Friday, May 26, 2017

Back to normal (boring) life

As the previous entry mentioned, we were in Tajikistan with my daughter Ashley and her family, and we have just returned after two and a half weeks. It was nothing short of a rich experience.
Ashley and Brandon live in a nice house in Dushanbe with enough room for the gang, a swing set, 
and some snapdragons run wild.
Ashley likes to drive to the end of whatever road and start hiking.  And when the trail ends, keep hiking.
Baby William and Eleanor (aka Smell-a-nor) got to come along on this adventure.
The kids noted that the water wasn't so cold once their feet got numb.
One Saturday, we drove with two other families north to Iskanderkul ('Alexander's Lake'), marveling at Soviet-era bridge construction,
but marveling far more at the spectacular scenery.
I would have taken a picture inside the 5+-kilometer Anzob Tunnel,
but I was too busy holding on to parts of the car, and trying to quickly repent of whatever sins I could think of on short notice. Quoting Wikipedia, "The tunnel was open in 2006 despite being only partially finished and it quickly gained the reputation as being one of the world's most dangerous tunnels." For some time, and I am not making this up, you could only pass through after signing a waiver. To be fair, lights (sort of) are now up, and the major water intrusions have (sort of) stopped.
Arriving at Iskanderkul, we further risked life and auto by heading downstream and viewing the 130-foot waterfall, above which somebody with a sense of humor and a welding torch built a viewing platform, held in place by what one hopes is a heavy-enough boulder.
The lake itself is nothing short of breathtaking. It is said that Alexander the Great and his army stopped here, though the fragments of recently-discovered ancient hot dogs and primitive Cheetos have proven insufficient for carbon-14 dating evidence.
We had a nice lunch on the shore. We fear that the lake's cited depth of 263 feet is a few less now for the rocks thrown in by the kids.
Despite the glacially chilly water, the youngest daughter got buried in the sand and muck, per protocol.
I don't want to sound repetitive, but the views were nothing short of spectacular as we traveled through the Fann Mountains.
Back in Dushanbe, we visited the recently-finished National Tea House, built in part to impress foreign dignitaries. It even includes a bowling alley, which Ashley says is a pretty good one. You know, fly in, negotiate a new trade treaty and roll a few frames.
The interior is nothing short of just plain amazing, with carved wood, ornate painting, inlaid floors and stone work of every description. However, we didn't get to see the bowling alley. 
The third-largest reclining Buddha in the world is in the museum of antiquities, along with the world's cutest granddaughter in blue shoe covers.
The world's whitest squishy baby also came along.
A memorable and sweet evening was spent at Ashley's housekeeper's house, where she and her daughter served us dinner Tajik style, which means lots of delicious food.
We spent some great afternoons with Ashley and the kids at the embassy pool. At one point the Ambassador herself made a friendly visit, probably to reassure herself that the noise and splashing didn't represent some kind of infiltrative attack. 
We were honored to be included in Sophia's birthday celebration,
and in assembling her brand-new bike!
One of her birthday wishes was a visit to the amusement park.
Some things are apparently universal, like the scary thrill of riding a big Ferris Wheel,
or the fun of riding a train,
or losing your stomach on a ride that suddenly drops you.
If your time machine functions, set it for about 32 years in the past, and you'll see Ashley and her mother in the same picture.
The time finally came to head home, with one last look at a beautiful and strange corner of the world, the memory of which will linger. 
We hope that your tunnels aren't as scary, but that your visits with family are as sweet.
Dave & Paula

Thursday, May 11, 2017

It's Thursday, this must be...Tajikistan!!

It's great having a daughter, Ashley in this case, who is married to a State Department guy and gives us great places to visit.  We arrived here in Dushanbe on Saturday after flying through Boston and Istanbul.  I admit to never having seen such a diverse departure screen in an airport.  I'm sorry you can't read it, but there's everything from Amsterdam to Tehran to Mumbai to Seoul get the picture.