Subtitles, si'il vous plait...tashakor!

I just got back from a nice evening spent with three new "friends." Two French guys who work at the embassy here and one French woman who works for NATO in Brussels. We had coffee at the French restaurant, La Grande Dame, and then drove to the top of a hill that overlooks the city for a nice dinner. We had shish kababs and fresh Tajik bread and had stimulating conversation to the lovely musical medley of Russian ballads, heavy euro techno, and the usual American dance club classics (I wonder if Brittney Spears ever thinks about how her music is listened to in Dushanbe, Tajikistan??)

After having intensive Farsi classes for a week (only a week!), I have noticed that words will just pop into my head while i'm brushing my teeth or out in the city and I will have to write them down because they are words that I have heard before in sentences, either picked up in class or heard all my life at home but never bothered to really look them up and use them in sentences. I also catch myself spelling out English words that are spoken in Farsi script in my head. These are all promising signs because when I was in France, I would do the same thing unconsciously. Sometimes I would wake up and words that I had picked up the day before from people would be floating in my head. I also have started instantly translating my thoughts from English to Farsi even if I don't have to. So tonight while I was out with my new French friends, I found myself having some issues switching my head from Farsi to French. Then the most bizarre thing happened: while trying to describe something in French, I would switch to Farsi words or input them into responses without even realizing that I was switching languages and then when I realized, I would say out loud "I'm sorry, I'm speaking Farsi" BUT that exact thought was voiced IN FARSI, NOT ENGLISH OR FRENCH....so basically my thoughts were in English and I wanted to say them in French but FARSI was what was exiting my mouth. This happened a few times.

Is it possible to think simultaneously in three languages? I know that I have all three in my head but why am I sometimes linguistically tongue-tied? It's delightfully bizarre....

Well, now it's 1am and I still have to do my homework for tomorrow....

Shab bekher!
Bonne nuit!
Good night!



Reunited with our suitcases and consequently, western materialism!

Two days ago our suitcases came! *hallelujah choir singing*

We spent a week and a half in Tajikistan without all of the "stuff" that we had carefully bought and packed back in the States. In a way, even though it was troubling (we thought that they were lost completely or stolen), it was a good exercise in detachment. After we unpacked our things and discovered the things that we bought what feels like ages ago, I felt almost too extravagant. Having lived in the city for a week without all of the "survival goods" that I thought I needed, it seemed like a mockery of my foreigner ignorance. It is know confirmed for me that virtually any large city you go to in the world, there is a grocery store that sells western toiletries--have no fear! It wasn't just me though...the entire group filled their suitcases with two deodorant sticks, huge bottles of shampoo and product to last six weeks, multiple soap and other hygiene products etc. We soon found out though that the Turkish-owned grocery store chain near our apartment, Orima, is stocked with shelves and shelves of Nivea, Dove, Colgate...you name it.

So now I'm sitting in La Grande Dame, the French expat restaurant near our apartment with 5 other people from our program. It also has free wireless internet :-) I am very impressed with the people in this program. Everyone is doing either their masters or PhD's having to do something with Iranian or Middle Eastern studies. Believe it or not, I am the only native Iranian participant. Two other students are half Persian but did not learn it as children. I am the go-to girl for colloquial Farsi but everyone else is so good at grammar, complicated vocabulary and elevated Farsi. I can already see my speaking and reading improving, although my reading skills need serious tutoring.

La Grande Dame (outside and inside):

I'll leave you with a quote of the day:
me: "I will have the mushroom and spinach quiche please."
waiter: "I'm sorry, no quiche, we have a serious mushroom problem."

"ta bahzdeed!" (until we see each other again in Tajik)


Explained Hiatus

Well, now I am ready to write...and I will tell you why......

I have now spent a week (7 days) in Tajikistan. It has been quite an adjustment and I was preoccupied by getting settled in my apartment (which I share with two other girls from my program), running errands, and starting classes.

