Friday, May 26, 2006

Dramatic Changes

It's such a dramatic change from one country to the next. By far, Afghanistan to Tajikistan was the most drastic for us. It's almost a shock to the system but not quite because that's what everything out here is for us everyday. From the mass chaos we had before it seemed wrong to suddenly change back to a system more similar to home. Just a few of the more noticeable changes include:
1. From bumpy, dry, dusty roads to wide, paved tree-lined litter-free streets.
2. Clothing from men in plain light-coloured salwars and sandals to white dress shirts, slacks, ties and shoes (the most hideous, ridiculously long, upturned, pointy-toed things ever). Women from burkhas without faces (but underneath beautiful coloured salwars and lots of jewelry) to women in what looks like a granny's nightgown (although some with very nice fabric and colour) with a kerchief on their head. (Probably curlers underneath too). This must be the dominant style of the majority ethnic group because there were other women that were dressed in very feminine, Russian-style, revealing or tight clothes.
3. Music from Indian pop music sung by an unnaturally high pitched, whiny voiced female to the western pop and rap that we are more used to at home (but still in a different language, probably Russian).
4. Transportation from donkey carts, bicycles and Toyotas to the ubiquitous Russian Lada cars.
5. Toilets from squaties and water to squaties with sandpaper tp (but there are western toilets in places that cater to foreigners and for a price you can find soft toilet paper).
6. Weather from hot, dry 40C+ days under clear blue skies to cooler temperatures and big fluffy clouds that we haven't seen in a long time.
7. Crowds from "can't move at all without getting bumped around" to wide sidewalks and walking 4 abreast without any problems. The population density change is the biggest of them all and makes a huge difference in terms of livability. You don't really notice it after a while until you get away from the crowds and then you can't understand how you lived through them.
8. Drawing onlookers from "can't stop or you are instantly surrounded" to nobody gives a damn and we feel rejected. People just walk up and start talking Russian to us like we fit in or something. We can actually sit down outside and play cards over lunch again.
9. The sensory onslaught from everything moving all around you everywhere to empty space. It's strange because now you can suddenly stop and not get jostled around and be in everyone's way. People walking on the streets here seem to walk slower, probably because they aren't dodging so many things and because cars move fast in the background making them look slow again. Walking was the fastest way to get around for a while there as there were to many crowds and animals around for traffic to move.
10. Script from the arabic alphabet that we can't decipher to Cyrillic, which actually looks like a word. It's become a lot harder to get by with only english now too. Tajik is actually more related to Persian than any slavic languages but they understand Russian as well. Ammon lost our Russian phrase book after carrying it around for a year and with no english around, Ammon's 30 words of Russian make it very interesting (hard) so we are back to charades. But that is the fun of travelling.
Don't get me wrong, I have thoroughly enjoyed everywhere we've been. Seeing all the changes and differences is wonderful to experience and why we keep on going.
Maggie

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