Another step is completed in what now feels like a ‘quest’ to a VSO placement. I have made it to Tajikistan, at least to the capital Dushanbe to join the VSO sustainable livelihoods programme. I am undertaking in- country training and awaiting permission to travel on a further 2 days by mountain roads to Khorog and my placement.
Dushanbe lies in the heart of Central Asia, it is set in a valley at 800 metres and surrounded by the 4000 metre Hissor range of mountains that can on a dust free day, been seen from the city. Its climate is hot in summer – it reached 47C this week – and it has short and snowy winters. It has been compared with Paris and similarities can be seen in the wide central boulevard, Rudaki Avenue, which travels for 4 kms through the centre, lined with very mature trees providing often dense shade. The buildings are elegant, substantial and many have neo classical and oriental influences. Equally there are the 1950 Soviet apartment blocks build to house all manner of people settled here from other parts of the USSR.
There are cafes and restaurants, even the Irish Pub serving typical Irish fare such as ‘Irish salad’ of aubergines and raw onions. Not that many people can be seen eating as it is Ramadan. The parks provide open, light space and roses seem to flourish irrigated by fast flowing rills that also act as open drains.
I have to confess to shopping this weekend. Food at the Green Market, a large open bazaar with all manner of fruit and vegetables and probably just about anything else you need. With the run up to the Eid holiday weekend it was more than crowded, people complained that the prices had increased and it certainly resembled Tesco on Christmas Eve. I was pleased with my purchase of aubergines and coat hangers. Regretting my choice of black as a basic work colour (dress here is quite formal and it seemed like a good idea at the time) I have already succumbed to the dust and bought a plain dust coloured linen skirt, just need to find the shoes to match now. I also confirmed the ‘mad dogs and Englishman’ theory by buying on the 47C day, seriously insulated boots which are not likely to be available in Khorog, for the coming winter in the mountains.
I write this on the balcony of my apartment located in one of the former Soviet blocks on Rudaki Avenue. The earthquake advice varies depending on whether your building falls into this category or not so I am pleased to make the differentiation. Today is a holiday for Eid so Ramadan is now over, much to the delight of crowds of local children who knocked loudly on my metal door at 6am this morning demanding sweets and goodies much like ‘trick or treating’ for Halloween.
If all goes well, next week I will have completed the final step on the journey and be in a position to give you more details of the VSO programme.