Surviving the Tajik Winter: Tales from the (Cold) Front

So apparently its cold everywhere in Eurasia is right now. But Tajikistan wins because the cold is compounded by the frequent electrical outages, and the fact that the city planners of Dushanbe decided to pave entrences to many buildings with a marble-like material. Marble gets really slippery when it snows, guys! Generally, I see about 10 people fall down per day. Sometimes I fall down too.

But apparently February is the hard month. And if we make it through February then everything is flowers and springtime and Nowruz. So this blog post is about how I’m making it through February. Its not that hard, if you’re creative enough…

Don't I look cold?

Step One: Embrace It

Its really cold out. Its going to stay really cold out. Tajikistan is 93% mountains. Obvious answer: Go sledding! On Sunday my friends and I bought inter-tubes from a sports shop, and headed out to the hills (we stopped along the way at our favorite Uighur restaurant). We passed the cemetery that is located on the edge of town, and walked up into the hills. I’ll let the following video speak for me:

Clearly, if I stop shivering for a second and look around, Tajikistan is pretty gorgeous in the winter.  In some spots, the snow was up to my knees! And it felt like if you just kept walking, you just keep reaching more and more mountains, until you were in the Pamirs.

(Note: Yes, the sleds have New York Yankees and Ohio State logos on them. No, I don’t know why.)

Chris and Joey check out the view

Step Two: Find Some Culture

Its pretty easy to stay inside and read or watch TV. But there are actually decent cultural entertainment opportunities around. Saturday night we went to see a documentary at a (very warm) hotel theatre. It was called “The Desert of Forbidden Art.” I high recommend it. It is voiced by Ben Kingsley, so it is not one of those obscure Central Asian things I occasionally recommend. Its about a museum in Karakalpakstan (in Uzbekistan) where anti-Soviet art was protected, especially during Stalin’s era.

I realized I hadn’t been to see a film in a theatre since August.

In general, we’ve been making much more of an effort to go to these sorts of things this semester. Last week we went to a Russian play, and we’re hoping to do something similar next week.

Step Three: Dars, Dars, Dars

Thank goodness classes have started. Classes here are pretty awesome. For my history class, we are reading a 9th/12th century of Bukhara (written in Arabic in the 10th century, updated and translated in the 12th). Its the same one we started reading in my English language history class last semester, except now I have to write compositions about it in Persian. It is very exciting. I told my Farsi professor that I wanted to focus on improving my reading and writing this semester, so I have already had many compositions assigned. I come home, plop down in my living room, and write as much as I can. My last writing assignment was to explain the U.S. electoral system in Persian. It was difficult, mostly because the U.S. electoral system is too complicated in any language.

Dari classes are also pretty exciting. And confusing! Its not that different, but in many cases, I do understand, but it doesn’t sound like something I’ve heard before. Or it sounds like someone got confused and started mixing Farsi and Tajiki together in a blender. Its actually pretty useful for reading my historical text though… I’ve learned words in Dari class that my Farsi teacher has then pointed out as uncommonly used Farsi words in the History of Bukhara text. In general, I’ve found that this semester I have a lot of control over what I study (taking half of my classes alone will do that, I guess), which in turn makes me a lot more motivated to study.

Step Four: When All Else Fails, Put on Long Underwear, Make Some Coffee and Wait It Out

Pretty much what it sounds like. I’m staying as warm as I can, and hoping that spring comes soon. All in all, its not bad… the pipes in my house haven’t frozen, my space-heater works, I’ve got my ghichak to practice, and I’ve downloaded new books for my Nook. Hopefully, I’ll be creative enough to keep coming up with stories for this blog until spring finally makes an appearance!

Getting Ready for Lift-Off

Here’s one of the more vivid Rumi quotes I’ve read:

Last year, I admired wines
This, I’m wandering inside the red world.
Last year, I gazed at the fire.
This, I’m burnt kabob.
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