Sunday, February 17, 2008

A lil' reminiscing...

Today the sun is trying to shine through the fog and it’s a rather comfortable 5C. I really hope this is the beginning of spring, the 10 day forecast is between high of +8C and low of only -4C. With the sun shining in my window my apartment has for the first time in many months reached 20C! Therefore I am in a very cheerful mood and would like to talk about some good experiences I’ve been having in Tajikistan instead of another post on the energy crisis. However, for those of you who were looking forward to an update on that, here is a link to a recent article from BBC News:

I have been looking at the calendar in disbelief lately, do I really only have 6 weeks left here? Where has the time gone? When I first took the internship I thought 7 months would seem like an eternity, but it has flown by with the blink of an eye. As I think about how soon I will have to leave, it makes me think about all the things I will miss. It took me a while to really get used to life here and stop comparing it to back home, but now as I think about leaving I am comparing it to back home again… and the same things that took me a while to get used to I think I will miss the most.

Open air markets: they are loud, busy, dirty, impossible to find anything, no prices are fixed so they can conveniently charge foreigners double… at least that’s how I first saw them. Now I am sad to think of entering a large, sterile, lonely grocery store where I cannot meet the person who grew the food. And where is the excitement of finally finding something that resembles lettuce when you have 10 different ones right in front of you to choose from. I will miss the conversations I have with the sellers, some get so excited to meet a foreigner and welcome me as a guest in their country and throw in an extra onion. I will miss walking down the aisles that have 40 different sellers all selling the same variety of vegetables and choosing a friendly old lady sitting on an upside-down turned bucket just patiently waiting for a customer. When I approach her she smiles and is so very friendly as I practice my Russian to ask how much, she answers holding up the corresponding number of fingers along with a verbal answer because she’s not exactly sure if I’ll understand her or not… and you know this money will help feed her grandchildren.

Visiting clients in the field… is it really necessary to sit down EVERY time to dozens of plates of food and pots of tea after? I mean we’re here to work and we have more clients to see after you, we really don’t have the time! Well… if you just learn to throw the Western idea of schedules and packing it all in a work day out the window and just relax and enjoy each others company after a successful meeting it is quite enjoyable. And if you’re smart, you won’t plan clients back to back without a comfy window of time for socializing. You can also learn more about the peoples’ lives and their culture, often times the clients are far from the city and live a different lifestyle then what I see in the city.

There are some things that I won’t miss though… such as walking by the meat market on my way to work where they just hang dozens of carcasses in the front of buildings. I also won’t miss the pressure to eat so much just to be polite; they seriously get offended if you don’t eat twice as much as your stomach can possibly hold (couple this with a looong bumpy car ride and motion sickness… it’s not pretty!) I won’t miss the marshuka’s (public transportation) which I am often crammed on; I swear they try to break world records every day… I think maybe they have a competition between each marshruka and brag about how many people they managed to cram in at once… and it baffles me when it seems 110% full, not a single extra body can fit in, yet they stop and pick up another 3, how does the door close? Honestly, its magic, this continues to baffle me.

Another thing I will miss is visiting all of the ancient villages and driving through breath-taking mountains. A week ago I went to Istaravshan and watched them make these beautiful intricate knives (I never thought I would describe knives as beautiful). Istaravshan is known for producing these knives, and there is a row of at least a dozen blacksmiths across from the market where they make them right in front of you, very neat! Then as we were driving away I asked about this beautiful monument on the top of the hill –it was of Alexander the Great!! He lived here when he married a Tajik woman! He built it on top of the hill so he could see for miles and miles to ensure no one was coming to attack. We went up the hill and it was another breath-taking view, and the ruins of the original settlement were still there, crumbled and half buried in the dirt. It’s a very unique feeling when you are around something so old, its from 329 BC…it’s hard to believe that something so old and that is such a famous part of history is just crumbled on the ground in front of you. I will miss this feeling of complete “awe” as Northern Tajikistan has so much ancient history like I have never experienced before. Istaravshan just celbrated its 2500th anniversary… that’s old!

The list goes on… but I will stop here and just say that I definetly have mixed feelings about leaving in only 6 weeks. I miss my friends and family, (and fruits & vegetables… electricity… running water… heat, etc) but there is so much more I want to see and do here before I leave. I hope to have many more interesting posts as I experience all that I can!
Check out my Google photo’s for some recent pics including my trip to Istaravshan.
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