Stuck in Dushanbe
Dushanbe Travel Blog› entry 16 of 83 › view all entries
Nothing's simple here in Central Asia. I'm spending my fifth night in Dushanbe tonight, with another one lined up tomorrow. This is because of the painful process of registering with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. To make things even more frustrating, I have been trying to get a plane ticket to fly to Khorog, but that has so far been elusive. On a positive note, I successfully voted on Monday at the US embassy, delivering my absentee ballot to a nice woman I'd met Friday night at the Irish Bar. She assured me it would be postmarked by Friday, so hopefully I will have cast one more vote in the pursuit of improving the country I am currently away from but wholeheartedly appreciate.
To make the most of my time in this obscure nation's capital, I'm enjoying the delightful weather, the variety of restaurants and a chance to catch up on the Internet. Yesterday I dined at the Salsa Restaurant, which is billed as an Ecuadorian restaurant with a Mexican, Italian and Tex-Mex menu. It was delicious and filling, and not too terribly expensive, even for my budget. I still have no idea why Tajikistan would have an Ecuadorian restaurant. I don't even know if Washington has one, but I'm glad it's here. I had three courses: llapingachos, kind of like potato pancakes with peanut sauce; a mildly spicy lentil soup; and a savory dish of braised steak, tomatoes, chickpeas, onions, spices and rice. I washed it down with a Baltika 3 from Russia. The total was only about 45 somoni, or $13.25. Other than taking Symon out to dinner the other night at a Georgian restaurant, it was the most I've splurged on food, and it was totally worth it. And in case you're wondering, spending anything more than about $5-8 on food is splurging here!
For lunch today I had Georgian food again at a different restaurant: khachapuri (cheese pastry), an eggplant and meat mixture, and cinnamon coffee served in an espresso mug. I haven't had much Tajik food here, but I think it's similar to Uzbek. This morning in one of the bazaars I scored a couple homemade doughnuts with sugar on top, and had it with two fried eggs and the sugary instant coffee in a packet that comes imported from China, Iran or Turkey. I have a feeling I'll be back to mundane village cuisine once I leave here.
At a supermarket this morning I bought a bottle of blackcurrant juice and some water. The total was 5.30, I gave the clerk a 10 and got back 4 ones and two sticks of gum as change. I'd also gotten some gum back as change a couple days ago. I might try to pay with gum and see if it works, but somehow I don't think anyone but me will be amused. Even though the local coinage, the diram, isn't worth too much, 60 dirams get you a ride on the trolleybus and 50 for the regular bus. Since Rudaki boulevard is so long and I keep plying it, I've used the bus quite a lot and would prefer the dang coins. Or maybe another candy at least.
Since I haven't ventured too far from the capital I still do not have a sense of Tajikistan, other than it's alternatingly frustrating and enjoyable. I have an inkling it will continue to alternate, but overall be worthwhile. It's the least touristy of any of the 'stans, and its reputation as a backwater even within the former Soviet Union lingers to this day.
So, I'm going to head to a nearby park, sit down in the nice weather, read a book and enjoy a cold Sim-Sim beer, the first beer I've seen that's actually from Tajikistan (an American-Tajik joint venture). Beer is rather expensive compared to in Uzbekistan, going for about the equivalent of $2-4 each. I haven't yet tried the vodka or other varieties of alcohol found in the stores. But the day is still young...it's only 2pm. And though I really don't consider this to be a "vacation," I might consider today and tomorrow my "holiday."