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.