"Let's look on the bright side: we're having an adventure,
and most people live and die without being as lucky as we are."
William Goldman, The Pricess Bride
We're heading into a new adventure. After 15 years, we are leaving the USAID world behind and we are entering the exciting world of being full-time employees with UNDP. Well, Doug is, anyway. He has been offered a position in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, so we are once again packing up and getting ready to settle into a new place. The movers are doing their initial visit on Tuesday.
The big advantage of having grown up as a TCK* is that even though Dushanbe is literally at the back end of the world, a former schoolmate of mine from the Alman Lisesi in Istanbul has lived in Dushanbe for years; he has already connected us with the local newsletter, a travel agency, a real estate agency, and lots of potentially new friends.
The geographic area is completely new to us. It's another post-Soviet country just like Armenia but even more remote and more rugged. Over 90% of the country is covered by mountains and over 50% of the country is 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) above sea level. It will be a challenge but then, what would life be without challenges? Boring, that's what. Travel times to Europe and especially to the US will be very long. Tajikistan has a border with China and while China is big, this may give you an idea just how far away this is. Central Asia. Smack on the roof of the world. It borders Afghanistan. We are going to buy a 4WD for this country. Boom.
Also new to us is the UNDP. New lingo, new regulations, new rules. With USAID, legally you get almost all the benefits of State or USAID employees in respect to moving expenses, consumables shipments, educational allowances, etc. In reality, contractors rarely get the full package and it has dramatically decreased in recent years. We've only once gotten the flights for deployment paid. Once. There was the remarkable company that assumed we'd hitch a trailer to our car and move ourselves (although, to be honest, we've done that before). Contractors simply are a lower form of life. With the UNDP, this is so, so different - we simply get everything that's in the book. We don't even have to fight over money for the kids. Here, take some start-up money to cover your initial cost. Here, take those flights. Oh, home leave flight, check. It's very new to us, in a good way.
The kids will stay with their respective distance schools. The whole point of switching to the distance learning in German was to avoid the many school changes. It also seems that the schooling options in Dushanbe are limited, so maybe we did something right. We'll try to get piano and violin lessons, and some sports.
Tajikistan is unknown, dirt poor, difficult to access, and stunningly beautiful. This short video gives you a little impression (watch this in HD and fullscreen):