(exploring at Fort Hissar)
On Friday night, I went to a dinner party with some French military officers that are based here (there are about 200 French soldiers here in Dushanbe because the French are involved in NATO's operation in Afghanistan). It was at the home of these two guys who work at the US embassy and do Army coordination. The dinner was to thank the French for helping the US military out with loading/unloading planes that arrive at the airport etc. I was invited because they knew I speak French :-) It was a really nice dinner. I sat in between the Deputy Commander and Commander (ie big boss) of the entire French mission here in Tajikistan. Of course, I didn't realize that until after the dinner when they invited me and the two guys to the French base for lunch on Tuesday. The highlights of the dinner was definitely the French cheese that they brought with them and get regularly on the base....
After the dinner, we all went to the Irish Pub, which is the expat hangout here. I walked in and sure enough the place was packed. It is an interesting tradition here for all of the expats to catch up at "the Irish" on Friday nights about their week. I realized this time that I either recognized or knew personally almost everyone that was there, and it was a great feeling. I have had such a great time getting to know these people, why they are here, what work their organizations do, and hearing about their amazing stories about other places in the world they have lived. Most of them are veteran NGO or international organization workers who jump from developing country to developing country for work. They are masters at adaptation, and yet at the same time at transplantation...meaning, they thrive on the balance between maintaining their identity and possessions wherever they move to in the world while simultaneously evolving and learning to live in their new environment.
(Expats at The Irish Pub)
(some new friends...)
I feel strange about leaving this place because I'm not sure when I'll ever make it back here and see these people again. The finality of it all is really hard to deal with. At the same time, however, I am ready to come home, take a nice long hot shower, burn all of the clothes that I packed (I've been re-wearing the same outfits six or so outfits for a month and a half!) and eat a Chipotle burrito :-) Oh and of COURSE, see my family and friends....