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Monday, April 27, 2015

Five Pros and Cons of Dushanbe

Perhaps the first thought crossed your mind - well the second thought after 'where in the heck is Dushanbe?!?' - was 'now that I know where Dushanbe is, I'm shocked to pieces that there are pros to living in the armpit of Central Asia.'  But I'm here to tell you that there are pros to living in the most mountainous country in the world that nobody's ever heard of.

We've been in Dushanbe almost six months and have made it through the roughest part of the year (according to me) and so I think I have a pretty good feel for living here in Dushanbe.

1.  The mountains.  The mountains, the mountains, the mountains.  Did I mention the mountains?  Tajikistan is considered to be 92% mountainous, with half of the country over ten thousand feet.  Wherever you are in Dushanbe, you can look and see some pretty stunning mountain scenery to brighten up your day, and those mountains aren't very far away.  We can drive twenty minutes from our house and be at the trailhead of a hike.  I think that we could spend our whole tour hiking every weekend and still not even touch the possible hikes in this country.  And in the springtime, the mountains turn a violent green and burst into wildflowers.  After a long, grey winter it's wonderful.

2.  The housing.  Everyone here gets a house with a yard.  I haven't seen a house yet that wasn't three stories and almost every single house (not ours) has a full basement.  So there's lots and lots and lots of storage.  

3.  The embassy community.  Dushanbe is a small embassy community (about sixty American employees) so it's easy to get to know everyone.  There are constant activities being organized by the CLO and everyone is happy to make a new friend.  Everyone is like family, whether you like it or not.

4.  The traffic.  Occasionally I've hear about a 'traffic jam' that took a whole five minutes to clear up.  After living in Cairo and Baku, I'm floored every time Brandon and I cruise downtown on a Friday night and there's almost nobody out on the road.  Brandon takes fifteen minutes to get to work every day, no matter what time it is.  It's almost impossible to get lost because the city is so small.  And public transportation is dirt cheap - fifteen cents a bus ride.

5.  The people.  Tajiks are incredibly kind, warm people with amazing hospitality.  While out hiking a few weeks ago, we were invited for tea by some villagers working their fields.  We declined, but when we passed by them on our way back, they had tulips and fresh rhubarb for us.  Being an American is no problem here; they have had such little contact with Americans that we're just an oddity and not a source of hostility or free handouts.  Often we're mistaken for Russians.  

1.  The housing.  The houses are large but have constant maintenance issues because they were built so badly.  In the six months since we've moved here, we've had the facing fall off a wall in our yard, flashing fall off the front of our house, light circuits burn out, two toilet seats break, a leak in our kitchen water piping, several transformers burn out (because of voltage surges), air conditioners not work, shower leaking, gutters leaking, split pack conduit fall off the wall (and then water coming out the wall when they tried to fix the conduit), toilets running, water faucet leaking, faucet handle snap off, and the power flick on and off every time I dried a load of laundry.  And our house is brand new.

2.  Power issues.  The power supply here is not very consistent.  Our generator will randomly kick in several times a week, and in the winter it would run for several hours a day.  This is especially annoying as we don't own a UPS so our computer gets shut down multiple times a day.  It's also annoying if you're using the bathroom when the lights go off before the generator kicks in.  We had friends whose power blew three driers before the embassy shelled out a lot of money for whole house voltage regulator.

3.  Produce.  The produce in the summer is wonderful - fresh, cheap, and all very local.  But in the winter you're down to carrots, potatoes, cabbage, beets, onions, garlic, cucumbers, and greenhouse tomatoes.  So you can put your kale, avocado, and arugula recipes away for the length of your whole tour.

4.  Living in a former Soviet Union country.  Tajikistan is still very much a child of the Soviet Union.  There is not much happening economically, so most of the infrastructure is left over from the Soviet era.  The roads are crumbling.  The walls are crumbling.  The sidewalks are crumbling.  The power poles are crumbling.  Anything that was made of concrete (which is almost everything) is crumbling.  Even the embassy, which is only eight years old, has crumbling sidewalks and roads.  The pool just got fixed up for the swim season because it was leaking.  And it just opened last August.  And it is the third pool built on the embassy compound since 2008.

5.  Getting here.  There are very limited flights in and out of Dushanbe, and every flight gets in at 3 or 4 or 5 in the morning.  So any travel from the states means two nights on an airplane.  And then when you add in the jet lag - recently I got to experience my first 12 hour time difference - it's just rough getting here.  And then it's rough adjusting.  But on the plus side, you probably won't have every relative you know (and some you don't) want to come and enjoy your hospitality while you're in Dushanbe.

Overall, we like Dushanbe, and we like it enough to have extended.  It's a great post for those looking for a quiet little country to enjoy a reasonable standard of living in and make some good friends.  It's not a good post for anyone who can't live without a large offering of cultural experiences, fine dining, night life, or really anything at all.  But for us, it's home, and we like it just fine.

1 comment:

PaulaJean said...

It might be hard to get there from here, but we'll be coming when we finally can. And we'll already be used to third world living. :-)