Tajikistan – Day One – Cultural Exchanges and Teahouses

Everything in Tajikistan is very slow.

I arrive in Dushanbe at 3:20 am Monday morning. A missed connection, an overnight stay in Frankfurt, and a whole lot of jet lag leaves me pretty groggy.
I shuffle into border control and spend the next 20 minutes trying to get processed. The visa office is a long rectangular room lined with chairs, no discernible line or instructions, and two very indifferent low level paper pushers. It all feels very Soviet. Nobody seems to know what to do and everyone gets pretty irritated.

Thankfully the Embassy has arranged for an “Expediter” to meet me. In essence an Expediter is a local who knows his way around the customs office and guides you through the process. And by “guide you through the process” I mean he helps you cut the line. I get a few dirty looks but at am eager to get out of there. If you ever get to Tajikistan, hire an expediter – it’ll cost you 20 bucks and its worth every penny.

Damian meets me outside the Customs building and takes me to a hotel to relax for a few hours before we begin our day. Damian is the Information Officer at the US Embassy and is the reason I’m in Tajikistan. The American Documentary Showcase sends out a cable to American embassies across the world and its people like Damien who select which films go to respective countries. I sat down with Damien to talk about cultural exchanges, the Showcase, and what he hopes to accomplish. (He speaks directly about the Documentary Showcase at 5:42)

US Cultural Exchange in Tajikistan from dcdocumentary on Vimeo.

Judy Irola has already flown to Khujund and will handle the first day of events on her own. For my part, I head to the hotel to get cleaned up.

I wake up after a few hours of sleep and begin to explore my surroundings. In the early morning light, the hotel grounds are stunning. Dushanbe has an extensive irrigation system so there’s a lot of greenery in the nicer parts of town. Mixed in amongst the landscape is a particular style of Soviet architecture – some in use, some decaying after years of none use. As I stumble around I come across a decaying Teahouse with a beautiful ornate ceiling. Its a shame the building has fallen into disrepair but I’ve been told it will be restored.

Here’s a quick video.

Morning In Dushanbe from dcdocumentary on Vimeo.