All things counter, original, spare and strange in Khujand, Tajikistan

A New Adventure

(photo courtesy of babasteve)

By way of introduction to a new phase, Hopkins’ “Pied Beauty”:

Glory be to God for dappled things
For skies of couple-color as a brindled cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut falls; finches wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced–fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

I return to that poem every time I travel. And those of you I’ve seen recently know I am about to travel about as far from home as is possible. I will be spending the next ten months in Khujand, Tajikistan. I have received a Fulbright grant, which offers me the opportunity to teach English as a second language for the next ten months under the auspices of the Khujand Commerce University and the US Department of State.

For the factually minded, Khujand was originally founded by Alexander the Great himself, who called it  “Alexandria the Furthest” or something to that effect. It was later razed by the Mongols, leaving little trace of the earlier city, but it has played an important part in the politics of the region, situated as it is in the fertile Ferghana valley. Under Soviet rule it was called Leninobod, and it still retains a large part of its Russian character. Over the city looms the largest  statue of Lenin still standing in Central Asia.

Tajikistan itself is a creation of Soviet border-carving. Before the Russian revolution it was part of the semi-independent Khanate of Bukhara, which ruled what is modern-day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. On the pretense of establishing national sovereignty the Soviet regime created Tajikistan as the territory of the Persian speakers (i.e. the Tajiks). After the fall of the USSR, Tajikistan declared independence, preserving the Soviet-created borders.

Tajikistan today is the smallest and poorest of the former Soviet Central Asian republics, but it possesses incredible natural beauty, and the possibility of abundant (though controversial) hydroelectric power. Its official language is Tajik, which is very similar to Farsi, but uses the Cyrillic alphabet instead of the Arabic alphabet.

This country is the last place I thought I’d be headed this time last year, but in this strange, fickle, freckled world you never know what may happen, and I feel privileged to live in and learn about this unique and fascinating culture. So here I am. I hope you enjoy hearing about my adventures.

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One response

  1. Love the mini-history lesson. Good luck on your Fulbright year 🙂

    September 11, 2010 at 1:27 pm

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