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jahongir Buston - A travel report by John
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Buston,  Uzbekistan - flag Uzbekistan -  Qoraqalpog¯iston
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jahongir's travel reports

Two Years in Western Uzbekistan

  9 votes
I served two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching English to schoolchildren in a small, remote town in western Uzbekistan. This was not a travel destination, nor was I a tourist, but I did get a chance to see and experience many extraordinary things.

I lived in a very small town called Buston, or Bo'ston as it was written on the signs. It is the administrative center for the Ellikqala region, which is part of Karakalpakistan, a semi-autonomous republic in the westernmost portion of the country. Culturally, however, the town is much more closely related to neighboring Khorezm province (viloyat) and is made up of roughly 40% Uzbek, 40% Kazakh and 15% Turkmen with the remaining population comprised of such ethnicities as Daghestani, Armenian, Georgian, Russian, Korean and at the time I lived there...American (me)! The countryside is pure desert, although the Former Soviet Union had built massive canals that transport water through the area and eventually contribute to draining the Aral Sea, which has become an environmental catastrophe of epic proportions. Nearby are the ruins of several ancient fortresses, which are believed to have been inhabited by nomadic tribes and those of the Genghis Khan type. Actually he travelled right through here back in the day and this was part of the Silk Road. The country's economy is heavily relient on cotton, and Buston has a cotton factory as well as Eltex, a denim factory that produces fairly decent quality jeans thanks in part to Italian equipment. Other jobs in the town include government-related jobs, education, bazaar workers and mainly farming.

Favourite spots:
There aren't many activities or places to hang out here, but by far my favorite place was about 45 minutes away by car...Ayaz Qala, one of the largest fortresses in the area. The number one activity adults engaged in was going to other people's houses for dinner, which was a big event and almost always ended with lots of empty bottles of local vodka! This was not reserved for weekends, and wasn't always planned in advance.

What's really great:
Getting to know the country, culture and language was very important to me and I was able to make some local friends and hopefully made a difference in a couple people's lives, not so much by tangible items but with cultural exchange, a bit of language assistance (more them teaching me than anything) and of course the chance for them to see someone from another country and vice versa.

By far, the best thing to do here is to visit the nearby fortress ruins. Ayaz Qala is the closest, and there are others not too terribly far away (Toproq Qala, Guldursun). And there are some that are in the desert and hard to get to.

If you're in a pinch and don't know anyone in town, you should be able to stay at the local hotel (mehmonxona) downtown.

Go to Urgench for nightlife, unless you are invited to someone's house. No clubs here!

There was a bar that opened after I'd been there for a year, but it was on shaky ground and always a little iffy. They sell vodka (aroq) in the bazaar, and if you're really lucky, beer.

If you are unlucky enough to be stuck here hungry, you could try one of the local oshxonas near the bazaar. There was a bakery across the road from the bazaar that had freshly baked breads and rolls every morning.

Other recommendations:
There is a local museum that displays items pertaining to the administrative district. They are probably sporadically open but for a tiny town it wasn't that bad. Everything is in Uzbek or Russian, but you can look at the pictures!

Published on Wednesday June 30th, 2004

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Tue, Feb 12 2008 - 09:54 AM rating by krisek

John, I will be going to Uzbekistan (I hope) in August 2008. Thanks for your report, a valuable pieces of info. You think much has changed since you left? U got pix?

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