Dushanbe, Tajikistan Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Dushanbe, Tajikistan 12/04/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I have lived in six or so different countries, including Armenia, Moldova, and Kosovo.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

American. From the US, one can bounce through either Moscow, Dubai or (most usually) Frankfurt. It's about a 24 hour trip each way.

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3. How long have you lived here?

20 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

UN employee. I'm married with school-age children.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

I live in a large house in a Tajik neighborhood. If you're a US Embassy employee, the housing pool has a number of large, comfortable houses (though some of the layouts are odd). If you're anyone else, houses are somewhat expensive, but Western-style apartments have become very cheap in the last couple of years -- a building boom has expanded the supply while demand has stayed the same.



One issue with the US Embassy housing pool is that a lot of it is on the west side of the river, near the Embassy. Convenient to work, but otherwise there's not much of interest over there -- most of the interesting shops and restaurants and whatnot are on the east side. I think this encourages a lot of US diplomats to stay inside the Embassy bubble, which is a shame.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

All the basics are available. You have to get used to Russian brands, because that's almost all there is -- foreign brands appear intermittently and are usually more expensive. Supermarkets are mostly small (though a big French one opened a few months ago), so sometimes you might have to hit two or three to find what you want. Some things may mysteriously disappear for months (canned tomatoes? why...?) Lots of nice fresh vegetables in summer and autumn; in winter, not so much.



There are some things you just can't get, like herbal teas (only black and green) or strong cheeses (only bland whites and yellows).

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Kitchen utensils, esp. anything baking-related.



Good chocolate, I guess -- the local stuff is all Russian, even if it has some other label on it.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are lots of pizza places. One pretty good Indian restaurant (Delhi Durbar, near the Twin Towers), a couple of decent Chinese places, a Ukrainian restaurant (Traktir), a pretty good Korean restaurant, a Turkish restaurant that delivers (Merve), a wannabe Subway sandwich place (Mazza), a Lebanese place around the corner from the national museum, a Georgian place... you get the idea. There's a food court at the Ashan supermarket/shopping mall.



Restaurants seem to open and close every few months, so don't take this list as definitive. A lot of coffee shops have opened downtown in the last year or two, so that's a thing. If you want fine-ish dining, the Serena and the Sheraton both have nice restaurants -- the top-floor Serena restaurant has good Middle Eastern food.



It's not Manhattan, but unless you need to eat out someplace different every couple of days, you won't lack for choices.



Many places deliver. However, delivery people almost never speak English, so you must have some Russian or Tajik if you want to use this option. Any place that delivers will also do take-out.



There is a meal delivery service -- "Sevara's Kitchen" -- that will deliver pretty good Western-style home cooked meals to your door. You sign up in advance and select from what's available on a particular day. I use them regularly when my wife and kids are out of town.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Flies can be a minor nuisance in the summer.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I use the UN pouch system. I tested the local postal system with a letter to the US -- it did arrive but took about 90 days.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Cheap household help is universally available. Everyone has an aunt or cousin who needs a job. However (1) the quality varies a lot, so get references; (2) be ready to give them very precise instructions, and (3) you will have to pay a large premium -- like, 50% to 100% more -- to get an English-speaking maid or nanny. There aren't a lot of them and they're in demand. Again, speaking basic Russian or Tajik will give you a lot more options.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Don't use them myself, but I know there are several that are used by expats.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

ATMs are everywhere. You can get cash in the local currency (somoni) at any ATM. However, the withdrawal limit is 1000 somoni at a time, which right now is about $130.



If you want to get dollars, this has become much more difficult in the last 18 months -- local ATMs used to distribute them, but they've stopped. There's still an ATM at the Hyatt that will give up to $400 at a time.



Think twice before using a credit card -- this is the former Soviet Union, and credit card fraud is pretty common (or so we're told). Avoid unless you have no choice and it's a reputable business like a large hotel.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

One small Catholic church near the airport. There's a bigger Russian Orthodox church -- services in Russian, of course. There's a missionary community but I don't know what they get up to.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You really want at least basic Russian or Tajik. You can live here without them -- I managed for my first year -- but simple stuff like giving directions to a taxi driver or ordering a pizza delivery becomes difficult or impossible. This is not an English-speaking country. Even among younger Tajiks, the number of English speakers is not high, and once you get outside of Dushanbe it drops to near zero. But everyone has at least some Russian, and in Dushanbe everyone is bilingual in Russian and Tajik.



On the plus side, tutors are cheap, and once you get the basic vocabulary down people are really friendly and helpful.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Definitely yes. Tajikistan has not signed the international convention on the Rights of People With Disabilities, and it shows. Very few buildings are disability-friendly.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes. Local taxis are ubiquitous and cheap. Say "20 somoni" (about $2.50) before you get in and that will take you anywhere in town. (You can get down to 15, or 10 if you speak good Tajik or Russian, but it requires haggling.) Marshrutkas (little van-buses) run on fixed routes and cost 2 somoni (about $0.25) -- they are the cheapest option but are often crowded and are reckless drivers. There are group-taxis that run fixed routes up and down Rudaki and Somoni Avenues; they're the cars with large numbers (like "3" and "8") in the windows. They cost 3 somoni each, and they'll pick up and drop off anywhere along their routes.



Security is not an issue though I'd use common sense -- hang on to your purse, etc.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

If just want to toodle around Dushanbe, anything will do. If you want to explore the country, you want something sturdy with a four-wheel drive and high clearance.



The local standard of driving is not high, so be alert. Also: if you don't have diplomatic license plates, you will regularly get pulled over by cops looking for a bribe. This has nothing to do with your actual driving... they just randomly flag down cars and demand money. The going rate for a foreigner is 10 somoni (about $2.50). Annoying but it's how things are here. You can call the embassy and make a fuss, or shrug and pay it and drive on -- up to you.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet yes, high speed no. You can use Netflix or iTunes if you're patient -- start your download earlier in the day.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Local mobile phones are okay, not great. I use TCell. Call quality can vary and calls cut off automatically after 30 minutes, but it's not very expensive and gets the job done.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

I know a lot of expats have arrived and departed with pets (dogs and cats), and there are vets. More than that I can't say, as we're not a pet family.



As in many Muslim countries, dogs are considered "unclean," and keeping them as pets (as opposed to working dogs) is a bit of a Western peculiarity.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual. Tajiks are former Soviets so when in doubt, err on the side of suit-and-tie.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Much less than you might expect. The crime rate is quite low, and expats are almost never the targets of violent crime. It is next to Afghanistan, but the problems don't usually cross the border.



