Mom wants to marry me up and she asks no questions

We arrived at the airport. I checked her in. Submitted the baggage. After that we got her boarding pass for the plane that would take her to Belorussia, and then home to Uzbekistan.

Then we walked slowly towards the gates where we had to separate. We both understood that we were not going to see each other for at least a year after that.

As we were slowly walking towards the gates, she said: “Thank you! I enjoyed my stay in Prague very much.”
I smiled not looking at her and said “You are most welcome!”
She went on: “If you come to Uzbekistan next summer, I will marry you up.” [What a twist of subject!] She said the last phrase with such an intonation that you could assume a marriage was an exciting reward for me for coming back to Uzbekistan on holidays.
“Mom, you don’t understand. Please do not rush me. I have plans that I want to accomplish before building a family. Let me tell you my plans for the next five years. Let me tell you my dreams,” I told her in my imagination. In a perfect world this would be what I’d tell her. But this time, given the current circumstances, I just said “It’s too early.”

Notice how my opinion is not even consulted on this important matter. She does not ask questions like “WHO do you want to marry?”, “WHEN do you want to have your wedding?”, “Do you want to marry, anyway?” She rather makes a statement: “I WILL marry you up.”

Don’t get me wrong though. I want to build my own family [Who does not?] I do understand that my mother didn’t ask me those questions because she knows me probably better than anybody else. But what’s frustrating to me is that she just doesn’t let me communicate my thoughts and feelings.

“Early?” she exclaims playfully. “Maybe it is early for you, but it is getting late for me.”
“What do you mean it is getting late for you?”
“I am getting old. I want to see my grandchildren.”
“Mom, come on. You are not old.”
“And I want a daughter. Do you understand? I don’t need a daughter-in-law. I want to have someone in our house, who will be like a real DAUGHTER for me.”

In most of the cases the relationship between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law is not particularly warm. I even heard such extreme cases when mothers made their sons divorce just because those mothers “didn’t get on well” with their daugthers-in-law. I remember how often my grandma would give a frowning look [sometimes even shouts] at my mother, at the time when she lived under one roof with my father’s family. This problem of “women-in-law” has always been one of the most common and painful ones.

One of my countrymen [who is soon getting married] said the following about a month ago: “Our wives are not going to live only with us. They will live with our families as well. So it’s not only you who has to like your wife. Before making a proposal I will make sure that my wife suits my parents too. Otherwise, there is no way for me to marry her. Besides, there are thousands of girls out there, but we have only one mother and one father.” His arguments are quite cogent, except the last one: What if I don’t need thousands? What if I need only a single girl?

Once I read somewhere: “Marriage should not be an emotional decision. It must be a rational one.” Now, this one makes sense, doesn’t it?

Anyway… After giving me a long and warm hug, mom entered the gates. After an hour she left Czech Republic and after four hours she messaged me “We’ve landed safely in Minsk. Waiting for the transfer to my next flight [winking emoticon].”

Now I have to go back to my studies after 3 weeks of travelling and chilling with mom. I will probably study the whole summer too, because I am afraid of going back to Uzbekistan for my holidays. You never know what plans mothers have for their sons.

Lady whose daughter lives in Switzerland

We noticed her just at the entrance to the metro station “Mustek”. She had a heavily stuffed plastic bag in her hand. It was so heavy that she could not even raise it. The bag was on the ground and the old lady was barely pulling it towards escalator, wiping the floor with the bag.

“Perhaps we should help this lady?” my mother said feeling bad about her.
“I don’t know the Czech expression when offering help,” I mumbled.

I always feel reluctant whenever it is time to help the elderly, for example when I have to give a seat to them on public transport. On one hand, I have no problem standing for a while. On the other hand, I am daunted by the possibility of insulting them as if by saying “You look so old that I’ve decided to give you my seat, you old woman!” I don’t know how to deal with it. Usually I end up not giving a seat to them. My way of thinking is probably wrong. I guess I ought to change it.

Our eyes met as we were passing her. “Perhaps you should help that woman?” my mother repeated with the same voice tone as before, but this time her voice seemed to convey the message “I read in her eyes that she really needs help.”

Mom was right. She needed help not only with her heavy bag [it was at least 6 kilograms. I wonder how she wanted to bring it home on her own], but she was also longing for a warm heart-to-heart conversation with some understanding person. She was craving for empathy.

“Vam pomoc?” – I said this half-Czech-half-Russian expression [which I made up right there] smiling into her face trying to be polite and not to offend her.
For a moment she stopped moving and looked at me opening her eyes wide open, as if thinking: “Is this guy talking to me?”

