The Realities of Winter

Tajikistan in winter is distinctly different from in the US for two primary reasons.
In Shaartuz electricity is rationed and the markets aren’t connected to the global food supply. From 6am to 10am and 5pm to 10pm we have power. This totals 9 hours per day; Shaartuz is rationed 3 times the amount of power that neighboring villages receive during the months of November to March. Our office runs on a generator during the day. *

With rationed power the neighborhood becomes a social place. It’s commonly warmer outside than inside, so people visit with one another in the sunshine. Kids play games, men play cards, women socialize when their chores are completed, and strong social bonds are reinforced daily. It’s impressive.

Another noteworthy thing we can learn from Tajikistan is how to manage our own vanity. Tajik people dress exceptionally well most of the time, but the difference is each person has an average of three stylish/professional outfits. It’s the norm for people to wear the same outfit repeatedly, and my co-workers’ outfits are always clean and pressed. I’ve thought about it, and this makes sense. Why are our closets filled with so much stuff? Why do I have a significant amount of clothes sitting in a storage unit in Montana?

The truth is, I’m a consumer, it’s my culture, and it’s something I’m evaluating as I live in Tajikistan. My consumer instincts have been curbed regarding food purchases too. The markets are filled with cellar crops and not a lot else. Each meal is a variation of potatoes, carrots, onions, green turnips, rice, pasta, broth, meat (sheep, goat, cow, chicken), and the beloved dumba oil. Dumba oil is made from sheep butt fat. The food is tasty!

When things are predictable it’s easy to adapt and overcome. If you know electricity will be rationed, you plan for it. When you know you’ll have limited ingredients, you develop delicious recipes for what you have, no big deal. These are just a few of the reasons why Tajikistan and its people are inspiring.

* So where does the power go? Here is just one contributing factor: “The Tajik Aluminum company, Talco, consumes up to half of Tajikistan's electricity, contributing to major seasonal shortages and suffering. Though Talco is technically state-owned, most of its revenues end up in a secretive offshore company controlled by the President.”

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