I had an amazing day. It started with one of my Tajik dresses finally being completed and I proudly wore it to our closing ceremony. I shocked myself at how well I passed as a regular Tajik girl (pictures to come of course). I not only wore the traditional "Kortah" but also learned how to tie the headscarves that everyone wears and bought the simple sandals that seems to be Tajikistan's equivalent of Reef flip flops.
After the ceremony, I ventured out into the city for my long-awaited self experiment. I wanted to see if there was any difference of treatment when I walked around. I'm not sure that my experiment was that accurate because I already have Tajik-like features so even though I normally wear western clothes people did not bother me. While wearing the Kortah however, I noticed that nobody gave me that innocent but obvious "foreigner-alert" glance. What was even more interesting was that I was acknowledged by people differently....
As I walked up to the bus stop to catch the bus that runs every 3 minutes up and down Rudaki, the main road in the city, an older matronly woman sitting with her son looked at me. I wasn't sure at first how to react--do I greet or do I look the other way? What does everyone else do? I decided to greet her with the "asalaam" and sure enough she smiled and greeted me back, satisfied. When I got on the bus, a young man promptly stood up and gave me his seat with a "mahramat" (please, or be my guest). The woman next to me was holding her son that was crying. She kept fanning his shirt and I could tell that he was very hot (today was 110 degrees Fahrenheit...) so I offered my fan to her. She thanked me and replied in Tajik that he wants everything that he sees....like she said, two minutes later the little boy was begging to have the fan. She gave it back to me. At that moment, I glanced at the floor and almost jumped--there was a live chicken sitting in a plastic bag by her feet!
After a long stroll up the beautiful tree-lined Rudaki, I was feeling the effects of the sun....I repeat, it was 110 degrees today. I decided to take the bus back to Chaikhaneh Rahat which is a Tajik teahouse. I had lunch there and wrote in my journal as the sun began to set. I sat there for a good hour in the heat (the place has no walls, it's open-air) without a soundtrack playing in the background, just listening to the traffic on Rudaki.
Open air tea house:
At 8pm, I went to the Irish Pub for the last time. I had invited all of my expat friends in order to say a final goodbye. I hate finality. People filtered in and out and we ended up staying there until midnight. The original plans were to go afterwards to Port Said, the Russian-cheesy and slightly shady nightclub (the non-stop strobe lights and euro techno are just too much fun!) but I ended up calling it a night.
I am feeling emotional at leaving this place and the amazing people that I have met and spent time with. As with any trip abroad, I have grown, learned a lot about myself and the way the world works, and have come at least one step closer to figuring out what exactly I want to accomplish and where I want to live in my lifetime.
Dushanbe airport, 5am
I look forward to what the future brings.