INGULFED

In Shanghai

Tajikistan… If You Can Tajikistand It

Story-hunting in one of the world’s top seven -stan countries — let’s blame the terrible titling on the 80 hours it took to get here.  

But at least there are the cultural car crashes that expose man’s natural urge to play pop culture Battleship.  We’ve got no languages in common, among the three Tajiks know well, and the three I can make sentences in, but we do have a code: those references.  It’s hard to know anyone without talking — it’s easy to get crazy, to assume the worst, to find fault — and yet, when the Wandering Tajik fires a random name at a Wandering Jew, and when there’s a sound not of empty echo but of a clink against something solid — we know we’re at least playing the same game.  Direct hit.

So, here: a conversation in the shared taxi “terminal” in Dushanbe, waiting hopelessly to set out on the the “15-” (read: 35-) hour trip to Khorog.

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A man, smiley: “London?”

Me: “America.”

“Los Angeles?”

“New York.”

“Ah.  California.”

“Well…”

“Schwartzenigger.”

“Yes.”

“Schwartzenigger!”

“Yes.”

He seemed to be searching for more points of connection.  I was out.  “Ruski znayet?

“No.”  It was strange: me, the caucasian, ignorant in the lingua franca of the whole Caucasus.  But I was too hot to be apologetic.  

Another silence. 

“Vandum.”

“What?”

“Vandum, Vandum: Vandam.”

“Ah, yes.”

“Jean-Claude Van Damme.”

“Yes, yes.”

 I asked my cheeks to lift into what I thought would be a smile.  Looking satisfied, he walked away.

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Dawn at the landslide — traffic halts for a day in the valley, across the river from Afghanistan.

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What happens just before Lyaksh stays just before Lyaksh — especially if the road is liquid.

 

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3 Comments»

  Gina K. wrote @

Definitely a clink! With resonance far beyond the Dushanbe airport. Thanks for posting this and the amazing photos, intrepid traveler. .Anticipating with excitement the next clink!

  Ninotchka wrote @

Who knew Arnold & Jean-Claude would be cultural ambassadors in such far-flung places! It just shows we all need at least 6 languages! This post pulled my cheeks into a definite smile!

  Vladimir Vazhninkovsky wrote @

Back in the day of Genghis Khan they probably would have got that landslide cleared up lickety-split. Guess it shows you should always keep your spare horse saddled.


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