Dushanbe, waiting at the airport

5 March 2012, 12.23pm. After two weeks in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, where I worked and photographed – if that can be separated – I am waiting for my flight out. Already for 12 hours, since the initial flight out in the middle of last night was cancelled.

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Melancholia – this is the term that most easily springs to mind when I try to find a word that reflects the Tajik state of mind. Desperation could be another one, given the dire economic situation of so many here, the fact that one million males have to regularly migrate to surrounding countries – mostly Russia – because they cannot find work at home, or the general disrepair of most industry and infrastructure. And there is that, of course. But whilst pacing the capital city, I did also encounter happy people, with a smile on their faces and bantering with each other. No, aside from these happier moments, it is melancholia that describes it best.

There is a certain placid and unenergetic way of doing things in Tajikistan, it seems. Hurry or anger I have not encountered very often. And yet, the country has experienced a bloody civil war from which it emerged – without large-scale foreign intervention! – some ten years ago. There is much more to identify and to describe of this not so little country north of Afghanistan and west of China, all but forgotten by the world. But PhDs have already been written, the international media came and left, and aside from a handful of international organisations there are now only the Pamir tourists that come and explore the Tajik ways – and, more importantly, mountains. So they are largely left to their own devices, and whilst things could definitely be better in many ways they are coping, a little bit sad and quiet, but authentic.

This little bit boy was sitting next to me whilst I typed this article, waiting patiently with his father for I don’t know what. And now they are calling my flight.

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