I want to focus a few of my blog posts on cultural aspects of everday life that I find interesting here. For this particular post, I am going to focus on the "hovlee" and "cot".
What's interesting about Tajikistan is taht every house (or at leastevery house I've seen so far) has a hovlee. My best attempt at a translation would be a courtyard, but it is a lot more meaningful than that.
When you walk into a Tajik home, you have entered the hovlee. Generally, the ground here is paved or conrete. Most hovlees I've seen have a tree or two (depending on size). There is no roof, so usuallythere are clothes lines here as well. Some of the hovlees, depending on the number of nuclear families living in one "house" will have many doors into seperate living corners. In bigger ones, I've also seen shared bathrooms and kitchens.
Most families have a "cot" in their hovlee. The cot is very different than the English equivalent, and there's really no translation. I'll do my best to describe it, but without pictures it won't do it justice.
The cot is usually a wood (or if it's cheaper, metal) platform that stands at about knee height. The platform is about the size of a queen/king-size bed (this varies with family size / price) and has rails (almost like a crib) that surround three sides of it. An unattached peice of carpet (usually very nice) sits on the platform surface and, depending on the number of people, a number of what I refer to as portable matress pads make up the perimeter of the guarded sides.
The cot is where we most of our meals and sometimes nap (sometimes right after a meal, even). Shoes are not worn on the cot, and food is served on a table cloth in the middle. When guests come over, conversation over tea almost always happens here as well.
What I find particularly interesting about the hovlee is how signifcant and central it is in everyday life here, even though it is essentially the entryway to the house. Likewise, the cot is central to daily conversations, meals, snacks, and naps.
I've actually begun to really like the cot/hovlee- I kind of want both in the US!