The old lady made sure that I was talking to her, not to somebody else, only when I approached her saying “Can I help you?” and pointing at the heavy bag with a logo of Albert supermarket chain.

“If you can…” she finally responded. Her response was in Russian. So we realized that she was not local.
I took her bag on the left side. My mother held her by her right arm to help her walk.

All the way until we reached the metro station “Hradcanska”, where she had to step out, the two women kept talking. While we were standing on the platform waiting for metro, I asked for permission and took a photo of the lady with my mom [I figured I would need that photo for my blog].

The lady told us how long she worked in the Middle East [in Iraq and Israel]; that she got married to a Czech; that she came from Russia; how Europe and Middle East are different.

“My only child lives in Switzerland,” she started an interesting talk about her daughter. “With her husband and my granddaughter. Nataliya [her daughter’s name] is too far away… I wonder if something happens to me, who will take care of me?” she smiled. I think she forced that smile. I have noticed that people sometimes smile when they have really bad emotional meltdown.

Neither my mother nor me knew what to say. There was an awkward silence for a moment. The old lady was wise enough to break it by changing the subject herself.

I thought to myself: my mother must be having the same feeling about me. Even if she does not feel that way at the moment, soon she will definitely want us to live in one town [or even in one house].

It is incredible how random lady in the street is able to change my future plans. I would not even be brave enough to offer her a seat on bus.

Grandfather’s death

He passed away in September 2016, at the age of eighty-seven, leaving behind 3 daughters [including my mother], 5 sons, 24 grandchildren [myself included], 17 great-grandchildren, 2 apartments in the heart of Tashkent, one big country house in the village he had grown up [he longed for his village even at the end of his life], and eternal memory of the amazing father of the huge family.

In one of those days when he felt weak he asked my mother, “Do you have your phone with you?”
“Yes, dad, I do,” my mom replied.
“I want to talk to my friend. He is sick. I want to ask him how he feels.”

Then he would dictate his friend’s phone number. He knew it by heart.
Neither my grandfather, nor his comrade could hear well. Both of them were suffering from hearing loss. Here is an approximate conversation of theirs:
“Assalomu alaykum, my friend!” my granddad greets his comrade.
“Assalomaleyku-u-u-um, Fazliddin aka!”
“How are you feeling?”
“Yes, we just came back.”
“Are you okay?”
“Where are you?”
“I can’t hear. Say it again?”
“At hospital? What happened to you?”
“I can’t hear you well. Take care. Bye!”
“What?”
He took care of his friends. Even at the time when he was unwell himself. I admired this quality of his: loyalty. I’ve probably never known anybody more loyal [to friends] than him.

He was longing for the company of his friends. By that time only a couple of them had not passed away yet. The whole generation of the 1930th had nearly died out. My grandfather wasn’t feeling well either.

Five years before his death my grandfather got half-sided stroke. The right side of his body was paralyzed. He could barely move his right leg when walking. That’s why he had to use a walking cane for the last years of his life.

He couldn’t firmly hold a spoon with his right hand when eating. Whenever my mother offered to feed him, he insisted that he ate on his own, despite the fact that he could barely raise his arm. He hated to be dependant on somebody else. Of course he would. For the most part of his life he got used to be one of the most “independent” people in the country. He held a position of a minister in Uzbekistan for nearly three decades. He was a typical strict Soviet ruler of thousands of government employees. I believe he felt nostalgic about those times.

I loved my granddad. I still do. His lessons will serve me well until the end of my life. The best lesson he taught to me was his personal example. He was my role-model. My leader. My boss. My president.

Spend with parents as much time as you possibly can!  Face it after all: they will not be around forever.

Virginity or how our values are changing

“Are you still a virgin?” a girl boldly asked a friend of mine, when the latter was on work and travel program in the States.
He [my friend] was in a state of shock, when he was asked this brass-neck question from a representative of opposite gender.
He nodded looking straight into her eyes, without knowing what to say. She then laughed at his honesty and asked him again: “Are you serious now?”.
“Yyyes…” the 23-year-old said being rather embarrassed.
“Don’t you have attraction to girls?”

Attraction to girls… The fact that he decided to remain virgin until he marries somebody doesn’t mean that he had lost attraction to women. That merely means that he has certain life principles.

In my culture a pre-marriage sexual intercourse is deemed dishonorable and wrong. In other words, losing a virginity before wedding is equivalent to losing an honor. I mean, it is perfectly lawful to have sex whenever and however you want. But you will have to hide it from public if you want to save your face.

