21.10.10

A view from our roof in Instanbul

video

This is a video from our hotel roof in Istanbul, Turkey.
The Nobel Hotel is located in the Sultan Ahmet neighborhood. In the video you will see the Blue Mosque, which is located directly across from the Aya Sofia. As tourists, this was a great location to stage our adventures.

Condalisa Rice: Calendar Girl?

A photo album from Turkey is up... Thank you for your patience!

Mikey and I have had a lot of fun this week!

We have started our language lessons with Dr. Abdul Rashid, aka Bobo (Grandpa) Abdullo. Dr. Abdul Rashid is a Persian language scholar/ translator. His English is so-so, which makes him a great teacher of Tajik. With his basic level of English he was able to share with us his love of Condalisa Rice, whom he has a framed photo of. Did you know Condi speaks very good Russian? Commonalities between Condi and Putin: they our loved by Dr. Abdul Rashid and they both speak Russian.

Another funny occurance was after purchasing a very large melon (Harbooza) in the green market we had some arrands to run around town. As we were walking I queried to Mikey, do you think people are staring at me or the melon? This fostered the idea for us to draw a face on the melon. The melon was transformed from fruit in to Baby Harbooza. Baby Harbooza got a lot of smiles from people. As we are minorities in a city of predominately Persian people we stand out. Standing out results in being looked at. With many people looking at us they couldn't help but look at the giant melon we were carrying, when they saw the melon had a face, there was lots of instantaneous laughter. Without language we communicated: not only are we different, we're a little bit odd too, and this we can all laugh about.

When we made it home with Baby Harbooza, our housemates were not home yet. Baby Harbooza was put into Uncle Imimyor's bed... more laughter. Baby Harbooza was delicious!

15.10.10

Getting Settled

Mikey and I have now been in Tajikistan for a week. We've been busy meeting people, obtaining official documentation, taking care of mundane affairs (cell phone, housing, setting up tutoring, etc.), and familiarizing ourselves with the local food and markets.

Dushanbe is a city with wide streets and an abundance of fountains. We have learned the Marchuka (mini-bus) system by trial and error. Our Marchuka drivers have been rightfully concerned at times when we insist on riding in a certain direction. Sometimes we've been lost, and sometimes we've intentionally ridden to the end of the line just to see where it goes.

We've unpacked our bikes, but have done less riding than we do at home. There are a few reasons for this 1) Drivers are unpredictable here! In Tajikistan you don't have to pass a drivers course in order to obtain a license, you just have to buy a license. This creates an environment where not all drivers are playing by the same rules. A story was related to me where a fellow ex-pat overheard his taxi driver stating "The lines (on the road) are for beginners." With this said, I've witnessed some testastorone driven showmanship, but overall the driving is good. 2) It's affordable to ride the Marchukas at 22 cents (1 somoni) a ride. Mikey and I plan to do some longer bike trips out of the city when we have a few days to adventure.

Mikey is meeting with the University of Central Asia staff (one is a fellow U Montana grad) today. He's working on further developing and coordinating his research plans. The University of Central Asia has been helpful in recommending a Tajik language tutor for us and they are also assisting us in looking for an apartment. We should have formal language classes beginning next week. In the mean time...

We've been cramming as much vocabulary into our brains as can fit! Yesturday we got Tajik-English and English-Tajik dictionaries. These were extremely helpful in facilitating conversations between our current flat mates and us. In Dushanbe, we are currently staying in an apartment of a Tajik friend from Missoula, Zor. His Uncle and friend are also staying in the apartment for a few days. Zor's Uncle kicked our butts in chess, it was great fun! And after he let Mikey win an arm wresting contest because he was a guest, Mikey declared this morning "Today begins the witness the fitness regime!" Push-ups every day was the declaration, it's a great goal, but we'll see.

Other language training has been taking place in the park each evening from a gaggle of teenage boys. Notable characters are: Muhammed, a sixteen year old boy, who can do a nearly flawless Michael Jackson interpretation. Faroukh, Muhammed's best buddy, who is shy but is always the first to understand my questions. And a motley crew of university students who are eager to hear English spoken. Out of this group an informal language exchange has developed where we play ping-pong and assist one another in understanding each others language better.

This is the news from here... I promise pictures are coming soon!
Spell check wasn't possible, so please forgive any mistakes I've made.
Much Love,
Ali

7.10.10

Made it to Dushanbe

We had a wonderful 10 days in Turkey. Spending time in Olympos, an ancient Greek and Roman city of ruins transformed into a bohemian beach hang out. We relaxed with abandon; swimming, hiking, and eating as many pomegranates as we could consume. Our bungalo was in a pomegranate orchard!

On our bus trip back to Istanbul we were lucky to meet a young Turkish man named Ali. Ali wanted to make sure we experienced Turkish hospitality, buying tasty pancakes and tea for us before our bus trip started. Ali's English was great as he'd been a TA at the University of Maryland while working for NASA in Greenbelt. We had lots to talk about. He talked to us about how great the Ottoman Empire was and political reform taking place in Turkey today. A referendum was voted on and passed in early Sept. to reduce the influence of the Turkish military in politics. Interesting stuff.

We spent 2 days in Istanbul to finish our vacation. I explored the Ayasofya, originally built in 360 AD as a Byzantine church until it was transformed in to a Mosque with changing empires in 1453 AD. It was the largest building in the world for nearly 1000 years. Currently it is a museum (secularized in the 1930s by Ataturk) that reflects the traditions of almost 2000 years of Istanbul/ Constantinople religious heritage.

While I was exploring this architectural masterpiece, Mikey explored a local neighborhood and got a straight razor shave. Highlights of his shave were having his ear hair fuzz burned off with a lighter, as well as his nose hairs trimmed by Yusef the barber. Yusef didn't tell Mikey what he was doing with the lighter until he'd already started the process of burning his ear hair. Mikey's account of his reaction is pretty funny.

Our final morning was spent having tea at the Pera Palace, a hotel where T.E. Lawrence, Agatha Christie, and Earnest Hemingway stayed on their visits to Istanbul. It was very fancy and wonderful!

Today we arrived in Dushanbe. We were very fortunate to be met at the airport at 4:45am by friends of a Church family Rotary acquaintance. Veronica and Shocrat ushered us and our big luggage (bikes and backpacks) to an apartment where we will stay for a few days while we apartment hunt. The generosity we have been recipients of is heart warming! We are currently at the US embassy getting organized before we adventure out to start our lives here.

Let the adventure begin...I'll keep you posted on our progress :)


1.10.10

TURKEY

We have been really enjoyıng ourselves ın Istanbul! At the aırport we were told that all the Turkısh we would need to know ıs the phrase "Choke Guzell" translatıon: "How Beautıful!"
Thıs statement seems approprıate for everywhere we've vısıted and most everythıng we've seen. Archıtectural feats, wıld and crowded bazaars, Doner meats being sliced in store fronts creatıng salıvatıng scents along every road, and of course havıng tea ın Europe and lookıng at Asıa, and havıng tea ın Asıa and lookıng at Europe.

Both literally and fıguratively this is the meeting place of two continents and many cultures. This mixing has created a chaotıc perfection that buzzes about the streets. Thıs ıs a city to visit and re-visit ın your lıfetıme!

I am lookıng forward to sharıng photos and vıdeos wıth you, but I left my camera charger in the US. I will be reunıted with ıt ın Tajikistan, and visual aids will be posted then.

We leave for the Adrıatıc regıon of Olympos today. Woo Hoo!