Following on her packing advice, the Uz RPCV also has this to say about what to expect as a volunteer in Uzbekistan...and you wonder why I can't sleep!
What to expect:
Be prepared to live in a fishbowl, unless you are in the capital, which will take some pressure off of you.
Don’t ever go out at night alone. Go out in groups…and make sure, especially in the winter, that you are not working/teaching past the time when it gets dark.
Get used to long lines (if you’re lucky enough to find a line) and buses, trains, etc. that don’t leave on time. Also, get used to giving and receiving a broad range of times to meet up with friends in different cities. Since buses are not as reliable, anything can happen and delays of a few hours are very common. We were late for a Christmas party by 5 hours and had to push the bus at three different points in the freezing cold and very dense fog. By the way, if you are in the Ferghana Valley, the fog there can be pretty nasty, so keep this in mind when traveling to and from there (ESPECIALLY by air).
Corruption is getting better for the volunteers. I was lucky enough to never have to bribe a conductor (to keep my coupe, seat, etc.), police officer, or checkpoint guard, but it still happens.
Be prepared to feel a LOT of pressure to drink. There are several ways to approach this: never drink in the presence of non-Americans (or people who are not your closest friends). Once you start drinking, you WILL be expected to finish the bottle or keep doing shots well beyond what you are comfortable with. And you can’t stop once you start (trust me!). Unfortunately, there is no middle ground. You may also say that you are allergic (“Men da allergy bor”, in Uzbek, or “U menya allergy yest”, in Russian). You may also play the woman or religious “card” and say that it is not acceptable in your community/church. Some people respect this, but many will keep pressuring you anyway. Be prepared to defend yourself and hold your ground! If you find yourself in a situation where you absolutely do not want to drink, but don’t want to be offensive, work on being able to throw the shot behind your back, while pretending that you drank it. This sounds very silly, but I had to do it a few times…eventually they stop noticing, the more vodka that is being drunk. By the way, if anyone offers you “samogan”, this is homemade beer or vodka. DO NOT DRINK it! You can get very very sick….my husband was incredibly sick for two days after doing this. Homemade wine, however, is perfectly fine to drink. You guys will discover your own stuff that you like, but highly recommended is “Baltika”, which is an excellent Russian beer, found almost anywhere.
Don’t even pay a social call without a gift. Candy, a bottle of champagne (if you are prepared to drink a lot, including vodka, which is ALL you will be drinking), flowers, or nan. If you are bringing flowers or nan (bread), make SURE it is an odd number, since even numbers are for sad occasions, such as funerals.
For weddings, birthdays, it is more appropriate to wear colorful clothes. My host families where always disappointed when they saw me in mostly black, even if they were nice clothes.