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Moving out

TAJIKISTAN | Sunday, 5 May 2013 | Views [269]

After a week training just outside the city, all of my fellow volunteers and I were desperate to see the city. We had got in to a cosy routine at the Bahoristan centre, getting up for the 8 o’clock breakfasts, beginning our all day sessions at nine and spending the evening playing sports and getting to know each other. It’s so strange to think of everything that has happened since that had brought us all very close together, but that at the time I barely knew them at all.

   The day after our arrival at the Bahoristan we met the fifteen Tajik and Afghan volunteers counterparts. They had organised a party for us which escalated quite quickly and inexplicably in to a girls against boys dance off. After some truly terrible attempts at dancing I decided to fall back on the only dance I know and the Macarena seemed to go down well with my multi-cultural audience who all seemed to be running out of ideas.

   After the dancing was over we were excitedly chatting with our new friends and repeated exclamations could be heard around the crowd: ‘You haven’t seen the city at all! It’s going to be Navrus soon, it will be beautiful!’. I began to talk with a pretty young girl who had sat quietly watching the festivities with her equally pretty friend and, though clearly enjoying the party, had politely refused any efforts to make them dance. ‘What a wonderful dance! You will have to teach me another time. We are not allowed to dance if boys are dancing as well.’ Ah okay. ‘No problem, the Macarena is a classic!’ I said with a smile which was quickly reciprocated. I learnt that the girl’s name was Sayeeda, that she was born and educated in Iran but now lived in Herat in Northern Afghanistan and that she was here to improve her English. ‘It is my greatest wish to be able to speak English and inshallah I will improve by the end of my time here’. I felt like a lazy little Englander talking to my new friends that day. Some were learning their third or fourth language and some days I think I have yet to master English fully let alone learning another one.

   By the end of the week, despite the comfortable pattern we had fallen in to, we were ready to see the city and to meet the families we would be spending the next three months with. Over the week I had become better acquainted with my afghan friend of the previous night and on the night before we were to move in with our host families I was told that I would be living with Sayeeda. All of the volunteers that day were taken in Marshrutkas (minibuses used as public transport in Khujand) to the centre of the town, our fascination with our new surroundings refusing to wear off despite our nerves. We waited at our meeting place for our families to collect us and watched nervously as one by one our friends departed for their new homes. When my turn came a young woman who looked barely older than me was introduced to me as Nargis my host for my three months. I piled in to the car with Sayeeda, reluctantly waving my friends goodbye and shook the hand of Nargis’ husband Jamshet who was driving the car.

   The car rumbled of down the dirt road swerving to avoid the many potholes and cracks which litter the streets of Khujand (in Khujand they say the sober drivers swerve wildly across the streets and the drunks drive in a straight line). ‘No seatbelt’ Jamshet said with a grin as I frantically searched my seat. Great.

   That night Sayeeda and I had a home cooked Tajik meal of meatball and noodle soup and went back to our room to learn the Macarena.

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