Saturday, September 11, 2010

Back to the Land of the Unexpected: A Journal Entry

This is my first post again in a long while. As you all know, I spent the summer in Minnesota with family and friends. There have been a lot of events in my first weeks back in Tajikistan, so I'm writing this in the form of a journal entry with some highlights.

August 17: departed Minneapolis for Amsterdam and then Istanbul. Thanks, brother Matthew, for taking me to the airport and dealing with my last minute "Argh! My bag is over 50 lbs! Hold this while I rearrange..."

August 18: enjoyed my last Burger King meal for a while at the Istanbul airport. Was looking at the schedule board to check my gate to Dushanbe and heard people discussing a gate change in Tajik. It was great to hear Tajik again, and to know I was in the right part of the airport! Saw other expats I knew in the waiting area, and had the very surreal experience of a young woman coming up to me and reminding me that her name was Mavluda and we had been seated next to each other on the same flight last year, when I first came to Dushanbe.

August 19 AM: Saw the lights of Samarkand and Buhkara, Uz, as we began the descent to Dushanbe. Landed, waited an inordinate amount of time for the luggage, and exited the airport. Was thankful both of my checked bags made it, since the airport staff had to find them in Istanbul and hand write tags to check them through to Dushanbe. Arrived at my cozy apartment at 5:00 AM, glad to be "home" again.

August 19 PM: Awoke from my long summer's nap an hour later than I thought, because my alarm was still on Istanbul time. Was up in time for a walk down the street, where I was greeted by one of the women who works at an office supply store I frequent. Yes, feels like coming home.

August 20-22: Spent the weekend at a dacha in Varzob with friends. A highlight was using the old, leg-powered giant swings at Varzob lake. Swings have always been my favorite, even if they are less than up to safety standards!

August 23: Traveled to a rural area of Tajikistan before reading the travel restrictions to that area due to the escape of 25 unfriendly characters from prison. Fortunately, everything on that front seemed calm during my stay. Heavy rains caused mud and rock slides in that area, which took out gardens and outbuildings. My friend's house was fine, and we didn't know about the mudslides til the next morning.

August 24-25: helped cook potatoes over the fire for the mud clean up crew, and went and surveyed damages. In the picture of the bridge, you can see how the underside of the bridge was plugged with boulders that had come down the hillside, forcing the water to make a new course on the left side. The power of all that water and those rocks was very sobering. Fortunately, no one was killed. Enjoyed an Iftor (end of the day of fasting) meal at a local family's house.

August 26: returned to Dushanbe, passing a number of new security posts. Had to stop to wash the car before entering the city, since dirty cars are one reason drivers can be stopped by police.

August 27-September 8: Had meetings at the language center where I'm working, helped orient new English teaching types, got new internet set up at home, and caught up with friends and neighbors.

September 9, Tajikistan's Independence Day: Enjoyed a wonderful day in Norak with some friends. Norak is an hour outside Dushanbe (see post from last Sept or Oct). We visited the dam, ate lunch on a platform over the river, and went swimming and boating. Watched evening fireworks from the 3rd floor of the house where some of the group are living.

September 10-11: Went from house to house, eating in celebration of Eid i Ramazon, the end of the month of fasting. On the 11th my students took me around to 4 of their houses. Explained that the guy in Florida is crazy and the event he planned did not actually happen. Enjoyed their hospitality, but don't want to see another piece of cake again for a long time :)

For more info on recent events in the country, go to and search for "Tajikistan."