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Afghan Market Day

May 30, 2009

We arrived at the Tajik/Afghan border around 8 this morning. I was surprised that the action hadn’t really started yet. Once a week Afghans and Tajiks meet in a walled-in area adjacent to the bridge connecting the two countries. Afghans are welcome, for a 20 cent price, to cross the bridge and enter into a free trade, limited access zone to sell whatever they have (that’s legal) and buy food and whatever they can get from the Tajik traders. As I suspected, it was mostly an Afghan scene with the graceful and obstinate Afghans taking advantage of the Tajiks who usually don’t have access to such a black market abundanced of ridiculously cheap make-up, soap and tinkets.

I am a bit surprised by the make-up, but these are not the Taliban. In fact, most of the young men are clean shaven to protest the fundamentalist Moslems. Most are in traditional dress, but that’s in support of their great culture.

The Afghan soldiers all have new uniforms. They even had empty Leatherman knife cases on their belts. I hope they weren’t simply given empty cases.  Maybe they had to deposit their knives at the Afghan entryway.

I bought a great Arafat white and black shawl to tuck into my leather sports coat. I’m on a campaign to look more like a typical Tajik male, but most likely I just look like an American idiot. I need those pointy black leather shoes to really pull off the look.

We fly out of the Pamirs tomorrow in a very suspicious looking little plane. The helicopter ride was a transformative introduction to a part of the world I’d only dreamed of. The return flight will be a trip back to Dushanbe and some creature comforts like coffee, food and toilets. It’s a trade off that I think I’m ready for.

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