An Interesting Evening in Northern Tajikistan!

Khujand Travel Blog

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The view from Halim's apartment complex foyer

The short ride to Khojand ended at the old bus station, where I waited for my host Halim to meet up with me. I decided to pass the time with a cold draft beer, and crossed the road to sit at a cafe. Within minutes of my first sip, a couple guys approached me and asked if I'd buy them beers. It appeared that they may have had a drink already, and while the beer was dirt cheap I didn't think this was the kind of friendship I wanted to start. One of the guys kept asking me what I was doing there, but my responses didn't seem to please him since they didn't include a free beer. More drunks came by and soon I was having my own powwow, although it wasn't exactly the kind of company I'd hoped for. In general they were harmless though. One man, who must have been 65, was completely hammered and kept patting me on the shoulder saying "ty muzhshina" which means "you're a man." I suppose it was a complement, although even the other men weren't sure of what the old man was saying. The proprietors of the cafe kept an eye on us, making sure I was OK, which I appreciated. A woman on the other side of the cafe was peeling onions and would frequently scowl at the drunks. They all finally left to go home and pass out I imagined, and soon I finished my beer and met up with Halim.

We took a marshrutka to his flat where he told me he had to take some medicine to his sick cousin and asked if I'd like to come. Not wanting to be alone in a new place, I agreed, laced up and headed out without anything but what I was wearing. It was a relief not to carry bags, but as we rounded the corner of his apartment complex, he told me the village his cousin was in was 120 kilometers away by taxi. One way. It was clear we were in for another adventure.

We scored a freshly buffed crimson GM Opel taxi and after picking up two doctors and searching several drugstores for medicine, we drove down the dark and desolate road to Asht district. It was about two hours before we pulled into a dimly lit town and past the gates of an equally dim hospital. The doctors quickly entered the quarantined section of the hospital and Halim, Habibullo (the taxi driver) and I went across the street to a cafe for some dinner. The meal was a specialty of the region, a mutton soup in a special clay pot I'd never seen before. The soup was a little heavy on the mutton fat, in chunks so big I almost mistook them for cauliflower. We sat around and chatted for awhile. Then Halim called a friend of his who also happened to speak English and who was a new member of CouchSurfing. Nekbakht soon joined us, and then another Uzbek-speaking friend Bahodur, and we had our own little soiree in the little private room in the cafe. After several hours, it was clear that the doctors were still with the sick cousin and the cafe was ready to close for the night, so Nekbakht invited us to his house to relax, watch TV, and possibly stay the night depending on how events unfolded. I was reluctant to stay the night because I didn't have anything but the filthy clothes I was wearing, but I decided I'd see what transpired.

We lounged around watching satellite television and the first half of the movie Dave before Halim got the call from the doctors that they were ready to go and his cousin was improving. It was 1:45am. The ride back to Khojand took two hours and was not comfortable. By the time we were back it was nearly 4am. As we groggily walked from the taxi to Halim's flat, I noticed a small bazaar stand was open and marveled at seeing a 24-hour market of any kind, especially after Istaravshan where everything closed by 8pm. I didn't have the energy to shower, and there wasn't hot water anyway, so I went to bed and soon fell asleep before having time to realize how much had transpired in just one day.

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The view from Halims apartment co…
The view from Halim's apartment c…
photo by: hauteboy