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


Yesterday marked my second month in Tajikistan. It was also the first truly frigid, windy, wintery day here in Khujand. Fortunately, we’d already picked the persimmon tree Sunday. Actually Nasimoko hired a college student to do most of the picking, while we packed some of the fruit away to ripen and bagged the rest up to give to neighbors.

The guy in the black did most of the work on the ladder. But Amir and I picked some too. Then we went to visit some aunts, uncles and grandparents to share the bounty.

America’s got a lot of things going for it, like coffee, central heating and air, sit-down toilets and drinkable tap water. But when it comes to fruit, Tajikistan has America beat like Ali on Foreman.

Persimmons with their brown, chocolate interior, apples purple as plums with ridges like grenades, yellow peaches you have to suck off the skin from the inside, apples with a hint of cinnamon, pomegranates twice as pomegranatey than in the supermarket, melon like honey-dew but crisp as lemon sorbet, apples small as cherries, and–I swear–a pear with the whiskey-sweet vanilla taste of irish creme.

This is a land of wonders. It’s not all easy here, but I often feel, in Seamus Heaney’s words,

“Shipshaped in the crow’s nest of a life,

Airbrushed to and fro, wind-drunk, braced

By all that’s thrumming up from keel to masthead,

Rubbing his eyes to believe them and this most

Buoyant, billowy, topgallant birch.

(from “In the Attic” one of my favorites from Heaney’s new collection, Human Chain).

So it is. Happy 2 month Tajik anniversary to me.



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