Dinner with Farhod’s family
Farhod Fayzullaev, one of the English teachers at Khujand State University, invited David and me to his apartment for dinner the evening of International Women’s Day. It was a lovely evening, and gave us our first glimpse inside a Tajik’s home. We had a traditional meal – we sat on the floor at a low table full of little plates of cucumber and radish slivers, yogurt-based dips and several kinds of wrapped candies with a bowl of mandarins from Iran and winter apples from Tajikistan. After about an hour of chatting, with the movie Just Like Heaven playing in the background, the main dish arrived – plov (sometimes called pilaf). This is a mound of fried rice with small pieces of meat at the crown and shavings of vegetables and spices within the rice. Each region has its own variations, Farhod explained, some using yellow carrots, some using orange carrots, some using both. Plus the spices and other vegetables and even the oil used might vary. Farhod’s family included a bulb of cooked garlic at the top with the meat. Each couple shared a plate and ate with spoons.
Farhod’s parents shares what we would call a one-bedroom apartment with Farhod, his wife and young son. The apartment includes the entryway, kitchen, bathroom, living room and bedroom. One of the couples use the bedroom for its sleeping quarters, while the other couple sleeps in the living room. The living room is also Farhod’s home office, where he keeps his book and his laptop.
Life in the apartment is cozy, says Farhod. He is the youngest child of six, and while his parents are from the town of Istraravshan, about an hour from Khujand, Farhod does not want them living alone, especially in the winter when the electricity is off most of the day and the town in the mountain gets quite cold. The family is affectionate and Farhod’s mom dotes on her grandson, as well as her youngest son.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much of Farhod’s wife, as she was mostly in the kitchen cooking the plov. But when we did see her, she was most hospitable and she seems to know some basic English.
Farhod’s mom did not speak English, but kept communicating with us through her son as translator. She particularly liked hearing the Tajik and Russian translations of some fun words that David is teaching his university students and has shared with Farhod (helter skelter, harum scarum, hanky panky, and the like). When asked, Dad was adamant that he preferred living in the USSR than in an independent Tajikistan. Life was cheaper and visiting Uzbekistan was easier. He spent much of his working life living in Tashkent. In fact, the family’s ethnicity is Uzbek and they have family members living in Uzbekistan. Now they need a visa to go there, which is expensive, because the relationship between those two countries is not good. Tajiks do not need visas to visit Russia or other Central Asian former Soviet countries such as Kyrgyzstan or Kazakhstan.