A Bit About Field Trips, Marriages and Teaching English

14 02 2009

After spending the first week in the office, I was getting eager to have an opportunity to get out in the field and accompany the loan officers on their client visits. The first opportunity finally presented itself towards the end of the week. A couple of loan officers had to visit their clients at a town, called Gissar, about 40km away from Dushanbe, so they offered me to come along. Although technically, these weren’t Kiva clients, so I couldn’t have as much interaction with them, I figured that any opportunity to get out would be a good one.

Natural Gas!

So, four loan officers and myself got into a car and we were on our way. We made a quick stop at a gas station to fill up. I was pretty surprised to see that the gas station offered propane, instead of regular gasoline. Turns out that many people here convert their cars to run on both natural liquid gas, which is  cheaper and cleaner, and gasoline. The conversion only costs a few hundred bucks and the savings start to add up quicker.

Filling Up

Filling Up

Converted Trunk For Gas Use

Converted Trunk For Gas Use

Gas Station

Gas Station

After filling up the car, we left Dushanbe. The driver avoided the myriad of potholes that awaited  us every couple of hundred feet with a skill of a true master and slowly, our conversation drifted to marriage – as it often does around here.

This topic is immensely interesting to me, as things are done very differently here than in the West. I can’t mention how many times I’ve said “Really?”, “No, seriously?”. I figured that I’ll share some of the things I picked up. Keep in mind, that the following does not reflect the author’s views or opinions  and that also things vary greatly between different regions, between larger cities and kishloki (villages), as well as between different families.

Popping The Question

In general, people get married here relatively young. That alone is not that unique, as it’s done this way in most other places. Most of the loan officers that I was with that day were still in their 20s, but were married and had a couple of kids each.

Outside the big cities, marriages are often arranged by the parents. It’s the old-school version of eHarmony and Match.com. Even when you live in the city, parent’s blessing is a must. Which kind of makes sense, since the parents are also expected to sponsor the wedding – it’s one of their obligations to their kids: raise them and pay for the wedding.

Weddings are (or more accurately, were) pretty big. From what I was told, a wedding with 600 guests or more is pretty common. Families here are pretty large, so by the time you factor in all of the relatives, friends, neighbors and co-workers, 600 is not considered a large number. In fact, if you had less guests, people would likely start talking about you. Recently, a law was passed by the president limiting weddings (and funerals) to 150 people. It’s probably for the best, as these huge events could put an entire family into debt for  years and not doing one was considered embarrassing.

After the wedding, it’s very common for the newlyweds to live with the family of the husband for at least a year. It can’t be with the family of the wife – as that would be considered shameful. During that time, the family “evaluates” the girl and makes sure that she knows how to cook well and so on. If she doesn’t, they teach her.

Interestingly enough, the wife is expected to bear kids pretty much right away. In fact, if 9 months pass from the date of the wedding and no kids are on the way, people start talking right away. As you can see the pattern, there is a lot of social pressure to do things a certain way.

In general, Tajik men feel that the woman’s main job is to watch over the family, while the man is the one that goes out and brings home the bacon. There is technically no opposition to women working, but family always takes the first priority.

By this time, we got to Gissar.

Lunch

Gissar is a pretty small town that’s pretty well known in the region, as it’s a place where many used cars from Germany and Baltic countries come through. As we were walking around, we saw another batch of new car arrivals by train.

Cars Coming Off a Train Car

Cars Coming Off a Train Car

Street in Gissar

Street in Gissar

One of the major things that took me by surprise is the fact that the electricity was out in the entire town. I know that this is the type of things that people talk about regularly here, but it was the first time when I actually saw what what means.

Storefronts were dark – as you enter a store, you need to give your eyes a few seconds to adjust to the dark. There were no lights in the residential windows. And this goes on every day during the winter.

The loan officers did their visits and we went out for lunch.

Heaven for a meat eater

Heaven for a meat eater

Lunch With Loan Officers

Lunch With Loan Officers

 

Teaching English

By the time we got back to the office, it was already late afternoon. I started to prepare the materials for the English-language class that I was doing after work and suddenly the electricity went out in the office. Although we do have a gasoline generator that can be used in times of an outage, for whatever reason, it wasn’t working that day.

People continued to work while it was still light outside, but since many operations require a computer and access to the network, their abilities were certainly limited. By the time, 5.30pm rolled around and the English class started, it was already fairly dark outside.

However, it was decided to host the class anyway. Using cell phones as sources of light for reading and writing, along with some humor and determination, we’ve managed to get through it.

My English Level 1 Group - the photo was taken in almost pitch black, but the flash made it light

My English Level 1 Group - the photo was taken in almost pitch black, but the flash made it light

While my “students” hopefully learned a few new things about English, I learnt to never take electricity and light for granted.


Actions

Information

10 responses

14 02 2009
Andrey

So did you actually talk to any of the “clients”?

14 02 2009
Andrey
14 02 2009
S.

It is what B had mentioned that majority of Tajik citizens work abroad, and now a lot of jobs closed down and they are suffering financial crisis. Government should create jobs for its people.

14 02 2009
S.

Can I see a picture of Group II “students”?

15 02 2009
Boba

Andruhin,

I’ll start meeting with clients funded through Kiva next week. Should be able to meet with about 50 throughout my time here.

The clients I’m supposed to meet are existing ones and have already received their loan through Kiva, so they are aware of who we are (somewhat)

The clients we went to meet this time were prospects. I didn’t really push to talk to them, as it would risk scaring them off for the loan officers. Plus, they weren’t Kiva clients, so I didn’t have anything to connect to them with.

And S, you will🙂 Prosto Level 2 are all management and are much more serious, so it’s more difficult to snap a shot of them🙂

15 02 2009
Karina

ofiget’! (ya pro klass v temnote s cell phones. It’s like, inspiring, such desire to learn!)
The marriage customs didn’t surprise me much, though it is hard to imagine arranged marriages nowadays.

15 02 2009
Gosha

Why is the client acquisition a problem? – I thought local entrepreneurs would be all over that…?

15 02 2009
Anka

Hey Borka, is there an outdoor supply store in Dushanbe, so you can purchase some crampons and go climb Ismoil Somoni Peak? Careful though, it’s over 24,000 – a little higher than Mt. Marcy, so give yourself a few days to acclimate. I didn’t realize that the longest glacier (48 miles) outside of the polars was in the Pamir range! Hm, maybe I’ll go visit you after I’m done with my job in CA.

Hey! Good job on the blog and pictures. What an exciting adventure. Thanks for keeping everyone updated – I look forward to reading your next entry. Oh yeh, don’t overindulge on the greasy meat.🙂

15 02 2009
Elmyra

Oh my god! Everything seems so familiar to me:) Sounds just like my village in Azerbaijan:)

16 02 2009
Alex

Cell phones as reading lights — the irony pains me. Are candles too low-tech =p?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: