Friday, November 20, 2009

Take the Bad with the Good

Well, I've been kind of quiet in my posts because as of late life has been so sucky here that I just don't want to talk about it. I keep telling myself that it's only been 2 weeks and things need time to sort themselves out, and they are sorting themselves out now, but I just had to give it time.

My frustrations came from just simply living in Tajikistan. Khujand has been soooooo utterly difficult for me to adjust to. I did well in Gharm and Dushanbe but Khujand has really kicked me ass. It stems from not having a central contact here, not being able to communicate with my landlady, not trusting my assistant who lied to me and tries to trick me into telling her things (so I fired her and got a new one), not having running water most mornings and sometimes not all day, dim electricity, not being able to go out after dark (basically after 5 p.m.) because there are so few street lights and the men notice me whether it's light or dark out, and my internet doesn't work so well here like in Dushanbe so sometimes I can't access it and I must do all my work before 5 p.m. because after that then the internet is $.17 a minute!!! I must work quickly during the day and after 5 p.m. be in lockdown in my apartment with no internet. Also, it's irritating how people forget that I don't speak the language and can't communicate. My landlady finally brought a translator with her to my apartment one day to tell me some things about the hot water heater. I asked the translator where my landlady works and the translator said "What, she didn't tell you?" I was so mentally exhausted from living like a Tajik that I simply said "And just how is she supposed to do that?" Then the translator realized how dumb her question was and helped me out. Someone from the Embassy who's supposed to be my contact is also insensitive like that. Sometimes I can't contact people who speak Russian or Tajik so I call her and she asks me why I didn't call my contacts in Khujand. I don't even answer her when she says things like that and just tell her what I need. Also when my internet was down I called someone and she gave me a number to call to check on it and said the people speak English. Okay, fair enough. I called it and the number doesn't exist. I have Indigo Tajikistan for my internet but she gave me the number for Indigo Somonkom, nevertheless, the number doesn't exist. I called her back and told her that the number didn't exist and I had Indigo Tajikistan (which is based in Dushanbe, not in Khujand). She told me to go find someone with an Indigo Tajikistan phone. That would be like me walking out in the street in the U.S. and randomly asking people if they have a language that they don't understand. Come...the....fuck....on. That's been my default phrase that I say in my head (not to them) when people say things and don't think about what they're saying. And on top of that everyone told me Khujand has the freshest mountain air but I haven't seen the mountains for a week because they're hidden behind the smoke from the garbage and leaf burning. I had a weeks worth of garbage in my kitchen because I didn't know where to dump it. My landlady came and took me down to the main street and put it on a pile of leaves to be burned. What am I supposed to do when there are no leaves to burn? Where do I put it then?

Okay, so on the flipside. I resolved my issues with the internet. The person from the embassy took 3 minutes of her time and found out the satellite was down. I told the director of my department about the problems I was having with my assistant being untrustworthy and I was getting bad vibes from her so she gave me a new assistant. The old assistant worked for the Grammar man who shouted at me and said I should speak with a British accent, but my new assistant works in my same department and I like her a lot. I get good vibes from her.

I'm only teaching one group of students at the university and they are absolutely wonderful! They work so well together and work well with me. They are eager to learn and literally hang on every word I say. They're all girls, too, and we all get along so well. My classes are going well with them and I even added an additional conversation class with them. Today they offered to meet me once a week and go on an excursion in Khujand and show me the museums so they can explain things (it's in Russian) and the ballet and the fortress and other sites of interest. I normally wouldn't do that but they are really great girls and I look forward to seeing them every day.

I've begun teacher training and that's going really well and I look forward to those classes, too. I like to talk about language with them and show them new techniques and provide information that seems so logical to me, but to them, they've never heard of things that I talk about and they're just in awe and think everything I say is so wonderful. Ha It's just that they're administration is stuck in 1967 and they have no access to the internet to find out that there is a modern world out there!!! So I've brought it to them and it's working out great!

I also met a British woman and a German woman here to hang out with. It was really really really lonely until I met them because I couldn't go out after dark and I couldn't go to cafes and sit and drink coffee and work because the men won't leave me alone...and I get followed a lot. I met them so now I can go out and feel safer AND they are really great ladies. They're both in their late 50's, early 60's and have good attitudes and we've been supportive of each other. We have Friday dinners every week to vent off the steam from the week and Sunday breakfasts and walks around Khujand. We see the Tajiks all week and the Tajiks have such a different way of communicating and it's to be with people who are western, even if they're not American.

I've got things much more under least for today, but I'm beginning to see more good days than bad.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Manual Labor

I'm settled (sort of) in to Khujand. I feel like I've lived in 3 different countries but I've only been in one, Tajikistan! Gharm, Dushanbe, and Khujand are all so different. I really feel like I'm living in a Russian territory in Khujand. It's a cool city though and I like the sophisticated, cultural vibe I get from it. I almost feel like the Tajiks are out of place here it's almost like their visitors in a Russian province...but that's just my opinion.

I like my apartment. It's small but will be easy to heat in the winter. It's really no wonder that the Tajiks can't get ahead. Everything here is done manually and EVERYTHING takes so long to do. I wanted to make chili which I've never really done before but instead of going to the store the just buying kidney beans already cooked in the juice and a can of stewed tomatoes I had to do everything manuall. I went to the big outdoor market and bought kidney beans, beautiful tomatoes, garlic and lots of other spices and stuff to put in there. Then I had to go to the real supermarket and buy meat. The shopping process just to buy stuff for chili took approximately 1 1/2 hours. Then of course I had to MAKE it. I soaked the kidney beans for a few hours and then cooked them. Chopped up the tomatoes and onions and stewed them. Then I chopped up the garlic and green onions and put everything together. The process of making the chili was about 2 hours. It's okay's lasted me for several meals over several days and it turned out REALLY good. Then I bought some grapes and I have to peal them (haha) because I didn't have any distilled water to wash them with and there are seeds inside. So I peeled the grapes and took out the seeds and ate them.

The process of making toast makes me laugh. I can put it in the oven, but it will take 30 minutes for toast. Oatmeal on the stove takes 20 minutes (no instant). Nothing is instant here...nothing. And I have no dishwasher so whatever dishes I dirty I have to wash them myself (I don't mind, I'm used to it).

Then that's not the process of getting water that's drinkable. My landlady bought me a 5 liter thermos for heating water. That's great and it gets it boiling but ever after it's boiled there's a nasty film on the top of the water and there's dirt in the cannister (it's mountain water). I have a small coffee maker with a filter-ish kind of thing so pump the water out of the thermos and into a pot, let it cool, and then pour the water through the filter and into empty bottles. I can use that water to wash vegetables and stuff. It's drinkable but doesn't taste good. Luckily there's easy access to fresh water at the supermarket just down the street. All of that is just for food. Then there's the process of washing clothes! Oh my goodness! I have to wash them by hand. I put them in a bucket in my bathtub with scrubbing powder and manually scrub my clothes clean. The wringing part of it will give me arms of steel! haha I consider washing clothes my workout! Then I have to find a place to hang my clothes. There a small line outside, but the other day I put some clothes out and it rained on them, and now it's snowing. So much for the clothes line. I brought my own clothes line and have to figure up some way to hang the stuff up. Whew! All of this on top of having a job! It's no wonder Tajik women don't work!

Apparently the electricity was out in all of Dushanbe this morning. I'm just waiting for that to happen here. I'm supposed to have electricity a lot of the time, but when I moved in there was an endless supply of candles and lighters in the apartment and lots of bottles of distilled water. I have a feeling it will be a loooooong, cold, dark winter!