Yes, We Have It, but It Doesn’t Work

Various – Spring 2014

The spring of 2014 I was granted a one semester sabbatical from my college and decided to use this time to travel. I focused our travel plans around witnessing the cherry blossoms in Japan—something I would typically not be able to witness, as I’d ordinarily be teaching. Once Japan travel dates were set, the rest of our plans fell into place. That spring we started in Vietnam, then Japan, the Philippines, and Singapore. This was followed by a week in Beijing for a much needed rest before getting on an overnight train to Xi’an to begin exploring one of the routes of the Silk Road, which would take us across the length of China in a westward direction before entering Kyrgyzstan and finally Uzbekistan.

During these travels I made some notes that have never found a home anywhere, so I thought I’d share them here.

  • Singapore metro recording: “If happy happy, you want platform.”
  • Great Wall posting: “No naked flame.” What’s a clothed flame?
  • Overheard in the Forbidden City: “Husband, wait for Cucumber!”
  • Common Central Asian response: “Yes, we have it, but it doesn’t work.”
  • Tashkent hotel money exchange: “Are you sure you can spend it all? You can’t use it outside of the country.” I assure the concerned woman I am traveling with my wife, so I’m spending for two. “But are you sure?”
  • Tashkent airport: I point to rows of Russian “Coke” behind the shopkeeper and ask for a cola: “No cola, only tea or water.” I then head to a bar where I can grab a Pepsi and use up some remaining Uzbekistani soʻm: “Sorry, no so’m. Only euros or dollars.”

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