Some notes on popular culture, cuisine and 5-D films

First, let me apologize for not writing last week. My official excuse is that I had a lot of homework, but also there was this whole thing where not much was going on. Sometimes that happens when you’ve been in a place for 6 months.

The one piece of exciting news from last week was our trip to the mall. If you have ever met me, you know that I don’t usually spend much time at malls. I usually find them to be evil, soul-sucking places. But this mall has THE ONLY ESCALATOR IN ALL OF TAJIKISTAN. Excitement, no? So we went and rode the escalator. And watched people ride the escalator for a while. When there is only one escalator in an entire country, sometimes people are not so good at riding it.

This weekend is a three day weekend. We have today off for U.S. President’s day. And so we were determined to find interesting things to do. And we did manage to create one bit of excitement- we went to see a 5-D film!

Now, maybe you are thinking “Amanda, you are confused. Movies only come in 3 dimensions.” But not in Tajikistan. In Tajikistan they come in 5! They also only last about 10 minutes. Joey and I saw one about an amusement park. We were on the roller-coaster.

Sitting in the waiting room for the 5-D Movie. Its like a doctor's office, except with 5-D advertisements

When not inventing these outrageous “adventures” we satisfy ourselves with the routine offerings of Dushanbe. Which are actually pretty decent. For example, a new Iranian restaurant opened last semester, and is a great place to spend hours on end. It is also a nice break from Osh. Delicious kabobs, Iranian specialties, tea, and a place where everyone speaks in an Iranian accent.

I also genuinely like my routine at home. In particular, I enjoy the mornings: we usually have oatmeal and chestnuts for breakfast, and watch crazy music videos. I am not an expert on pop culture or fashion: I have been wearing the same pair of Gap jeans for 4 years. When the wear out, I buy the exact same pair again. But I very much enjoy trying to figure out pop culture phenomena. Particularly in Tajikistan, where it is delightfully mixed up.

I’ve mentioned before how Tajikistan is this conglomeration of different cultural influences. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the music videos that my host siblings enjoy. Uzbek videos are very popular in my house, since a.) my host family understands Uzbek and b.) there seem to be much more of them then Tajik music videos, which makes sense since Uzbekistan’s population is 4X larger than Tajikistan’s.

Here is an Uzbek music video I very much enjoy, mostly because of the singer’s awesome dance moves.

On occasion, we watch Iranian music videos. Everyone likes Arash, the Swedish-Iranian megastar, and also this guy who sings a song about how awesome Iran’s soccer team is. There are a few notable Tajiki-language pop stars, the most famous of whom is probably Jonibek. And then there is this guy, a Tajik guest-worker who became famous in Russia for being able to sing both male and female parts of a Bollywood song:

Bollywood music in general is pretty popular: I told my host family that I was going to India for the summer (more on that in a minute), and so yesterday morning we spent a significant period of time watch Shah Rukh Khan clips. My host baby calls him “Shoo Roo!”

Ok so yes, the other exciting news from this week is that I’ll be spending the summer in Lucknow, studying Urdu through a Critical Language Scholarship. (Don’t worry, I’ll continue studying Persian for a long time.) I’ll come home for about a month-ish starting the 10th of May, before heading over there. Sometimes I forget how incredibly awesome my life is, but finding out about this was a nice reminder. Other cool reminder: I’m currently writing an essay on irrigation methods in the Samanid empire… in Persian! Ahh!

Before I leave you with a poem, here is a fun picture of Tajikistan’s president, in honor of President’s in the U.S. day. The text says “Rogun: Koh-e Noor of Tajikistan.” (For those unaware, Koh-e Noor literally means “Mountain of Light” in Persian). Rogun is a dam in Tajikistan that has been under construction since… 1976. It is a major cause of tension with Uzbekistan. It also has very little in common with a giant diamond.

"Rogun: Koh-e Noor-e Tajikistan"

Here’s a quote by Sanai. We’ve been reading in poetry in Dari class lately, and I’ve become fond of him:

“When the path ignites a soul,
there’s no remaining in place.
The foot touches ground,
but not for long.”

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Saying “Turkey” in Persian

Farsi, Dari and Tajiki each have different words for “Turkey” (the food you eat at Thanksgiving, not the country I’ll be visiting in three weeks). In Farsi, its بوقلمون / Buqalamun. Oddly, Buqalamun means chameleon in Tajiki. In Tajiki the word for Turkey is мурғи марҷон/ Murgh-e Marjon, which literally might mean “Coral Chicken,” if I understood my professor correctly.  My favorite, however, is the Dari word,  فیل مرغ / Feil Murgh, which literally translates to “Elephant Chicken.” It reminds me of Dr. Seuss.
(Also, if you speak Persian, check out this VOA Dari clip about some Turkey farmers in the US. Why exactly this clip is on VOA Dari is a little beyond me, but I’m really glad that it is:

This is how you make Thanksgiving dinner, Tajik style.

I was lucky enough to get some delicious Elephant Chicken this Thanksgiving, despite being in Tajikistan. We had the day off for Thanksgiving. While our professors and administrators prepared Osh and Turkey in the very-advanced-technology you see above, we sat inside and drank coffee and watched Charlie Wilson’s War (three lines in Dari for the win!), and eventually emerged to make some hot apple cider and enjoy the feast.

giant VAT OF OSH

Obviously, it wasn’t the most traditional of Thanksgivings- there was Osh, after all, but the Osh had cranberries in it, and there was Apple Pie for dessert, and it was spent in good company. We stood around the courtyard and discussed the various terms for Turkey, and used the hot apple cider to protect agains the cold Dushanbe weather.

Also, I should mention that Tajikistan’s National Flag Day happened to coincide with U.S. Thanksgiving. What an incredible coincidence! Except that no one in Tajikistan seemed particularly excited about Flag Day. I mentioned it to my host family, and asked if they’d gone to the parade, and they laughed at me and said they didn’t even know Flag Day existed.

Our Thanksgiving Turkey! On a lunch tray... on a ping pong table. Pretty freaking classy.

Despite the fact that Thanksgiving was delectable, it was not, in fact, the most exciting food related event of my week. That took place on Saturday, and began, as all good things should, with a long walk. I was visiting a friend who lived on a backroad, and decided to take a meandering path to get back to the main street. It was snowing and beautiful out: I’ve come to believe that Dushanbe is miserable in the rain, but absolutely delightful in the snow.

Anyways, I wandered along, found a quaint little park and some interesting looking neighborhoods, and just as I was starting to feel cold and hungry, the side road I was on opened up onto Rudaki Ave, and I found myself next to a small Iranian Kabob Shop I’ve been meaning to try for ages.

It was perfect. It was filled with elderly Iranian men joking in Farsi, the Iranian version of MTV was on, and since the menu was in Farsi script, it didn’t take me several hours to read! I had kubideh kabob and a big pot of tea, for less than 3$. I plan on frequenting this place very often.

Afterwards, I walked to Rudaki Park to enjoy the beauty of Dushanbe in the snow for a little while longer, and took several pictures for your viewing pleasure:

Rudaki in the Snow

Ismail Somoni, AKA the Wizard of Dushanbe, and his snow lions.

View of the Park

In other news, its getting pretty close to winter break- in just about three weeks I’ll be boarding a plane to Istanbul. I am very glad that I am coming back to Dushanbe for a second semester after break. I am equally as glad to have a few weeks off, and incredibly excited for the steady supply of strong electricity and even stronger coffee in Europe.

Before I go, here’s a quote from Hafez,

“Good poetry makes the universe admit a secret:
‘I am really just a tambourine, grab hold
and play my music against your thigh.’”

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