observation last week that we each retain our own individual and unique memories of even shared experiences, the friend who suggested I write something about our trip to Uzbekistan sent me a message.

‘But how can you write two articles about visiting Uzbekistan and not even mention Registan Square?’

The honest answer to that is ‘ well, quite easily’!

In truth my strongest memories are those that I recounted, but in the interests of giving you a rounder picture of the trip I should mention it.  Although I have absolutely no doubt that anything I write now will fall short of expectations.

Confession number two is that I had to look at the internet to double check that what I thought was Registan Square was actually it.

Here’s a photo I took.  It’s not very good; my only excuse is that my camera was on its last legs.

Registan Square in Samarkand is a complex of three Madrasas, the earliest of which dates from the 15th Century.  In 1996 my impression was that, although the buildings had been maintained sufficiently to keep them standing, after 70 years of Soviet communism, they were still struggling to re-establish a spiritual use and purpose.

I think we were the only Western visitors when we were there, and the local people either stood aside and watched us impassively or tried to sell us tourist tat.  Can I be imagining it, or did one of our party actually buy a tea cosy there?  Now, I can’t decide what would have been worse…..

Rootling around in my memory for this story, I remembered another, nearly unrelated one.

A couple of years ago I was in New York with an American work colleague.  We were going out to dinner with a local adviser.  It was a hot evening and the restaurant was a dozen or so blocks from our hotel, so the guys decided we should take a rickshaw taxi; because there were three of us, we had to take two.

I was reluctant, especially when I saw how small the ‘driver’ was; not much more than 5 foot tall and wiry, with a face that reminded me of my visits to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.  I sat gripping the sides of the seat fearful that any minute we would be crushed by a bus or bounced through a pothole onto the road where I would skin my bare arms and legs.

We survived traffic chaos on the south-side of Central Park, but just a couple of blocks from our destination, on a small incline, we were forced to stop at traffic lights.  With no momentum, the ‘driver’ couldn’t get going again, so my colleague had to get out and push until the road flattened, when he jumped back on board.

I  told this story a number of times, polishing it a bit in the process, and my punchline was always about the fact that on an evening when it was purportedly too hot to walk half a mile, my colleague had ended up running up a hill pushing me in a rickshaw.

On my subsequent trip to the States I heard my colleague recounting the story, his punchline was about watching our adviser, on his own in the cab, holding on for dear life as he disappeared along the street in front of us, a terrified look on his face.  When I argued that, really, the funniest bit was having to push, my colleague shook his head laughing, and maintained that until that moment when I reminded him, he had completely forgotten that bit of the journey.

We walked back from the restaurant, in case you’re wondering.

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