Friday, August 28, 2009

Arriving and Settling In

I made it Dushanbe, Tajikistan after many hours of flying and a 12 hour layover in Istanbul. Everything went surprisingly smoothly. In fact, I don't have anything to complain about! Isn't that great?! When arrived at the airport to fly out of Jacksonville I told Delta that my final stop was Tajikistan. I would only fly with them until Istanbul and then change airlines to Turkish Air. The attendant at Delta in Jacksonville was very careful and took her time and made sure the computer said the right stuff so my bags would go all way to Tajikistan and I wouldn't have to claim them in Istanbul and check in again and pay excess baggage. When I arrived in Tajikistan they were there waiting for me. What a relief!

I had a small carry on suitcase and my back pack; both were PACKED to max. I took essentials in case my luggage was lost. That happened to me in Egypt; I was there for a week with no luggage! So I was obviously happy when I saw my luggage on dusty baggage claim rack in Dushanbe. The funny part is that the small suitcase that was my carry on never left my sight for the entire 36 hours it took me to get there. When I got to the apartment I would be staying for a few days I counted my bags and instead of 4 I only had 3! WTF? The bag that had stayed with me for like 15,000 miles or whatever was gone, but I had all the rest of my luggage that I THOUGHT might get lost! What happened was when the embassy staff person picked me up from the airport a porter took our bags and put them into the Embassy van, but it wasn't the car I was going in. All my other bags made it to the car I was going in, but the other embassy van wasn't going to the same place. So, Tahmina, our local embassy staff person took me to an and apartment, got me settled in, and said she would find my bag. I was absolutely exhausted and wasn't all that worried. After I had been asleep for about 2 hours sleep Tahmina was banging on my door; she had been out searching for my bag! She called the embassy driver and went to several locations and she ended up finding it at the Hyatt Hotel. Thank goodness! So it's a happy ending to the luggage story! :-)

All my flights were really good. I had heard horror stories about Turkish Air but I thought it was one of the best flights I've had. The seats were roomy and comfortable and the attendants were polite and spoke English and Turkish and probably Russian, too. The best part about that flight were the representatives from Congress that were on the plane. I sat next to one of them and we chatted for quite awhile. He said they had traveled to Tunisia, Israel, Turkey, and Tajikistan doing stuff that I probably shouldn't mention here. They would ask questions and report back to the U.S. Senator that they work for. These are the people that draft legislation; I'm not really sure what that means, but I met those people that do it. There were about 8 of them and there was another group of Americans going to the Tjstan to film a documentary in Khujand. I also met a girl going to work on her doctoral dissertation in Conflict Resolution and I met another girl going just to study Tajik. I was really really really shocked to see so many Americans going to a place that most Americans have never heard of.

I went to the embassy yesterday and had a security briefing. It wasn't as scary as I thought and they wouldn't be sending me to Garm if they thought I was in any danger. I've done enough research to know about the place and the problems with the government and the opposition and I think they last thing the opposition wants to do is get a foreigner involved in their dispute. Thankfully! Let's just hope they don't change tactics!

Last night there was also a party at the Marines house. It was a going away party for one of the embassy staff and a welcome party for a new Marine. I just want to stop and say here that the Marines are sooooo hot! This is the first time I've lived in a foreign country where I see American military and I'm not complaining at all. I went just to make myself known to the embassy staff and it was a good time to meet with people and make contacts. The Senate delegation was there, too. They are all based of Washington, D.C. and I just want to say that they were a great group of people. They were intelligent and I found them to be all around good people. They were good representatives of the U.S.

After the Marine party the representatives for the represtatives in Congress invited me out to dinner with them. We rode in the armored embassy van (way cool!) and then went and sat in an open air restaurant. Smart!

I have to much to say but don't feel like I can express it coherently right now. I'm still jet lagged. I'm 9 hours ahead of eastern time in the U.S. and I was wide awake at 3:30 a.m. and never did get back to sleep. I also have some weird blurry vision and watery eye syndrome going on right now. It could be from the dust storm that's blown in. Apparently that's a common occurence here.

Tahmina, our local staff person and HUGE help for me, said she spoke with man who is the head of project I'll be working with in Garm. I'll be the first English teacher ever to go there and I'll be training teachers and helping them with budgeting and admin stuff and getting organized. This town/village is so remote and lacks electricity in the cold winter months. On one of their budget reports I saw that they allotted so much money for wood and coal in the winter so they can build a fire in the stove to try to heat up the building where classes are held. The place is so remote that in the spring time the road washes out and travel there is impossible from the capital and they can't travel out either; there is no airport there. In the winter time the weather is so severe that the people become isolated out there because the road conditions and cold weather make it impossible to travel to the capital city and vice versa. I have a long road ahead of me with this project and I have eight weeks to give them as much help as I can. I can't wait to go there!

I would also like to say that I really really really really like the Tajiks. They are very mellow and I like their kind of Islam. I haven't had any men harrassing me in the street or saying inappropriate things to me. They either ignore me or just look. I'm fine with both. I'd also like to add that the Tajik men are HOT! They are a good mix of Asian, European, and Russian and some of them have amazing bone structure! The women can wear traditional Tajik clothes if they want and many do. They are beautiful dresses although not always the most flattering. They also have the freedom to walk the streets alone if they choose and don't always have to have a male escort. I found that the Tajiks are a people that want their own identity. They don't want to be Russians and they don't want to be Iranian either; they are Muslim but the government doesn't support extremism. They want to be Tajiks. Even if they are Tajiks who list almost all prices in U.S. dollars. I'm comforted by that!

Disclaimer: "This website is not an official site of the U.S. Department of State website. The views and
information presented are the English Language Fellows' own and do not represent the views of the English
Language Fellow Program or the U.S. Department of State."

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