Yellow gas pipelines are all above ground, wind up and down streets, making right angles over house gates and driveways.
I suppose it’s natural to notice the differences between what you’re familiar with, and what you see when you travel. Here are some I’ve spotted in this country.
You don’t see many women drivers. Most men drive a couple of recent models of a Ford or Chevrolet. There’s a huge GM plant in Uzbekistan.
There are no old trees. Partly in response to the destruction of most old trees, 20 young poplar trees are planted to celebrate a child’s birth.
Every middle class house looks the same. Their design is a 500-square foot, three-bedroom, one-bath detached house, selling for $60,000 on land they lease from the government for 49 years.
Eastern-style toilets, and easily-broken lids for the western style in hotels (one of our travelers broke one and had to pay).
Meatball, chicken noodle, and vegetable soups and no salads for us westerners.
Discarded statues of Lenin, replaced by mythical figures representing a legendary character. Usually riding a winged horse.
Royal Crown Cola. Having it among our lunch drink choices brought back many childhood memories for our group.
Police checkpoints, most half-constructed, and very half-organized. Border Entries/Exits, between countries who really don’t trust each other.
But enough of what makes us different. Tajikistan is struggling with balancing security and freedom. With hundreds of thousands of Tajiks in Afganistan to its south, and tense relations with the countries around them, Tajikistan fears the importation of anything which disrupts the independent state they have fashioned out of post-Soviet industrial collective society. A recently re-elected President, not particularly liked but voted in for stability, has convinced his people that restrictions on immigration, and large public works projects to control the country's natural resources, are necessary. Remember that Tajiks are 90% Sunni, and share language and heritage with Iranians. There is a great concern about terrorist activity, and the government has restricted access by women to mosques, closed medrassas, and inhibited the use of other public forums and communications.
But the country looks pretty good from the tourist point of view. Markets are busy, and goods are cheap. Roads need work, but traffic moves well. Hotels and restaurants are being built, and the service and food are great (you could speed up the internet a little).
Most impressive is its children. They are smart, mature, and ready to participate in their country and the world. Everywhere we go, we have talked with them, and admired their responses and behaviour.
Exploring 6,000 years of history on this trip, learning about civilizations and viewing what they have left behind, we are also getting a great glimpse into the future of this land as we get to know these young leaders of tomorrow.
To see the photos taken over the past couple of days, click on: