Je bekijkt de reis...
Reisverslag Volunteering Khorog
19 augustus 2016
My apologies for posting the blog so late. I wrote it last Saturday, but I unfortunately had no access to wifi! Anyway, enjoy reading it! I uploaded around 40 photos, you should be able to find them on this webpage!
I am glad that you all took the time to read about my adventures and experiences from the last weeks in GBAO, Tajikistan! At this very moment (Saturday 13th of August), I am at home in Khorog, after just being returned from a five-day backpacking tour which showed me many of the beautiful country sides the GBAO district in Tajikistan possesses. ‘At home’ I live with a host family, do not check my spelling, consisting of Nekruz, my closest colleague and provider of shelter, Toji (Nekruz’s wife and English Teacher), Nilofar (14), Manuchair (12), Faridoon (9), and Nesrin (1). I really appreciate that they offer me an opportunity to learn from their culture through staying with them. I felt comfortable from the beginning in their home. Nesrin, the youngest, even started calling me Makiej already after a couple of days, meaning uncle in Shughni. Nesrin, is taken care for a lot by Nilofar, because Nekruz and Toji are often very busy with generating income. I have a lot of respect of what Nilofar does.
My all in all impression of the GBAO district is that it has very hospitable people, who invite you for tea ten times a day, an interesting culture/religion, community based living, very nice food and an amazing landscape. Interesting fact is that GBAO’s surface is half the size of Tajikistan, but only three percent of the whole population is living in this area. Although I just arrived back in Khorog, I arrived in Tajikistan on the 25th of July in the capital Dushanbe. So I would like to start from the beginning.
Just after arriving at Dushanbe International Airport, which only has two gates in total, one for arrivals and one for departures, my first impressions of the country are interesting. The country has an incredible variation of landscapes. On the one hand Dushanbe has a very dry and warm climate up to fifty degrees and impressive valleys. However, in the GBAO area, some districts have temperatures up to a maximum of 15 degrees, due to the high altitude. During my first days I also noticed the many billboards of the president Rakhmonov, who became president after the civil war ended in 1997, the influences of the former Soviet Union in terms of the Russian language and Communistic statues, and the prohibited access to Social Media.
After acclimatizing a couple of days in Khorog and Neodak (village close to Khorog where Nekruz and Toji’s parents live and where they are building a house), it was time to start volunteering work. Yes, the plan was also to do something productive apart from enjoying the country. One of the many reasons why I decided to go to Tajikistan was because the project regarding micro credits appealed to me. Since I gained some experience in this field in South Africa, Nekruz, waited for me to start the process and research together. Basically, the main aim of the research is, is to come up with a proposal which will generate sustainable financial means for small business students of the University of Central Asia (UCA), after implementation, who want to start up or improve their small business. However, many students, which receive a certificate after finishing the programme, are not able to finance a start-up themselves, and also banks use interest percentages of 36% and require up to 25 documents before they provide a loan. Even NGO Micro Loan Organisations are forced to use certain percentages, with a payment term of generally one year. For especially young entrepreneurs such conditions are difficult to manage financial wise. Besides, many of the business students, are forced into self-employment due to the lack of jobs which a created in the last years. And in fact, because many students are forced into self-employment, some students do not have a natural entrepreneurial spirit which a successful entrepreneur normally needs. Additionally, during the Soviet Union era, when utilities and jobs were better arranged for, does not contribute to the entrepreneurial spirit of GBAO’s current society. Because everything was arranged for during the Soviet Union, such as electricity, maintenance of roads, water supply, and free access to education and healthcare several people from the older generation think back positively to that time. Mainly because GBAO has not got resources which require a low investment (e.g. stone/silver mining) and the investment climate for foreign investors is low. Although, the situation is difficult for the young entrepreneurs, I think I came up with some good solutions for the future, which the UCA and NGO Nur can implement relatively easy. This thanks to the many meetings I had with Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), Micro Loan Organisations and other NGOs, which were arranged by Nekruz.
Currently, I am elaborating these solutions in a final proposal for the upcoming week. I will finish this before I will be leaving Khorog for Dushanbe. In the meantime, I will also conduct a presentation about Business Process (Improvement) at UCA, because according to figures Tajikistan has a relatively low productivity, which negatively influences the competitiveness of Tajikistan in international trade. I came up with this lecture, after being asked by the manager of affairs to provide several lectures.
However, NGO Nur has a main focus on early childhood development, and less on economic development. Mainly they have the aim to teach the children English, Tajik, Russian, and their local language Shughni (district Shughnan). Mainly because the educational system has room for improvement. The office at Nekruz’s home is always full of printing and laminating material which consists of many pictures, and written words in the different languages. They, including Shaboz (Director of NGO Nur) and Hakim (local painter migrated to Canada), now even translated a Russian cartoon into Shughni! Maybe a funny fact, it is no wonder Shaboz is the director, because his name consists of Sha (Sjah-King), Boz (Boss). Besides, having lunch with Hakim and Shaboz can become interesting, because they were in the Soviet army together. Drinking some ‘Snaps’ or Vodka, they said was for welcoming the guests, although I was already finished after a difficult third on, and they kept on going. One of the Russian influences…
However, how good such things are that the NGO Nur is doing for the development of children, the reality is that it is impossible to live only from working for an NGO. Nekruz, for example, has around 6/7 jobs, from being a teacher at the UCA, to selling DVDs and CDs at the local market.
Although, Tajikistan is the poorest country of the former Soviet Union, Afghanistan, which borders the area where I live, only separated by the river and some Tajiek soldiers, is even poorer than Tajikistan. Even basic needs such as electricity and water, in Tajikistan’s past provided by the Soviet Union, are not offered. However, Pamir Energy, established by AKDN in Tajikistan for better electricity supply after the Soviet Union Era, is now widening its scope to the Badakhshan area. The Badakhshan area, partly in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, is supposed to be the cradle (bakermat) of the Islamic believe. AKDN, established by ‘his highness’ and leader of the Islamic Ismaili(yah) Aga Khan, is a network which exists through and for the Ismaili people. This foundation even managed to feed whole Tajikistan for five years after the civil war. However, the Ismaili people only consist of 3% of the population of Tajikistan. Due to the principles as, every religion is equal, if you give 10% to someone else in need you will receive 100% back, AKDN did not make any exceptions for the Tajikistan’s population. Such principles make this religion beautiful, modern, tolerant, and community based. This community based society comes back at occasions as for example a person dies. Not the family, but the community arranges the financing for the funeral, and reception of family. I experienced this with the death of Nekruz’s neighbour.
As I mentioned I just arrived home from some days backpacking. Such an amazing days! I visited the area of the Rushan (Bartang Valley), Ishkashim, the Wakhan Valley (views on Afghanistan and Pakistan), Jelondy, Alichur (Mughab District), and Murghab. There are many things to write about, but I think in this case pictures speak louder than words. The Pamir Mountain Area is a wonderful place!
Thank you for reading!
19 augustus 2016 15:14 | Door: yolande
Dear Ragnar. Great to read your observations they are written with love and interest. It sounds that you are well integrated and could use your experience and knowledge. Xx to everybody i know. Enjoy theast days.
19 augustus 2016 15:38 | Door: Marij
oepsie.... al in English...
it takes some time.....