Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Surviving in Dushanbe [A Guide to Everyday Tajik Life]

I intended to be bold with my next post and blog about the role our digestive systems play in our daily lives in Tajikistan, but Barrington beat me to it and has already made a post. (I highly recommend reading that blog post). Instead of talking about poop, I figured I would write a guide explaining all the things you need to know to survive in Tajikistan.

This guide will be complete with useful phrases, tips for getting around, and most importantly the nuggets of information you need to survive here.

1) Toilet kujast? (toy-o-let koo-jast): Where is the toilet?
-Did you read Barrington's blog post?

2) Na fameedam (na fah-me-dom): I didn't understand
-Useful for any situation. For example: police officer has you stopped? Na fameedam. Someone is harassing you for money in the street? Na fameedam.

2) Bebakshid (beh-bach-sheed): forgive me (sorry)
-This one is pretty self-explanatory. Most useful when you are trying to get off a bus (think sardine can, then add a few sardines).

3) Ahoste (a-haw-stay): slow(ly)
-Whether you are in a taxi or trying to understand someone talking, you will find ahoste to be your good friend.

4) Chand pul? (chand pool): How much money?
-Prices are negotiable here, but you always want to ask how much money something is before you commit to anything. You also do not even have to know numbers- everyone has a calculator handy and if you point to it they will show you how much they are asking.

5) Khub (khoob): good
-Cat got your tongue? Not sure what is happening in a conversation? Just nod and say khub.

6) Khob (khob): ok
-Use this just as you use khub.

7) Salaam (saw-laam): hello
-Potentially useful.

8) A salaam ale kom (ah saw-laam ah-le comb): hello (to you, and your kin)
-Used interchangeably with salaam.

9) Kebab (ka-bob): meat on a stick
-You have to eat eventually.

10) Juje (joo-jay): chicken
-Interchangeable with morg.

11) Morg (morgh): chicken
-Interchangeable with juje.

12) Gov (gaw-vh): beef/steak
-Remember, cuts of meat are a little different here. Don't get too excited when I say steak.

13) Gusfand (goose-fond): sheep
-Usually cheap and tasty.

*Each phrase is transliterated for my dear friends and family who have no idea how transliteration works. For proper pronounciation, read the words as if you were reading English.

Bathroom Tips:

1) Always know where your nearest toilet is.

2) Always carry toilet paper or baby wipes (baby wipes are preferred; did you read Barrington's post?).

3) Make mental notes of where you are when you see a western toilet. You or your friends will appreciate it later.

4) All toilets (even western ones) have smaller pipes than what we are used to. A good rule of thumb: if it did not come out of your body, do not try and flush it. Follow this rule, and you will save yourself from an awkward conversation (in a foreign language) later on.

5) Take off your pants and underwear before you do your business. You'll thank me later.

Getting around Dushanbe:

1) Wherever you go, note big landmarks around you.

2) When telling a taxi where you want to go, pick the nearest landmark and ask to go there.

3) Always ask the taxi how much money (see above) the ride will be before getting into the cab.

4) Always give taxi drivers as close to the exact fare as possible. They do not like to give change and they may take everything you give them before screaming at you in Russian to get out of their cab.

5) Busses will be hot, may occasionally stop working for minutes at a time, and they will be packed full. Remember you are only paying one somoni (about 20 cents), so no one wants to hear you complain about it.

6) Big spenders can take the "bus-taxis" that follow the bus routes for three somoni (about 60 cents). WARNING: the word ahoste (see above) will not work here.

7) As previously mentioned, crosswalks and street lights are suggestions. Use discretion when crossing the street, but remember that all cars stop for a confident pedestrian crossing the street in Tajikistan.

General Tips:

1) Never assume any internet, anywhere, will be moving faster than a snail (or for that matter, never asssume that it will be working at all).

2) Everyone else is in more of a hurry than you. Taking turns is a nice concept at all, but save it for when you are state-side. If you want to get something done, push your way to the front and tell them what you want done.

3) Unless you are buying something really nice, you should rarely be spending more than 50 somoni ($10) on anything.

4) Prices are negotiable.

5) Always assume you will not be walking on flat ground. Plan accordingly.

6) The availability of hot water during the day varies. Plan accordingly.

7) The world is their trashcan.

8) If you make eye contact, say hello (see above).

9) Know Russian.

10) Coca Coke is significantly more expensive than RC Cola. If you are here for a short time, suck it up and drink the RC Cola for a few weeks. You can get your Coca Cola fix when you return to the states.

Tips for eating out:

1) Almost all resturants have kebabs. If you find yourself at a resturant without a menu (common), go for a kebab (see above).

2) Most meat has bones in it. Keep this in mind when eating meat.

3) Avoid fruits and vegetables (the water here is not so good- you did read Barrington's post right?!).

4) Grapes usually have seeds. Keep this in mind when eating grapes.

5) Avoid water or beer (unless bottled).

6) Checks are not brought until you ask for them. Plan accordingly.

7) Usually people do not tip unless it is a higher-end place. I think waitresses/waiters like us more because we tip, so I say do it if you plan on returning to that resturant.

8) Before passing judgement on the quality of a resturant, wait a day. (I'm only gonna say it one more time: Barrington's post).


Alright, well that's all I can come up with for now. Hope you all enjoyed.

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