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Tashkent Airport, May 2013

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My two experiences at the Tashkent Airport were challenging, especially the departure.

My arrival in Tashkent was not as stressful as I had imagined, mainly because there weren’t that many people on the plane. Lines/queues seemed to be nonexistent. I know I got to passport control before quite a few others, but somehow I ended up at the end of the line. My bag was one of the last to arrive, probably because I had checked it through from SFO two days earlier. I was standing in a line when an Uzbek woman pushed herself and her huge cart full of baggage ahead of me and the man in front of me. Luckily I noticed another line opening up to the right and didn’t have to wait too long.

As I had read in a guidebook, the Uzbeks have a tremendous number of regulations concerning receipts and government forms. I already had two to keep track of, not my strong point. There will be one from each hotel, the one that matches the immigration entry form but adjusted for departure, not to speak of receipts for ATM withdrawals and, I presume, receipts for large purchases. The locals joke about how hard it is to leave without the immigration departure form that I got today.

Three weeks later, at the airport, my nice driver from the travel agency takes my stuff to the entrance, and I put it in a cart and wheel it to the escalator. He is not allowed to enter the airport with me, and the departure area is on the floor above me. A well-meaning young man silently puts all three pieces on the escalator ahead of me, and I wonder if I can get them and myself off safely. Whew! We, the bags and I, made it.

Challenge #1-- The Korean AL rep repeatedly says I can only check in ONE bag. I ask her to check the policy, which I know says two are allowed. Luckily she finds out I was right and apologizes. I notice a couple of people opening their bags and taking things out because their bags are 2-3 lbs overweight.

Challenge #2-- The immigration official says I have forgotten to fill out customs form #2. I do so and return to him. Then he says I have to leave my $US behind if I can not find form #1, which I have filled out but forgotten. He says he wants to look through my passport holder and doesn’t want me to look for the form in it. Of course, he cannot find it. I start thinking, US Embassy! but when I get the case back, I find the form folded in the bottom of one of the pockets. This is an example of the dangers of traveling solo while not too organized and/or at the top of one’s form! I have a mild cold and am a bit congested.

Challenge #3-- We need to remove our shoes AND socks and put on disposable blue plastic booties and then put our shoes, etc. through the scanner. Of course, I can’t understand the rules, and someone has to indicate them through sign language. Then at the security check, the checker wants me to remove my camera lens cap and to inspect my spare battery outside its case, so I have to remove it.Then my computer and everything else.

Through all this I am as pleasant as I can be-- more so than usual, of course-- but wonder if I will become the latest victim of UZ regs. The officials are all quite pleasant but very firm. I can tell there are no exceptions to the rules. All’s well that ends well, but my two words of Uzbek (hello and thank you) come in VERY handy.

Sitting in the airport waiting for the gate to open, I can only hear foreign languages on the p.a. system, languages I can’t understand. When I do hear English, I can’t understand it very well, either. I put my trust in the system and finally board the plane.