Visiting the field is one of my favorite things to do, it really is satisfying to see great results. This week we went on a rather LOOOONG and BUMPY drive to Istaravshan and Gonchi to visit some potato projects. Last time they told me the road we were travelling was not bad... well they admitted this time that the road was bad. I don't mean 'bumpy' like pot-holes, I mean bumpy like the road disappears and there is a river in front of you! Then there is some gravel, a chunk of concrete you have to ditch, then a pothole that would swallow your 4 WD truck! And if there was a smooth patch of road for 100 feet the driver would FLOOR it before slamming on the breaks for the next obstacle!
The morning started early, we met at the office at 7:30am and by 9:30 we decided to stop at a favorite cafe in Gonchi for breakfast. I was doing alright by this time, so I had an egg and bread with butter, and a surprisingly good coffee (NOT Nescafe!). Well as I predicted this was a mistake... it tasted great at the time but with the bumpy roads it did not sit well! After taking a few Gravol and some fresh air when we stopped next I managed to keep it down though :)
We arrived at our first project to see what the farmers had harvested, they had just recently brought all the potatoes in from the fields. They were conducting tests on fertilizers: they would use certified fertilizer and test to soil to calculate how much to apply for one crop, for the other crop they used the cheaper, black market fertilizer and applied it as they normally would. The difference was HUGE, it was evident that the certified fertilizer worked, as the potatoes were roughly 4x the size! The quality was so much better that it doubled the price per kilo! The farmers were very excited to show us the results, and were very thankful to learn how to grow high quality potatoes.
We toured a few more projects, and the results were just as astonishing at everyone of them. We also visited a few projects where they were improving the quality and quantity of seed potatoes. I wasn't sure what the difference was between a seed potato and a cooking potato -the difference is seed potatoes are very small, they actually plant them to grow more potatoes. The details of this project are still a little fuzzy for me as we were asking questions through a translator and the answers weren't very direct... that is a major challenge when you don't speak the language and have to rely on a translator.
I forgot to mention that at every stop they would ask us to have tea or coffee before we left, and you have to agree or else it wouldn't be polite. After you agree to a quick drink they reveal a whole buffet in which you must take off your shoes, sit down and eat constantly until it is not possible to eat another bite. Then you realize you are late for the next project, and you ate waaay too much for the bumpy car ride, and you must leave to repeat the same process at the next project. This made for an interesting day, the last thing I wanted to do was get in the car for a several hour bumpy drive home :(
As we took off back to Khujand I was taking in the country scenery, there where beautiful mountains in the distance, and rolling hills of farmland. We drove through villages where there were more donkeys on the roads then cars, and kids were out playing everywhere. On one country road we stopped so I could get a picture of a donkey, we don't see them in Khujand and when I have travelled out side of the city it never seemed like an appropriate time to stop. But this time the car pulled over and Brad asked them if I could get a picture of ME on the donkey!! I was very happy, and I hopped on and rode around -an experience I will never forget! And the local people came from all over to watch the foreigner and have a good laugh, I don't blame them!
Then it was time to get back in the car... still feeling waaay too over-stuffed and not looking forward to it. I tried to convince myself I could make it home, but there was no chance... pull over please!!! I felt much better when I had an empty stomach, just a little embarrassing at the time!
After the long day we made it home safe and sound and with a truck full of potato samples, if anyone wants to be a taste-tester come on by and I'll cook up some fries :)
Check out google photos for some pics of country-side in Tajikistan!