I resigned myself to a rather bare-looking Christmas living room for yet another year and made solemn promises to at least replace the three fourteen year-old light strings that gave up the ghost this season and then practiced admiring our Christmas tree and stockings.
Then we decided to host a caroling party. And, of course, there's nothing like the thought of guests to inspire one's latent decorating urge.
Thankfully, we are in a post-Soviet Muslim country instead of a regular Muslim country and everyone here celebrates New Year's in a way that looks suspiciously similar to Christmas, complete with trees and decorations.
So Saturday morning found all seven of us in the car right after eight o'clock for a quick trip to the large bazaar south of town with 'everything' you could ever need. I had spent some time in Baku shopping in a bazaar of the same idea, so I knew we needed to get an early start to have even a prayer for a parking spot. Most places in Dushanbe have decent parking - i.e. parking on the street - but this place, according to the Google Maps satellite image did not.
The scrum started in early, as it always does in these sorts of places, and when I spotted an open slot on the very edge of the sextuple-parked car mass, Brandon pulled over and gladly paid the three somoni (fifty cent) parking fee to the official looking man strolling around. I strapped on Eleanor, got the children in order, and we all started started hiking. All Soviet bazaars are organized on the same principle - rows and aisles of ten foot-wide stalls selling pretty much the same thing as their neighbors. The stalls are organically organized into sections that morph into each other, and the only way to find something like, say, the fabric section is to 1. ask someone or 2. wander around until your find it.
We were on a tight schedule - birthday party at eleven - and so I nagged Brandon until he decided to attempt strategy number one. "You want aisle number ten," the first man assured us, "that's where the New Year's decorations are." We all turned around and hiked through Saturday morning shoppers, cart-men, tea-sellers, and piles of trash to the other end of the market. Nothing but fabric. We turned right and made it to the other corner and found fancy dresses and shoes, but no
So, on my insistent advice, Brandon took a survey. Because if you ask ten people the same question, surely there will be a statistically significant number of similar answers, right? "Row twenty four." "Across the street at door one." "I don't know." "Door three." "New Year's decorations? Why would you want those?" "Somewhere over there [vague gesturing]." "Turn around and go back down that aisle. Follow me." And, with no other more reasonable options, we followed.
I hadn't put on makeup, dried my hair, or wrapped the birthday boy's gift, so we turned around and headed back to the car. There aren't convenient light poles (or light poles at all) in these parts of the world, but you can find your car just as well by marking what half-constructed building or fancy-dress store you parked near. Maybe even easier.
So after easily finding our embarrassingly muddy black Pilot, we loaded everyone back into the car and hastily pulled out so that another driver, giddy with finding such a great spot, could pay his three Somoni to the man in the uniform. No Christmas ornaments today.
If we had done this three or four years ago, I would have been pretty mad. We had woken up early, gobbled down our breakfast, and driven to the opposite edge of Dushanbe just to find one thing. Three hours of our Saturday morning were wasted, and there wouldn't be any time next Saturday for attempt number two. The decorations were there (confirmed sightings had been reported by multiple embassy personnel), we just couldn't find them. I could sense them, deep in a hidden corner, mocking me with their promise of a stunning and tastefully decorated living room. Instead I would have to live with what I could scrounge. Maybe the anemic pine in front of our house could donate for the cause?
But, having looked in vain enough times before, I was just resigned. Maybe I could make a field trip during the week. Perhaps I could get some custom-done greenery from that lady at the botanical gardens. Maybe snowflakes hanging from the chandeliers instead of balls? Or perhaps everyone could just enjoy singing carols together without a Martha Stewart living room. The songs would get sung, hot chocolate drunk, and doughnuts eaten either way. And I saved money.
So those of you with easy Target access, enjoy your easy Christmas decorating. Think of me when you load up your car with shiny baubles, strings of working lights, and cute Santa statues. I'm off to go 'borrow' some greenery from my neighbors. Wish me luck.