Sometimes when I chat with guys, they boast: “Man, yesterday I had a date with a beauty. I brought her home afterwards and the whole night we… you know what I mean.”
“So do you love her?” I ask him.
“Of course not. I am just sleeping with her.”
“How can you do that without having intention to marry?!”
“Man, she is just a temporary whore to me. My bride will be a decent girl. I am just enjoying my life,” he says with a voice tone of Don Corleone.

Let’s think about this. Is he enjoying his life or destroying it? There is a wise Uzbek saying: “Turmush o’rtog’ing o’zingga yarasha bo’ladi [Your future spouse is going to be just as good as you].” 

My sincere belief is that if I want to marry a decent girl, first I have to be a decent man myself. There is no way for a play boy to marry a modest girl. That just won’t work.

The funny thing about those “play boys” is that back in our counties [I am talking about Central Asia] they used to be the ones who condemned sex-before-marriage. With angry fire in the eyes, they condemned Uzbek or Kazakh girls who had given their virginity to somebody other than their husbands. But when they came to study in Europe, where being a non-virgin is perfectly fine after 18 [sometimes it is a shame not to be one], they started changing girlfriends as often as they change their socks, naively hoping to marry a princess one day.

Just be a decent person! Your spouse is not going to be better than you.

The most beautiful woman in the world

“Did you buy a new luggage bag?” I asked my mother pointing at her nice blue bag with four wheels, when we arrived at the hotel.
“No, it’s not new,” she responded. “I borrowed it from your cousin.”
“How do I open it? What is its password?”
“The password is the birthdate of your cousin’s mother.”
“So, it’s my aunt’s birthdate,” I said being quite amused.

It is so cute that he [my cousin] set the password as the day when his mother was born. Man, that’s so cute. Sometimes, I become too sentimental.

To be honest with you, as Doniyor and I were waiting for our parents at the airport, I was pretty much sure that the time we would spend with our parents was going to be rather boring. Because I did not know what to talk about with my mom, really.

Because we talk so often on the phone, I have always had a feeling that everything has already been rigorously discussed and we really have nothing serious to speak of. Within 10 minutes after we met them, I realized that I was completely wrong. There were so many things to be talked about. We kept chatting the next 5 hours rarely making breaks. It was so much fun.

We had not seen each other since the day I came to study in Prague at the end of 2015, which is a little over a year now. Although she has put on some weight during this period and became a little chubby, she looked really beautiful. Fatness doesn’t necessarily make a woman ugly [against the odds].

She wore light-brown leather jacket that reached her knees. Its soft brownish fur around her neck made my mom look maturely elegant. Let alone the elegant match of her bright-blue suitcases with her handbag. She never wears high heeled shoes – as she once put it: “I don’t like getting too much attention with the noise that come out of those heels when I walk.” Besides, she rather prefers comfortable apparel for her feet. She walks quite calmly, without any sign of rush. When she smiles, she usually smiles with her eyes, withoit showing her perfectly aligned teeth and she tends to bend her head a little bit to the right. My mother is quite modest and usually shy. And she is an excellent listener, which makes her a really pleasant person to have a conversation with.

When I met my mother after not seeing her for such a relatively long period of time, three things became absolutely clear to me:
1. My mom is the most beautiful woman in the world.
2. A real conversation in person can never be replaced by Skype.
3. My mom is really the most beautful woman in the world.

What do you do in library? Read books or watch YouTube videos?

 

I am writing this post sitting in a University library. Guess what, nobody is reading a book in here. When I say “a book”, I mean a regular book made of paper.

Today in the morning I had a lecture on a subject called E-government. When the lecture started, he asked the audience: “Who goes to a public library?” A dozen of students raised their hands.
“Alright,” the lecturer said. “Tell me how you use the library?”
“With a laptop,” somebody at the back cried out with a simultaneously neutral and mocking voice (I guess that was Zeid). For a split second the class giggled.
“Fair enough,” the lecturer said, smiling. “Let me ask you another question then: how many of you read a text-book for university subjects?” Nobody raised a hand.
“See,” the lecturer continued. “This is how technologies changed the world. It changed the way people learn new information, use services, do business and even earn a living.”

I thought to myself “What a great motivation to study this subject.” Unlike most of other University teachers, our teacher on E-government has extensive experience working at a REAL company. So, he knows a thing or two about what is happening outside the Uni campus. I wish all the teachers were able to motivate students to study their subject in this way.

