A year ago Saturday we stumbled off an overcrowded Turkish airlines flight into the cold, dark early morning Dushanbe air. I remember cheerily chatting with Brandon's office sponsor as the embassy white van, filled with our ten suitcases, six backpacks, two carry-ons, three carseats, stroller, and pack-n-play, wound its way through the empty streets of our new hometown. Arriving at a new post is equal parts terrifying, fascinating, exhausting, and exhilarating.
We were put into a temporary house for five weeks, and moved into our permanent house on Christmas Day, hastily setting up a borrowed tree to hold a delayed Christmas two days later. We survived Dushanbe's cold, grey winter and spent the spring exploring our new country. The hot summer days were spent lounging by the pool, and we made it back from our R&R just in time for a hiatus in hiking.
And now it's November again, back where we started. The trees are brown and gold, starting to think seriously about giving up their hold and falling down to the ground they came from. The sun sets just a little earlier each day, the grey November twilight reminding everyone that home is where light and warmth are to be found. Everyone is settling in for the cold, still, quiet winter.
But this time I won't wonder if I can make it through the winter here in this country - will it be as grey as Baku? As cold as Utah? Will the snow stay for days on end, or melt in an afternoon? What will we do with the children when everyone's seen much too much of our house and each other? Where can we sled? Can we sled?
I know all of the answers. And now I can mark the time by our year's experience. It doesn't get really cold until January. When it's forty degrees and raining in Dushanbe, it's probably snowing at our favorite sledding spot. March is chilly, but not as bad a February. Plant beans in early April. Broccoli comes on in March and November. July is too hot for hiking. September is too cool for swimming. Picnics are perfect in October, at the park next the road near the amusement park.
On Saturday we went out for our first Adventure Saturday in months. We revisited our first spot and got stuck in some serious mud. By the time we got free and home again, the car was caked in the stuff and I had to spray the large chunks off to keep my Sunday clothes clean the next day. I opened the gate to spray the rivers of silty sludge down the driveway. As I watched the world walk by, I didn't feel that I had opened the gates of my castle to an alien outside world. I just felt at home, spraying down my driveway like any self-respecting Tajik does when it gets dirty. Later as I was walking to the store for a quick errand, I knew every hole in the sidewalk and when the traffic was lightest for jaywalking. I didn't freeze in the store aisles, unsure of what to get and where it was. The curious stares didn't bother me - I've been here long enough to recognize the difference between curiosity and hostility. I walked home in the chilly afternoon air and didn't feel that I had just braved an expedition into new territory. I had run a quick errand, that was all.
When those we meet hear that Brandon extended not just one year, but one and a half years, there's usually some head scratching. Most see Dushanbe as a place to get some experience that will enable them to go on to bigger and better places. Do your time, and earn your rewards. Why spend so long in one place when new experiences and better things are out there?
But I love feeling perfectly at home and having our departure so long away it is almost mythical - how can one even imagine that their little baby will be four years old when they leave? I love settling in, rearranging the furniture until it is perfect, planting flowers and fruit trees, and getting wonderfully comfortable. Friends who arrived months after us are eagerly awaiting their bid list, and we're not even thinking about ours. Why bother when it's over a year away?
I know that one day we will leave Dushanbe and start afresh somewhere else. But that is a far-off dream that is just hazy as those years we spent in Cairo. What happened before was done long ago and what is to come hasn't breached the horizon yet. For now were in the endless plane of the present with nothing else in sight but life and school and work and friends and living and Dushanbe. One day we'll reach the end of that present and cross over into another one. But not today, not tomorrow, and not for a very long string of tomorrows.
And that is a beautiful, beautiful thing.