We’re in Bukhara, a faded (now-restored) outpost of the once-vast Persian civilization, and site of one of the last independent Turkic emirates in Central Asia. This is where we stop, take a good look facing west, and turn around.
And to be honest, we’re a little happy to be headed back to the Far East, back towards China. We’ve just found that it’s not always that interesting to travel in places where we don’t speak the local language. Sure, we can see the sights (which in this case is a lot of astounding architecture), get our picture taken, and have some fun ordering blindly off menus. But not being able to talk to anyone outside the service industry means all we really get to do is lay our eyes on those famous sights (yup, looks like the pictures online–better take our own, though) and maybe eat a few new weird things. Sure, there can be some valuable experiences in all that, perhaps some new insights gained along the way. There surely were some for us. But overall, not being able to talk to people in their own language means being mostly shut out–and thus unable to really visit the place we’re visiting. Truth be told, we miss all the repetitive conversations, nonesensical questions, and high-volumed back-and-forths that we get to have in China.
So is there anything to learn from this experience? I think so. The most obvious point is the benefit of learning–really learning–a foreign language. As the cliche goes, doing so unlocks new worlds. But the less obvious point, and perhaps the one worth emphasizing, is that you can likely gain a lot more insight travelling closer to home, where you can really see what’s going on, than you can from a fancy trip round the world.
So back toward China, our home for now, we go. On a positive note, we were fortunate to find some great local guides along the way on this section of our trip, so not all was a linguistic blur. And the beautiful remains of Persian, Timurid, and Bukhara Khanate architecture sure are a sight for our temple-ed out eyes. And you know, for two weeks, it was a little nice to be out of the craziness that is China.
But until I learn some darn Russian, or Turkish, or Farsi, that’s back where we’ll be headed.