Indeed, the way we learn new material has changed dramatically over the last decade. I remember when I was a kid, my older cousin used to sit in his room at his desk with several books and copybooks scattered around his table. He would say “I am preparing for an exam. Get outta here!” His table looked like a huge unorganized mess of papers and stationaries.

Interestingly, I cannot recall him using any piece of electronics for studies (well, maybe sometimes an old-school calculator), like we do nowadays. I rarely use textbooks to prepare for exams. Google is my textbook. YouTube is my ultimate tutor.

As a modern Uzbek saying goes: “Savolingni Google amakidan so’ra! [Ask it from Uncle Google. He knows everything!]”

Does a programmer have to know everything related to IT?

“Do know what is SVG?” one of our teachers asked the whole group today. It was the first lecture of this semester. When nobody replied to his question he paraphrased it: “Who can tell me what Scalable Virtual Graphics is?”
“We don’t know,” I said.
“But you have to know. You are Informatics students,” he responded as if being frustrated.

It’s like asking Economics students “What was the GDP of Bulgaria in 2008?” If they cannot immediately respond to the question, teachers be like “What a shame! You are Economics students!”

Or it is like asking Law students “Which article of the United States constitution most conspicuously opposes executive order recently signed by Donald Trump? Seriously?! You don’t know?! But you are Law students!”

Whenever we have trouble with some IT thing, we keep recieving a slap in the face implied in the phrase “But you are Informatics students!” I’ve heard it a million times for the past 2 years at the University.

I heard that phrase even twice today. The second one was thrown at us by our Math teacher at his lecture in the morning, when one of my fellow students was having trouble with Excel. “How can you have problems with Excel?! You are Informatics!!!” he exclaimed. [facepalm].

To be honest with you, sometimes it is really irritating. Obviously, compared to other students we are supposed to be more aware of the IT concepts. And we indeed have relatively much knowledge in technology field. However this does not necessarily mean that we should be able to instantly answer absolutely any question related to computers. Please, do not assume that programmers are all-knowing!

How a Kazakh and an Uzbek decieved a metro ticket inspector

I was coming back home, with two of my fellows, from sales training. As we entered the subway car and stood in front of the door, an inspector, who checks validity of passenger tickets, stepped in after us.

We recognized the inspector by his black uniform and a bag, which almost all inspectors wear underneath their beer bellies.

The doors were still open. Typically, inspectors won’t check pessangers until the doors are not slammed shut and subway starts moving. It took roughly 5-6 seconds for everybody to enter the car and for the doors to close.

Here is what happened during those 5-6 seconds.

All three of us stopped talking as soon as we noticed the inspector walk in. He stood a meter away from us, by the metro entrance door waiting for the doors to close. I was totally relaxed, since I had no problems with my public transport ticket. Nor did our Kazakh friend. But the Uzbek fellow forgot to buy one for this month.

Free riding is charged with at least 800 Czech korunas (more than $30). It’s a significant amount of money for a student. It might be spent to fill our refrigerator with food that is good enough to survive half a month.

The guy from Kazakhstan is a genius. He did something that I could never do. He immediately noticed how my Uzbek friend’s face changed from a “regular face” to a “worrying face” when the Uzbek saw the inspector. The Kazakh fished HIS OWN ticket out of his wallet and handed it to the Uzbek in such an inconspicuous way that even I didn’t spot it, although I stood just next to them. Then Yernar (the Kazakh) turned around and slowly walked a few steps away into the crowd. He knew that inspectors usually check only a few people around them. They are just not able to control everybody.

Here is what happens afterwards.

When the doors close and metro starts to move, the inspector shows a metallic yellow-and-red badge (confirming that he is really an inspector) and says something in Czech. I understood from his body language that he asks for my ticket. I hand him my ticket. He checks it with special equipment, gives the ticket back to me saying “Děkuji [Thanks]“.
Then he asks for Doniyor’s ticket, who is standing just next to me. The serious inspector checks it. Hands it back saying “Děkuji”.

The inspector controlled a few other passengers in that subway car. When we arrived at the next station, he got off. He never checked the Kazakh.

Yernar walked out of the crowd towards us with a smile on his face. The Uzbek gave Yernar’s ticket back and said: “Спасибо, брат! Как я мог забыть купить билет за этот месяц?! [Thanks, bro! How could I forget to buy a ticket for this month?!]”

I admire Yernar’s loyalty. If my UFC coach would know him in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, I bet my coach would say with his gangster voice: “Give me two more of such guys, and I will take the whole town under my control.”

