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Dongles, Trotters and Opera

Detail of the famous Rohat National Tea House
Welcome luncheon with VSO Tajikistan staff
Ten days into our arrival and we're finding our way around this fascinating part of the world.  We're still in Dushanbe, waiting for permits to allow us into the GBAO (Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast); our final destination is Khorogh, in the Pamirs.  The town nestles between the mountains of Tajikistan and Afghanistan and is the Oblast's capital.  Twenty-eight thousand people, predominantly Ismaili Muslims, live here.    From Dushanbe,  Khorogh can be reached by either road (497 km) or small aircraft if the weather permits.     
So, now we have completed our 10 day In Country Training and are ready and raring to start work as Tourism Advisors to the MSDSP (Mountain Societies Development Services Programme)....... Still in a holding pattern: gives us time to explore Dushanbe and its attractions.  Saturday, one of our co-volunteers  got us tickets to the Dushanbe Opera to attend the last performance of Verdi's 'Aida'. Student Tickets cost us 5 Somoni (US$ 1) each (thanks to our eternally youthful faces).   

Eternally Youthful Face
It was a truly family affair, with kids as young as two years among the audience and diverse ring-tones complementing the Orchestra.  This beautiful Opera and Ballet Theatre has just been restored to its original grandeur.  There was a time when the Tajik Ballet and Opera Company was world famous, performing to sold-out crowds until the Civil War intervened.  It is great to see the efforts that are being made to return it to its 'glory days'.
After the stress of the Big City our lives here have taken on a hugely different pace.... night sounds are punctuated by dogs barking, cocks crowing and goats bleating.   We suspect the goat  bleats are not going to last too long.  Our neighbourhood store doubles as a butcher shop.  There was a cow that used to hang around outside the gate, but it's gone now.....   We think the picture below tells all.
Advertising in the raw...

Communication has been our greatest challenge so far.  It seems that there aren't too many international servers that appreciate Tajik e-traffic.  We keep being bounced from well established corporate, educational and other sites.    'Dongles' are the predominant means of enabling wireless internet access for most volunteers and expats.   But this doesn't come cheap, the service  is spotty and instructions confusing when you have to follow them in Russian or Tajik!!   Now that we're on to language - very few people speak English here.  Although Tajik is the national language, Russian appears to be the lingua-franca still.    So, in addition to Soghni, we are also considering getting some Russian lessons to help us get by.  

Don't miss the free-loaders
Maybe it's time to mention food, given Christine's preoccupation with all things edible.   Although it is supposed to be late-fall here in Dushanbe (temperatures in the mid 80s every day), there is abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables.  Couple these with meats and cheeses and the ubiquitous naan (not your Indian type),  and  you know we are not going hungry!  There is still a huge Russian influence here too, with all types of salads and soups (borsjt) to accompany heart- frighteningly fatty kebabs and pilav (the national dish).    Dushanbe's 'Green Market' is a truly exciting place where one could easily spend hours just wandering around, absorbing the wonderful atmosphere of local Tajik life.  There's  a huge variety of nuts, pulses, grains and of course, meats and SWEETS.... piles and piles of them.  The dentists must do well here.   However, opticians probably are a rare breed.  We're still trying to work this out.  Rod, our co-volunteer noticed that,  pretty much, the only people who wear glasses are the expat community.  Seriously!  Few Tajiks wear eye-glasses. 
We anticipate that our next blog will be from 7,800 ft up in the Pamirs.  So, for now , its 'Spaziba' for your time and 'Mailash'.


  1. Those sacks look like an Indian grocers! They're v fashionable here in Perth too! Your adventures sound fabulous & I'm glad you're still connected.... dangling dongles have their plus points. My adventures sound quite staid in comparison. Hugs

  2. The picture of the cow's feet says a great deal! Great to hear that all is going so well, and hope that you come back speaking fluent Russian and Soghni!

  3. besides the trouble with the internet, everything sounds to be going well! Tajiki sounds interesting and like a place i would like to visit someday - if only for the experience. i look forward to hearing more about your adventures and every day life (& work) once you're settled in your home!

    & those goat feet...yikes!

  4. lovely feet, keep them going...


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