Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Different Life

It's quite obvious that life is different here in Tajikistan, but I have not taken the time to really explain how. Here are a few points:

First of all we sleep on Korpocha, not in beds. They are homemade cushions on the floor, not too soft, but still not too hard. At first my back was sore from sleeping on them, but now it's a welcome place every night.

Also, every week, or sometimes a couple times a week, I wash all of my clothes by hand. I mix boiled water with cold water to make the right temperature, add detergent and one by one (starting with the light things so the water doesn't get too dark) I scrub all of my clothes with a bar of soap and my hands. I squeeze them out, and when they are all washed, I do it again. Then I rinse them all under a cold tap water and wring them very well and hang them on our indoor clothes line. It usually takes two days for them to dry, and then I have to iron out all the wrinkles in every item, including in towels and underwear, since the detergent can be rough on the skin. I've gotten faster now, so it only takes me a couple of hours to wash everything, and one hour to iron and it's a good skill to learn. One becomes very conscious of daily stains and dust as a result!

I didn't really realize until recently how lucky I am in my living situation. I live in an apartment which has a bathtub, hot water and a toilet. Yes, we have to sit on a stool in the bathtub and wash ourselves with water which comes through a rubber tube, yes we have to get up at 3 in the morning to turn on the hot water heater, if we want hot water in the morning and yes the toilet is old and leaking and breaking, but it's a better situation than some. At the other apartment, where I eat, they have to boil their own water, and have someone else help them bathe. At the outskirts of the city there are Tajik houses, where the bath room is a hole in the concrete, and the toilet is also a hole in the concrete. These houses are more spacious on one hand, there is a central courtyard, beautiful porches, but obviously personal care is a bit more difficult. Canyon lives in one of these houses and laughingly admits that he has taken three showers since we arrived.

Another aspect--there is no temperature control, from my experience. The closest was a radiator in one classroom, which obviously only works when there is electricity and a small heater in one home. In summer the weather gets very hot and in winter, very cold. Families burn coal in the winter when the electricity and gas are out. Quite, honestly, though, life is comfortable during this "transition" time of year. It's not too hot, not too cold, sunny and beautiful. The locals are dreading winter, however, as well as the rainy time of year which is just weeks away.

Every winter, the government turns off the gas and electricity for most of the day. Even now, they have started. It hasn't become too much of a problem yet. My family has a gas stove and a tea pot the plugs into the wall so at least we can boil water at any time. The water went out a couple of times, and goes out more often in winter, so there are huge water stashes at each house. I fill every water bottle I buy (I buy 1.5 liters of drinking water every day), fill it and place it with the others for future use in cooking and bathing.

Мусор - pronounced "moo'-ser," this is the Russian word for trash. It's everywhere. Someone forgot to introduce the Tajiks to trash bags, so the garbage is loose, even in public trash bins. These are scarce, and many times I have been out with friends who just litter--in the gutters, on the sidewalk, anywhere. It becomes someone else's problem. Tahmina has started using trash bags in her home as she hates this practice, but she's exceptional. And then, every now and again, someone puts all the trash in the bins on fire, leading to air pollution etc. True, the trash trucks come every week and store owners sweep the pavement in the mornings as do home owners on the weekend but it all ends up in the gutter, then. Only once have I seen the government trucks scooping the mud and trash from the gutters but this is not a common occurrence, as I understand. The Tajiks just have a different relationship with trash as well their out door environment.

Pets-- I have only seen two pets so far. Our neighbor has a cat who constantly whines outside the door. She could be there for hours, but they don't usually hear her because they have a sound-proof double metal door, so we often have to ring the door bell for her. The other was a cute little puppy dog, whom a man was walking across the bumpy gravel. There are many dogs and cats around, however, but they are homeless, starving and shaggy. Their eyes are sad, and in some cases, rabies has taken over their lives. They dig in the trash bins, scrounging for bits of watermelon or potato (both of which are very common here) or any of the people's edible мусор . They never cease to make me sad, these regected, uncared for animals, ignored by all and frightening many. One night as we were wandering home in the dark, our brother Kakramon, our "guide and protector," chose to take a different, longer route just because a few dogs barking ahead. He himself admitted being afraid of them and their diseases. I guess I always took animals shelters for granted; there certainly is nothing of the kind here.


Jack said...

Thanks for taking the time to write, Aisling.
--l, j

Anonymous said...

Every posting is fascinating (and well written). How fortunate for us that you are writing about your experiences. Leslie Blair

Anonymous said...

Aisling, your blogs are fascinating! Thank you so much. What an incredible experience you are having. It is inconceivable how different life can be, today, in the 21st century, isn't it. Schreib weiter! Alles Liebe, Ann

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing about these aspects of your life. Your mother could worry. pdg

Anonymous said...

Mothers are supposed to worry! Great to heard you are washing your own clothes--the machine at home just broke down. Cheers, jmg.

Ruth said...

Aisling, it's wonderful hearing about your experiences. What an incredible adventure! I look forward to hearing more. We miss you here! And will in Mexico next week. With Sorcha's help, I may be able to send photos! Take care. Love you, Aunt Ruth

Anonymous said...

Thanks for keeping us up to date with your adventures so looking forward to seeing you keep well all our love Granny Noreen and Grandad Milo

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Ireland in the 1980's!!! I kid I kid! Musn't be too bad; you've got net access, thats the one thing I can't live without!!! Really looking forward to your visit to Ireland; must be soon now no? Email me and tell me when your coming; we have a spare room if you're interested too and I promise it'll be better than what you described (You might even get the use of a mechanical slave for washing; and a container for trash!)

Talk Later!