Friday, November 24, 2006

National shortage of Lagman (or going back to the Middle Ages)

It is freezing (literally) in Dushanbe at night, though during the day, due to the glorious sunshine, the temperature rises to about 10 degrees. The flat is particularly cold - there is one electric heater which is not bad; need to bring it closer to me, and at night I need to trundle it into the bedroom. As for the (internal) bathroom and toilet - pure brass-monkey stuff. I was contemplating asking for another heater for the rest of the flat, but when the electricity failed while I boiled a kettle and heated, I decided not to bother.
The kitchen has a joint gas/electric cooker the use of which will become clearer shortly. Only one sort of a pot...and tonight I found the knives; I thought I only had spoons to eat with.
At lunchtime I fancied some lagman - a very filling soup of noodles, beef and some vegetables, definitely with a Chinese influence. The first restaurant I went to did not have any; the canteen I usually go to was closed/bricked up - the former finance ministry building now seems to belong to a private company - and the other two did not have any either. So I had a greasy, albeit tasty, bun sold outside a shop.
However, my little complaint fades into insignificance when you consider that currently in Tajikistan, outside Dushanbe, electricity exists for only 8 hours a day. Our project driver has electricity for two hours a day, as do the outlying districts of Dushanbe. That would be bad enough, but also there has been no gas since, roughly, the presidential election (he was reelected for 7 years). Next week the electricity in Dushanbe will be turned off for two days because some reservoir is full and needs to be drained. The people living in apartments fare worst in this because they have no other way of cooking or heating. As someone said - this is like going back to the middle ages. A foreigner had been heard to comment about the number of good cars on the roads - at the same time. Compared to this, Georgia is doing well.

These wee photies are of some schoolkids in Dushanbe (will try to upload them on a dial-up connection). I had spotted the girls playing 'twist'; that game we used to play at school, involving some elastic stretched out between two people and a person in the middle having to do a complicated routing without stepping on the elastic. When I approached the girls they immediately went into a pose. The boys wanted in on the act, and I had to do them separately - as soon as I had the camera up to my eye a sea of hands shot up, blocking out their faces....And one wee boy, just when I had got the girls to start their game again, ran right into the picture. Men, eh? Note the natty suits worn by some of the boys; this is quite common here (though these children attend a private school).

Of course, in the UK I would be arrested immediately for taking pictures of children in a school playground.