First Impressions: Sparkling Water and Birthday Surprises

For someone who does not speak the language well, Tajikistan is a place that will keep you on your toes, as sometimes the things that are lost in translation are the key to understanding what exactly is going on.

For example, my friend and I were so excited to discover a store selling bottled water that we did not think to even try and figure out the word following obi (water) named on the bottle. The result? We have been brushing our teeth with sparkling water these past few days. To honest though, it has been a serendipitous mistake, because brushing your teeth has never quite had this extra pizzazz.

It also means, had my professor not been there to translate for me at the bazaar, I would have turned down a gift of delicious Tajik non (bread) and I would not be able to munch on it now as I type.


Delicious non. Partially-munched.

Last night, this discrepancy in comprehension translated to me going out to dinner. Not just any dinner though, it was a feast celebrating two birthdays of members in the extended family with all the children of my host grandparents and their spouses and a fair amount of their grandchildren.

To be fair, my nine year-old host sister and my eight year-old host brother had tried to warn me. Β For the past few nights they kept talking about birthdays. They asked me when my birthday was and told me when everyone in the family celebrated theirs, but I had just assumed they liked birthdays and it was a topic that we could discuss with my limited vocabulary.

My host mother even mentioned something about going out later that night, but I missed the part where I was coming along, which means it was not until host grandmother told me to put on shoes and come that I realized I was going to dinner.

Even once I was there, I did not deduce it was a birthday party until almost the very end. Although I am proud to say I figured it out before the cake was brought out.

Connecting the dots is apparently not my specialty. Instead of drawing one coherent picture, I draw multiple fragmented understandings around each clue.

Upon arriving and seeing a table set for a crowd, I realized this was not your average small family dinner. Actually, that is a lie. Having learned host grandpa and host grandma were headed back to Uzbekistan soon, I did consider the possibility that maybe this was a big family dinner to say farewell. My false conclusion was also supported by the fact they were sitting in the spots of honor, but then again, they do sit in those spots every night.

The food was delicious. There were these salad-esque dishes, this soup (which I think was called ougoloug), dumplings, meat, fruit and, of course, non. There was also dancing between each course. Something that my two year-old host sister clearly won as she out-danced us all.

Aside from my language issues, Tajikistan has been pretty great so far. Classes start tomorrow, as do my adventures outside the bounds of orientation. So get excited.


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