Well, after five days I feel compelled to write something about the newest “push pin spot” on my world map.
The first thing…today(Friday) at noon I heard the call to prayer. There’s something very reassuring about that. It’s not spiritual or religious for me…it’s a ritual. But it says to me that “life is moving forward in an orderly fashion”. The call to prayer here is not nearly as loud as it was in Cairo…but…it’s there. And that’s nice.
Take an old 60s or 70s movie about the Soviet Union and you have Tajikistan. It’s a hard place to describe in many ways: massive, older buildings all in a shade of gray that feels like a bleak filmy substance creeping across the landscape. It has an interesting architecture–rather a mix of mid-evil Europe with a touch of Asian/Mongolian. But all Soviet.
Things seem tired and worn out. Roads–although not FULL of potholes–are certainly showing the passage of time. There’s nothing of what I’ve seen so far that’s flashy and new. And in that respect it’s a tremendous contrast from Cairo–and the capital cities in Upper Egypt—where there was so much new construction that spoke to a more modern style of building–and certainly lots more glass.
That’s not to say there’s not some interesting if not attractive buildings. They are here==just different. And certainly, the backdrop of mountains that blanket all you see–many snowcapped rising majestically up to the sky…well, that’s breathtaking. And when you think of it—who needs man made beauty when God has given you something as amazing as the mountains and rivers and streams rushing down to the city?
But, then, it’s realy all about the people. So far my impressions are they are very hard-working; generous; struggling to accommodate incredible changes since leaving the Soviet Union. Most of the older and middle aged folks I’ve had short conversations with–office staff here–are nostalgic about the old days when there was plenty of food to eat, a guaranteed free education for their children through college, decent medical care for everyone. Now, they have joined the ranks of the free-world and have to worry about tomorrow and whether or not the meager salaries they earn will cover the necessities in their lives. And like so many people around the world are contemplating whether their aging parents will have the resources they need to meet their needs.
One of the ladies who works in the office was talking to me about her daughter and two grand-daughters and her daughter’s struggle to be a working mom. Overworked; exhausted; no time to do any quality things with her family. It struck a nerve with me. I shared with her that a few weeks ago my daughter (mom of 4) had several of the women in her neighborhood over for a ladies night out. In the course of their discussions a common theme emerged among them: FATIGUE. Not all of them worked OUTSIDE OF THE HOME (emphasis to underscore that stay-at-home moms work equally hard just doing different kinds of things and get very little credit for all they do and certainly NO salary –and don’t get me started on their husbands compensate them…). EVERYTHING including (or maybe particularly) intimacy with the most meaningful people in their lives (aka husband and kids) takes second place to a long nap and good night’s sleep. Not because they’re lazy…nope…they just desperately need that extra sleep just to survive their grueling schedules and relentless work demands. So, I shared with her their lament about the mind-numbing, soul numbing endless tasks that consume their lives and rarely allows them time to enjoy so many of the most basic things in life.
As I contemplate all of this sitting at the table in the room in the office of the aging building on the well-worn street in the evolving little town that overlooks the soaring mountains in the tiny corner of the world where Tajikistan barely holds its own in a part of the world gone mad, I am able to ponder the most important thing I’ve learned over the years: no matter where we are—we are all pretty much the same. As far as I see it–no surprises there really. And it gives me some hope that maybe if we all begin to understand that we’re so much more alike than we are different and embrace our similarities–well maybe we’ll get our act together and be able to live in peace. I hope so anyway.