I'm finally in Dushanbe! I'm not able to post pictures at the moment, but I plan to post some in the next day. I arrived Thursday morning at 3:30, went to an apartment, and slept for a few hours before going to a brief orientation at the Embassy.
First things first, the food: Last evening my fellow EL Fellow and I went to dinner with some other visitors to Tajikistan. We ate at a traditional Tajik restaurant, and the food was delicious. We ate lamb and beef kebabs (called shashlyk here) served on gigantic skewers. I was really tempted to challenge someone to a duel, but resisted. We also had a soup called lahman, which had beef, noodles and vegetables, topped with cilantro. We also sampled a dumpling filled with meat and had non, the traditional round loaf bread. Notice a trend here? Meat and carbs. There are lots of vegetables and fruits too, but veggies tend to be a little safer if prepared at home. Fortunately, another expat expressed an interest in running together, which will help with all the bread consumption. :)
Local dress: the majority of the women I see walking around wear the traditional Tajik clothing: a long dress with matching pants underneath. See the Flickr link for pictures. It's beautiful. Many of those women wear a scarf. Here in the capital lots of women wear Western clothing (pants, varied length skirts). Men wear Western-style clothing, for the most part--dress pants and polo or button up shirts. Some wear a more traditional round hat or long tunic with flowing pants.
People interactions: I haven't interacted much with locals other than those who work at the Embassy yet, but the people seem very friendly, and Tajiks are known for their great hospitality. They are very patient with my lack of Russian or Tajik when I've exchanged money or bought things at the store. Yesterday I need to use the phone and since I don't have one yet, I decided to go upstairs and knock on a neighbor's apartment door. Just as I was locking my apartment, a young father entered the building with his two daughters. I greeted him in Russian and there my Russian ended. He spoke English, though, so I explained that I need to use the phone, and he dialed the number on his cell. He introduced himself and his daughters and said they could help me if I need anything. I explained that I'm the "new Bruce" since the previous American in my position lived in the same apartment. I may switch apartments to one across the street, but either way I hope to stay in touch with this family. I was so thankful they came along just then!
The setting: I haven't seen the mountains yet because it's been dusty since I arrived. I guess this is unusual; normally the sun is incredibly bright, I've been told. I can't wait to see the mountains! Another American told me they went camping outside the city in a gorgeous area with a river that was bluer than any they had ever seen. I'm hoping I'll get to go camping! The main street in Dushanbe is tree-lined, and there is occasional grass but everything looks pretty dry and lawns don't exist here (I think it's a pretty American thing).
Well, that's all for now. More later.
The opinions and ideas expressed in this blog are not the opinions of the US Department of State or the English Language Fellowship program.