Thursday, December 6, 2007

Winter has arrived! I have heard many warnings/rumours about winters in Tajikistan, so I thought I would describe what it has been like so far.

Electricity: most households (nearly all.... except mine) have electricity for only a few hours in the morning, and a few hours in the evening and are totally blacked out by 9pm. Some houses rely on electric heaters, which means they are in for very cold nights as it breaks freezing nearly every night here. The MEDA office falls victim to these short hours most days, but we do have a generator which can produce enough juice for nearly all computers if we keep the lights off. But seeing as it starts to get dark at 4:30 this can make it difficult. At my apartment I'm VERY lucky because I live in a building that NEEDS to have electricity because of the upscale restaurant and conference center that are attached. In order to keep electricity 24/7 they have to pay extra to join the "red line" which is usually saved only for essential buildings such as hospitals, banks, and government buildings (of course). For the average household it is too expensive to join the "red line" (or everyone would and it wouldn't work!) so I'm very lucky to piggy-back on an operation that forks over the money!

Gas: this is also "rationed" and turned on usually for 2 hours in the morning, and 2 hours in the evening. Gas is usually used to cook with, so luckily they turn it on during two of the popular mealtime hours. Most stoves here have 2 gas burners and 2 electric burners so there is a back-up when one is off... however the majority of the time they are both off! And the ovens are usually one or the other, so you're either lucky or your not. These rules apply to the MEDA office, as we often have too little electricity to cook with that, and as I mentioned the gas is only turned on for breakfast and dinner, I guess they figure people don't need to eat three times a day. So often times the cook at MEDA pulls out a propane tank and lights that up to cook the big pot of oil and meat (did I mention I bring my own lunches!?). And you may be a little shocked that we use propane indoors here; I actually find it quite normal now and forget that it's equivalent to having a BBQ inside. Many things are "normal" here that would scare the heck out of most foreigners... lets not even get into transportation. The past couple of days the government employee that's responsible for cutting off gas must have been sick as we have been really lucky to have it all day! I like it a lot when we have gas because that means we can run the furnace at work and put the old hot water radiators to work! I LOVE this heat, it's WONDERFUL!!! And lastly, my apartment doesn't require gas... my little toaster oven/burners are electric, quite strategic because of the regular electricity ;) As well as my electric heaters... toasty warm!

Water: this seems to be fairly consistent for me, however many co-workers do not have water during the day (like from 6am-11pm) but I'm lucky, at work and home I seem to have been making out with a constant water supply.

So you're probably thinking that's about all the resources we use here... but oh no my friends, remember learning about all the negative effects of burning coal? Yup, that's what we use for heat in the office (when the gas is out). It smells bad and if it's not burning just right it's quite smokey. Often we chose to close the door to our office and prefer the cold over the headache and smell from the coal. But at least if we're really cold we can go downstairs and warm up by the coal stove... you just have to chose the lesser evil, being cold or possibly getting cancer!? I just keep thinking "everything in moderation..." how much damage can I possibly do to my health in one winter? Hmm... maybe I don't want to know that answer! Especially since most cooking pots, pans and baking trays are aluminum left over from Soviet times.

That pretty much sums up my living conditions... not too shabby, but I do feel bad for all those who aren't quite as lucky with utilities and heat (knock on wood!).

And now I'm just hoping for some more snow, if it's gonna be cold it may as well be snowing! (well, at least a few inches)

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