Thursday in Tajikistan

The day I’ve chosen to share with you happens to be Thursday, also known as panjshanbeh.  Welcome to panjshanbeh.

7:00am: I wake up, mess around on my phone for a while, answering the messages that came in from the day in the US also known as my night. Sometimes I do a bit of homework. I get dressed and ready for the day.

8:00am: I go into our living room and sit on the couch. The TV is on the national channel, called “Tajikistan”, which pretty constantly alternates between beautiful nature shots, news, and children reciting poems and giving flowers to the president. The table in our living room is set with fresh bread, halvah, and syrupy fruit preserves my host mom makes over the summer. As family members come in and out at different times, they help themselves to these things as well as a warmer breakfast item, which my host mother cooks for everyone. I usually eat either kasha, which is basically a Russian form of oatmeal, or fried eggs. I casually talk to my host mom while I eat and around 8:30 or 8:45, I leave.

9:00am: I walk about 15 minutes from my house to my language school. I usually arrive, make myself a cup of tea, and do some homework.

11:00am: It’s time for my first class. Today my first class is called mass media, which essentially is talking about current events in Farsi. Each class, I’m supposed to bring in a news article and summarize it, and then my teacher Sareh, a very smart Iranian woman with an impressive degree in Farsi literature and very high expectations, asks me extremely difficult questions about the article that would be hard for me to even answer in English. That’s how you learn apparently. This class lasts two hours with a ten minute break in the middle.

1:00pm: It’s time for my second class. It is called conversation, even though I think it’s more of a vocabulary building class than a conversation class. Every day I’m supposed to read a chapter in our textbook before class, and during class my teacher Rustam and I go over what was in the chapter and talk about it. Rustam is a thirty something Tajik man, who also has an impressive degree in Farsi literature and enjoys having philosophical conversations with me that usually turn cynical and I’m not sure if that’s his doing or mine. Each chapter covers a different subject (for example forms of government, or economics), and the idea is that by the end you’ll have vocabulary for a wide range of things.

3:00pm: My classes are over for the day, but the learning is not. After I get out of class, my language partner Saodat, who is half Iranian half Tajik, is waiting for me outside. I meet with her once a week and we usually go to a cafe, or go for a walk and just talk about literally whatever we want. My classes focus pretty heavily on more academic Farsi, so I think the point of these meetings is to get more of the everyday stuff. In a normal study abroad program, I could get the everyday stuff from my everyday life, but due to the dialect difference most of the day to day vocabulary I hear in my host family would be completely incomprehensible to an Iranian.

5:00pm: I finish with Saodat and walk home. I take a shower when I get there and put on my house clothes (here, like Russia, it is not really acceptable to wear your street clothes in the house) and go to hang out with my family. I watch a mixture of Russian and Tajik tv with them, play with baby Mahvash, and around 7 or so we eat dinner.

Yesterday, me and my three year old host sister Mahvash went on a walk, aka “pogudka” (this is her mispronouncing the Russian word for walk “progulka”… adorable). It was just the two of us, and we went to a park near my house to play. All was going well until Mahvash ran up to me and said “Lindsay, jeesh.” I didn’t know what jeesh meant, so I asked her “Mahvash, what is jeesh?” In classic three year old fashion, she just said louder “JEESH!” I thought it was a game, so I too started shouting “Jeesh! Jeesh! Jeesh!” Then I noticed a puddle forming around Mahvash’s feet. And that my friends, is how I learned how to say “pee” in Persian. I felt pretty bad for Mahvash but fortunately she seemed to be more upset about our “pogudka” coming to an end than she was about the jeesh itself. Thankfully, my host family was nice about it as well.

7:00pm: Dinner could consist of lots of different things. My favorite so far happens to be a staple Tajik dish called Osh, which is this greasy rice with carrots meat. Osh is a good representative of the traditional Tajik food I have eaten here so far, in that it is very heavy, very delicious, and quite bad for your health. Not so fun fact: In Tajikistan, more people die here of heart attacks than of car accidents.

9:00pm: Around 9pm I usually say goodnight to my family and head to my room where I have gotten into the habit of watching an episode of an Iranian TV show before bed. The show is called Shahrzad and it is a romantic / political drama that takes place in the 1950s. I find it super interesting to see how the director, who lives in post-revolution Iran, looks back on that time period, and how the censorship limits the extent to which the past can be portrayed. The plot is also pretty great and sometimes my inability to understand it creates for super surprising plot twists. One time I watched this show with my host mom and we both laughed about who was able to understand more of it: her as a native speaker of Tajik, or me, a student of Farsi. She definitely got more, but we were both having some difficulties.

10:00: Around 10, or sometimes a bit after, I go to bed. I find that 4-6 hours of one on one classes plus speaking another language all day is pretty exhausting, so I usually fall asleep in seconds.

By: Lindsay Saligman

Program: Eurasian Regional Language Program

Term: Spring 2018

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