In order to reach Khujand by car we had to travel through a long tunnel built by the Iranians and then proceed to climb over the Shahristan Pass. The Iranian Tunnel would be a perfect set for a horror movie. The tunnel isn't lit, and is filled with debris, water, ice, boulders, and who knows what else. It's a death trap. Crossing the Shahristan Pass was also quite an adventure - the views were absolutely gorgeous, but I definitely felt like a rag doll being tossed around in the back of the Range Rover.
The cliffs are steep, there are no guard rails (or bathrooms) and if you look over the side of the road you can see the remnants of wrecked cars. Occasionally we were delayed by a herd of goats moving from winter to summer pastures, and I probably ate half a kilo of fresh cherries on the journey (yum!). Travelling the Khujand wasn't a cultural experience - but I gained a newfound appreciation for Tajikistan's rugged, inaccessible beauty.
Khujand is also home to some awesome history - Khujand was the northernmost city founded by Alexander the Great during his conquest of Central Asia. Khujand is (was) also home to the largest Lenin statue in Central Asia, which is now being moved to a new location in Tajikistan. We were able to visit the statue just as it was being dismantled by the Tajik government.
Besides my trip to Khujand the only other news worthy event has been my little host sister's 7th birthday. Tajiks love parties - and when a birthday or any other special event rolls around a family is expected to throw a lavish (by Tajik standards) feast to commemorate the event. My host mother told me that Shukrona's birthday party would be a small affair - but when I returned home from the office there were about adult relatives and maybe 10 children in our howli (courtyard) doing what all Tajiks do during parties - eat, talk, and drink tea. Conversation centered around the price of meat in Tajikistan, the terrible Tajik economy, marriage, kileens, and finding a Tajik husband for myself.
I'll try to squeeze in a few more updates before I return to the U.S. on May 23rd - a journey I'm begining to dread. I love my host family, have a good grasp on the language here, and feel like I still have so much to learn. I'm already trying to figure out how to wrangle a return to Tajikistan (sorry Mom).