Well, I have just bought the tickets! I leave February 4th flying via British Airlines (Austin-Chicago- London-Moscow) and Siberian Airlines (Moscow-Khujand). This way turned out to be the least expensive, even with a $100 transit visa through Moscow. The catch is that I arrive on February 6th at 4:05 am, after spending 10 hours in the Moscow airport. I do hear it is a nice one, though.
Since I left, I have been keeping in pretty consistant touch with friends from Tajikistan who tell me that it is currently -17 C in Khujand (about 0 F) and there is snow! But, good news. The government is now giving gas all day-- 12 full hours of it. That is an improvement since I left!
I will be staying with the same host family as before (photos below) who really welcome me as one of them, and fortunately have an extra electricity line which allows them to have more than four hours of electricity a day. I'm very glad about this.
Also, not part of the plan this time is....hair cutting. I have mentioned this a few times, but more than once Tajiks commented that I really stand out, and even look a bit masculine, with my "short" hair. It remains part of the culture for most women to leave their hair uncut for many years. So, I guess I'll just have to go along with tradition.
There are just three weeks left before I depart, and my Tajik visa will be coming in soon. I hope that my plastic box of donations will continue to fill with anything and everything deemed appropriate for 1st-6th graders, or Tajiks in general. (Ideas: pencils, notebooks, recorders, warm blankets, warm clothes....)
And thank you again to those of you who have already donated.