You may occasionally feel an earthquake. Dushanbe sits on solid rock and so is pretty safe -- they've never had a major earthquake here. But there are active zones to the north and south.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Concerns: you'll probably get Tajik Tummy a couple of times, especially in summer when very high temperatures (over 40 C or 104 Fahrenheit) can cause food to go off quickly.



Medical care: Little pharmacies are everywhere, so you can easily pick up basic stuff like aspirin, band-aids and Imodium. For minor stuff, sprains and whatnot, there are a couple of foreign-run clinics that the Embassy recommends -- check their website.



For more serious stuff, get the hell out. Everyone agrees on this point. The Tajik medical system is badly broken, and you don't want to be in a Tajik hospital or under the care of a Tajik doctor.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air quality is an occasional issue -- it's very dusty in summer.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Long hot dry summers -- it may not rain a drop between June and October -- followed by cold winters with rain and snow. Dushanbe handles it pretty well but if you're traveling in the provinces, keep an eye out for landslides.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Two international schools, QSI and Contofield. QSI is richer and longer established, but costs a lot more. If the embassy or your employer is paying, go with QSI. Otherwise, Contofield is not that bad -- they just moved to a new campus not far from the US Embassy.

Contofield stops at 6th grade. QSI goes all the way through high school in theory, but there are only a handful of kids in that age group. Check in advance.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

I believe QSI has a preschool. No English-speaking day care that I know of. Nannies are common and cheap and (I'm told) it's possible to find good ones, but English-speaking nannies are much more rare and expensive.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There's an expat soccer group for kids that meets Saturday mornings at the US Embassy. Stuff like tennis lessons is easily available, though -- again -- it helps to have some Russian or Tajik.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small but tightly knit. Morale is pretty good. People come and go but there are a few old-timers who have been here for years. Almost every English-speaking expat is either working for an embassy, a donor, or a language program -- there's very little foreign private investment here.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There are a lot of expat activities. Pub Quiz every Wednesday night at Istiqlol Sports Bar, Hash House Harriers on Saturday afternoons, Hike Tajikistan on Sunday, Ultimate Frisbee on Sundays when the weather is good, Women's Club Wednesday lunches at Segafredo restaurant, Whiskey-Tasting club every couple of months... you get the idea. Subscribe to the "What's On In Dushanbe" mailing list and check out the Dushanbe Expats Facebook page.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I'm told that single guys can have a pretty active social life if they want to. Families do okay. There are a lot of expat families with small kids and with school-age kids here.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Tajiks get most of their international news through a very Russian filter, so there are some weird ideas about the US floating around.



The country is Islamic but secular -- alcohol is sold in most supermarkets. The government clamps down hard on the public expression of religion, so you won't hear any muezzin calls.



It's a pretty conservative society, so gender equality is an ongoing issue -- if you're a woman, you may find it hard to get Tajik males to take you seriously. Not as bad as some places but yes it's a thing.

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5. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Go to the fountain in front of the Opera-Ballet at eight o'clock on a summer evening, and watch the light and music display. It's not spectacular, but it's very pleasant -- families come out and take the cool evening air, kids running around, and there's a pretty good ice cream shop half a block away.



More generally, if you like hiking, skiing, and mountain-y activities, you've come to a good place. Most of the country is mountains. Facilities are usually pretty basic, but if you don't mind that, you can have a lot of interesting experiences.

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6. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Not really. There are some lovely rugs and other textiles, and some nice jewelry and handicrafts.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

The language situation -- I would have tried to pick up some Russian in advance.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Sure.

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3. But don't forget your:

Warm weather clothes, cold weather clothes -- you'll need both.



If you're a reading family, time to invest in a Kindle; there are no English language bookstores.



If you're a cook, bring your spices and specialized food items like baking paper and sprinkles.



Bring your camera -- there's a lot of spectacular scenery.

Bring your sense of adventure.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

"Tajikistan and the High Pamirs" by Robert Middleton and Huw Thomas is still the go-to book.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

It's an authoritarian government. The same guy has been President for over 20 years, and it looks like he's planning to pass the office to his son; there is no opposition party, and the press is not free. It's not North Korea, but be thoughtful about discussing politics with Tajiks.



Facebook and most other forms of social media are turned off by the government, so you need a VPN. (That's not hard -- you can download free VPN programs online.)



Tajikistan is remote and can be a bit hard to get in and out of sometimes. Flights get cancelled sometimes: sometimes weather, sometimes... just cancelled. Be aware of this and try not to get frustrated.

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Dushanbe, Tajikistan 12/14/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This was my first overseas tour with the State Department although I have done a lot of TDYs overseas and was stationed in Augsburg, Germany in the Army.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Saint Paul, Minnesota

Any trip from Dushanbe to the U.S. takes 2 days. You have one flight a week through Frankfurt (easiest connection), two flights a week through Istanbul, or 3 flights a week through Dubai.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I lived there from 2013 to 2015

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I worked at the U.S. Embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The housing is decent. The last GSO brought some very nice newer housing into the pool but the rental market is tight there and it is hard to find quality houses. Most of the houses are a decent size. The older houses have some interesting layouts.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

It was hard to find stuff. They mostly have Russian products. There are no American products. Prices are rising and even the best grocery stores are about the size of a 7-11.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Amazon.com is only a mouse click away. Any specialty food products you want will need to be shipped.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are very few decent restaurants. The only places I never got sick at were the Hyatt and the Sheraton. The Sheraton had really good food. There were some good shashlik places (Rokhot. Lola's, and another one all together by Tank Circle). Absract, Namaste Salaam (okay Indian food), Tracktir, Delhi Darbar (best Indian food in Dushanbe) were okay by Dushanbe standards.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

There are some flies and ants but I didn't have any real insect issues.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Embassy pouch

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available and cheap. US$150 - $200 a month will get you a good housekeeper

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, US$100 a month.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Use the ATM at the Embassy, the Hyatt, or the Sheridan.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

None

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

A lot if you want to interact with anyone.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, this place has old, crumbling Soviet infrastructure.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Marshrutkas (local shared minivan taxis) are widely available. The guys who drive them are some of the worst drivers in the world.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Something with plenty of clearance for large potholes.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

The first year I was there I got less than 100kbs limited to 10gb a month for about US$100. After 1 year T-Cell started selling a package that was 300k-400k and 40 gb a month for US$100. Internet sucks but at least you can stream when the connection is decent now.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

