“Are you sleeping?” I asked Sam when he picked up the phone today. I was walking to University building at 08:10 in the morning.
“No, I am not. I just woke up,” he responded  with a voice as if he was still asleep. Most conspicuously, it was me who woke him up.
“Look, man,” I said, “we have less than 2 hours left until the exam. How about meeting at the Economics faculty to prepare together?”
“That’s a great idea,” he said.
“I will be on the first floor.”
“Give me 20 minutes.”

After 20 minuts he called me back and said, “I am in the building. Where are you?”
He was punctual. That is what I love about Sam: there is no difference between his words and his actions. He keeps his promises, even the small ones.

“The first floor,” I said, “come to the place just in front of the main entrance.” It was a cozy spot with a bar and high-legged chairs. Nice place for a group work.
“Okay, tell me: what are the main factors of production?” I asked him. After he responded to this question, he asked me a question: “What are the key determinants of the aggregate supply?” We kept reviewing economic concepts in this way.

Selva came a little late, when only 40 minutes left until the exam. “Are you ready for the exam, guys?” asked Selva.
“Kind of,” I responded making fun of us. “Alright, Selva, tell me: what is Economics?”
“Man, that’s easy,” said Selva, “Economics is… ahhh… ehhh… uhmmm… F**k!!!” He forgot the defition.
Sam and I started laughing. Sometimes we fail to explain simple stuff. That being said, we all successfully passed the exam.

How much does a woman cost?

If you ever studied abroad, you must know how it is like to live in a dormitory. Rooms are so small and narrow that sometimes you don’t have much space to breathe easily. I was invited to an Uzbek dinner in one of those small rooms yesterday.

The room is designed for only two students to fit. We were seven people in this room: six guys – all good friends of mine – and a lady – one of the guy’s girlfriend. At the middle of the room was a table. The table was “decorated” with salad, spoons, cups, coke, bread, and of course our beloved national meal Plov.

As a famous Uzbek saying goes: “Perhaps our place is narrow, but our heart is wide.”

The friendly atmosphere was just great in the room. In spite of the narrowness of the room and despite being at the center of Europe, I felt pretty much at home – at the very heart of Uzbekistan.

We finished eating after 20 minutes, but we kept talking the next 3 hours. We love talking. We love talking about all kinds of stuff, starting from world politics all the way until new fashion trends on travel bags. But most of the time we just make fun of each other.

I checked up with my watch. It was 23:10. “I have to get up at 6 tomorrow,” I thought.

While others were still talking, I stood up quietly and started cleaning the table. I figured “They invited me. They were amazing hosts. They even cooked Plov. I should at least wash up, to show my gratitude.”

I took the dirty dishes off the table, went to the kitchen, which was a narrow 3 meterish place with two wash-basins. Sponge… detergent… hot water. I started washing up.

After several seconds the lady showed up, leaving the guys in the room.


“Let me do the dishes,” she said.

“No-no, I will do it. Don’t worry about it,” I responded without looking at her.

“Why?!” she seemed to be nervous for some reason.
I didn’t know what to say. “I will wash up.” I said being confused, “Take care of the table, if you want.”

She said “Okay” and brought some more dirty cups and spoons from the room.

“I wanted to do the dishes when the guys are done with their conversation,” she made an ‘excuse’, grumbling.

I thought “Why is she making an excuse?”

“Abdulla, let me do the wash-up,” she said once again. “Seriously. I am not feeling comfortable.”

“Use that wash basin, if you want,” I said pointing at the basin just next to me.

“Oh yeah! I didn’t think about it.”

While we were both at the wash basins, we talked a little bit about her graduation from the University. Then I thought “What makes my friend’s girlfriend feel not comfortable, if I wash up?”

So I asked her: “Why don’t you feel comfortable to sit with the guys now?”

“Well, you know…,” she said not looking at me and carrying on with scraping the plates. “I am a girl and I am kind of supposed to do the house chores. The guys [in the room] would look at me like at a girl with awfully unappropriate manners, if YOU, a man, would do the wash-up and I, a woman, would sit with them chilling.”

For some reason, this compelled me to think about my mom.

