Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Post-Soviet Chronicles Part 6: Moscow Part 2 -- A Place Where You Can Drunkenly Ride Horses at Night

You should definitely read this first if you haven't, because it's part 1. And this is part 2. So logically you should read part 1 before part 2. So... read it?

Are You Ready for More Churches? GOOD!

...because apparently that's what the Kremlin is? Maybe I'm the only idiot American who was confused and thought the Kremlin was some government building where there were those crazy guards and if you looked for long enough you might see Jason Bourne do some acrobatic stuff and sneak into the building. I really hope I'm not the only one, because it turns out the Kremlin has a government building but is actually more like a bunch of churches in a really small square together.

"You shall not pass!"

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Post-Soviet Chronicles Part 5: Moscow Part 1 -- It Wasn't Me!

Okay okay okay. I'm the worst. I really have been inconsistent with this blogging thing. I've just found that life here has gotten pretty... normal. Nothing I do/see anymore seems all that strange/different so it seems silly to blog. But going to Moscow? That's pretty epic. I probably should have been a little more prompt on blogging about that. So without further ado, I present to you the first in a series of two blogs on my travel to Moscow, Russia.
Hey, look! It's that famous church in Russia that everyone thinks of when they think of Moscow!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Northeast for the holidays

The irony of the English transliteration of Garm is that garm in Tajik/Farsi means 'warm'. For the record, the actually pronunciation of Garm is more of a guttural gharm-- which does not, in fact, have the same meaning. Garm is actually quite colder, as it is at a higher altitude and further north than Dushanbe.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why You Should Always Have a Snickers on Hand

I know what you're thinking: "Another blog post about soup?!" but wait. Hear me out.

Tonight I tried to cook soup.

The night began with me, being lazy, and not having any bottled water around (which, unfortunately prevents me from doing most of the cooking I'm capable of). So, after some arguments with my stomach I finally forced myself to walk the ten minutes down the road to go to the store. I had been wanting to make a soup for awhile, I figured it was easy, and should be tasty.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Post-Soviet Chronicles Part 4: Almaty, Kazakhstan

After a short stint, we return to the post-soviet chronicles and review Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Previous editions can be found here, here, and here.


Good luck. No, but seriously... the English pronunciation is super easy and it's said exactly as it looks (Al-mot-e). Unfortunately for us, no one seems to understand when you say Almaty in the English pronunciation. They simply look at you oddly and wonder what you could be possibly talking about. So here are the variants on pronunciation I encountered there and in Tajikistan:

Kazakhs pronouncing it in Kazakh: Almatiye (Al-mot-e-a)
Russians pronouncing it in Russian: Almat?? (Al-mot-*choke on your tongue*) 
Some Tajiks pronouncing it in Russian: Almato (Al-mot-o)

Strange how one city's name could be pronounced so many different ways. Or not pronounced. Or whatever.

So, like, Almaty is... where again?
It's Almaty-- and then some! (Click to enlarge)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Is 4 meters enough?

My quest of late has been trying to become a real person in life. The list is long, and surprisingly more difficult than you'd imagine, especially when you're living la vida broke. I wanted to share with you the recent things I've accomplished (no small victories, I assure you) and some of those goals still on my list.

Recent Successes 

1) Bought a shower curtain. I guess this is technically a "kind of" success. I should start by saying that there are a number of bazaars in the city and a number of them way the heck outside the city. Well I did not find a shower curtain at the bazaar five minutes from my house, nor at the bazaar five minutes from my work. This meant that I had to go to one of the dreaded bazaars way outside the city. Horrible. So I finally managed to get to one and I found shower curtains. 

I remember arguing with myself beforehand and saying "you should measure, just so you make sure you don't get something too short." But that entailed a whole other issue-- what the heck was I going to measure with?! So I gauged it up and the salesmen at the bazaar proceeded to tell me that this shower curtain bar (you know the thing that holds up the curtain) goes up to 4 meters! Okay. Sure. Sounds like enough to me. 

Except it wasn't. Or rather it was too much. Turns out my shower must be incredibly undersized because I had up beat the bar into place with my fancy tool (the "hand hammer") and even now it's slightly askew and immovable one way or the other. 

At least now I'm not spraying water all over the bathroom when I shower...?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Snickers Shortage


It all started last week when I went to get a Snickers. As many of my Dushanbe friends already know, Snickers is part of my insanely healthy diet in Tajikistan. Often times, it provides me my only nutrition for the day (forgetting to eat happens to me more than you'd believe...). Well imagine my surprise when I went to my local store and they had no Snickers. This place usually has a full wall of the stuff-- now; zero! What the heck?!

So then I go to another store maybe the next day and again; no Snickers. So I confront the store owner (it was a much smaller/family operated store) and he seemed to have mentioned something about one of the suppliers no longer bringing them in. Now, I wasn't so sure I understood so I just chalked it up as inconvenience... well that is until yesterday.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Livin' La Vida Broke

I figure I need to get this blog post out before my bank account has something more than $4 in it (thanks mom!) so I wanted to dedicate this post to livin' the broke life in Dushanbe (which has been my last week or so).

1) Mumkin ast? (Is it possible) This is what you will find yourself asking while simultaneously apologizing as you hand your poor marshrutka driver thirty 10-diram (think cents) coins. 

