Visits to two villages outside of Dushanbe and the tale of one very misadventurous iPod.
Dushanbe from Chorbogh, a village just on the outskirts.
In the final weeks that I was in Dushanbe, I had a couple great opportunities to head out of the city and get a small glimpse at how the other half lives. Well, not quite exactly half, I believe, but a surprising number of people still have deep connections to the village, especially in Tajikistan As a general rule, I have spent very little time in villages in the former Soviet Union, although I did have a couple forays into villages in the summer of 2011 (one Uzbek village, one Tajik village). My first opportunity this semester came from my conversation partner, Nargiz, who took me to visit her mother in Chorbogh, a village located in some hills just north of Dushanbe. From up above, you can see the city spread out in the valley below, as pictured in the lead picture.
With Nargiz in Chorbogh.
Getting to Chorbogh, which literally means “four gardens,” requires just a 1 somoni (about 18 cents) out from the city’s northern limits, and you find yourself there in just 20 minutes. Despite the fact that you have hardly left Dushanbe, and that you can literally see the village from above, life in the village is entirely different. The first thing that will strike you is the total simplicity of daily life.
Nargiz’s niece helps her wash her hands.
Though there is running water in this particular village, only (VERY!) cold water is available, so even simple tasks like washing your hands tends to be done in a very simple way — with a pitcher of water, a mixture of hot water, warmed over the wood stove, and the cold water from the outdoor faucet. When we arrived, we were immediately brought into the warm room to sit by the wooden stove with bread, with Nargiz’s niece, Samira, who took an immediate liking to me.
The bright room was lit only from the large windows that faced the sun, since in Chorbogh, as in most villages in Tajikistan, there is only electricity for a few hours each day and night. After we had started the snacking process, we headed outside to enjoy the entertainment provided by a village wedding that we could hear down the hill. We danced and laughed and took ever so many selfies.
As the music died down, we were shuffled back into the room to enjoy a wonderful meal of plov (a Central Asian pilaf of rice, carrots, spices, and, in this case, chicken, although more commonly with lamb). Having had quite the breakfast, my showing was pretty miserable — try though I did, I could not escape the inevitable admonitions to “Gir! Gir! Gir!” (Tajik: “Take! Take! Take!”). My showing was pathetic, though I did my best. After we had both eaten our fill, we settled in for an afternoon nap. After a little rest, I decided to head out to the bathroom, and seeing how the sun was settling nicely, I decided to grab my iPod, which I stuck into my back picket as I headed for the outhouse, the beginning of one of the most hilarious sagas of my time in Dushanbe.
Sunset panorama over Chorbogh.
As you might guess, the bathroom situation in the village left plenty of opportunity for growth, although the conditions were actually quite good by village standards. I walked into the well-constructed outhouse, got ready to do what I had come in to do, when all of the sudden, my iPod falls out of my pocket, lands briefly on the ground, and then, of course, straight into the hole and then ten fifteen feet below. I freaked out, understandably, since my iPod had literally just fallen into a deep, concrete hole with just a small opening, wide enough only for the business they were constructed for. Let’s just say there is only one direction these things work. Confident I would never see it again, I panicked and called to Nargiz, who asked me, much to my embarrassment, whether I had ever been in such a bathroom. What was I thinking?! Anyway, her mother rushed about to get a flashlight so that we could assess the situation. Shining the flashlight into the whole, one could see my iPod, which had landed sticking straight out of the muck below. Nargiz, ever the optimist, called to her brother, and we schemed away with the tools we had at our disposal. We prepared and lowered a dustpan attached to a 20 foot pole into the toilet and used another shovel, also attached to a long pole to push the iPod onto the dustbin, and carefully, we raised it up. I grabbed it with my hands the minute it finally came into reach, a successful three person operation. Boy, did I feel sheepish!
Nargiz’s mother and two sisters, who hung out with us in the village.
But, it made for a great story. Continue reading