None

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual at work.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

It is on the northern Afghan border and, although it is a very moderate Muslim country, there has been a growth in Salafists. The old opposition forces from the civil war are unhappy with the current government and have assassinated some government figures.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

There is no healthcare I would trust in the city other than the Embassy Med Office. You will be medevaced for anything. We were the most medevaced post in the world in 2014. A lot of the medivacs were gastro-intestinal or pregnancy related.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

The air is dusty and the new coal plant is causing more pollution. It isn't horrible, though.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Minimal allergies there.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It is dry and warm. In the winter, Dushanbe may have some snow flurries but it usually melts immediately.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I do not have kids but the QSI school there is not good for high school and probably not good for middle school as well. It is okay for grade school.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

None that I am aware of.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes but unsure of costs. Contra Field Academy did pre-school through 3rd or 4th grade and was an option for some.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

They love Tai Kwon Do there.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small and morale varied. It was a great community at the Embassy but we were definitely isolated.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Hang out with other Embassy staff. There were a couple of nightclubs and a couple of bars in the city but I wouldn't recommend them.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good for single men who speak Russian or Tajik or for families with small children.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No although you probably won't be bothered if you are a diplomat.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Nothing out of the ordinary.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Most Tajik or Silk Road history is actually in Uzbekistan. Taking a trip there to see Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva (this is much further away) is a must. That was my best experience during my tour. For the last 3-4 years the CLO has organized a yearly road trip to go there. The drive along the Afghan border into GBAO stopping at Khorugh is incredible as long as GBAO is open. Khujand, up north, is a more modern city than Dushanbe and a nice drive as well.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Go to Uzbekistan and see the silk road cities.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Suzanis (get them in Uzbekistan), Carpets (get them in Uzbekistan), some great art and artists at the artist colonies in Dushanbe

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The mountains in Tajikistan are beautiful. There is a hiking club in Dushanbe that meets on Sundays. It can be hard to get to a lot of the really beautiful areas of Tajikistan due to roads and travel issues.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, I saved a ton of money and still did a lot of travel.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, it was a great work experience and a great community. It was a tough assignment, though.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Expectations.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of adventure.

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4. Do you have any other comments?

This is a tough assignment. There isn't a lot to do in Dushanbe especially if you don't speak Russian or Tajik. You might get sick a lot if you are unlucky like me. There is a lot of work to be done at the Embassy. I loved the work and consider it to be one of the best work experiences in my life. Don't go unless you are willing to put in the effort at work and are willing to go without things at home. This was a great community while I was there but I know morale has had its ups and downs at the post.

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Dushanbe, Tajikistan 06/13/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I have lived in Berlin.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Home base is DC - you can connect either through Frankfurt or Istanbul but in either case it takes at least 24 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years - 2011 through 2013.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Large houses for embassy employees. Some folks got ornate palace type things with fabulous yards full of cherry & fig trees; I got a concrete block with a prison yard.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

It depends on what you want. If you have no particular needs or tastes, food and such are pretty cheap. If you are a vegetarian or care about quality, you will end up shipping in a lot of goods and spending a fortune. However, the summers are great because there are fabulous fresh berries at low cost. That was the best part of living in Dushanbe.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I'd just do it like last time and ship wine, vegan foods, and clothes. (Clothes are either super horrid quality from China or super expensive, and made to fit teeny Tajik women with no body fat.)

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

As a vegan, I can't really speak to the fast food options, but from what I hear they were not great. Something along the lines of "Southern Fried Chicken" that served both pizza and chicken. In terms of restaurants, there was one decent Georgian (which has since closed), one decent Chinese (whose owners tried to blackmail me so I stopped going there), and one decent Indian. People speak highly of the Salsa "Tex Mex" restaurant and the Korean place but way too many of my friends did not even make it home from those joints without gastrointestinal emergencies. Actually, that happened to most folks at most places except maybe the Hyatt (which had expensive and bland but not intestine-searing food).

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Ants can get in the houses, weevils & such unless you put your flours etc in the freezer.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Through embassy mail.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Much availability, cost is low. However, I had a ton of stuff stolen by my housekeeper.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is a ridiculously expensive, small gym at the Hyatt. And other gyms throughout the city are weird and segregated. Bring your own fitness equipment.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Safer than I was told. Most places take credit cards now and one can always go to the Embassy or Hyatt for a safe ATM.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

I believe there is an English-language Catholic service from time-to-time, but I am not certain.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Some Tajiki helps. I spoke Russian but that got me nowhere because of my non-Central Asian accent.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Definitely. The sidewalks were in very poor repair and in winter the ice was treacherous. There were several stores I simply could not enter during winter because of the slick stairs and lack of support. One of my colleagues almost died after slipping on ice, cracking his head open and having no adequate medical care.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Trains? None. Buses? Terrifying. Taxis/mashrutkas? Cheap and okay but not always safe and always, always, always super crowded.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

I had horrible automobile luck. Just bring something small to fit through the tiny streets, and something sturdy because it will get beaten to shreds.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Cost was not horrid - maybe US$50-100 month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Just use the embassy-issued phone.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No quarantine. There is one roaming vet who was good to my dog. However, Tajiks in general hate animals. They cut off the ears and tails of dogs to make them better fighters. My dog is actually a rescued Tajik street dog and he is about the sweetest creature ever. When we would walk around my neighborhood, however, people would either cower or throw rocks at him. As an animal lover, I was disgusted, horrified, and infuriated living here.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

They exist but are not abundant. Mostly gigs within the non-profit/development world.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Work is typical office wear - no jeans. In public folks wear whatever they are most comfortable in. Some women did not feel comfortable in sleeveless outfits or short-ish skirts because of the stares you get but I didn't care.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Nothing that common sense won't deflect unless you have a high profile gig at one of the embassies from which Tajiks want visas. I was followed home and harassed a few times.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No real health concerns in terms of local diseases but the quality of medical care is horrid. Government employees get medically evacuated to Istanbul or London for almost everything.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate. I had awful allergies in the spring but then again I have awful allergies everywhere.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

HOT in the summer and variable in winter. The 2 winters I was there we had a fair amount of snow but no horrid cold temperatures.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The expat community isn't huge, but overall the morale is good. I did not have a good experience at all, but I had a high-profile job where I had to disappoint many people every day. My acquaintances who were doing more development and aid-type gigs were very popular with the local community and got into the culture, hung out together, etc. Also, families were happy and single men were happy.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There are scary nightclubs but beyond that most folks hung out in each others' homes and pretended they lived elsewhere.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

The families seemed very happy here. Tajiks love children, and on top of that the Embassy has lots of programs and such for families with kiddos. As a single person, I can say - no way, man. Actually, let me revise. Single men seemed to love it because Tajik women are stunningly beautiful and (forgive me) are eager to get to the U.S. For single women? One of the worst places on earth!!!

