In Barcheed, like a duckling I followed and imitated what I saw Maino doing. Maino is a strong, intelligent, capable, and patient Pamiri mother. She is pictured above making pilov, a prized national dish. Maino is the mother of my friend Zor, a Pamiri student attending the University of Montana. Maino is the mother of three children; those children have chosen to study overseas (two in Russia, one in Montana). Maino adopted me into her daily routine very easily, even if I resembled a misfit duckling.
I stuck close to Maino, eager to practice my language and learn about her life. Village life followed a clear routine. A routine no matter how closely I watched, things escaped me. It took me the entire duration of our stay to realize the cow got milked twice a day. If this was the animal kingdom, my chances for survival would have been slim. Thank god for opposable thumbs and grocery stores!
In the village (кишлок), when the sun comes up, the cows, chickens, and sheep got moved to pasture. All of the houses surrounding ours were inhabited by relations. All these relations also had cows and sheep. The sheep watching responsibilities rotate among the families. This includes grandma, mother of 12 children, Soviet hero; she’s tough as nails and smaller than the average 10 year old.
The role of women is foundational to community life. Grandma’s raising grandchildren, while their daughters are migrant workers in Russia, earning money for the family. 36% of Tajikistan’s GDP is based on remittance payments. Women working overseas is new to this generation. It will be interesting to see if their daughters follow in their footsteps. To work hard abroad with the hope of retiring at home, with the hope of one day being able to raise grandchildren, make bread, plant and harvest crops, live a routine life. Village life is full of work, so retirement doesn’t seem like the best word choice.
To live and enjoy life without complaint, this is what I observed. Who’s got time for nonsense when there is so much work to be done? Not a pint sized Soviet hero with more great grandchildren than you can shake a stick at, not Maino, not any of the women I met in Barcheed.