Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Norak--The Hydropower City
A week and a half ago I had the privilege of visiting Norak, the home town of Shahlo, my "counterpart" at the university. She was assigned to help me navigate life at the university, and she teaches the "A" half of our group of students and I teach "B." I can't describe how thankful I am for this woman. She spent hours trekking from office to office helping me fill out paperwork in Tajik so I could be an official employee of the university, came to my apartment to check on me when I was sick last week, and took me as her guest to her hometown. She exemplifies Tajik hospitality. Seriously, the level of hospitality in this country is amazing.
Anyway, about Norak. It's a city of about 45,000 people (but feels much smaller) about an hour drive from Dushanbe. It is home to one of the largest hydro power stations in the world, according to Shahlo, and it powers much of Tajikistan. The plant was built during the Soviet era. Note the old mural on one of the apartment buildings in the town. If you click to enlarge it, you can see that it features a "Rosie the Riveter" style illustration of a woman with a power plug. During the Soviet era, the town itself was occupied mainly by Russians, while the surrounding villages were home to the Tajiks. Shahlo's family was one of only 2 Tajik families in their apartment block in town, so she speaks Russian almost like a first language.
Norak's square still features a large statute of Lenin. The Lenin statute in Dushanbe wasn't around long after independence. If it's too dark to see the Lenin statute, one only needs look to one of the mountain peaks to see a lighted silhouette of Lenin's head at the top of a mountain.