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No. I had some very close gay European friends and they were fine but they kept a low profile. Aside from the Hyatt, there really weren't any places where they could be "open" in public.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. Tajik women are 2nd class citizens here and Western women are treated like honorary men, but weirdly. I always made Tajik men uncomfortable when I shook their hands.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Visiting a part of the world I otherwise would never have seen.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Some folks enjoyed watching Bushkashi, but I'm a vegan and that always kinda bothered me. If you hike or are a crazy, safety-ignoring skiier/adventurer, you can have fun in the mountains. Unfortunately, I am a city gal and had a horrendous time.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Suzanis are pretty, and beaded necklaces.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Saving money if you don't go nuts with online shopping.

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10. Can you save money?

If you do not try to travel or do lots of online shopping.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I was pretty well-informed and steeled for my experience.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely not. Never. No way. No.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Romantic notions of an adventure on the Silk Road.

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4. But don't forget your:

Wine (if you love it as much as I do), sense of humor, cash for trips out of the country, Ziploc bags, aluminum foil, nice sheets...

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5. Do you have any other comments?

I recognize that my review is very negative. I did not choose this place. I hated my time in Dushanbe and still wake up in a cold sweat after nightmares about the place. HOWEVER, families with small children who love nature fared much better than I did. For a single woman who enjoys cities, travel, healthy food, a liberal environment, a lively cultural scene and the sea, this is about the worst place on earth.

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Dushanbe, Tajikistan 03/30/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This was our first tour overseas.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Home is Williamsburg, Virginia. The best travel route is Dulles to Frankfurt to Istanbul to Dushanbe. It's a long trek, but we always overnighted in Istanbul to break up the travel.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years: 2009 - 2011.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Houses are huge; many have large yards and covered porches.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

The markets are great in the summer time. In the winter, fresh stuff can be harder to find. Expect to hit 3 or 4 different spots to get what you need.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Ziploc bags and peanut butter, snacks and chips are also a must.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Sigafredos, Morning Star, Salsa. There is a really good Korean place as well, Tiga for Plov. Everything is incredibly cheap.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

No issues that I can remember.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Pouch. It was our lifeline but because of corruption, many deliveries were delayed. The delay can be as bad as 16 weeks.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

The cost of help was very low.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The Embassy has a gym and there are lots of options around town.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

It's a cash economy...The only spot in which we used Credit Cards was at the Hyatt.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There was one Catholic Church at the time we were there.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

The Embassy offers language instruction from day one. We hired a Russian tutor for our kids and my wife became best friends with her tutor. They went to the market almost daily. It's pretty easy to learn the basics in Russian and get by.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Sidewalks are pretty bad so I'd have to say that it would be difficult.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

We took Marshutkas, and the buses all of the time. the taxis were fine as well...

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

AWD is a must and something with clearance is suggested. You can't bring anything with tinted widows...have them replaced before shipping anything in.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Our internet was fine. We streamed videos all of the time. There were times when it went down but Skype was a godsend for us. The cost was nothing.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

The Embassy provides cell phones.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

There was a decent vet when we were there.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not many good paying jobs.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Embassy and NGOs, and the school.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Shirt and tie.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

We never felt uncomfortable. The only issues we heard of occurred in a bar at 2:00 AM and nothing good happens at that time of the morning.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

We didn't have any serious issues, but you can expect to have some stomach issues from time to time.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

The air quality is fine. In the winter, you'll see more smoke in the air, but my family and I never thought twice about it. The summers can get hot, but you get used to it. Temperatures can reach 120F degrees in the Summer, but it never stopped us from a great run.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It can get dusty in the summer because of the dry heat, but it never affected our mood. It's a very dry climate.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

QSI was the only option at the time and the teachers that my two kids (ages 8 and 9) had were excellent. We still stay in touch with many of the teachers.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

The accommodations are not great, but QSI did a great job with a couple of families who had kids with special needs.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Our kids were too old, but there were options and costs were very reasonable.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

My kids took karate, TKD, and judo and loved it.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

It's small but tight-knit expat community. The moral was quite high when we were there.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It is what it is and if you go there with the right attitude, it can be a great experience. The number of decent restaurants was increasing and my kids quickly found plenty of friends. My wife and I loved the Hash.

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3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

It's not a good country to be openly gay, but we had friends who were and they loved their time there.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

It's a Muslin country, but it's fairly liberal in its view towards other religions.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The people are welcoming and hospitable and I've never eaten better tomatoes and strawberries in my life. Some of the best local dished are shashlik, lipioshka, Plov, samosas, lagman soup and sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.......the one thing we regret is that we didn't buy more suzani fabrics. You can't have too many.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Join the Hash, hike in some of the most beautiful mountains on the planet, enjoy the food, the people and the opportunities. Our favorite spots were Morning Star every Saturday morning for waffles, eggs and and awesome cookies, Salsa is a great Tex-Mex spot and Sigafredos for pasta and fries.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Rugs and suzanis.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Dushanbe is an amazing country. It's a bit corrupt but all countries in that part of the world are. Driving to Samarkand and Bukhara was an awesome experience. I recommend that you take an AWD though. There are hundreds of different hikes within an hour of the city.

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9. Can you save money?

You can easily save money if you want.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Leave your bad attitude behind and make the best of it. It's not a walk in the park but my family and I loved our time there.

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Dushanbe, Tajikistan 10/10/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I have lived in a Southeast Asian country and done several domestic posts.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Home base is DC. The fastest routing is Dulles to Istanbul to Dushanbe. But if you fly in or out with pets you will fare much better going through Frankfurt.

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3. How long have you lived here?

16 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Foreign Service spouse.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Houses are large with strange layouts. Most have small yards with little grass.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Things are available until they are gone and then - who knows? Supplies dwindle significantly in the winter. You can keep costs down by taking advantage of your consummables and the pouch.

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3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Nothing Western at all. Dinner out is usually cheaper than the States but the quality is often iffy.

