Missing my train in Tashkent and finding the real Borat

Toshkent trainState of panic

It was a lot more difficult to get to Bukhara than I originally expected due to some complications at the train station, which turned out to be the most panic stricken event I’ve had travelling the world.

After arriving plenty early to catch my train, one of the security guards guided me to the wrong track.  Once the wrong train arrived, I headed to my carriage expecting to begin my overnight journey to Bukhara, when the new guard told me I had to go to original track I was at…and the train was leaving NOW.  So I immediately bolted back to track 3.  Somehow in the process of scrambling, I dropped my passport and didn’t realize it until I got right in front of the train.  Knowing I couldn’t get on that train without it, I sprinted back to track 6 frantically asking all the guards if they picked up a passport, realizing the train to Bukhara was going to depart any second.   After five minutes with no luck, I was depressingly brining myself to the realization that I missed my train AND lost my passport.  The only thoughts going through my head were all the Visa’s and stamps I had collected, now gone, and the major hassle it would be to get back to Kazakhstan and then to Germany, without my passport and visas.   Damn not a great way to start my Uzbekistan adventure 😦

I headed back to track 3 and to my surprise the guard had my passport…whew.  It still didn’t make up for the fact that he guided me to the wrong track, but a small consolation.  At least I wasn’t going to be an unidentifiable foreigner a long way from home.   Now I just needed to figure out how I was going to get to Bukhara.

The Real Borat

Tashkent Central

After things settled down, the guard introduced me to the train station manager, an extremely nice Uzbek man named Ghulam.  He wanted to know what had happened and do anything possible to help.  He did everything from correspond with my travel agent over the phone, get me to cashier’s office to get money back for the ticket, book me a room at the train station hotel, and lead me through the many security checkpoints (this is a former Soviet country after all) in a breeze.   We were each other’s company over the course of an hour and he was super friendly, telling me about his life, his family, asking questions about America and my travels.  In one of the most surreal moments since being in Central Asia, I couldn’t help but thinking that the real Borat was not from Kazakhstan, but from Uzbekistan, and his name was Ghulam.  Here are three things that made me think of this

  • His look.  There is a lot more Mongolian influence in Kazakhstan, while people in Uzbek look more Russian or Caucus.  While he wasn’t a spitting image of Borat, he could at least pass.
  • His speech.  The way Ghulam phrased certain things like, “I love my wife”, or “Listen to me, my friend” made me think that Sasha Baren Cohen spent serious time in Tashkent when honing in his accent from the role.
  • The last one and the real kicker, was when we started talking about international women.  And could you guess what he kept referencing for attractive American women???? PAMELA freaking ANDERSON.  No joke.

With all that said, Ghulam was very different from the Real Borat in a variety of ways, not limited to:

  • He wasn’t an idiot or culturally unaware.
  • He studied in Europe and has a great job as a manager.
  • He speaks 7 languages.

I do not want to disrespect Ghulam or the Uzbek people in any way, but I thought the story was pretty funny and had to share it.

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