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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Horseback riding

One day over six months ago, I made a decision.  I used to ride horses a very long time ago, but had to stop when I was a teenager.  I've always missed riding, and have tried to ride when I've had the chance, but I haven't had that much opportunity.  When I was younger I didn't have money and as I got older and have had more children, I haven't had the time.  I felt selfish leaving the children every week so I could ride, so I haven't.

But one day I decided that I wanted to ride again.  I spend a lot of time taking care of the children and I finally gave myself permission to do something that I like to do just because I wanted to.  The lovely thing about children getting older is that some flexibility comes back into your daily life.  After making that decision, I realized that I could have my cake and eat it to - not only would I ride, but the children would ride, too. 

We haven't done any sports with the children because of my own laziness.  I don't like running around taking children to activities, and there haven't been that many opportunities anyway.  I briefly considered ballet in Baku until I realized that it would take three hours every week.  We tried to start karate in Dushanbe with a teacher who would come to our house, but I couldn't get the teacher to ever call me back.  So my children haven't done any sports, and they really haven't asked to do them either.

The great thing about horseback riding is that we can all ride together.  I don't have to put the children in classes for their own age, because we are a class entirely on our own.  Since we homeschool and live in a country where you can pay enough money to get what you want, I was able to set up lessons for everyone at once.  I also like horseback riding because it's a sport we can all do together as a family.  And most of all, I like that I can ride with the children and have a little fun of my own.

Brandon brought home a flyer the first week of work, and it was for a quite nice-looking stable.  I wasn't able to set up lessons, however, until we had a car and gear for myself and the children.  The large box of helmets, boots, and tights came a few weeks ago, and the car got registered the week before last, so the last step was setting up the lessons.

I had hired a Russian teacher around the time the car got registered and during our first lesson I had her call the stable.  Our teacher, Elmira, had been recommended by a friend who also mentioned that Elmira had helped her out with getting things arranged for a birthday party.  She was happy to help, and by the end of the session we had lessons set up for that Friday.

Friday morning we all put on our brand-new matching riding tights, matching paddock boots, and matching helmets.  Elmira showed up at 8:15 to come to the stable with us and act as interpreter, and we headed over.  Thankfully it's only three miles from our house, because Tashkent is a big city and it could have been a quite a lot further.

We showed up, waited around a bit, and then the children got to mount up.  I missed half the lessons because I was busy filling out forms, paying money, and making sure I understood the payment system, lesson scheduling, and how to change lessons if we were going to be out of town.  Every place has their own system, and every country their own way of setting up systems, and what might make sense to you isn't necessarily what makes sense to someone else.  Add in the translating from Russian to English and back again and it took quite a while.  I was very glad to have Elmira's help; I'm pretty sure it would have been a disaster mess if I had tried to do it on my own.

Meanwhile the children were learning how to mount, sit, use the reins, and do exercises on the back of their horses.  Thankfully there was a girl who could speak English to translate some of the directions, and miming accomplished the rest.  At the end of the lesson, almost everyone pronounced it fun, and Edwin, as usual, pronounced it horrible. 

We finished the morning with my own lesson, which reminded me that I never was a great rider and twenty years absence hasn't made me any better.  But I'm old enough that I (mostly) don't care whether or not I look fantastic and I just enjoy doing it even if I'm pretty lousy.  I was able to remember how to post and canter and I didn't fall off when I lost a stirrup, so I guess that's a good enough start for now.  The good news it that I'll have lots of time to work on it!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Car!

Thursday night Brandon pulled into our garage.  We haven't had anything parked in it for the last six weeks except bikes, so it was pretty cluttered with car seats, strollers, lawn mowers (we have three), yard equipment, and toys.  I cleaned everything up so that he could park our much-beloved and much-destroyed Honda Pilot at the third home it's had overseas.

The car has been in Tashkent for longer than we have but it's spent the whole of that time sitting in the embassy parking lot, waiting for bureaucratic processes to declare that we were allowed to drive it.

The processes have been frustratingly slow, especially since we'd been assured that they would be much faster.  First we had to be accredited.  I had turned in paperwork the first week in June to get the process done, but somehow it wasn't done.  I'm not sure if it was pre-paperwork or if I turned it in too late or if it just wasn't turned in, but we were not accredited by the time we arrived, which I thought was supposed to be the plan.

