Just returned from four days in the high valley of Tavildara. Our team of four went to conduct interviews and meet with the leader of a “jamoat” where we plan to work. The only public accommodation there is the “Hotel Tavildara”, a very basic two-storey building with about 8 rooms and very little heat. When the hotel is receiving electricity (about 6 hours a day), small electric heaters can be used. Otherwise, there are smoky wood-fired stoves in some of the rooms – these do a better job of warming the room but need to be stoked regularly (meaning a cold night if you are not up to load the stove). One lesson I have learned (or relearned) is that concrete buildings get very cold when left without heat for any length of time. In fact, it is often noticeably colder inside these buildings than outside. Faced with what we knew would be a cold night from our last trip here, my colleagues chose the option of staying at the homes of two of our team members who live here. This proved to a wise choice – not only were we warmer, but the food was much better.
After another experience stuck in a Tajik village, I have to say I love village life. There is a definite charm to the simple rhythms of life here. The snow blankets everything and stays (and stays white). People greatly outnumber vehicles. The tremendous hospitality shown in the villages of Tajikistan is all the more dramatic when it is so cold outside (and in every public building, none of which have any real heat. It’s a cold walk to the outhouse, but it’s beautiful to be outside no matter what you are doing. A few days ago I washed my face and brushed my teeth outside at the common tap (that always is open to keep from freezing) while a heavy snow came down – this was a new experience. Actually the snow keeps things a bit warmer than it would otherwise be. When the water from the tap is very close to freezing and someone brings you a teapot of hot water to wash your face, it’s that much more appreciated.