“Interesting…. But don’t you feel “low” and inferior?” I asked being curious about her personal feelings about this.

“Absolutely I feel inferior! I feel sometimes very low,” she said smiling. Sometimes people smile in order to hide their deep feelings.

These feelings are, most of the time, associated with childhood traumas, and by smiling we hold ourselves from bursting into tears.

I don’t think that this lady was about to burst into tears. Nor do I think that she had some childhood traumas connected with washing up. But I do think that at least she felt really bad about the current situation.

There was a long pause after that.
“How about the country you come from?” I asked. “Would you feel and do the same if you had a similar situation in Tatarstan?”
“Well, there are some other cultural nuances, but basically – yes: that would be the same problem,” she responded.

This is the approximate attitude towards women in my country and Tatarstan.

And I am going to guess, it’s a similar case in Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, China, India, Bangladesh, African countries, Middle East, perhaps even in some parts of the western world. I believe this is really unfair towards women. Why in the world should they ever feel inferior? Women are those who brought you and me to this world.

Think about this: When mothers give birth to a child, they endure such pain that they almost die. Don’t they deserve a little more respect?

Beautiful blonde in library

She was sitting several tables away, with her back to me, in front of a computer screen. Her hair was just gorgous: long, thick, and yellow. Not a regular yellow, though – a different yellow. I don’t even know how to describe this charming color.

“Man, you have to focus,” I said to myself. “You came to the library in order to study, remember?” (Yes, I talk to myself sometimes).
I was preparing for my Math exam.

I didn’t notice how quickly 2 hours passed. Only several students were still sitting in the library, including that blonde. “We are closing the library,” the worker said hinting that we should leave the hall. Everyone went out. She was the first to leave the library. I was the second.

It was dark and snowing outside, so she put on her cap and gloves. So did I.

I thought, “How can I start the conversation?”
I sped up my pace. When I almost reached her I said, “Hey!” Music was playing in her headphones, so she didn’t hear me. “Hi!” I said again smiling in her face. She noticed me and smiled me back. It was such a relief to see her smile to me. “Hello!” she responded, taking the headphones off, with a calm and pretty low voice. She had big blue eyes.

“You have beautiful hair,” I said.
“Oh, thank you,” she laughed.
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“From Russia. And you?”
“I come from Uzbekistan.”
“Uzbekistan? You should speak Russian then?”
“Yes, I do speak Russian. But… not very well.”
“Not very well…,” she repeated. “But you speak English very well.”
“Thank you. What do you study?” I asked her as we walked along the road.
“Ehmm… I don’t really know how my faculty is called in English.”
“Say it in Czech or Russian. Perhaps I will understand.”
“Horse breeding… I see. I didn’t know we have such faculty at our University.”
“And what do you study?”
“Computer Science.”
“Wow! That must be very difficult.”
“Well, not really. So long as you have some interest in IT, it’s not difficult at all.”
“And what are your plans for the future?”

I didn’t expect such personal question at that point, so I was a little bit surprised.
“Shall I tell you my detailed plan for the next 10 years?” I asked playingly.
“Well, yes. I mean, if you want.”
A quick thought flashed in my head: “What’s the point of hiding my plans?”
“Alright,” I said, “in 2 years I want to get my Bachelor degree. In 4 years I want to graduate from Master studies. The next 6 years I want to work for Business Consultancy company, like Deloitte, as Business Analyst in IT sphere. When I am 30 years old, I dream and plan to run my own company.”
“Wow! That’s so great that you have a definite plan.”
“How about your plans?”
“Me? Ehmmm…”
Then there was a meaningful pause for several seconds. I felt her facial expression changed. She lowered her head, as if pondering about something.
“What?” I said as if being surprised.
“I will tell you later. Not now,” she responded looking up at me.
She sighs.
“Is it so complicated?”
“Well, yes. Kind of.”

More than a week passed after that conversation. Since then, I have seen her several times from a distance in the campus. Whenever I see her, she is always alone. I have never seen her talking to anyone. Now I am getting curious: what is it that makes the life of a blue-eyed young blonde so “complicated”?