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4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

We had a small and temporary issue with ants but they went away on their own.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Pouch. The service on this has been quite inconsistent. That would be ok and understandable but in this particular case, communication is horrible from the IMO so we never know quite what is going on.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available and reasonable.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. The embassy has facilities and the AEA will be taking it over so there will be a few. The Hyatt has facilities but it is very expensive to use.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

You can, but cash is preferred. US$ is also preferred over local currency when paying local staff, etc.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

None that I know of.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Having some Russian would really help.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes. Roads and sidewalks are inconsistent. Wide doors and elevators are often inconsistent or unavailable.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes. But without speaking the local language this is tough.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We have a small SUV (most do) and it works really well to handle the rough road conditions, but be aware of the narrow side streets.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Technically. Service providers are corrupt and provide horrible customer service. It is not uncommon to have service cut off for no reason, rates raised with no notification, etc.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

The Embassy provides for all employees and EFMs.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No quarentine. The vet care here is far below the standard. I don't think I would bring older or ill pets.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

At the school and with a few NGOs.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are few - particularly if you want to speak English.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Casual and a bit conservative for personal comfort (from staring, etc.), but not for necessity due to cultural expectations.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Nothing other than normal city stuff. We have two dogs and when I am out walking with them, I feel almost invincible because Tajiks are irrationally terrified of dogs. The downside of that is that Tajik men and boys often taunt the dogs (who are extremely friendly), and twice boys have thrown rocks at us - when I was with my baby. That has really affected my morale and my feelings toward the post and the people.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Many. Digestive problems are very common. Dust and pollution frequently irritates allergies. Medi-evacs are common for serious concerns.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

At times it is poor. Pollution and dust can make for a very rough combination in the summer.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Very hot and very dry in the summer. Damp and cold in the winter with some snow fall.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I have no experience but my general understanding is that the new director at QSI is improving the general opinion people have toward the school. Generally, the older the children are at post, the less satisfied people are with the schools.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

None that I know of.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes. Options are available for preschool. We have a full time nanny whom I adore. We pay her just under US$700 a month but she is scheduled for 12 hours a day.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

No.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small and morale really varies.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think it is easier on families than couples. But it is so expensive to fly out that it is tough on familes buying multiple tickets if you want to travel aside from your R&R.

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3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No. It's best to keep a low profile.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. It probably will not impact Westerners much, but there are problems.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Admittedly we have not embraced the country or the people. While we traveled extensively at our last overseas assignment - we have not been motivated to do that here. It's not a great match for us but many people absolutely love the people. And, travel outside of the city is supposed to be just gorgeous.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Hiking, the hash and traveling outside of the city are about all that is available. The Embassy is having a pool constructed and the employee association is very aware of the need for more facilities, but they are brand new and bringing new services to post - like a commissary which may take some time.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

There is some opportunity to purchase rugs, furniture, fabrics, etc.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

You can save money provided you are willing to not travel very much. You can always say that you lived here - which comes with a certain amount of street cred.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I felt very well educated when I arrived so, not much surprised me. I was prepared for a challenging hardship tour and it is certainly that.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

We chose this post as a professional opportunity for my spouse. So I would do it again. But I won't be sad to leave.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Jarred red sauce.

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4. But don't forget your:

Favorite snack foods.

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Dushanbe, Tajikistan 01/09/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Our past postings include: Bonn Germany, Hamburg Germany, Hong Kong, Islamabad Pakistan, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington DC. It takes about 22 hours to get to DC from post. Four hours to Istanbul and 11-12 hours from Istanbul to DC. Fly America act prevents most of us from flying Turkish air all the way to DC, so you must fly from Istanbul to Frankfurt, then to DC. 4 hours from Dushanbe to Istanbul, 4 hours from Istanbul to Frankfurt, 11 hours from Frankfurt to DC. Turkish air and United air are the most commonly used airlines. Somoni air is also used.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I've lived there a couple of months and will go back in March 2012 for another 1.5 yrs.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Spouse of a Foreign Service Officer.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Very large houses for families and singles. They are difficult to heat and cool. The commute time is about 25-30 minutes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

If you shop at the local markets the cost is low. There are a few grocery stores which import some Western foods. The cost is quite high, but worth it, as there is so little to buy in the country.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Dishwashing powder; it cost $17.00 for a small box in Dushanbe. Bring any seasoning you might like from home. I am so glad we brought a lot of consumables. When the vegetables disappear in the winter, I go to our food storage and cook from that.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

A couple of chicken and burger fast food restaurants. They do not quite meet Western standards. Cost is reasonable.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

I have never seen anything that says organic, gluten free or meat substitute. I am certain they have none of these items. It's not difficult to be a vegetarian, but the vegetables you eat won't be organic.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

The occasional ant infestation. We have seen few insects in Tajikistan.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The Embassy receives the post by pouch. You can order online and can return these items by pouch. Be aware if you want to send something by pouch it can only weigh up to 2 lb. and be very small in size.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Domestic full-time help costs about US$275-$300 per month. They are always available. I wanted someone who speaks English, they aren't as easy to find. Most helpers speak Russian and Tajik.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are a few gyms and workout facilities.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

There is an ATM most American use at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Nothing official, people meet in their homes. There are quite a few denominations, not sure which ones.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Not aware of any.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need to know basic Russian or Tajik to get around and shop. I am still learning and it helps a lot.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

There are no accommodations for physical disabilities in this city.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

There are buses and taxis which are safe and affordable. Private cars drive around and pick people up for about 60 cents per ride. They have a number in the windshield. It's an easy and safe way to get around Dushanbe.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Bring a four-wheel-drive car. We brought a Jeep Cheroke from the US. The roads have huge potholes; if you drive out of town they are mostly dirt roads. Carjackings are uncommon, however I would not advise bringing a new car that might tempt someone to steal. You would have to email the GSO to ask about service and parts.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

They have medium-band internet, it seems quite slow compared to the US. The cost is a little less than the US.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

The Embassy will give you a cellphone card, you make the monthly payment for the usage. They are very inexpensive.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are vets at post. I am not aware of their quality or if they have kennels.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Very few at the embassy. There are a few at the school and at the NGO's on the local economy.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual to casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Occasional drug rings; if you stay away they do not look to involve westerners.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Limited health care is available. There is a nurse practitioner at post. London is the nearest medevac center.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

It is normally good quality in the spring, summer, and fall. In the winter the villages that do not have electricity will burn anything they can find to stay warm, and the air becomes very smokey and smells terrible.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Fall is sunny and dry. They have occasional rain storms in the fall and spring. The winters are harsh, temperatures fall to the teens, with a fair amount of snow and damp. In the spring it's very nice, in the 60-70's. In the summer, very hot, up to 120 degrees and dry.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

QSI schools. Adequate schooling for younger grades, but in the upper grades they do most schooling online. If you have a choice I would not bring school age children to this post.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

None.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

No e

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

None.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

About 250 expats.

