Friday, September 28, 2007

Hello From Tajikistan!

We arrived yesterday at 9 am and are now with our hosts in the lively town of Khujand. The traveling was suprisingly easy and I think the largest problem we had was when the inspectors at the Frankfurt airport thought that the chalk Canyon had brought for the school was cocaine. On our way to Istanbul we met a young man, Fety, who had worked the whole summer in New Braunfels at Schlitterbahn! What are the odds?
Our baggage arrive in whole pieces and we were even suprisingly met at the Dushanbe airport (at 3:30 am) and given air tickets to Khujand.
The flight to Khujand was on a very rickety plane which held 40 people. We could see the brown mountains below us very clearly. I was surprised to learn that Tajikistan is 93% mountains!
So that's all for now. Just a quick hello. I'm at an internet cafe in Khujand just around the corner from the apartment where I eat with Tahmina and her family. Soon I will buy an internet card for her laptop so we can use it from home.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


So, I was told that I should include this as part of the blog even though it only partially pertains to Tajikistan.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I ventured into Jackson Ruiz Salon at 9:15 on a Friday night. The purpose: to cut off all of my long hair. Traveling would be easier if I could jump out of the shower, shake my head and carry on with my life without having to worry about catching a cold from a wet head. I wanted it ALL off.

If there are any readers looking for a good salon, I highly recommend Jackson Ruiz. They treat customers like goddesses (or gods, as the case may be) for a fairly reasonable price. I changed into a silk robe and during my hair wash was given a head and neck massage while I inhaled scents of lavender oil. I also got a hand massage during the actual haircut. And no tips or gratuities are accepted.

Before this hair washing though, I had a rather brief consultation with the hairdresser. She looked at the photo I had brought in (of a woman with VERY short hair) and immediately said, "I've done this before. It's just too drastic."

With that, she put my hair in a ponytail at the nape of my neck and chopped it off. "Say good bye to your hair" she said as she waved the ponytail in front of my face. She then put it in a package and sent it off to Locks of Love. 10 full inches of it.

I basically just let her go with my hair. As she chatted to me about women's colleges and China, she was so keenly observing the shape of my face and cutting my hair accordingly.

Minutes later she was finished, having cut the back and bangs fairly short, while leaving long pieces by the ears and cheeks. "You can still look hip while you are in Tajikistan" she commented and I could only smile.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Practicalities

Now, I'm going to admit that I was way too reliant on my parents for the beginning part of the planning. They were the ones to stay in contact with our host, ask all the right questions and start researching flights. I let the summer slip away without thinking that the possibility of NOT going to Tajikistan might be a reality. My mother arranged for the immunizations (Hepatitis A & B and Typhoid shots, plus prescriptions for infectious diarrhea treatment and malaria prevention); we sent our passports to Washington with $230 to get the Tajik Visa stamp (they are supposed to arrive just days before we leave for Frankfurt!); I invested in a Steripen to sterilize water for hand- and facewashing or teeth brushing etc.; I laid out my clothes, found an old violin case perfect for traveling (of course I'm bringing my violin: I could not do with out it!) and put in my two weeks notice at work. And then the eye-opening news came: the cost of traveling from Frankfurt to Dushanbe round trip (we had FINALLY found a route through Istanbul) was $1700 which was far more than either Canyon or I could afford.

So, like good Waldorf families that we are, we had a meeting. We discussed hosteling in Europe as an alternative, dreamed of taking the Orient Express to Istanbul instead of flying, and almost totally fell into giving up on Tajikistan. It was too hard and expensive. And then I just took a lap top and for the first time (admittedly) started my own research. It was too close to give up, I thought, and I had become attached to the idea. By recommendation of my mother I googled "travel to Dushanbe." I don't remember it all exactly, but I did find a list of flights from Frankfurt to Dushanbe and low and behold they started at $1000! (still expensive, but less than before). The issue became deciphering the German language as most of the booking sites were operated out of Germany (we interrupted our friend's nice Sunday afternoon by calling her in Munich a few times). My somewhat adequate German got me to understand that everytime I tried to purchase one of those tickets there was an error. I sent out an e-mail (in very broken German I'm sure) and tried calling one of booking agents, but was put on hold for half an hour. The one thing, we did notice however, was that all of these booking sites were recommending tickets through Turkish Air with one stop in Istanbul.

Our answer was there all along. Right in front of us. Why don't we call Turkish Air? It was easier than we could believe. Weeks of attempts when it took us but thirty to minutes to call Turkish Air, find the flights we needed, call their New York base and find that we could purchase the tickets there and then.

So now, just one week before we are to depart to Frankfurt, we are the owners of tickets to Tajikistan.

Oh yeah and PS. We still don't have tickets to Khojand from Dushanbe, but that seems like pie now that we can get into Tajikistan.

THE NEW PLAN: Since the tickets to Dushanbe don't leave Frankfurt until September 26th, returning there on November 19th, we have delayed our flight out of the US until the 24th.