As my time in Tajikistan has progressed, my favorite moments have been with my host family and bonding with the young children, as well as sharing other cultures including my own with them. Two highlights were taking my host family to this cinema where we saw Toy Story 4, of course in Russian, and another night I won’t forget was taking my host family to the local amusement park in the gorgeous Capital Park, or as it’s called in Tajiki, bogh-i-paitakht. In my limited free time this summer, I also found myself cooking for my family. Cooking is one of my hobbies and so much can be communicated through a meal.
One weekend, I spent a Sunday cooking chicken biryani. I bought my spices and other ingredients at Mehrgon Bazaar so brightly colored by all the spices and herbs sold. It was remarkable to me how much more pungent spices are in Tajikistan when vendors would open the large canisters. I found it interesting to learn the Russian names used in Tajiki for spices in place of the Farsi equivalents I learned in North America. I made new friends in the bazaar and was very touched with one particular experience with a vendor who sold me saffron. He asked how long I’d be staying in Dushanbe and, to my answer of “do maah” or “two months,” he replied “you didn’t buy enough” and gave me a gift of another 2 gram bottle of Afghan saffron from Herat. My family loved the biriyani. They had seen the dish on TV or social media but never had the opportunity to try it.
One weekend that was also special to me was a trip planned with friends to Iskanderkul, the lake named after Alexander the Great who passed by on his way to India. The journey out of Dushanbe takes you on winding mountain roads bordered by steep cliffs. At Isteqlol tunnel, we stopped to admire the view. Getting out of the car, I almost fell because I was so taken away by the rich beauty of the mountains. Pictures do the nature of Tajikistan no justice. The view made me feel as if I were somewhere in the alps with luscious green mountains and snow- covered peaks. After our three-hour drive, we arrived at the lake which was equally as beautiful. The crystal blue water was freezing cold despite the 40ºC+ temperatures. Never in my life have I seen nature as beautiful as that in Tajikistan. You can see pictures but they don’t compare to magic of nature that can meet you before your very eyes. Tajikistan is an incredibly handsome country. I hope more people around the world learn about the incredible beauty Tajikistan has to offer.
By: Alexander Bacchus
Program: Eurasian Regional Language Program, Dushanbe, Tajikistan
Term: Summer 2019