So first we had to get accredited, which is the process by which we legally establish our presence here in Tashkent.  We're not tourists and we're not Uzbeks and we're not working for a company, so the government has to recognize Brandon as a diplomat which allows him and us (because we're his family) to stay here and not get kicked out.  It also affords us some protections from various government processes.

After we got accredited, we had to get Uzbek driver's licenses.  We've never had to get local driver's licenses before, but we do here.  Brandon informed me that we have to have these documents, our American driver's licenses, our accreditation cards, and car documentation whenever we drive, which sounds like a lot of paperwork to me.

So with our accreditation cards and Uzbek licenses in hand, Brandon had to pay the registration fees.  On the day when the fees were ready to be paid, Brandon had forgotten the check book and also enough money to pay with.  I spent a half hour scrambling to figure out how to get the money to him so that he could bring the car home for the weekend, and finally had a friend's driver take it to the embassy and give it to his boss who gave it to Brandon who couldn't get it himself because he was in a meeting.

Brandon took the money down, paid it, and the car was ready to have its plates attached, which required a trip down to a government building to finish the job.  The embassy staff went to start the car and it was dead, which crushed our plans to have the car for the weekend.  They assured Brandon that the mechanic would look at the car first thing on Monday morning, and I made other plans for weekend transportation.

Monday morning the mechanic wasn't at work because of a death in the family.  Tuesday nobody looked at the car.  Wednesday they decided that the battery was dead and charged it.  Thursday morning they put a new battery in the car and Brandon forked over more money.  Thursday afternoon the car got plated and Thursday evening the car made it home.

We celebrated by taking it out Saturday night to a party at the British Ambassador's house followed by dinner.  We have survived reasonably well without a car for the last month an a half, helped out significantly by our sponsors who have an eight-seater minivan and a driver and a willingness to let us use them both (thanks, Sarah!).  Tashkent has an Uber-style app that works with taxis, so that has helped too.  We also live half a kilometer from a grocery store, so that has made getting food a whole lot easier.  And really, six weeks is much shorter than the five months we spent waiting for our car in Baku.  So I shouldn't complain.  But still, it really is great to have a car again!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

School 2018-2019

Tomorrow morning I start school with the children.  This year I've started a different approach to the beginning of school.  Usually the first week of school is completely insane as I try to make everyone do all their school work every day while I rush around trying to answer everyone's questions about the new curriculum, fix the problems with materials, change schedules on the fly, and print out the materials that I forgot to print out earlier.

This year I've decided to have a graduated start.  The children were getting bored (they would disagree with that, but when they start fighting and squabbling, that means they're bored) and I still had things to finish, so I gave them a few subjects to begin that that they could do independently.  I added a few more the second week, and this week (the third week), I'll start schooling them in the areas they can't do independently.

I had planned to have all of the curriculum printed out this year, but my printer decided, after I'd only finished printing out history, that six months was a reasonable life span for a printer and it died.  I've had it with inkjet printers, so I just ordered a laser printer instead.  At this point I don't care about price, I just want to have a printer that isn't constantly having problems.

So I'm not starting all school tomorrow, since I'm still waiting to print out grammar, writing, science, and Latin.  But I will start the school that I have the materials for.

This year I have two children in the grammar stage and two children in the logic stage.  Kathleen is in seventh grade, Sophia in fifth, Edwin in third, and Joseph in first.  Kathleen and Sophia work almost entirely independently; I only teach them grammar.  They have some online classes - both have history and writing online, and Kathleen also has creative writing and music theory.  Sophia has decided to also take science online.

I enjoy the break that online classes give me - I don't have to be everything to everyone and also I don't have to grade their work.  I don't feel that I have been teaching expository writing very well, and I know I can't teach music theory, so it's nice to have someone else's help.  It's also good for them to get used to working for someone other than me.

Edwin is working mostly independently this year.  I teach him grammar and writing, but otherwise he does his work alone and only comes to me with questions.

Joseph is in first grade, so I do pretty much everything with him.  But this year I have a helper with school - Kathleen.  She has been given fewer morning chores and now teaches Joseph his history and science lessons.  They have been working together for two weeks now, and I've been very pleased with how she works with her brother.  He is honestly getting a better lesson with Kathleen because she has more time than I do.  None of my children have ever done the history activities, but so far they have made a cave painting, the whisk and crown of an Egyptian pharaoh, and a Sumerian cuneiform tablet.