[ BACKGROUND INFO: Due to the complete change of travel plans (I'll explain later...), our bags were not on the plane that we arrived on. "It's alright," we thought... "they should be on the next flight here in 3 days," we were told. We went to the airport on the designated day, after a few days of in the same pair of clothes we all traveled in to find that only three of the 20 some bags had arrived. *sigh* Long story short, they are supposed to be arriving on the flight into Dushanbe tonight. My bags, instead of me, got to spend a nice week lounging in Istanbul. We'll see though, I'm trying to prepare myself for disappointment followed by a long-overdue Tajik shopping trip. Unfortunately, besides the beautiful traditional Tajik "mou-mou" like dresses, the clothes are all tight, synthetic, and shiny/sequined/revealing. If I have to buy clothes, I will opt for making some clothes from the beautiful patterned cloth they sell here. ]

I wanted to address something in particular in this post which, as I was going through my "obligatory first week adjustment period," dawned on me as important to convey in travel writing: dealing with disappointment, culture shock, feelings of inadequacy. I will be candid and reveal that this past week has not been very smooth. I found myself unusually irritable, cautious, almost paranoid about the tap water (which, granted, is to be completely avoided), and emotional. Many things could be attributed to these feelings, but what I find interesting now, with a bit of distance, is that it was as if I was not myself but I was fully aware of my transformation. Most importantly, I began to become frustrated with myself and my own capabilities. My inner dialogue kept saying "why can't you just calm down and adjust??" I consider myself open-minded, adventurous (to a certain degree of course), social, well-traveled. Why then was I reacting to this new place in this way?

I realize now that this initial rough patch in travel is very often overlooked by travelers, who prefer to wait until the "honeymoon stage" of their journey and analyze all the wonderful things about their new environment. It is easy to look back at the good times for forget the equally important times that tested you and made you stronger. There is also an element of shame (at least for me) at the idea that I am struggling with travel, the very thing that I love so much in my heart.

I wish to therefore acknowledge that I had a rough time adjusting and that this period ultimately ended with me breaking down in tears (sobbing) over the phone to my parents late one night. The next day, it was as if a cloud had been lifted (sorry for the cliche) and I was seeing my situation with new eyes. For the first time in four days, I took an actual shower with the tap water (as opposed to bucket showers with bottled water which leaves you feeling as gross as you felt when you went in). It ended my resistance to "what is" and began my openness to "what can be."

Now I more or less know my way around the city, feel comfortable going out alone to run errands etc., recognize and even greet some people in my neighborhood, and appreciate the slower pace of life here. I just needed time and a good cry.



In Transit....

Life was in transition, now i'm in transit.

So much has happened these past two days while traveling, and I am not distanced enough from the situation to post about it quite yet but I thought I would inform you all that after much hassle and stress, I am in the Istanbul airport awaiting my flight to Dushanbe, Tajikistan. I am jetlagged and tired of lay-overs. So far, I have spent 12 hours total in the DC, NYC, Milan (Italy), and Istanbul airports waiting around for flights.

More to come of course. Wish me luck on the 6 hour flight that remains.....



Blog in transition, like my life.

I am drawing a line here...
and starting my blog again. It has been almost exactly a YEAR since I returned home from Paris and so much has happened. To be brief, I went through 3 months of grieving ("why am I back in the States when I want to be in France??") followed by 8 months of school. This past month, I graduated and am questioning what I want to do with my life, or at least with the next two years until it's time to go back to grad school.

I leave for Tajikistan in a week. I have little idea of what to expect that it is making the packing/preparation more mentally grueling. I hear it will be extremely hot--over 100 degrees farenheit daily--but dry heat, which is manageable. It is also a country that is traditionally Muslim so no prancing around in tank tops and shorts. I'm thinking linen/cotton pants and lots of boring round-neck t-shirts. To all my fellow fashionista wannabes out there, you understand how painful this will be for me, even if only for a month and a half :-) Expect many photos of me looking like I just stepped out of The Gap circa ten years ago (but I promise, no fanny packs or Teva sandals!!!!)

So this is my pre-departure post to look back on and laugh at. I am anxious to get there, put down my stuff and see what my living arrangements will be. Please let there be a nice, clean shower...this is all that I ask! Oh and bug-free . I have zero tolerance for bugs....I am such a priss.

Ok I will stop here and wish myself a bon voyage.

And to my dear readers (i.e. family members, close friends, and random internet browsers who somehow stumbled on my blog), PLEASE COMMENT on my posts so I know that somebody out there besides me is reading these posts. :-)