Sunday, July 14, 2002

Tajikistan - Stories from the Bazaar

We learn about our Surroundings

We are now concluding Day 4 of our Tajikistan adventure. Today was the last day we were together as a team before splitting into smaller groups.

We began the day by meeting at CADA's headquarters here in Dushanbe. Dave gave us an overview of CADA's operations in the area and then we went from office to office and learned in more detail what many of the workers do on a day-to-day basis.

On our rounds, we learned all about CADA's relief and development efforts from Ping (our main program coordinator). They prioritize Disaster, Disabled, Orphans, Widows, and Refugees in that order. That allows them to make difficult decisions regarding distributing their limited resources. They help with food distribution, but they focus even more on development - helping to educate and enable people to be self-supporting. They also work closely with other relief organizations in providing and transporting food so that efforts aren't duplicated.

In the neighboring office, Lai Keng told us about the financial aspects of CADA and much of what is being done in Afghanistan - including building schools, providing clean water, and heath services to villages in northern Afghanistan. Sharing an office with her was Sakume - a midwife who also goes regularly to Afghanistan. She's currently trying to affiliate with a health organization in the country to coordinate her efforts with them. Lai Keng and Sakume will be leading the team that's going into Afghanistan this week.

One thing that struck us forcefully as we listened to Dave, Ping, and Lai Keng, was how much very little money can do in this area. For example:

  • $200 buys a car
  • Only $4000 will refurbish an entire school in Afghanistan. 
  • $300 will build a village well.
  • The US will ship humanitarian items (clothing, food, and medicine) for FREE!

When we heard that a high school in Waukesha recently raised $8000 for rebuilding schools, our collective question was, "What can we do?"!

We continued around the building, learning about computer services, finance, English training and other areas covered by the CADA staff.

At 11:00, Ping sent us in groups of four to the bazaar! We each had a list of items we were supposed to buy and bring back from the huge, open-air market. The bazaar is the life-line to essentials for practically everyone who lives in Dushanbe. Think Super Wal-Mart meets open-air flea market and grocery store! The items we were after were:

  • bread
  • green tea
  • Barf detergent ("barf" is the word for snow here, so the brand name for detergent fits. Of course, English speakers have a GREAT time with that one! - when's the last time you threw a barf ball?
  • toilet paper (comes in rolls that look and feel like crepe paper!)
  • head scarf (for the ladies)
  • Tajik cassette
  • candles
  • eat a watermelon
  • Tajik hat (men's)
  • take a picture with the police

The team that came back with everything - and spent the least money doing it - would win. The bazaar is a great way to see many Tajiks going about daily business. Each team had a translator, but we still had trouble bargaining in a different language. The most time consuming part - for the ladies - was finding ready-made kurta (the traditional Tajik dress for women). Most women in the group are also having kurta made for us, but many are leaving tomorrow for villages and so needed traditional clothing right away. Only one team ended up getting all of the items - Forrest, Evan, Kody and Greg - so they won by default!

Stories from the bazaar:

Story 1:

Many of the kids followed us around trying to sell us plastic bags to carry our purchases, and also out of curiosity. While one of the teams - Denny, Mark, Eric and Jeremy - was waiting for Mark to buy a belt, they started teaching the boys English. The went through the numbers and then tried moving on to the days of the week. They wanted the boys to teach them the Tajik words for the days, but the boys did NOT understand what they were asking. Denny: "Monday, you!" boys: "Monday", Denny: "Monday, you!" boys: "Monday" was all the further they got.

Story 2:

When Erin, Angela, Shannon and Andrew (a US guy who is joining us for some activities as he's in the country for a similar purpose - he'll also be heading to Afghanistan with the team tomorrow) went dress shopping they had some trouble. First of all, they couldn't find anyone who made ready-made dresses. When they finally did, Erin and Shannon were able to find dresses, but Angela wasn't so sure about them. They looked around some more, but ended up coming to the same booth. The lady rubbed the sleeve of Angela's shirt between her fingers and wrinkled her nose and said, "synthetica, synthetica". Then she pointed at her dresses to show that they were made of natural materials. When Angela pointed out a dress behind the booth, the lady had her come behind the counter, and she held up a sheet of muslin and had her change into a traditional dress. When Angela finally found one she liked for the "right" price, the lady took her shirt, wadded it up, threw it in a plastic bag, and handed it to her friends, before she could blink! So Angela ended up walking through the rest of the bazaar in a traditional Tajik dress with her army-green cargo pants peeking out from underneath!

Friends Leaving for Afghanistan

Please think of Becky and Erin – two of the girls who will be going to Afghanistan tomorrow. Becky had a mild heat stroke mid-morning (we’re now all being even more diligent about drinking lots and lots and LOTS of water), and Erin has been fighting a bad cold for a week now. Since they’re heading off VERY early tomorrow, we’re all hoping they both quickly recover with a good night’s sleep.

We're off!

The team returned to CADA for lunch (it was great, although we couldn't eat the vegetables), and then had some free time. Several teams met for further preparation for tomorrow's projects. We then had dinner at the Lovett's. After the meal, we took time to touch base with each other on how everything is going and thoughts about the upcoming projects, and then we all went our merry ways! Think of us as we head out tomorrow!

Updates from the various teams, will be provided as we're able!
Back for lunch at CADA
Angela in the bazaar with the lady who had ready-made Tajik dresses... Looking Good :)
CADA's computer repair shop. They refurbish and cannibalize computers to donate to hospitals and similar organizations.
A keyboard on one of the internet access computers at CADA
Ping explains the relief work CADA does. The pictures behind him are some of the many relief projects they've done.
And here we all are, at CADA, in Dushanbe, Tajikistan
Kelley, Misty, and Kjirsten are ready to go after (finally!) a great night's sleep!

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