Call for prayer

It was still 30 minutes left until the prayer time, when I entered the mosque. I took a seat at the warm corner of the mosque, decided to use that 30-minute window to prepare for my Math exam. So, I fished my tablet out of my bag, opened the University system, downloaded the needed lecture, and started reading. When 10 minutes left for the prayer, I moved closer to the mosque microphone. In this way, I showed the other several guys sitting in the hall that I want to make the Adhan (a call for a prayer).
Traditionally, if you are in a muslim country, there is a person in each mosque responsible for making a “call”, which is called “Adhan”, for each of five daily prayers. Since I am in Czech Republic, where the muslim population constitutes only around 5000 people, poorly financed mosques over here cannot afford to employ such “Adhan worker”. But you know what, that is even great.
Before each prayer there is always someone who volunteers to make a call. I consider making the call as an honor. Sometimes there is even a sort of a “friendly competition” between brothers: “I will make the call” a brother would claim. “You made the call last time. It’s my turn now” another brother would mess with his pell.
I was sitting under the microphone, reading Math lecture slides. I look at the digital clock hanging on the wall: 2 minutes left. I could hear people entering the mosque behind me. I look at the clock again: 1 minute left. It’s almost the time for a making the call.
At this moment a brother passes by me and stands just in front of the microphone. He looks at me. I look at him. I smile and say “Will you let me make the Adhan?”. He smiles back to me and says “Of course I will. You were the first to come into the mosque”. Anis, who was sitting next to me, started laughing after these words. I stood up and made the call. Anis led the prayer of 15 people. After 5 minutes we finished the prayer and everyone went out of the mosque: some to work, some to university, some home.
I am just in love with the friendly atmosphere in a mosque. And I feel so bad about its negative reputation brainwashed by mass media.

“Abdullani uylantiramiz!” or My beloved son, I’d like to introduce your wife to you

I am 20 years old. Because I went to school at an unusually early age, most of my schoolmates are now 21 or 22.
In my motherland, Uzbekistan, it is “inappropriate” not to be married after the age of 25. If you are still not married when you are 24, when you see someone in the street, the first thing they ask is “Qachon endi?!”, which means “When will you eventually get married?“. On one hand, it can be incredibly pleasant to be asked that question. On the other hand, sometimes it is really irritating.
Sabine, a nice german lady who lived in Uzbekistan for 6 years straight, could never make sense of this peculiar culture when one of the guys (at our regular German Speaking Club events at Goethe Institut) claimed confidently “I plan to get married when I am 23”. Sabine was always confused: “How can you PLAN to get married? You are not even in a relationship with anyone!”.
Several month ago, one of my close friends in Tashkent messaged me saying “O’rto, uylantiramiz diyishvotti”, which means “Dude, they are saying they will marry me soon”. Yesterday, another true friend of mine, who is studying in Malaysia, told me that he is going back to Uzbekistan for a couple of months, justifying his trip by saying “To’y boshlab quyishibdi!!!”, which means “They started my wedding!!!”.
I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry. Chances are, one day my beloved grandma will state at a family dinner “Abdullani uylantiramiz!”, which means “We are going to marry Abdullah”. 
Don’t get me wrong, though. I am proud to be Uzbek. I love Uzbek culture entirely. But no culture is perfect, isn’t it?

Why would you admire a student?

The last two months I have been doing my studies only at coffeshops. It’s so peaceful and great “learning” atmosphere in there. Since I have been visiting predominantly only a couple of places, people started recognizing me in those cafés.
For instance, earlier this week as I was doing my online GMAT course with my iPad, a notepad and a pen, and a cup of tea in a coffeeshop in the downtown, Umar enters the café. He notices me and comes up to say hello with a smiling face. After some time he offers to buy me a lunch. I respectfully refuse. Yet, he insists and brings Turkish dessert Baklava onto my table.
Another day, Ribah – a worker at the café – gave me a cup of fresh banana juice for free. Another day, though, a guy, whom I barely know, put a few banknotes into my pocket regardless to my hostility, saying “For your lunch, brother”. They are all working people with families, being old enough to be my father. One of them, who seems to be freaking rich, once told me with such a happy face “I admire you when I look at you studying”. “Why would you admire a student?”, I asked. “Because I’ve never had a chance to be one”, he replied.
On one hand, I feel so good when people care about me. On the other hand, sometimes I have a feeling that they look at me like a “hungry student”, who is in sore financial need. I don’t enjoy the latter feeling of accepting a “charity”.
And if anything, I myself would be willing to help students financially if I am well off in the future.