Eleanor begins reading this year, which I'm not looking forward to.  Teaching a child to read is one of my bottom three favorite things to teach them, along with potty training and sleep training.  Hopefully Eleanor's cheerful temperament, lack of educational impediments, and my experience will lead to lessons with fewer tears and yelling.  Fingers crossed.

William's schooling this year will be learning how to play without bothering the rest of us.  Hopefully he'll be good at it so that I can take care of the other five children.

In addition to academics, the four oldest will be taking Russian three times a week and piano lessons.  I've arranged for the teachers, so this week we'll be starting everything.

The children have never taken any PE classes, although I've considered it off and on.  I used to ride when I was younger, and when I heard that Tashkent has several stables, I decided on behalf of everyone that our family sport will be horseback riding.  The children will take lessons, I'll get to ride myself, and we won't have any games to ruin our Saturdays.  I imagine that some of them will tell their therapist one day that they never got to choose their own sport, but they can add it to the other list of deprivations that come with part of our family.

I'm looking forward to having an entire school year without interruptions, something that hasn't happened since the 2015-2016 school year.  We're not moving and no babies are being born, so we can just settle down and be very steady.  I'm sure I'll wish for something to mix things up come mid-January, but overall it is nice to be stable.

School gets a little easier every year, and this year I'm going into my seventh year of homeschooling, so I'm hoping that this year won't be too crazy.  I'm a little apprehensive about juggling four different children's needs and education, but I'm very glad to have Kathleen's help.  As with everything in life, we will eventually figure it out and settle into a workable rhythm.  But until that happens, wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Last Ten Percent

We have been in Tashkent for five weeks now and are almost completely unpacked.  I officially unpacked the last box two weeks ago and have spent the last two weeks - between pool dates and water park trips and play dates - organizing and rearranging things to my preference.

By this point ninety percent of my house is arranged and it is almost completely functional.  I have spent the last five weeks pushing hard and getting everything settled exactly the way I want it.  I have spent all of my energy making sure my house and household run the way that I like. 

And it's almost there.  All of the books are in their places, all of the dishes are where they belong, and all of the office supplies are placed in their specific bins.  I have spent hours and hours arranging and organizing clothes, putting together furniture, and finding places for all my backup toiletries.  I have purchased house plants, gotten pictures framed, and found weight lifting equipment. 

But there are still a few things left.  The pictures aren't hung up and still sit in the same corner I put them in almost five weeks ago.  All of the hooks are jumbled up in a cupboard, hanging out with the kitchen clock.  My dining room is half-decorated, with a variety of mirrors being tried out for a variety of spaces and an empty vase waiting for flowers.  The tools all sit next to my storage shelves, half organized and in the same place they were a week ago when I got stopped mid-job.  My consumables shelves are a jumble, having become a dumping ground for everything that doesn't have a home.  The school room is only half-organized and I'm missing half the house plants that I still want to buy.  Brandon has a weight bench but no bar or weights to lift.  The children's school work isn't printed out and their notebooks aren't organized.

Some of these things are still unsettled because I'm missing some key component.  My pictures are un-hung because I'm waiting for a few frames that are coming in the mail.  My hooks are still in the cupboard with the clock because I'm waiting to have all the things hung at once, which is waiting for all of the pictures I want to hang. 

I started to print out the school things this week and was mid-job when my printer stopped working.  I've had a terrible time with printers - I don't think inkjets were made to print out hundreds of pages at a time - and this one only lasted six months.  So I had to buy a new one, which means no science, Latin, grammar, history, grade sheets, or checklists until the new printer comes.  But that's probably okay because I'm waiting on more paper, too. 

Some are because I haven't taken the time to do them - instead of finishing organizing my tools I've been working on organizing things for the new school year.  At least I was until the printer broke.  Same thing with the consumables shelves - they don't loudly demand to be fed three times a day, so they are further down on the to-do list.  Our garage is a total mess because it's too hot to go and organize it.  I figure November will be a great time to do that - and also a good time to finally put our jungle gym up in the yard.

Others are waiting on our car.  I want to buy more plants, dirt, pots, and the rest of Brandon's weightlifting equipment, but I can't do that without a car.  Maybe this week that will happen.  Maybe.

