Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Winter in Tajikistan

I have been here for one week, and I don't think it has hit 0 degrees celcius yet. It's cold, no doubt, but not colder than a winter in Maine. The problem lies in the lack of resources for heating. In Khujand we have no more than four hours of electricity a day, from about 6am to 8am and again at 4pm or 5pm for another couple hours. That is definitly not enough time for the radiators in the house to heat the rooms, so in my house all of our rooms, save the kitchen, stay at ourside temperatures. In the kitchen we have a gas heater and all five of us sit around it in the mornings and evenings, trying desperately not to get in each other's way. Fortunately, two of the beds have electric blankets, so when there is electricity, they get nice and toasty and we sleep very well.

I did spend last weekend visiting my host mother's sick mother in Nau, a town of about 100,000 on the border with Uzbekistan. I spent a couple nights with a family who paid for a "red line" of electricity and they heat their house accordingly. But no neighbors can know about this red line because it is illegal. Unfortunately, on my second night I accidentally turned on a light in a room where a curtain was open. Five minutes later one girl looked at me and just said, what have you done to us? An hour later the electricity was turned off, and for the first time this whole winter that house had no heating for a whole night. None of us could sleep and the outside temperature hit -20 C at least, normal for Nau. After I put on my boots the next morning and walked to the taxi to take me to Khujand, my toes were so cold I thought I had frost bite. I still have no idea if the family got their electricity back.

And yet, I know I have had it so much better than most. People can hardly afford to feed themselves, much less pay for red lines of electricity. Those who can have coal stoves in their houses, but still that is very expensive. And yet people manage. And they laugh and are happy too. They must have so much endurance to have lived through the months of December and January which were far colder than February.

My personal life is busy as I have started working with an educational NGO as well as at the Waldorf School. I have a very definite plan of teaching classes at the Waldorf School Monday through Friday in the mornings, leadings discussions at the American Corner in the library every Tuesday at 2:00 and working with the NGO and attending Russian lessons in my other freetime. Already in one week I've had multiple requests for English teaching or practice, but since time is so limited, I always request that they teach me in exchange. Currently, I am also attending the first grade main lesson at 8am, which is Russian Literature. The students are all so cute and the class is very helpful!

I hope you in Texas, Ireland or wherever in the world are all cozy and healthy this February and please, if you can, give a warm thought to the people Tajikistan. And Happy Valentine's Day too!

1 comment:

jack said...

Happy Valentine's Day, Aisling!