Friday morning, Brandon and I exercised. We make a habit of exercising, and because we have five children and a job, we exercise before the children wake up. Near the end of our exercise, Brandon's phone rang. Most people aren't up for talking at 6:15 in the morning, so this was unusual and therefore interesting. It was probably a wrong number. Who else would be calling so early; it's generally considered pretty rude to wake someone up just to chat at that time in the morning. Maybe someone needed a ride.
Brandon finished talking and hung up the phone. "Well, it looks like I'm not going in to work today. There's been some people shot down by the airport. We're supposed to shelter in place. Children are supposed to stay home from school." Edwin, who was up to exercise with Brandon, cheered. Brandon continued, "Nobody's sure what's going on yet, but there are men dressed up as policemen who were part of the shooting. It sounds like there was also some shooting in Vahdat and a couple of people were killed."
He picked up his phone to pass on the message, filling his role in the phone tree, a phone tree that had been set up and tested just the week before.
I went downstairs to take a quick look at non-Oakwood options for housing in DC. With fall language training just starting, there wouldn't be a three, or probably two-bedroom apartment available for love, money, or a combination of the two.
Tajikistan, since civil war twenty years ago ended, has been a pretty low-key and safe country. We're a ninety minute drive from the Afghan border, but it could be a world away for all of the effect it has on my daily life. Most people here do the same thing people do all over the world - feed themselves, spend time with friends and family, and entertain themselves (mostly with friends and family) without causing each other too much trouble. There is corruption, but not much petty crime or personal danger. I'm pretty sure if one of my children magically appeared, alone, in the middle of downtown Dushanbe, they'd end up at the U.S. Embassy within the hour. I like it here. It's safe. It's quiet. It's a reasonable place to live.
We spent most of Friday sitting around. I had work to do and the children played after finishing their Friday chores. Brandon took some time to write, something he rarely gets to do because of his perpetually busy schedule at work. We got a few text messages from the embassy reminding us to stay home and stay safe. Brandon got some emails with some more information, but not much. It's hard to get information about situations when nobody really knows what's going on. Crises are kind of like that. They're developing, so the information comes only in pieces here and there. One person has seen this, another has seen that, a third has heard that. Often the pieces don't fit together very well and sometimes they contradict each other. Nothing flies faster in a crisis than the wild rumors. I remember hearing increasingly crazy stories in Cairo of whole malls being burnt down, malls that were pretty intact when I saw them three months later. It turned down that 'burnt down' meant a small fire was started in one of the stores. But everyone loves a juicy story, and even better than passing it along to your neighbor is passing it along to someone important, like a contact at the U.S. Embassy.
Brandon and I, of course, talked about the possibility of an evacuation. It's the first thing that comes to mind when gunmen are running around the city and stealing trucks full of weapons to hide out in the mountains with. You're pretty foolish to not think about those things. I laughed as I remembered talking with a friend on Wednesday, two days previous, about the possibility of an evacuation from Dushanbe. Don't worry, I assured her, you'll be okay. State takes good care of people. They won't leave us here in the middle of serious trouble. Don't worry.
But mostly, we just stayed home. I had planned a date for that evening, which I had to cancel. We had planned to camp, which also got canceled. Our hiking trip for Saturday - the first since April - also cancelled. There's nothing like a surprise long weekend (Monday's off for Labor Day) where you can't do anything but just sit at home and debate the probability of an evacuation. If this happens, it will be likely. But if that happens, things will probably be okay. What do you think? Yes, what we think doesn't matter, but let's just think of what if.
Saturday morning brought no new news. So I cooked. Brandon had a colleague coming in to town Sunday morning and we had become the default work and social sponsors, so it was time for chicken pot pie again. And while I was making one chicken pot pie, I might as well make two so that Sunday dinner was taken care of. Some friends decided on an impromptu 'we're-really-sick-of-just-our-family-for-two-days' pizza party, so I just kept on cooking and made a couple of pizzas to take over. Brandon delivered the pot pie and various groceries to a clean and empty house. By eight or nine that evening when the pizza was eaten and soda drunk and children worked up to a fever pitch by a rowdy game of good guys and bad guys it was almost as if Friday was just a blip in the smooth path of normal life. Almost.
The bad guys, identified as Deputy Defence Minister Abdukhalim Nazarzoda and accomplices, are still at large, somewhere in the mountains. Brandon goes back to work on Tuesday, but we're not allowed out of the city without permission from the RSO. Everything is not over.
But, for now life has returned to normal. Almost. We all will pretend that there was a little bit of excitement, somebody got mad or wanted to prove something or had plans or didn't like some people or something else we don't understand, and everything is under control. But maybe it isn't. Some things have happened recently that some people aren't happy about. So maybe this is the beginning or something bigger. Maybe it isn't. There's no way to know, and those who know more than I do are wisely not talking.
So for now, we act like everything is normal. There isn't much else to do. We go to school. We work. We spend time with friends. We don't hike. And maybe, after a week or two of playing real life, the acting will turn out to be true and we can just live and stop acting. But then, maybe it won't. Nobody knows. We'll just have to watch and see.