I haven’t been everywhere in the world, but I am willing to assert that Tajikistan has the most useless policemen in the whole world. They’re corrupt, they’re everywhere, and every one of them has a douche-baton.
Tajikistan was actively inefficient like Uzbekistan, but their particular speciality was shutting things down. This included:
· Shutting borders on their useful commerce roads for no reason.
· Shutting ATMs off to “save power”.
· Shutting Facebook down “to get fixed”.
· Shutting banks/any other necessary business for 9-hour lunches.
Upsettingly, I am not able to add the mobile phone music industry to that list.
Serious flavour was also added to the country by the antics of the president. He moved holidays to suit his sleeping patterns, shut down Facebook because he was essentially being cyber-bullied and forced the teenagers of Dushanbe to wave flowers at his passing car. But it’s OK. He also blessed the capital with various ginormous photos of himself doing things that made him look sentimental and caring. Like playfully frolicking in poppy fields.
I was actually mighty impressed by the inner city public transport. Mini-buses zipped around all over the show, weaving between bigger buses and cars that pretended they were buses by putting a crudely “3” in the window (they were continually removing, then replacing, the number in the window to avoid being caught by the police. Pretending to be a bus, and charging ever so slightly more is, of course, illegal and would end in being forced to pay a bribe). Long story short, there was someone willing to take you into the centre for next to nothing, almost every 3rd vehicle. The only down side was that plenty of bus drivers had tiny TVs installed where their mirrors should have been. Apparently, your average reflection isn’t fun enough.
In Tajikistan, there was a very serious love of bread. The Tajiks, eat bread with every single meal. Don’t get me wrong, they make good bread, but you sit down to eat a pizza and you can see the people around you thinking: “you know what would go good with that? More dough”. This was a feature of Tajik culture I got on board with very quickly indeed.
After filling up on all this bread, why stand when you can sit? And why sit when you can crouch precariously on the curb? This one was a little odd; the Tajiks have developed a new brand of loitering where they crouch in groups in the middle of the pavement. I actually practiced at one point. Honestly, I found it hard on the knees.
Throughout Dushanbe was a network of drainage gutters. It seemed as though they were there to manage rainwater and melt-water coming from the mountains. Wonderfully, this water was constantly being recycled by the locals as they used it to wash their cars or bicycles or even their shoes. Great, right? Nearly. That is until someone pisses in the gutter, or throws their rubbish in it. This was another instance where I found myself confused; watching a man use his hands to scoop gutter-water onto his car, and then throwing the rubbish from his car into the water.
One of my favourite things about Tajikistan was the way the people greeted each other. They would bow their heads and lay a hand on their heart as they did it. I liked it so much that I adopted it, and now do it at home, much the confusion of those around me.