And some are just a pain to do.  Who actually wants to organize that last dark hole anyway?  As long as the stuff isn't in your way, it's fine.

But honestly these things will take another six months to get done.  I have most of the irritations taken care of, and these last few things don't present enough of a problem to take the time to fix them.  School is about to start for real (well, the things we have the supplies for) and then all of my free time will disappear and plants and weights and pictures will suddenly seem less important than recovering from school by the pool with a book.  The house works enough that the final push seems like too much trouble.  Who needs pictures on the wall anyway?  They're just decoration after all. 

But one day the pictures and hooks and clocks and plants and piles of junk will get to me and in a fit of responsible-ness I'll get it all done in a week.  I will put in work orders, request furniture, go to all the bazaars, finally transplant my herbs, buy a few fruit trees, put my storage shelves in order, and finally label everything that can possibly need a label.  The children won't get lunch, we'll eat cold cereal for dinner every night, and Brandon will get ignored all week. 

Then I'll look around and heave a sigh of relief.  Everything will be in it's place, and the nagging voice in the back of my head can find something else to bother me about.  And I'll wonder why I hadn't just buckled down and gotten these things done six months earlier.  But also, I'll know that I'll just do it again the next time we move.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Happy Birthday, Kathleen!

Kathleen turned twelve this week.  Incidentally, William turned 18 months this week.  So if we had been in the US, this Sunday I would have my oldest going to her first week of Young Women's and my youngest going to his first week of nursery.  But as we are in Uzbekistan, my oldest came to the adult's class and so did my youngest.  

It's strange to have my oldest be twelve, that great dividing line (at least in Mormon culture) between a child and a young woman.  Over the past year I've seen that transition happening, which has been a little surprising.  I know logically that eventually all my children will become adults, but it's very strange to see that transition begin for the first time.  I'm sure that this will all be very natural when William turns twelve, but it's a bit of an adjustment to have a daughter who is four inches shorter and half a shoe size smaller than me.  I'm sure it will be even more fun when she is taller than me, which is an inevitability.  

It has been really great to see her mature and grow into her new role as a young woman.  A year ago, she would run off to hide if she knew we were going to clean up the kitchen after dinner.  Now she stays around and asks for more work when her assigned tasks are done - not because she likes cleaning up, but because she knows it is the right thing to do.  She has become a very responsible babysitter and has started teaching Joseph his history and science lessons - and is actually enjoying it (something I have yet to achieve).  I've enjoyed beginning to see her as a helper in raising the children instead of a child to be raised.  

We celebrated her birthday yesterday.  We started the day with Kathleen's choice for breakfast - cinnamon rolls.  After a few chores, including baking a chocolate birthday cake, we swam (yes, the pool is still maintaining its charm).

After a few enjoyable hours of swimming, we went out to dinner.  Kathleen chose Chinese, so I asked around for recommendations and found a very, very hole in the wall restaurant.  It was down an alleyway and very much maintained its converted garage aesthetic (I think it's actually the most sketchy restaurant I've ever eaten at), but quite delicious.  We found amazingly good Chinese food in Dushanbe because there were quite a lot of Chinese in Dushanbe.  I didn't figure I'd find food like that again, but was happy to find food just as good in this scary-looking restaurant (the picture is deceiving).  

Kathleen wanted to go to a local amusement park (think permanent county fair), so we tried out Tashkent's newest park, Ashgabat.  I had forgotten that Tashkent is a much larger city than Dushanbe (about four times the population) with a more prosperous population, which would naturally translate to more crowded places.  

We only made it on about four or five rides and it was time to go home before everyone turned into pumpkins and William broke down from staying up too late.

Our car was finally registered on Friday, but when it was time to start it, there was a problem with the electrical system and we did not get to take it home.  So we had to depend on taxis.  Luckily seat belts and capacities are the usual mere suggestion that they are in this part of the world and we were able to squeeze all eight of us into sedans.  Our last car, however, was not really a full-sized sedan and the driver would only allow Brandon in the front seat.  So other seven of us got to squeeze in the back for the fifteen minute ride home.  Luckily the car did not crash and we made it home safely.

We finished the evening (very late) with cake and presents.  Kathleen was very happy with her two presents - a doll house made by Sophia and a Ken doll from her grandmother.  The mail didn't come this week so Kathleen is getting a late present from us.  

