Tuesday, September 25, 2012

September 24, 2012

There was no way of getting a full night of sleep, so I got up at 4:00am and drank the vile instant coffee the guest house staff had set out along with tea and sugar. I waited until seven to make my way to the kitchen and found the dining area completely empty. The guy at the reception desk followed me in and wanted to know how my coffeemaker operated. I had some muesli, with plenty of dried fruit and nuts, and a piece of toast along with a glass of orange juice.

Gulnara was picking me up at 9:30, so I returned to my room and finished packing my bags. My bill was ready and I asked the front desk clerk if they could hold my bags there until I found a place to live sometime that day. They cheerfully agreed and even helped me get all three bags up the steps. During my last trip to the office, I found Gulnara waiting for me. Her driver delivered us to the school where she entrusted me to Zarina who would be taking me around to look at several apartments she’d found listed on the local paper. Off we went to look at one unit in the same building where Sally has stayed during her ELF service. I didn’t like the look of the building, the dark approach to the front door or the cage-like iron gate at the entrance to the apartment. The fact that it was on the sixth floor and I had to ride a rickety, dark, claustrophobic tin can to get there was the deal breaker. The woman wanted $700.00 for a disjointed place with no wallpaper, carpets or even nice furniture. There was no dining area, but a small table in the kitchen that could seat three.
Next we went to a flat where a woman and a small child lived in tiny rooms with hideous furniture and only a window A/C. There was no counter space at all and the TV set seemed ancient. This one was going for $600.00, but I’d not want to live there even for free. We looked at one, on the ninth floor, that was slightly larger but once again sported ugly, old furniture, linoleum floors and a stove out in what used to be the balcony while the sink was in another room. I was beginning to despair at the prospect of finding something appealing with a deadline of about 6:00pm.

Gulnara was waiting to have lunch with me, so I could then be transported to the embassy for a meeting with Natalia. She had ordered plov ordered at a busy restaurant next to the school and it took a while a get our food and even longer for drinks. The waiters were all women dressed in the national dress. I wanted to take their picture, but they appeared harried and humorless. The plov was just as greasy as the one in Tajikistan, but the sliced beef placed on the side was flavorless and tough. I hurried to make my appointment and the driver took me out in the boonies where the U. S. embassy is operating out of big trailer while a more permanent building goes up in the back. Their security procedures at the gate are just the same as going through the airport one as I had to hand in all of my electronic equipment, go through an X-ray machine and then be pat-searched by a woman. Once inside the building, I had to go through another X-ray machine before been given the visitor’s pass. I was then informed that I would never get a badge, as I did in Dushanbe, that would exempt me from that procedure.

 I told Natalia that the embassy staff would never see me again. I was introduced to Chris, of Brazilian heritage, and current PAO, who told me there are quite a few other Latinos at the embassy and promised to put me in touch with them. I forgot my photos to get the credentialing process started, but will give them to Natalia on Wednesday when we meet at the American Corner.

It was back to Zarina to look at other apartments once she visited the website I had seen in the States. I found one unit I really loved, but it was located on the ninth floor and I just can’t imagine having to deal with that many stairs when the power goes out, which is quite likely to do here. The real estate agent that had helped us in the morning had lined up three more properties for us to look and the second one did the trick. It had been renovated by the owner, Nadia, who’s an architect and a designer and who was hard at work removing stains from the carpet and cleaning the kitchen. The flat had hardwood floors in the foyer, two carpeted bedrooms, a separate kitchen, dining room and living room with decent-looking furniture and a flat-screen TV set. I had to give up my dream of having a gas stove or even an oven as the unit only had a flattop cooking surface. When asked where the cooking utensil and glassware were, Nadia answered that she normally rents to businesspeople and they don’t cook.

I figured that since she was only asking for $600.00, it was relatively close to the school and near shops and supermarkets, that I should just go ahead and buy the cooking items I needed myself including some glasses. After much haggling, we were able to leave so Gulnara could take me back to the guest house for my bags and have her driver take me to the apartment. Larissa, an older woman who works at the school, volunteered to join us to help out too. Traffic was a monster and the smell of carbon monoxide was getting to me as we made our way through the city. The driver, Larissa and I somehow made it up the four floors with my baggage and she then accompanied me across the street to a small shop where I was able to buy already prepared lagman noodles, potatoes and a carrot salad along with muesli, milk and yogurt for my breakfast.

I could not make the microwave work and in desperation, dumped the noodles in the only saucepan available and heated them over the stove. I took a long shower and promptly went to bed after making sure I lined my side of the bed with a brand-new korpacha Nadia had left in the cupboard. Hopefully, no bedbugs would bother me this time. I was so grateful to have found such great people to help me out this day.

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