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2. Morale among expats:

It depends on who you talk to. Some expats feel the morale is good; others will say poor. It all depends on whether or not you find good friends and things to do. You have to be a self-starter to like Dushanbe.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Entertaining is done mostly in private homes or at restaurants.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

You need to have plenty of ideas of things to do on your own, since it is a lonely city for anyone. Many spouses leave post when/if they cannot find a job. There is very little to do at post. Hiking is great in the spring and fall. You can find your niche if you try.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I haven't heard.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

It's a male-dominated society. Women aren't highly regarded and will be stared at openly. The country is Muslum, but not strict at all. Other religions are not recognized openly. You must meet quietly in homes.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Meeting the local people. They are friendly and like to talk. However if you do not speak Russian or Tajik, it's very difficult to communicate.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Hiking in the mountains. There is supposed to be a ski slope, I hear it is old and somewhat dangerous. People tend to gather in homes for parties and social functions.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

I have heard they have good local artists, so far I haven't seen any art I would want to buy.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Saving money, there is very little to buy in Dushanbe. The weather in spring and fall is nice, dry and sunny. In the winter it's very cold and in the summer it is very hot and dry.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, there is little shopping to do. And imported food is not cheap.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Not sure that I would go.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Motorcycles and bicycles. It is too dangerous to do either, the drivers are terrible, they pay no attention to traffic rules.

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3. But don't forget your:

TV, books, consumables (bring whatever you think you will miss).

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Dushanbe is not an easy posting. You need to be relatively healthy and enjoy outdoor sports. There is little to do in the winter months, you must enjoy TV and reading. Bring lots of wool clothing, the houses are very cold and hard to heat in the winter. It is expensive to travel out of country so plan your R&R's well. If you have Russian it will be an easier posting. The local staff speak mainly Russian.

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Dushanbe, Tajikistan 06/06/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No

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2. How long have you lived here?

Two years

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Government

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

There are two flights a week (Sunday/Monday and Wednesday/Thursday) from Istanbul on Turkish Air that most expats take, even though they are very expensive. AirBaltic just started new, cheaper flights to Riga, which should be a good option. Tajik Air, Somon Air and several Russian carriers fly several times a day to various Russian cities, mainly on older Tupelovs. The Moscow flights land at Domodedovo, so you need a Russian transit visa for most other international flights. Somon and Tajik also fly once a week each to Dubai/Sharjah. Some people even fly to Tashkent and then drive (about 10 hours). In theory, you could also go through Bishkek or Almaty with an overnight stop. Any way you parse it, it's two overnights from the U.S., with a very early morning arrival into Dushanbe. Getting back, it can be hard to make it to U.S. cities besides New York or Washington in a single day. Most flights are paper tickets only and arrive and depart at absurd hours. Welcome to life in Tajikistan!

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most expats live in walled houses (called havlis) that have weird layouts, sparkly wallpaper and lots and lots of space. It's really in your interest to have a generator due to frequent power cuts in the winter. There are also some decent apartments. The apartment buildings look worse from the outside than they are. Water is a problem everywhere. If you are with the US Embassy you will have a generator, a water tank and a distiller, which insulates you from a lot of this. The embassy is a 10-minute drive from most housing, on the edge of town. Other expats can usually walk to work. Local building standards are poor, so be prepared for constant repairs.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Cheap, especially at bazaars. In season, a kilo of delicious tomatoes costs about 40 cents. There are a few smaller grocery stores, but you will wind up going to a few places to get everything you need.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I shipped everything I own, and I would do it again. Comsumables are a must if you have them. Outdoor furniture - the only stuff available here is cheap and plastic.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

We have Southern Fried Chicken, Big Mac and Chief Burger. SFC is the best, but none are terrific. There are roughly 10 decent restaurants, and you will only get sick every few months. Chinese food here is outstanding, since there is a large Chinese population building roads. Also good Lebanese and Ukranian, okay "Ecuadorian," Continental and Indian. And many, many teahouses with Central Asian food. Everything is inexpensive, except decent wine costs an arm and a leg.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None! Except for a short season of poison caterpillars that fall out of trees and cause an ugly rash. (Not a joke.)

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We have pouch. Otherwise, DHL is expensive, and Tajik post is unreliable, as you would expect. (Although expats do use it.)

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Maids start at about $80/mo for part time, nannies a little more, gardeners about $60/mo. (And we overpay). You will want someone to clean a lot because of the dust, and also because of the lack of dishwashers.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is a gym at the Hyatt that costs a fortune (something like $300/month) and one at the Asia Grand Hotel that is cheaper but nowhere near as nice. Sometimes there are aerobics or yoga classes at the embassy. The Indian Embassy sponsors yoga and dance classes. Tajikistan is a tae kwon do powerhouse, so you can take lessons from a world champion for next to nothing.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

A few hotels take credit cards, but that's it. There are several ATMs around town. They occasionally run out of cash, but I haven't heard of any fraud. It is a cash economy.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is a Catholic church with English mass and, I believe, a Protestant one as well.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

CNN and BBC World via satellite, if you can get it to work. There is a guy who can get you HBO too for a small fee. No English-language papers, no IHT.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

A lot! I'm not sure I've ever been somewhere where fewer people speak English. If you have a choice, learn Tajik, which is much more endearing than Russian. Also, the younger generation increasingly does not speak Russian. Government meetings are still in Russian, but probably not for much longer.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Tons! There are very few sidewalks, and they are potholed too. There are almost no accomodations for disabled people.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No trains. Buses are fine and run frequently on two or three streets. Taxis are generally fly-by-night but cheap. Don't expect taxi drivers to speak English or know where anything is. "Mashrutkas" (shared vans) go everywhere and are very cheap, but you must speak Russian or Tajik.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Listen up: do not bring a car with tinted windows. Period. It will not be registered. SUVs are recommended due to poor roads, especially if you want to get out of Dushanbe. Toyota Land Cruisers seem the most popular. Bring parts, including oil. Shipping time from the States is at least four months. If I could do it again, I would have bought a car here, although they are more expensive. Soviet-made cars are omnipresent and easily fixable, if not comfortable. Drivers here are insane - I joke that Tajiks are lovely people until they get behind the wheel of a car. Expect lots of dings and a little road rage.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

