From Rudaki to Radetzky: Reflections on Dushanbe

Although I have already departed from Tajikistan, the distance and brief span of transit time has allowed me a moment to ruminate on my experiences in Dushanbe. Now, my Tajik reflections rattle along side the tracks of the metro I am riding, the Strauss’ famous Radetzky March stuck in my head from last night’s opera, and my pen on the journal I have kept all summer. I am in Austria. In development terms, it’s a country which possesses reliable health institutions, education, sanitation, voting, and international markets among other things. For many countries, these are more than goals, they are dreams. It reminded me of something one of our coordinators told me during me first weeks after I inquired about public transportation: “No… Tajikistan won’t have a metro for another 100 years.”  Having preferred to spend most of my time in developing nations, I’ve found that every country is on something of its own timeline. The contrast of Austria was stark reminder of just how fresh Tajikistan is, which can be an incredible position for a nation seeking to re-define itself, challenges and all.

The majority my students were admirable in their drive and ambition. Many aspired to be translators, interpreters, or in the international field in some form. Others, wanted to pursue and education in the United States. If they had established careers, they then sought to expand their practices by reaching out to growing english numbers speaking foreigners, rather than Russian. They expressed this came to The Bactria Cultural Center at varying stages of progress with the English language. I taught 3 1/2 courses while there: Beginners , Elementary, Upper-Intermediate and a joined forces with another volunteer teacher to do “Presentation Framing” for an eco-tourism class at the local university. Most in my Beginner-Elementary came in with only 2-3 months of previous instruction, and, by the end of the courses, had advanced to an Intermediate level of speaking. Those in the upper courses became even more comfortable speakers in varying stages of advanced. I was proud of them, but also disheartened that their motivations derived from an implicit desire to leave their home country. Youth opportunity should not be considered in terms ‘flight.’ One of the reasons I selected AUA was because it places its interns in positions to supplement this growth, and so from this aspect my time there was fulfilling. Tajikistan should not only be a nation they were proud of, but could also confidently find a future in.
IMG_0599On the last day of classes, we (the other volunteer teacher and I) took our final classes on a field trip to Rudaki Park, named after the founder of Persian poetry who lived from 858 bc to 941 ad during the Samanid court. We passed by roses, familiar fountains, and our last visions of women’s traditional kurta’s and men’s caps. We also made a special visit the flag pole. At 541 feet, it is the second tallest free-standing flagpole in the world. It is also the clearest representation of national pride that motivates this young country (aside from the smiling faces of my students of course! see photo above).


I’ve been drafting this last post of mine in transit, and it would appear that my stop, Hüttledorf, has arrived. As a parting word I would like to express my best wishes to Tajikistan, and the progress I believe its future holds. I am more than grateful to have contributed in some small ways during my brief six weeks in Dushanbe towards. I would also like to extend my thanks to America’s Unofficial Ambassadors for structuring this opportunity. Lastly, To all who are considering the same experience… I encourage you to pursue it wholeheartedly!

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