Thursday, March 24, 2011


Well, I've officially witnessed one of the few spectator sports in this world that involves an animal carcass. Buzkashi is chaotic - there are very few rules, and the game is very simple. 

Buzkashi is played on horseback, in a large field - the dimensions of which are not standardized. The point of the game is to bring the buz, or goat, to a white flag planted at one end of the field. If you do so, you get a prize. The prizes get progressively bigger - and the game ends once all the prizes have been given away. There is no point system, and there are no teams. The winner is essentially the person who scores the last point, so someone can only score a point and come out a winner. The "final prize" is normally something like a car, or television set. And while there are no "teams" in Buzkashi, alliances are often made before the game. It's like a really dirty game of Risk.

Actually watching Buzkashi is a test of patience - sometimes players will spend up to 15 minutes in a massive clump, fighting over the goat carcass. And then suddenly one player will break away and go galloping off with the goat, only to form a new clump of horses in a different part of the field. The goat carcass is soaked in water overnight, which apparently keeps it from disintegrating too quickly. There are also few clear boundaries to the Buzkashi field - in one of the pictures you'll notice a herd of players running into spectators. Buzkashi. You watch it at your own risk. In the picture below you can see two men fighting over the goat carcass - and get a glimpse of the carcass itself. They're on the right-hand side of the picture. 

Besides my Buzkashi and Nowruz festivities life has been fairly quiet here in Dushanbe. I have midterm exams coming up, which will be interesting, considering I'm the only person in all of my classes. Regarding the living situation, I really do feel at home in my host family. Muhabbat has even started to allow me to do small chores - hanging my own laundry up (still won't let me wash my own clothes), and taking out the communal trash. Tajiks are very hospitable, and it took two weeks before Muhabbat even allowed me to help clear the table after meals.

Speaking of meals. I met my ultimate "Tajik Food Face-Off" a couple days ago. Dinner one night consisted of  vegetable oil, spaghetti noodles, slices of boiled chicken hot dogs, and a pickled oyster mushroom type thing mixed together and salted. I'll eat pretty much anything (if hungry enough), but this was definitely a challenge to scarf down. I'm never complaining about dinning hall food ever again. Ever. Somewhere between the Soviets and the 1993 Civil War Tajiks gave up on enjoying food. My care package (Smoked Chipotle Tobasco Sauce!) can't come soon enough.  

Home remedies for illnesses are another Tajik quirk I've come to appreciate. I got sunburned at the Buzkashi match (yes, Mom and Dad, I wore sunscreen) and my very concerned Bibi (Saodat) gave me some Russian-style sour cream to put on my nose. It didn't really help the burn, but hey, do as the natives do, right? 

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