So guess what!? I survived February in Tajikistan. I think I should get a t-shirt. The beginning of March and the return of temperate weather means that I haven’t fallen down lately, there’s no need to constantly wear long underwear, and even my giant amusing hats have disappeared from my wardrobe. Here in our little Persian-language-learning world it means we get sit outside and study or nap in the courtyard. It ALSO means that leaving Dushanbe for day trips is becoming sort of possible. We had one this Saturday. We went to… THE THIRD LARGEST ALUMINUM FACTORY IN THE WORLD.
I know. Extreme excitement coming outta this blog lately.
As you may have noticed from my previous posts, Tajikistan has a lot of natural beauty. But apparently (unfortunately), countries can’t survive on natural beauty alone. They need industries, I’ve heard. Hence, big aluminum factory in Western Tajikistan (thanks Soviets!).
Supposedly, this thing takes up somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of all of Tajikistan’s electricity supply. So, when I was freezing my butt off due to electricity outages all winter, I had this place to blame.
When we got to the factory (which is called TALCO, short for Tajik Aluminum Company), we were greeted by our “minder.” This man didn’t seem to have any particular knowledge of the factory or the small museum that accompanied it, but was really great at reading signs and pointing out the obvious, eg: “These are stones.”
In the museum there were lots of awards and presents from other countries and signs promoting Tajik-Belorussian friendship. The factory itself was much more interesting. First of all, the entire place was magnetized. So, things like coins and keys all stuck together. Evidence below:
Second, the whole thing looked like something out of a nuclear apocalypse. There was old Soviet propaganda everywhere, everything was grey, and sometimes I swear I saw particles of aluminum just hanging in the air. At the end we asked our minder-person how many on-the-job injuries took place there each year. He shook his head and said “That’s a secret.” We were pretty lucky to be able to get in though: not many foreigners have been, and they often forbid photos.
They did several demonstrations of aluminum pouring for us. We were warned not to wear any baggy clothing, or touch ANYTHING, as this might lead to spontaneous combustion and/or third degree burns. Afterwards, we went to another, much smaller factory in a village somewhere. I am a little unclear on what this factory did. They definitely husked rice, and maybe did something with wheat. They weren’t actually operating, but showed us the rice husking machine and looked confused when I asked how people had husked rice before electricity. I also bought flaxseed oil for my host family there.
When I got home from the trip on Saturday, I found that my host family wasn’t home, and I was locked out. This wasn’t a big problem… I walked over to my host grandmother’s house and found them all there. I hadn’t been there since coming back from break, and actually had a really lovely time.
As the sun set, I played soccer with my host cousins in the courtyard. I am not a good soccer player. However, I was also the only person over the age of 9. The kids thought I was pretty good. They said “Amanda, you’re Messi!” “No! You’re Ronaldo!” Kids are the same everywhere. Its reassuring.
One of the interesting things about taking only Persian classes is that at least 3 times a week my professors spontaneously burst into poem. Here is one my professor quoted by Rudaki this week. Its about a time when Ismoil Somoni (aka the Wizard of Dushanbe) went off to Herat and didn’t want to come back to Bukhara. Basically, its flattery. (I actually quoted a different part of this poem once. Its one of Rudaki’s most famous).
Long live Bukhara! Be thou of good cheer!
Joyous towards thee hasteth our Amir!
The moon’s the prince, Bukhara is the sky;
O Sky, the Moon shall light thee by and by!
Bukhara is the Mead, the Cypress he;
Receive at last, O Mead, thy Cypress tree!
تا دوشنبه آینده،