My peculiar driving instructor

I was driving back to downtown. He says “Turn left here. Check the traffic sign warning about children. Reduce the gear.”
I say “Okay” and reduce speed.
“This is a strange street,” he says as we enter a long narrow street with houses on sides.
“Why strange?” I ask.
“Because this is a children’s house,” he says pointing at a kindergarden on the left.
“And just next the children’s house is a men’s house”
“Men’s house?” I ask being rather confused.
“You know…”
“You mean brothel?”
“Yes,” he laughs.
“Agreed: that is really strange,” I say smiling.
“Maybe they figured it’s convinient for men: after leaving children to children’s house, they can immediately go to men’s house just next door,” he laughs.

Incidentally, my instructor looks pretty well for his age. He is nearly 60. He owns the driving school at which I am learning.

“Slow down at the pedestrian zone: a girl is crossing the road. It would be a pity to kill such beauty,” he said.
I thought: “That’s rather weird joke”
“Besides,” he continued. “There is an awful lot of people nowadays who commit a suicide in Prague. Take a look at that bridge over there. It is a popular place for those who want to finish their lives.” He stressed the word “popular” to sound hilarious. In fact, it was indeed funny, because this word is not usually used in such negative context.
“Do you know why this bridge is a favourite place for them?” he went ahead. “Because it’s a quick death. When they jump down, they will hit tram wires right there [he points at them] in the air and their bodies split in two. When police officers arrive to the spot, they collect the pieces of their bodies.”
“Man… that’s creepy,” I said. I didn’t understand why he was telling me all of this. Most probably, it is because I’m a cizinec and he enjoys telling me about life in Prague, which I sometimes appreciate.

“Slow down at pedestrian zone,” he said again. “Take a look at this girl crossing the road: she is totally busy looking at the screen of her phone. She doesn’t even care about cars. Maybe she doesn’t care about her life either? What do you think?”
I shrugged.
He said “After all, insurance will pay whopping big amount of money to her family in case of her death. Unless she commits a suicide. If she wants to screw money out of an insurance company, she has to have somebody kill her.” He laughed after these words.
I did not know what to say, I was absolutely stunned by his weird joke and did not take my eyes off the road. “Man, you sound so crazy,” I said.

When we finished the driving class, we went inside the school to sign some pieces of paper.
“Abdullah,” he says looking at me. “I woke up today in the morning, looked at mirror and you know what I noticed?”
“What?” I ask.
He touched his large stomach with his both hands and said, “I noticed that I am pregnant.”
Two ladies in the room started laughing. He looked at them and started laughing as well. He wanted to impress the women and he did it.
“Do you think it is a boy or a girl?” I said playingly.
“I think, it’s twins.”
“Man, you are crazy.”

How to bribe a professor?

After leaving school, my schoolmates dispersed to various high schools across the town. Some went to high schools specialized in banking, some went to aviation schools, some went to high schools called “lyceums”, where students recieve help with preparations for getting admission to higher educational establishments.

We hung out with ex-classmates from time to time. I remember once my friend, who was learning at civil engineering high school at the time, told me how they bribed teachers over there.
“During sessiya I enter the teachers office, take a seat in front of him and he asks me exam questions,” my schoolmate would describe the scene. “Obviously, I cannot answer his questions. So, in a delicate way I offer him a bribe.” I loved the way he said “in a delicate way”.
I ask my childhood friend “And how much did you give?”
“Three thousand sums,” he responded. “It is good enough to pass the subject. If you want a ‘very good’ grade, it’ll cost you four thousand sums. For ‘excellent’ – five thousand.”
“They even have a price list?!” I said bursting into laughter.
“Yes, they do,” he replied smiling. “Well, teachers will never say the price in your face, but everybody knows how much a certain subject costs.”
“What kind of civil engineers are you and all of your schoolmates are going to become? I would never venture to live in a building that is constructed by graduates from that school,” I mocked at him.

Recently I had a swift discussion on education systems with someone who got his education in the States.
“Seriously? You used to bribe a TEACHER?!” he seemed not to believe my words.
“Well, I did not. Because I never had to study at Uzbek University. But I heard lots of stories from my friends how they bribed teachers to pass subjects. They bribe to enter University, they bribe to pass subjects during studies, they even graduate with a bribe.”
“That is kind of insane. What is the point of studying then?”
“Some people just need a piece of paper, as a confirmation that they are ‘educated’.”

Now that I am struggling with Math at University, I start thinking about the words that some of my street brothers used to tell me: “There is no person who won’t accept money; rather there are people who don’t know the art of giving it.”