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The High Pamirs (and some lows)

May 29, 2009

Yesterday, I was on the clock and didn’t really write much of an informative post. Today, I have a few minutes and a few things to say. Vivian and I were in Afghanistan in 1978 (I was also there in 1973) for our honeymoon. I love the idea of honeymnoon in Afghanistan. I think that is why we don’t fight much. If I was getting married today, I’d still pick Afghanistan for a honeymoon. That way we’d quickly learn that fighting leads to nowhere. I’m thinking of such things because June 1st is our anniverary.

I’m also thinking that Khorog (the large village we are staying in) is what Afghanistan would be like without the 30 plus years of war they have seen since our last trip to the region. This Tajik/Pamiri/Afghan society on the isolated (and not possible to regulate) border with Afghanistan is not a beautiful town, but it is in a spectacular location. The buildings are mostly Soviet boxes with nothing to recommend them but the people inside. The Khorog University, where Vivian is leading seminars, has 5000 students and one set of toilets. Vivian was visited by Montezuma’s revenge while teaching yesterday and nearly passed-out by simply being in the ladies area. She had to cancel her class. Word got out and somebody actualy hosed down the area so it no longer spread smells throughout the cafeteria and two floors of classrooms. I checked it out a few minutes ago. I was very impressed walking through the cafeteria. Incidently, I had half and half borscht from there yesterday. I had it as take out because I would have passed out if I ate it in their dining room. It was half food and half grease, so I almost passed out eating it at the hotel. Anyway, they did their best to clean up the place and I could even stand in a room next to the dreaded area and make a picture of their fire fighting apparatus hanging on the wall.

So, it’s the same old story– beautiful people, beautiful landscape, relatively photographable decaying buildings and real bad toilets. The technique for having a great experience here is to enjoy the comraderie of new friends and colleagues (these ladies are smart, funny, non-alcoholic, dress like Afghan princesses and are taking great care of us), appreciate the thin clear air (my altitude headache subsided after two days), spend some time looking at mountains and rivers (walking foot bridges and riding around in mini-mini six passenger vans known as tangiams), and taking pictures of as many things as I want to see photographed.

My plans to photograph singular subjects in the vast emptiness of montains and valleys has gone out the window because there are no people out alone in those isolated areas. People stick together. Boys walk arm and arm with boys and men touch cheeks when they greet each other. When people see me they touch their heart with their right hand in a sufi greeting. This is a great place to be. Simply avoid any activity that may lead to toilet usage.

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