It was a very good day, and Kathleen was quite happy to finally be twelve.  Happy Birthday, Kathleen!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Saturdays are So Much Better with a Pool

We still don't have our car.  It has been in the country longer than we have been, but it's still not registered, which has been pretty frustrating.  I had to hire a driver, twice for one mail day, to pick up all of the packages that I've been mailing since we've gotten here.  Every time I have to go somewhere I have to arrange some sort of ride.  We haven't gone anywhere as a family other than church.

Normally this would be really lame on Saturdays because we like to go adventuring on Saturdays.  Well, at least when it's cooler we like to go on adventures.  When it's hot, we just like to swim.  It's hard enough to get everyone to hike when it's beautiful outside, but making everyone hike when it's blistering is an idea not even I want to consider.

But now that we have a pool, not having a car makes no difference.  It's not like we'd be going anywhere on Saturday anyway when it's 104 degrees outside.  I can't think of anything I want to do at that temperature other than sit around in a pool.  And when it's a pool that is in my backyard with only my family in it?  Even better.

This Saturday was a busy Saturday.  Brandon and I finally assembled all of the IKEA beds that have been in pieces leaned up against the bedroom walls.  Our house has a couple of grassy patches outside the wall that hadn't been touched since we moved in four weeks ago, so Brandon cleaned that up.  The children tidied up the entire house.  I took Eleanor to a birthday party.  Usually all of these things would mean that we wouldn't have time to go somewhere fun.

But since we have a pool, we were able to eat dinner by the pool, swim, and still have time for a movie.  When were in Dushanbe, we would spend at least an hour and a half collecting things, driving, parking, walking, sunscreening, and then doing the reverse (well, except for the sunscreen) after we were done.  It really didn't make sense to swim at all in the afternoon.  But here it was as easy as putting on a swimsuit, walking outside, and jumping in the pool.  We don't even have to put on sunscreen as the pool is shaded in the late afternoon.

Eventually the weather will cool down and we will have to find something else to do with our time.  I've heard that Tashkent has some interesting museums and there is even a small trampoline park.  I'm sure we'll enjoy seeing and doing lots of fun things.  But until then, I'm perfectly happy to stay home and enjoy my pool.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Getting the Job Done

Brandon and I have been in the Foreign Service since 2009, and Uzbekistan is the fourth country we've lived in.  Thankfully experience comes with each move and the learning curve eventually flattens out quite a bit.  I feel like this post is the first one where I feel a sense of confidence that I know what I'm doing and don't feel completely lost when it comes to getting things done. 

A lot of this is due to the fact that Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are very similar countries.  Tajiks are more Persian and Uzbeks are more Turkish, but the cultures are very close.  It helps that both are former Soviet countries and so the systems are based on the same thing.  My bad Russian helps me out equally well and I recognize the fruits and vegetables and know when they come into season.  

But even with the similarities, a lot of my ease with this transition just comes with hard-won experience.  I was able to get my own account for work orders, so within the first week here I had gotten rid of the furniture I didn't need, received furniture I did need, and had everything moved around the places that I wanted to.  When we were in Cairo, this took at least three months to get done, and I'm pretty sure I didn't even know that I could get more furniture.  

I had a housekeeper arranged before I got here, along with a pool guy.  I knew that the housekeeper would do pretty much whatever she wanted to, despite all my directions, so it didn't cause too much distress (only a few days) when I realized that my entire house was going to get cleaned three times a week.  I said a silent goodbye to my carefully cleaned house and said hello to my constantly cleaned house.  I also knew that the pool guy would show up on random days at random times without any prior notice.  I shrugged my shoulders and appreciated our clean pool.

In Dushanbe, after a year and a half of having insufficient towel storage in the children's bathroom, I finally ordered hooks and had them installed two months later.  I knew that we would leave them there, but didn't care anymore.  I've already ordered over a  dozen sets of hooks, one for each bathroom, several for a coat hanging area, a couple for pool towels outside, and a bunch for hanging up everything possible in our garage.  I also have shelves for the pool house and a pegboard for the kitchen since there's insufficient store for all my pots.  I know that all of these things will be my gift to the next tenant, and I just don't care anymore.  Money is an equal exchange for my sanity.