Can a punctuality be exgegerated?

Last week a lady called me and invited me to a so-called “Success Seminar”, which is going to take place on Friday at 15:30 in Hotel International. She told me to write down her number, time and place of appointment. “I can get your number later from a friend of mine, that’s no problem”, I said. “It’s better if you write it down right now”, she insisted. It took me a few moments to fish a piece of paper out of my bag. “We will meet at 14:55 outside the hotel”, the lady repeated, “At 14:55. At the Hotel International on Friday at 14:55”. Okay-okay… Today she called me again and told me there are changes in plans, and we are not meeting at 14:55, but at 15:00.

These are Czech drivers

“Stop the car on a side of the road for a minute, please.”, said my driving instructor yesterday when the car was going at the speed of 40 kilometers per hour on the third gear, “I have to make a phone call. Check the right mirror. Don’t forget to turn on the left blinker when the car is parked on a two-line way”. I stopped the car and turned on the left blinker.
10 meters away from us was a traffic sign that prohibitted parking by the road, which qualified for the distance between the sign and the first intersection after it. In other words, it was prohibitted to park within that part of the road. Yet right after that sign there was a greyish BMW parked. “Why is that car parked over there? I thought it is not allowed to do that after this sign”, I told Petr pointing at the prohibition sign, when he finished his call. I assumed I missed some other traffic sign that allowed the car to park in there. “Well… These are Czech drivers”, he said blushing, “You know, some folks in this country just don’t care about the rules”. I could see him feeling bad for his people. “It’s the same problem in Uzbkistan, where I come from”, I replied smiling. He looked tremendously relieved. Some day he should really visit Tashkent and watch the crazy Uzbek drivers. I bet he will never feel bad for the Czech after that.

Trip to Deloitte

As a finalist of the Start-up contest, last month I won a voucher worth of 1000 euros for the services of Deloitte – the multinational business consultancy company. I emailed one of the Deloitte directors and set up an appointment for Thursday at 15:30 at Deloitte premises.
At 15:15 I was at the entrance to the office building, on the 6th floor of which are Deloitte offices. “Hello! Who do you have an appointment with?”, asked me a nice receptionist. “Mr Joerg Wiederhold at Deloitte”, I replied. She asked me to fill in the form and showed me the way to the elavator. As I was going up in the transparent elavator, I could see office blocks of other companies on each floor. It really felt like I was about to enter the heart of business world, like in American movies.
“Come with me!”, said a very polite lady in the lobby of the 6th floor and I followed her to a meeting room. “Mr Wiederhold will be with you in a minute. Do you want something to drink?”, she asked when we stepped in the meeting room. “A glass of water, please”, I said.
The room was smallish and pleasantly pragmatic: 6 comfortable chairs at the small round table, a cabin with stationaries at the corner of the room, and tall flower in a flower pot (with some leafs on the carpet) at the other corner of the room. The color of the walls, the table, and the cabin was the same – white.
I took a seat, set the iPad with my meeting plan in Evernote in front of my eyes, prepared a small notepad and a pen with WHU symbol on it. I was ready for the meeting with a person, who had over 20 years of experience in business consultancy.
“Hi, Abdullah! It’s good to see you”, he said with the typical german accent, when he entered the room after 4 minutes. He was a tall man with modern black round glasses, like John Lennon’s ones from the Beetles. Before even taking a seat, “Where did you get this pen?!”, he proclaimed, “You can’t have it, unless…”. He didn’t finish his sentence. “This business school is my dream”, I said pointing at the text “WHU” on the pen (WHU – #1 Business school in Germany).
It was a nice start of the meeting. And the rest of it flowed beautifully too. I didn’t have enough time to ask all of my questions, though. But I managed to ask the most important one: “can an extensive work-experience at Deloitte give me all the skills needed to run a successful business of my own?”. And the answer was a confident “Yes!”.