$60/mo for DSL with a 2G limit on downloads. If you want more, you pay more. Be careful going over - it really adds up! Speed is not really enough for video.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Get one! They are cheap and everyone uses them. I pay about $30/month for lots of talking. Calls to the U.S. are through VOIP and are less than 2 cents a minute. There are lots of providers and the system generally works well.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There's a vet. People watch each other's pets when they're away. See notes from other posters on pet shipping issues.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

At NGOs, there are a few, but without Tajik or Russian, it would be hard. And those that are available pay badly. (The average Tajik salary is less than $100/mo). The Embassy makes a mighty effort to employ spouses.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Work depends on the office. The Embassy is generally suits or at least ties. Most NGOs are more casual. In public, same as anywhere else, expect no shorts and no tank tops on women. Many Tajik women wear traditional dress, which is a long caftan over pants (sometimes with terrific sparkles). Tajiks tend to look very neat and take good care of their clothes. I often feel sloppy by comparison.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Fun fact: Tajikistan has something like one car for every 27 people, so exhaust is not a problem, especially outside of Dushanbe. There is a lot of dust in the summer, and the "Afghanits" blows in...something brown a few times a year for a few days. But the average day is pretty nice, particularly at higher elevations.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Everything except malaria (athough that is recommended if you live outside of Dushanbe). Check the CDC website.

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

On the macro level, Tajikistan does border Afghanistan. On a daily level, it feels really, really safe. You know your neighbors, kids play in the streets, etc. However, there are occasional petty crims against foreigners.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Oy, this is a downside of live in Dushanbe. There is a German doctor at Prospect Clinic, which expats use, and a medical officer at the Embassy. Local facilities are really not adequate, so anything remotely serious required a medevac (usually to London). This is not the place you want anything to happen to you, and you also should not come here with any condition that needs to be treated.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Normally: mild, wet winter, hot, dry summer (high 90s F and above every day), lovely spring and dusty, pleasant fall. There are exceptions, though, and they are tough on the Tajiks.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is a QSI that most expats use. It's really new and is primary years only, as far as I know. There is also the Dushanbe International School, which is mostly Tajik kids (including the President's son). Very few families with kids over 5 choose to come here.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

I think QSI has a pre-school, and there are also playgroups. Russian preschool is available. It seems like there are a lot of younger kids here and the parents are really happy. Nannies abound and are quite good.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Probably tae kwon do, but likely only in Russian or Tajik.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

A hundred or two in Dushanbe, perhaps another hundred in the rest of the country. There is also a small French military contingent based in Dushanbe and a few hundred Indian medical students.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots of going to peoples' houses, restaurants. These is a bar where you can find everyone you know.

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3. Morale among expats:

Great! Most people chose to come here and are really into exploring Central Asia. Language ability seems to impact this a lot. Tajikistan drives everyone crazy at some point, so it helps to maintain perspective (and get out every few months).

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

As a member of a couple, this city has been great. Most of our friends are single and are pretty happy, although the dating pool is really, really small and everyone will know your business. Young families also seem happy, although they have to make their own fun since there is not a lot for kids to do. All and all, I think this is a good place for anyone who is outgoing and ready for an adventure.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

In the expat community, probably okay, but very limited. In the local community, no.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Tajiks are really, really nice to foreigners. That said, if you are black, you will be stared at and photographed constantly, if you are Asian you will be asked "where are you REALLY from?" and if you are a woman you will be catcalled and occasionally pinched. None of it is really malicious, but this is a very homogenous society and people don't always know that they're being rude by doing this. Even though 99 percent of the population is Muslim, Tajiks are very religiously tolerant and are often just curious about other religions.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Tajikistan is paradise for outdoor types. There is great hiking quite near Dushanbe, camping, rock climbing and kayaking. There is even a creaky ski lift. Road trips around the country. (These are slow due to poor roads, but really fun). Hash House Harriers are active. Barbeques, poker nights, scotch club, book club, swimming in rivers, game nights. Piano and language lessons. "Guesting" at Tajik homes, going to weddings, drinking tea, eating plov, shopping for Soviet art, bazaars, cooking with delicious fruits and veggies. The expat community is very close knit and social. You will meet everyone if you want to.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Suzanni (woven fabric panels), carpets from the other Stans, local art, tickets to other places.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, unless you want to fly somewhere every weekend. (Istanbul is nearly $1K, Almaty is $400, Uruqmi is $750.)

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, absolutely. We really wanted to come here and it's been great. I might think twice if I had older kids, though.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Skimpy clothes, golf clubs, new car, need to have everything be perfect.

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3. But don't forget your:

Guide books, hiking boots, sunblock, wine, all the toiletries you'll need, good attitude.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Tajikistan and the High Pamirs - by far the best (and only) guidebook about Tajikistan.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Tajikistan and the High Pamirs - by far the best (and only) guidebook about Tajikistan.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Dushanbe, Tajikistan 07/28/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, Tashkent Uzbekistan.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I am following my husband, who is associated with U.S. Embassy here.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

This is a tough trip no matter how you do it. The best way is via Turkish Air, which is through Istanbul and only 2 times a week. There are some direct flights from major U.S. cities, or you can come in through Europe--Paris, Frankfurt, London, and Amsterdam are common. With waiting periods and flight time, it's at least 24 hours from the US, and with a delay, it's taken up to 40 hours. It's a tough trip!

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Diplomats are basically in houses with small walled yards. The houses range from nice to opulent, but are more than adequate although sometimes a little strangely laid out! The yards are small, but some have pools, fountains, etc. Ours has a fountain we converted to a sandbox, a cherry tree, 2 fig trees, 2 persimmon trees, and a grape arbor overhead shielding us from the sun. The city is relatively small, and housing is scattered, but 20 minutes is probably adequate to get most anywhere. Apartments in are available, but are not up to Western standards.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

There are some grocery stores that are popping up in the last few years. You can SOMETIMES get imported produce in the summer, such as Granny Smith apples. There is also a wealth of canned goods in the summer, and at one in particular, dairy goods like UHT pasteurized milk, yogurt, sour cream kind of thing, etc. The bazaars have local fruits and vegetables for very, very cheap. In the summer, it's berries, stone fruit, greens, cucumbers, eggplant, hot peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, and onions. Generally imported bananas, too. Most of this is really cheap. Meat here is supposed to be terrible, although you can get some cuts sometimes that are better. There are some kinds of pasteurized cheeses sometimes, but it's by no means guaranteed. In the winter, the shelves at the stores are empty, and the bazaars hold only potatoes, onions, sometimes apples, and some unique squash kind of things. Last winter was particularly bad, with the city on power rationing. There was no (pasteurized) milk for several months, along with many of the other good we see as staples, including flour, yogurt, juices, even bread. Prices were soaring for the winter, but went back down somewhat, still below U.S. prices for many things. Keep in mind that everything needs to be washed with distilled water and bleach is recommended, too!