I've had an increasing list of things that I need to buy in Tashkent.  We don't have a car and I don't know where to get anything.  So I hired a driver and ran him all over Tashkent.  I got a picture framed, bought houseplants (that we will just abandon when we leave), bought weightlifting equipment, and found under counter lights for the kitchen.  By the end of the week, I had installed the lights.  At our last post this would have taken at least six months to get done, and eight if you included installing the lights.

I've taken the children to three summertime activities, hosted a pool day, gone to two birthday parties, attended a spouse coffee morning, gone to a friend's house for dinner, gone shopping at Tashkent's biggest bazaar with friends, and hosted church.  Usually I'm just beginning to talk to people at this point and thinking in vague terms about attending social events.

I'm happy for the experience that has come with our time spent overseas.  I'm happy that I will never be a complete newbie at the foreign service.  And also, I'm glad that I can just get things done.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Crazy Plan that Worked

Last week I found a really great deal.  Embassy employees can order frozen food from the commissary in Germany three or four times a year, and so a lot of people order meat, butter, frozen vegetables, and convenience foods through the frozen food order.  This is also how we get things like Thanksgiving turkeys and bacon.

The downside is, however, that you have to buy everything in cases and it's kind of expensive.  The prices are okay, but there is also a 10-20% surcharge for shipping.  I'm cheap and I've also gotten used to cooking with locally available ingredients, so I usually don't order much from the frozen food order. 

Also, it almost feels like cheating.  So many of the things I can buy - Haagen Das ice cream, steaks, chicken pot pies - are things that we enjoy while we're in America.  They're expensive even in America, so it's not like I'd be buying them on a regular basis even if we did live in America.  So to just have all of those things just sitting in my freezer asking to be eaten seems weirdly wrong.  How can there be America treats if we have the same treats in Tashkent?  Strange, I know. 

Last week a post popped up in the Tashkent embassy Facebook group I'm a member of.  Lots of people are leaving right now and they're trying to get rid of all the food they overbought.  Estimating is always a chancy thing at best, and when you're buying food by the case, it's even dicier.  I never move anywhere without having extra unopened food that I'm getting rid of.  It breaks my skinflint heart every time I do it, but it's just part of this life.

A member of the embassy community was leaving and they had a lot of frozen food for sale.  I had seen the same person posting about their food before, but we were still in DC.  There was still food left and they were getting desperate, so the prices had gotten really good.  Like $1 a pound for all the meat good.  Even a cheapskate like me couldn't pass up a deal like that.  Never mind that I can't remember the last time that I actually bought and cooked steak for myself (I think that was when we lived in Utah), for $1 a pound, I can find a recipe that uses steak.

So I told him I'd take the whole lot and only afterwards remembered that 1. I didn't know where he lived and 2. We don't have a car. 

Tashkent has an amazing app called MyTaxi, which is like Uber, but for regular taxi drivers.  I think Dushanbe also got it right before we left, but we never used it.  I had never used it in Tashkent either, but with meat going for $1 a pound, I figured it was a good time to see how well it worked.

So I got the address from my meat-friend, and one evening after the children went to bed, Brandon and I used the app to call a taxi.  Within five minutes, the car was at the door.  We gave the address to the driver, who had no idea where it was.  But, since we don't live in Egypt, he called someone who did know where it was.  I had looked up the address on my phone also, so between the two of us, we were able to make it to what looked like the right house.

When we rang the doorbell, the door opened and we walked in to find out that yes, we had found a house where embassy people lived and yes, they were the people who were looking for us to take a freezer full of food off their hands.

After taking the food we had agreed to buy, they gave us the rest of the food just to get it out of the house - including homemade pesto, frozen plums, borsch, and persimmon puree - all for $90.  Brandon and I filled all the bags we brought and then loaded it into the taxi that was waiting outside for us.  We chatted a little while with the couple - the wife had done a TDY to Dushanbe while we were there - and then took off back home. 

When the driver pulled up, he informed us of the fare that was listed on his phone - 18,200 som.  We gave him 20,000 and then hauled our loot in the door.  Brandon turned to me and asked with a stricken look how much we had just paid in order to get this food.  I smiled at him, "Two dollars and sixty cents."  He looked at me in disbelief.  I high-fived him and then we filled our freezer full of delicious frozen food.

I'm looking forward to some really tasty pot roast in the very near future.