DD grew up in the Veshab valley in the remote mountain village in the North of Tajikistan. I now share his office and over the last six months have watched his skills develop at such a rapid rate that you cannot but ponder where he would be with a western education. So, today we were holding a workshop on Natural Disaster Risk Management in a dingy damp mouse infested government building some thirty miles outside of Dushanbe. The project, a whopping $10,000 is funded by the United Nations, (I say funded, they are unable for ‘banking reasons’ to transfer the money, so our little Tajik organisation with a turnover of $100,000 is bank rolling the UN), and consists of a series of four day workshops for the heads of the local villages. ‘Our man’ DD is in charge!! After the obligatory five phone calls we meet at Barakat market to buy local produce for the thirty participants’ dinner. This is easy as carrots, rice, onion, meat and a sea of oil make up the national dish and try as you might to broaden their culinary range; nothing else feels so good between your grubby fingers, so I am told. Bunny hopping out of the city I take a wrong left turn and my friends the Militizia flag me over again. DD bails me out with a 7som bribe. We were also late so on the last stretch I floor the Niva (the irony), and consequently bury it in a world war one size trench and knock the gearing out just one kilometre from the village. The situation was then compounded by the brand new overly expensive UN Toyota Hilux careering passed with the UN workshop monitoring team on board. DD flags down a mini-van, we load up, turn up late, and start late with an obligatory black mark against our name. DD sorts out a mechanic during the ensuing mayhem. DD is like so many tajiks from the rural areas, wears his heart on his sleeve, can never turn down a request, is generous to a fault, (e.g. paying his brother tuition fees which amounted to half a month’s salary) and has a wife and three children who he rarely sees. He is also trying to build a house for his family on the outskirts of Dushanbe as well as being a caterer, a fixer, and CAMP’s co-ordinator and my interim translator. I guess that’s ‘Our Man’ DD.
After a frenzied attack on my literal slating of Dushanbe, it only seems fair to balance the see- saw back towards the positives. So here are a barrage of blogs exalting why Tojikiston is the next hot tourist destination and why despite my many jibes at this recessive one party state we’ll probably extend our stay to a point when sanity will forever elude us.
in the small hours of last Saturday night we were formally escorted to the police station.
After we’d completed another ‘shitty’ hash, filled our bellies full of Baltica beer, we sailed on over to Felix’s havili for his farewell pasta and vodka night. After eight months of wrestling with the rock face at kilometre 19.2 and 54.8, and the wheel of his Lada Niva 4*4. Felix decided to tie up his ropes, sell his bumper car to naive Brit and head back to ‘Switzeria’ for lasagne and love.
Having out drunk the German’s, and endured numerous re-tellings of the cat’s recent castration, the night ended in a haze of cat odour. Finally, we staggered out the door into the increasingly bitter weather and decided to walk off the cloudy vodka.
In retrospect, this was not the best decision of the day.
We picked up pace on the two mile hike along the country’s main drag, shunning any readily available taxis and shrugging off the cold, until another moustache wearing, ill-educated Militiza guard with an emptier sack than the cat, commandeered us just five minutes from home-base. Playing the ‘dumb tourist’ role, we spoke loudly at him until worried about his hearing and our lack of ‘Documentatiza’, he whistled at his bum-fluffed colleagues and like sheep dogs they surrounded us and herded us to the police station.
As to be expected in all effective law enforcement units, the police station was locked. So, we huddled outside with our bladders’ bursting. The Militizia, checked out the VSO ID card and despite our protestations at 1.00a.m he decided to call the number on the back of the card. Thankfully, Firuza woke to our early morning call of distress and tapped into her extensive network of contacts. What ensued was a prolonged flurry of phone calls, until eventually big moustache phoned little moustache, until little moustache twitched, shook our hands like old friends, and ushered us on our way. We scampered away into the night, leaving the cavalry jangling their imaginary keys.
The incident cost some 50som, some sleep and some bladder control. A photocopy of our passports is now tattooed to my rear and several taxi numbers on the inside of my arm. You will also be pleased to hear the cat made full recovery, the Lada Niva is subject to daily verbal abuse, and the police station is still inaccessible.
As you may have realised I have now absconded from the world of volunteering and what it entails. I am now generally begging for paid work to beef up the imaginary pension fund and resurrect my high profile career.
The content of the blog is a distorted and off the cuff review of my time in Tajikistan whilst volunteering.Hopefully, it will entice you to sample the country for yourself and build up your own repertoire of arm chair stories.
Any comments, notes, or general abuse are always welcome.
*these are all my comments and not the views held by VSO.