2) Take your bubblegum and put it where... err. Common practice in Tajik stores (and I mean little family shops, medium sized stores, and chain supermarkets) is to give bubblegum sticks or teabags as change. So for example if  my bill is 4 somoni and 70 diram, giving a 5 somoni bill will result in a stuck of bubblegum for change. Needless to say, I've had to pester the cashiers at a few stores for my dirams instead of bubblegum.

3) Hey bacha, diram te! (Hey kid, give me my diram!) As previously discussed, all buses in Dushanbe are equipped with a small Tajik boy (#8 in the 'Getting Around...' section). The price for buses is technically 60 diram, but everyone pays 1 somoni usually. You can usually get your 40 diram from the bus-bacha if you tell him to give it you though.

Monday, February 10, 2014

No water, no problem

Believe it or not, there are benefits to having no water and not being able to shower.

1) Perfection of the "fix your hair with your spit" method. Sorry ladies, you're SOL on this one. 

2) If you smell bad, don't worry too much. Everyone else is going through the same thing in the city, and it's an unspoken acceptance. Sitting in a marshrutka and you can visibly see people's discomfort from your bodily odor? They just nod; they know what's up.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Post-Soviet Chronicles Part 3": Three Inches of Snow in Dushanbe

Read part 1 here and part 2 here. Totally fascinating reads, I promise. 

Part 3" begins in Dushanbe with the thirteenth chapter of my Tajik visa drama. The details are largely unimportant because, whatever, but this chapter ends with me having to leave the Tajik borders and travel to another Tajik consulate/embassy to get a visa. The easiest/most obvious choice for an American is Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan because, well, no visa... but the Tajik government said that I can't get a visa from there right now, for whatever reason. So, the next few choices were Dubai, Istanbul, or Almaty (Kazakhstan).

Kazakhstan? Why Not!

Getting a visa to Kazakhstan was the next big hoop I had to jump through. Luckily there is a Kazakh embassy in Dushanbe, and thanks to some knowledgeable friends I found the embassy pretty painlessly.

Unfortunately, the embassy operates on an apparently very strict schedule. They accept documents only on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9am until 12pm, and then give visas on the same days from 3pm to 5pm. I of course arrived at the Kazakh embassy with all necessary documents on a Tuesday at 3pm where they politely told me I could wait until Thursday morning to submit my documents, and it would then take 3-5 working days to provide the visa if my application was accepted.

So, keep in mind that if I wanted to not stay in Tajikistan illegally I pretty much had to fly out on the following Monday (six days away). Obviously I was a little concerned about this Kazakh visa process. The following Thursday morning I arrived and luckily there was a consular officer there who spoke some (but not really all that much) English. I explained to him the situation and asked if there was anyway I could get the visa by Friday (the next day). He said he would try his best, and with that told me to return Friday morning.

On Friday morning, to my pleasant surprise, the same gentlemen let me know that I could get my visa that day so long as I went and paid the visa/consular fee at the Kazakh bank. After some searching, I found the bank, paid it off, and got my visa as soon as I returned to the Kazakh embassy. I was feeling pretty excited, but deep down I knew that it went a little too smoothly...

The Post-Soviet Chronicles Part 2: Lviv, Ukraine

Check out Part 1 here!

Pronouncing Lviv

Look, I know what you're thinking. L and v are two consonants, and there must be a vowel in between them. Otherwise what the heck is that sound?! Slavic language 101: they will make the strangest and most impossible combinations of consonants ALL THE TIME. What I find so strange is that the way they pronounce Lv sounds as if you're saying the word "live" (as in "live, damn you! live!") but as short as you possible can. So remind me again why there's no vowel there? Liv is really how we should transliterate that but whatever....

Now the most confusing part is that Lviv is not pronounced "Liv-eve", but it is actually pronounced "Liv-ohv". Now take a second to wrap your head around that one. Whatttttt?

So now that we know how to pronounce Livohv, let's talk about getting there.

The Post-Soviet Chronicles Part 1: Kyiv, Ukraine

I have been atrociously bad at blogging these last few months, and so I made a late New Year's Revolution (read: I'm bored in my hotel room in Almaty) to blog more for you all. I decided to start with a series on my recent Post-Soviet travels to Ukraine and Kazakhstan, with some fun Tajikistan adventures in the middle. And so, without further adieu, part one...

Kyiv, not Kiev-- if you've got some free time, this is a great read

Ukraine is cold. The temperature says one thing (4-5 degrees farenheiht maybe) but your body tells you something completely different. BITING cold. Wow it was chilly. Super icey and snowy too. It's no wonder Ukrainian people were not very nice-- how could they be when they have to *live* in that cold.

But seriously Ukraine was interesting. My non-existing Russian moved slightly closer to being existent and I navigated the metro system all on my own once (yay for metros being pretty much the same worldwide!). "Hryvnia" is the currency in Ukraine, and before you even try to pronounce it let me tell you it's pronounced completely differently. Ready? "Greev-na". What?! Anyways the exchange rate was about 1 USD to 8.5 Greevna and prices were generally pretty low. The stuff also looked/felt like monopoly money

One of the world's deepest metro's at the Arsenalna Station in Kyiv