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Mexican food, diapers, spices...pretty much anything you really feel like you need. It's probably not here, and you will miss it!

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There is basically no fast food as you know it in the West. You can buy kabobs or roasted chicken off a stand, but it is not recommended. There is a high incidence of stomach problems after eating at many restaurants, but it is hit or miss and apparently depends on the person. Some people never get sick, and others need time in the bathroom 4 out of 5 times after eating out. There is a good French place, about American prices or a little more, with a very limited menu. There are a few decent Indian places, although vegetarian food is surprisingly lacking there. There is a relatively new Lebanese place that is supposed to be good, and a Steakhouse.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Readily available, although many don't speak any English. Russian is pretty widely spoken in Dushanbe itself. We pay US$150/month for half time housekeeping and shopping, and US$250/month for a nanny FT. There are people available for more and less, depending on what you are looking for.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Basically doesn't exist. There are a few places that relatively recently have these, but ex-pats in general DO NOT use them.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is at least one English language service in a Church. I know several people who go regularly. There are absolutely no Jewish services here: the synagogue was recently torn down, but there were very few Jews left before that. No kosher meat or cheese, no mikvah, no real Jewish resources at all. Muslim: there are multiple mosques in the city. Most Tajiks don't often go, and you will see no women at a mosque here. There were some LDS people who set up their own Sunday meetings, but they have gone now--but it can be done!

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Doubt it for newspapers. There is some cable service with a very few English language channels you can get, but it is sporadic. AFN is here for Embassy employees.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Depends...if you live in a house and don't plan to go out, you don't need any. BUT if you plan to go out, or communicate with your housekeeper, you will need some Russian or Tajik. The more, the better, of course!

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Getting around is tough with a stroller, so I can imagine it would be tough with any physical disability. There are rarely elevators--that work anyway.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Official answer is the left. But you'll see people going forward and backward on whichever side is most convenient for them right then.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Not really safe, not recommended, but affordable. We don't take them at all. You'll have to be very comfortable literally smashed against a stranger with strong body odor to take the buses. And everyone is a taxi, especially if you look foreign. It's usually safe, but there are times when it's not.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Something with some suspension and 4WD is nice. The roads are in bad condition, as are the drivers. You might get dinged here, and your suspension will certainly suffer. We joke that the way the speed limits are set is by the condition of the road.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. It's OK for speed, about US$50 a month for 1GB of downloading--they charge by the amount you download here.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You'll probably need one. Everyone has one and it's something of a status symbol.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Skype.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Nope, not really. They are starting to have some pet food available, but it's hit or miss. No real vet.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No, not for any reasonable fee. Salaries are really low. If you speak Russian or Tajik, it's possible to work for another NGO or other foreign organization, but it's not usually for the money.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Suits at the Embassy, I've seen khakis and button downs otherwise, and even casual on the streets. I will say that people here tend to get dressed up to do anything, especially the women, with full makeup and heels to go home from work.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate: not much pollution, but lots and lots of dust!

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Some crime: Tajikistan is one of the largest drug trafficking countries in the world which could lead to more crime, and some potential for unrest due to political instability. Rampant corruption is just accepted here!

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Yes: everything! There is no adequate health care here.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot in the summer (105F, even more possible) and very cold last winter (-20F, usually not that cold.)

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are a few options, but no one is happy with them right now. My own kids are too young for these. The Quality Schools International (QSI) is available, but is very expensive and has had another change in directorship recently, hopefully for the better. Some people I know have used it, but are not happy with it, and a few are even homeschooling now. There is supposedly at least one other choice, but I don't know much about it. I would not come here with school aged children right now.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I'm not sure, there are no school aged kids here from our embassy yet.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

We have sent our kids to a parent organized playgroup. It's about US$100 a month, depending, and includes lunch. Other options are the QSI preschool which is somewhere around US$4000 a year, not including any food, and a local 3 day a week Christian preschool. There are rumors of others, but those are the ones used by the expats here.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Smallish. A few of everyone, but not too many.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

What you make of it. There are a few things to do, but you really have to make your own fun here. Really. There are usually some entertainment events in Russian, and there are those few expat groups (Hash house harriers or the book club), but it's mostly at home--yours or a friend's.

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3. Morale among expats:

Hard to say. This last winter was rough, with electricity rationing and real food supply problems, and I would say that's brought it down. Many people (Tajiks and expats) are dreading this winter, and going somewhere else if they can.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Depends. There is not much at all to do. You have to make your own fun quite literally!There are a few options to do with kids, but it is definitely lacking. A relatively new indoor playground has opened for kids, there is the zoo that has had recent bear maulings, and you can leave the city in the summer and spring to go out to one of the outlying villages where there are nice places to relax. The Russian Embassy apparently has a playground, and one is planned at the American Embassy, but none of the ones in the city are good for kids to play on: they are generally made from poured concrete and the

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I don't know about covertly, but overtly, I don't think it's accepted.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Women are poorly treated in general, but seem to expect it. Expats are generally exempt from this. Dark skinned people will be stared at incessantly, not usually in a hostile way, but it seems to get annoying.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Make your own fun. There is a relatively active Hash for running and drinking, a group that hikes many Sundays, some expat clubs. For the party scene, there is a few really bad clubs that most people end up avoiding. Ex-pats tend to eat out at friend's houses or in one of the very few restaurants that won't make you too sick. It is what you make of it, though!

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Handsewn decorations, gemstone crafts, atlas fabrics, tailored clothing...

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9. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Unsure. I like it well enough, but I'm ready to leave. We came here because it was the best time in my husband's career to do this, but it's been challenging.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

...Nothing comes to mind: bring it all!

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3. But don't forget your:

Anything you need to manage. Favorite foods, movies, TV series, etc...

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

If you are willing to make your own fun and go local, this is a great place. If you depend on culture, steady supplies of beloved items, or shopping, this is not the place! However, it is what you make of it!

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