Thursday, December 27, 2012

Nec Plus Ultra

The next day was grey and morose, but as I had the aforementioned breakfast of Tajik champions.  It equally became lunch and dinner too, as whenever I would bump into the fellow, who owned the music instrument museum, where they were practicing, he would give me a similar dose.  I met the Dellas over for lunch back at the Qurotob place that they loved.  I am a huge fan of the dish (shredded fried bread, covered in yogurt sauce with slivers of tomatoes, onions, mint, dill and flaxseed oil), this was the first Central Asian delicacy that we would eat over and over.

The concert, the last one of the tour, took place that night and was a hit.  The Dellas played a great last show.  They called me up for an acknowledgement.  I was taking pictures below the stage, so I hopped up and sat on the stage to wave to the crowd for a lovely toast.

After the concert, we went out for dinner at a Lebanese restaurant, complete with a belly dancer.  I love humus, it is such a comfort food.  

The following day, the Dellas visited a "boarding school," which was the euphemism used for what was essentially an orphanage.  The school hosted those with no parents, or whose parents couldn't support them. The Dellas first met with a class of Access Microscholarship students, those pupils whose potential garners them access to English educational support via the embassy.  When the kiddies were asking questions, one kid asked how old the ladies were.  When one of the Dellas responded, "how old do you think?" The kid replied: 45.  I gave him a chocolate.

There was a cute interchange of the Dellas teaching the kiddies "The more we come together, the happier we'll be."  Zee more vee come tegezer, zee happier vill beee. One audacious student decided he wanted to sing the song on his own.  "And my friends are my friends, and your friends are my friends."

There was also supposed to be a small acoustic concert for the school.  That turned into a huge gym show with no acoustics.  The Dellas handled it by coming up close and performing in the middle of the kiddies.  It worked out in the end.

After, we headed over for lunch and had what we decided was the best plov in Central Asia.  That is a big deal in the region, because the crown is strongly contested (A Game of Plov).  Apparently, the best plov is had outdoors, so we were put in an airy cold room, with a hot sheet of raw coals placed under the table to keep us warm.  We dined first on a bevy of salads, pomegranate seeds and kefir.  There was one particular farm kefir yogurt that was thick, sour and tasty.  Meanwhile, this particular plov had a bit less grease (as requested) although added fat chunks to make up for the lack.  It came complete with beef chunks, quail eggs and slivered carrots.  It was a bit lighter than others but still had all the fun fillings.  

There was one last meeting with Access Microscholarship students in the afternoon.  I was so exhausted, I went into an empty classroom, huddled against the wall and took a nap.  The principal came in, and to her surprise found me resting.  I motioned like I had a headache, and she let me be.

The last day of official programming, we woke up early and headed out to Kulyab in the south.  We left at 8am for a drive through the mountain passes.  It was beautiful, covered in a light dusting of snow.  We stopped at one particular pass to take in the dammed lakes below.  It reminded me of Kurdistan.  We drove some 4 hours to Kulyab.  The region in Kulyab is where most of the government employees come from.

We stopped for some pickle-barley soup outside town that was quite tasty.  We also had plates of roasted baby goat (circumcised castrated for extra flavor).  

With a little time to kill, we walked through a mausoleum to a Muslim saint.  The Dellas were not allowed in, so I ventured in on my own.  The tour guide was trying to explain things haphazardly in Russian to no avail.  At one point, I said mashallah, and we realized that we could communicate in Arabic.  The guide gave me the tour all over again, this time explaining everything in Arabic and I understood.  We smiled deep, and chatted a bit about religion.  As usual, he was shocked that a non-Muslim (yehudi) spoke the Quranic tongue.

We headed over to host a program at the American Corner in Kulyab at the Technological University of Tajikistan.  At the American  Corner, we found all the fun books and games, and had a quick battle in scattergories.  The American Corner staff loved that we were playing their games, and took lots of pictures.  Then the Dellas had a small (and somewhat awkward) concert at the new performance hall.  The students enjoyed the concert, but there was no structure and no queues of how the program should run.  The Dellas performed, then there were some local performances.  During the performances, one joker asked Kimber to use her violin as if he could play.  Then he got up on stage and it was apparent he had no idea what he was doing, and proceeded to play air fiddle for the crowd.  Then the students tried to get the Dellas dancing.  Ever the cultural diplomat, I joined in the airplane dance.  Since they were trying to get my girls to dance, I tried to beckon some Tajik girls to dance with me.  Their eyes widened.  

Then we met someone from the university who spoke of marrying the Dellas to Tajikistan.  Lovely idea, but then he returned with rings for all of them that had been fashioned the day prior by some students in the jewelry department.  Haha!

On our way out of town, we stopped at an old fort that had once been the capital to a Khanate in the region.  We got a tour through the ruins amid excavation work taking place.  It was interesting, but bitterly cold.

The ride back was harrowing.  The fog through the mountain passes made it like driving through a sea of milk.  Meanwhile, the slush and snow made it quite scary.  Thankfully, the driver could feel the road, as he said.  Along the way, we bumped into a camel convoy.  It was a few trucks transporting camels back to some village that had won them.

Once we got out of the mountains, things evened out.  The driver laughed at our worries, and said it was nothing.  We grabbed some Uighur food for dinner, which included various style of langman (noodles), fried and in soup.   

Thus ended the last official day.  

Just one more entry to go about the last, last day at the orphanage, and the ride home.

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