Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Triumph of Urgench

Our Cultural Envoy entourage including: Lisa our diplomat, Muhayo the decider, Rustam my interpreter, and Frank the presenter arrived at the Urgench State College of Arts to the sounds of long horns and drums. The audience takes shelter from the heat along a shady wall as the festivities begin.
Once inside the building all manner of creativity springs forth. We enter a room lined with student art and another great band playing like crazy. And the dancing begins.
After about a half hour of wild dancing and music, it is time for me to present.  We enter an adjacent auditorium which has 300 people sitting there waiting for us. The picture below is after I presented as I was a bit embarrassed to photograph them while they were applauding our arrival.
 See those two guys with video and flood lights? Well, they insisted on filming me and the slide show, which means their flood lights washed out my slides on the screen. Normally, I would be upset, but this was different, way different. After I finished there was a Q&A with wild applause for every answer I gave. Then they announced a little show to celebrate our visit to the school.
 The young lady in green jumped off the stage and grabbed me to dance. You bet I danced.
Muhayo took a video of both Lisa's and my attempt at Khorezm dancing. Lisa, always the diplomat, did a great job of looking fantastic dancing with a girl with 5 feet of hair. I had to grab the girl in green by the hands to keep her from getting too fancy and making me really look inept. I may never post that video.
After an hour of dancing, gifting, group portraits and at least 3 bouquets of flowers, we settled into the truly wonderful director's spacious office. We sat down to the best plov I've ever had. After our unphotographed lunch the music started up again. This rabob player was doing an incredibly complex western classical piece. He was followed by two girls on dueling dutars who were also fantastic. They were followed by opera singers, a sax player professor, a middle school violinist, several pianists and more talent that one could fit in Carnegie Hall. It was amazing. Then the incredibly generous director says, "...let's take the afternoon off." We are ecstatic. I don't have to present again that day. We were all exhausted from experiencing so much talent and energy.
The next morning the terrific director (Did I mention he was fabulous, yet?) arranged for us to photograph with students in a working photo studio. What he didn't mention was that the studio would be open for business while we were trying to have a workshop. We would work on my zany ideas of what I thought we should do in a studio and every 10 minutes we would stop and reset the lights for a paying customer with a conventional portrait. It was fun.
This is Muhayo who basically is the go-to person for my whole cultural envoy experience. We have spent several days together and yet this is the first time I noticed that she has 3 feet. Later that evening in Khiva, I photograph Muhayo again just to check on her feet. I'm pleased to see that my previous picture was just another situation where the camera does lie.