Shivit oshi – a specialty of Khiva, Uzbekistan

I visited Uzbekistan in the spring of 2019 after not being able to make it there in 2016 during a bigger trip to Central Asia. Uzbekistan had eased restrictions on entering the country, and no longer was it necessary to have a visa or letter of invitation which were previously required for Canadians. The city of Khiva in western Uzbekistan lies quite far from Uzbekistan’s other famed Silk Road cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, and it’s only here that you’ll find this peculiar dish.

Shivit oshi, a uniquely Khivan dish that’s only available in this city, consists of noodles that have been coloured green with dill and topped with a savoury stew of beef, potatoes and carrots. It’s served with yogurt on the side to cut the richness.

I really enjoyed this plate for its dramatic colour and uniqueness. Throughout Uzbekistan you’ll typically the find the same assortment of shashlik, plov, lagman, and manti, which are delicious enough in their own right, but it’s nice to have some variety once in a while!

Restart

Hello out there! Let me start by saying that this blog has obviously been neglected for the past few years. There was a time where I really wanted to document my travels on this platform, but it never quite materialized the way I wanted. There was a certain determination and discipline that was lacking in maintaining this site, and it has taken these Covid times to refamiliarize myself with my blog and arrive at a point where I want to keep this space active again. It’s certainly a tough time around the world and I appreciate all the hardships that this pandemic is causing; and though it may sound rather selfish to say, it’s also been tough not being able to travel for the past few months and the current uncertainty of not being able to travel in the future also weighs heavily on my mind.

We’ve all worked on getting through this pandemic in different ways, and for me one of the things that has helped is looking back upon past travels and adventures, and truly recognizing and appreciating how blessed I’ve been to have come into contact with so much of the world. During the lockdown, one of my friends told me that I’ve been lucky to have visited most of the countries on earth (I’m actually nowhere near there yet!) and jokingly suggested to me that I should just “relax in the ocean of beautiful memory.”

So, allow me to reminisce some of these experiences during my years of travelling, from memorable encounters I pray won’t dissipate as the years go by, to particularly unexpected and memorable meals; from intense and challenging hikes that have taken me to places of untold beauty to the inconceivable ways I’ve ended up at some special places. There will be a time for more travel in the future, but now is a time for this blog to restart.

A purifying simplicity

If I’m not currently travelling (and right now I’m not!), once in a while I tend to take a trip down memory lane ;). Sadly, details blur as the years go by, but the time stamp on this photo tells me I was here a bit over 3 years ago.

3 years ago.

I had reached Annapurna Base Camp the day earlier just after sunrise, and was currently on my 8th day of trekking, now making my way back to civilization after spending an afternoon at a local hot spring. There’s a purifying simplicity and an invisible beauty about going on a multi-day trek, with just a limited amount of possessions stuffed into a rucksack on your back, moving forward ever so gradually, one step at a time, with nature all around you and inviting you to just love where you are in the world and in life at that very moment.

I’ve been yearning for this for the past few weeks, and it hasn’t been a fleeting sentiment that just comes and goes. We tend to become too consumed in the material world, and often make life needlessly more complicated, especially living in a big city. But those material possessions don’t leave you fulfilled, at least not for me, anyway. It’s so rewarding on all levels to simplify things. I’ll be back in Nepal next month and hope to do another trek for a couple weeks or so. I’m looking forward to being in a different environment, to absorb the simplicity of just walking, to gain a renewed and clearer perspective on life.

The first day

8 April 2016 … Day 1 of a 5-month adventure …

The first day – jetlagged and lacking sleep after a long flight from Toronto to Abu Dhabi, a bit overwhelmed with all the time I had in front of me and wondering how I’d fill all those days and if things I imagined in my head would go according to plan. Cautious and hesitant, not firmly in that traveller/backpacker groove just yet, perhaps reluctant to just embrace those moments which collectively would fill all those days. Optimistic, because I’d done things like this before and I had come to know that the best was inevitably to come, always, no matter how much I tried to downplay my excitement …

The first day – encounters, contacts, interactions, conversations, realizations, lessons, achievements, thoughts, sensations, feelings, emotions – all that would come but could not be predicted …

I am longing for the first day of a long adventure ………

(I intended to post this on 8 April 2017, which would have been a year since the photo below was taken. A few days late, but the sentiments and reflections still hold true!)

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Seeing clearly

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When I put on my first pair of glasses for the first time as a teenager, it was like I had a revelation. Things that were previously a blur now appeared clearly, and I could see the details of the physical world with ease – the math formula on the blackboard, the strands of fur on a cat, the intricate petals of a flower, even the wrinkles on someone’s face …

For me, travelling is like wearing that pair of glasses. But it’s not necessarily those physical details I notice more; it’s the heart and soul that feels through a different lens that is blown away by an initially unfamiliar environment. An increased awareness notices a set of profound thoughts and delicate emotions within, intangible objects one cannot see or touch, which rise to the surface and make me appreciate the simple fact that my heart is beating, that I am feeling, that I am among incredible beauty in this world. I feel like it’s LIFE that I see more clearly.

A lesson in class

Two days ago in Mandalay, I literally sunk to a new low and had the most embarrassing moment of my life (at least this year).

What I’ll write is that when you’re getting from one temple to another and you think about crossing (what you think is) a wide ditch against the cries of some Myanmar people who try to direct you 10 metres over to your left to a bamboo footpath, follow their advice! Because the ditch was actually a moat and I ended up knee deep in murky, disgusting, sewer-like water while fighting to stay on my feet.

A couple locals helped me up while I struggled to maintain my balance. One man repaired my flip-flops, and another man took me across the street to a restaurant where he poured water from a big bucket over my pants, my legs, my feet, and my hands. A girl that worked there gave me soap so I could disinfect. There were a lot of onlookers and while I was laughing at myself at the absurdity of my situation, they just smiled politely and wished me well. I got a lesson in humility but I learned even more about class. Helpless and vulnerable, I was the recipient of mercy and compassion.

When you travel, you remember a day for different reasons – sometimes, it’s being somewhere indescribably beautiful; sometimes, it’s doing something you’ve never done before. In this instance, it’s because of how I was treated by these people of Myanmar and one more reason why I love this country.