Tonight is much more calm than yesterday, huh? We all have things we share in common in Pittsburgh. It’s a city that’s always changing. My perspective of it is constantly changing, too.
When I first started making videos around town, I hadn’t even gone on my first date yet. Video making was my way to get to know more about our lovely town and also get to know people. A bigger component to it was that I wasn’t that great at socializing and knew I was deficient in those skills. It’s like exposure therapy, baby!
A city is made up of so many moving parts that there’s literally no way for me - or anyone - to say it’s all “one way”. A neighborhood consists of hundreds to thousands of people.
Who *is* in the neighborhood?
Well that’s always a surprise. There are people from all walks of life and backgrounds.
I have a friend named Shokhrukh from Uzbekistan and last year he introduced me to the portion of the immigrant community he’s familiar with, as well as articulated a lot of his experience coming here to America. We first met at Stout PGH in the strip - our fight gym we both train(ed) Muay Thai a.k.a. “thai boxing” at. He told me soon after that I was one of the only Americans who ever asked him about his culture and upbringing.
From left to right: Me, Jasur Aka, and Shokhrukh
He also explains that all of his friends come here mostly to work hard and send the money back home. I still remember one of the people he introduced me to saying “If we’re not making at least $3,000 a month, we’re wasting our time”. I’m paraphrasing, but that was the number. “We send it back home to support our families because our dollar isn’t worth much. You could work the whole month and earn…” Just know that the amount was ridiculously low. Also, I forget what it was - probably about 10 bucks.
There’s lots of little things we pick up in conversation.
“Oh, Uzbeks LOVE their cars and treat them with so much respect,” in front of us was a car with the license plate “UZB-XXXX” and it was clean - this anecdote checks out. They all seem to be in Greentree, by the way. Shokhrukh explains, “When we move here, we are told to avoid bad neighborhoods and go to the suburbs”. Much to my dismay, it came up in discussion: Northside was on the list of places he was told by the people in his community to not live.
The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized the distinct lack of immigrants in many of the neighborhoods in city limits. The closest the Mexican War Streets comes to Mexican is El Burro on Federal st. - and I think starting there, that area counts as Allegheny City Central.
Everyone Shokhrukh introduced me to has been extremely kind to me and treated me like an old friend, while introducing me to bits of their culture and language. Many people who come from the countries formerly under the Soviet Union know the Russian language. So if you were from Kazakhstan and meet someone from Uzbekistan, for many of them, it’s easiest to switch to Russian. And there are a bunch of instances where this happens.
My knowledge of that overall region was low: I didn’t know Uzbekistan was a country before meeting Shokhrukh.
It’s a real treat to learn about other cultures in our city.
We’re all experiencing different realities but we’re together.