Tuesday, November 27, 2007

As I had mentioned previously, last week I visited the capitol city, Dushanbe. I was looking forward to the trip, in my Lonely Planet travel guide they actually recommend several things to see and do, unlike Khujand where they barely recommend you spend a few hours on your way across the country, lol. I didn't know what to expect really, I just looked forward to exploring and wanted to find some kind of entertainment because it is very lacking here.

The plane ride was only about 40 minutes, and we had a Boeing so it was a fairly smooth flight as opposed to the smaller planes that are quite shady. I was pleasantly surprised to see the guest house we stayed at, it was very modern, clean, comfortable, and had hot water and electricity, what else could we ask for!? And in the morning they served a great breakfast everyday, with a spread of fruits, vegetables, juices, yogurt, nuts, eggs, meat (not that I cared) and my favorite part was the oatmeal, it was soooo good! Actually my other favorite part was REAL coffee!! They actually had a PERCOLATOR!!! I couldn't believe my eyes, a week without Nescafe was a dream come true.

The first couple of days I wandered around the city with my Lonely Planet hidden in my purse. I hate to be the stereotypical tourist with the camera and travel book, so I tried not to use either of these things unless absolutely necessary. If I try to blend into the crowd people assume I'm Russian, which causes much less attention then a foreigner. I went to a couple museums and saw some very interesting artifacts, one was a ginormous statue of a sleeping bouda, it was the whole length of the room, and sadly they had to cut it into over a dozen pieces to dig it up and transport it, they don't seem to have the same level of respect for ancient artifacts here. Many items from the stone age that they had on display had pen writing on it, recording info about where they found it I guess. And many items were in the open so people could touch them, it's kinda sad to see how badly things were treated.

I also must talk about the food... I was SOOOOO impressed!!! We found a restaurant that had VEGETARIAN food!!! They offered everything that I have been craving since I've come here, from Mexican, Italian, to Lebanese! I ate at this restaurant twice in two days, the first time I had a VEGGIE burger! The second time I had a veggie burrito! I really want to go back about a dozen times, I need to have a falafel, quesadilla, fajita, and many Italian dishes such as pesto, alfredo, vegetarian lasagna and of course pizza.... good thing I don't live in Dushanbe or I'd weigh a million pounds!

Another aspect I loved of the city was the coffee... yes, they offered percolated coffee, but few places even offered the fancy stuff, I even had a mocaccino and a latte! There was a cafe a friend recommended called Espresso, and they offered everything that Starbucks does... and the cafe was so nice I could swear I was back in TO. It was nice to have a taste of home, literally.

So after I fulfilled many of my cravings and desire to explore, I attended some very interesting business meetings. I met with some very important people from the World Bank, FAO (UN), US A.I.D., IFC, and GTZ (a very large German organization). It was very good experience for me, and really helped me gain a network of important contacts. We were discussing a concept paper that MEDA has proposed to several organizations and the feedback was excellent. I think we may have to go back to do some follow up and meet with others who have gained interest! Let's hope so anyways!

At the end of the week we hopped back on a plane, this time we weren't so lucky with a Boeing, but a much smaller plane that has definitely been around for a while... the seats were flimsy and there was no cushion left and I was sitting on a metal bar. Apparently there was no oxygen masks or any safety devices we had to worry about; there was none of the usual flight attendant skits with explanation of what to do in case of emergency. There was simply a sign that was projected with light to the front of the plane saying "no smoking" and "fasten seat belts". Well, at least there were seat belts I guess!? The take off and landing were surprisingly not bad, or maybe I was too exhausted to be nervous. But all-in-all the flight was safe and we got home to experience Khujand's first rain!! This was big news, it hasn't rained in over 6 months, so it was welcomed by everyone! It was a little hard to adjust too though, Dushanbe is usually quite a bit warmer then Khujand with no wind, so it went from being 70F and sunny to just above freezing and raining. And everyday since I've been back it's been overcast, raining on and off, and hanging around freezing. Welcome home!

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