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Summer Postcards 2013

An Evening in Tajikistan

By Mark R. Jahnke

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan—Each day, after my classes finish at the Language Center, I like to take a walk along Rudaki Avenue.  The entire length of this long, beautiful boulevard is covered in a canopy of massive hundred-foot tall trees, stretching from the train station and airport in the south of the city to the small neighborhoods a few miles to the north where I live with my host family here in Dushanbe.  The walk is sometimes my walk home, and sometimes a walk into the city, around gardens blooming with fruits and fountains and past beautiful buildings and monuments unlike any in the United States.

Dushanbe is a small city of perhaps only 600,000, and is the capital of this small mountain republic that only a few years ago celebrated its 20th year of independence from the former Soviet Union. Despite that connection that conspires to cast a pall of dark impersonality, it is home to a wonderful and genuinely hospitable people.

The sun is hot but the air dry, a light breeze floating through the fountains outside many of the buildings.  Horns sound, tires squeal, but among it all I can still hear the trickle of the water through the jubes that line the roads like open storm drains.  A few days ago, I accidentally fell into one, which was quite an entertaining sight for the fifty or so Tajiks who were sitting nearby, watching me with amusement.

The sun crouches behind the mountains when I return home.  The days are long, lasting 15 hours or more it seems, and as I sit down to a dinner of “osh”, a traditional Tajik dish consisting of spiced rice, meat, and vegetables, I fall again into conversation with my host grandmother about topics both unique and mundane.  The moon, soon to be full, makes its way to the center of the sky as we talk and drink tea, juice from the most richly flavorful green melons dribbling from the corners of our mouths.

I look up as my host grandmother asks me what kinds of poems I like, and somehow I think to explain the song "I'll Be Seeing You" to her in Tajik.  She smiles and nods at the beauty of the fact that the moon is universal—it is always the same evolving being, no matter where one finds one's self.

When I return to the United States in two months, I know I'll look up at that big white orb and remember these long Tajik evenings sitting on the pillows in the courtyard, talking until our eyes no longer hold themselves open.

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Summer Postcards 2013