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Archive for June, 2009

The Hus statue in Old Town Square

The Hus statue in Old Town Square

Old Town Square looking towards the astronomical clock

Old Town Square looking towards the astronomical clock

Wencelas Square's H&M in a beauiful turn of the century building

Wenceslas Square's H&M in a beauiful turn of the century building

View of Prague Castle across the Vltava River

View of Prague Castle across the Vltava River

If it makes anyone feels any better, the weather has been kind of rainy.  Back to Dushanbe tomorrow.

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Some more photos for you all.  After seeing the machinery, we went up to the top of Nurek Dam and got on an old, rusty, but brightly painted boat that plies the reservoir.

Our trusty "steed"

Our trusty "steed"

The ride out on the reservoir lake was tremendous as the hot weather (36 degree celsius) was totally counteracted by the breeze as we were splayed across the boat.

Riding on the boat across Nurek reservoir

Riding on the boat across Nurek reservoir

Our destination was a house boat on the reservoir, which is apparently owned by the muck-a-mucks of one of Tajikistan’s biggest banks.  These house boats are not “officially” for rent; of course, they don’t “officially” exist either, so we found a way to rent it out for the day.

It was simple, but the house boat certainly did the trick.

It was simple, but the house boat certainly did the trick.

Once we got to the house boat, we swam and swam in the beautiful turquoise water (which, incidentally and anecdotally, is the drinking water for the city of Dushanbe — oops), had two meals of traditional Tajik delicacies (yum, lots of gristle and lots of excellent apricots), talked about the good ol’ days of the Soviet empire with our host, and soaked up the sun.  A pretty gosh darn good day all around.

The view from the house boat facing towards the dam

The view from the house boat facing towards the dam

And, at the end of the day as we were all in food and sun comas, we went up to the viewing platform that was constructed for Brezhnev to see the dam upon its completion.  A group photo:

A very international group, a Peruvian, two Germans (east and west), two Italians, two Tajiks, an Englishwoman, and me.

A very international group, a Peruvian, two Germans (east and west), two Italians, two Tajiks, an Englishwoman, and me.

All in all, a terrific day, and apparently, quite a rare one as not many people get to actually go out on Nurek reservoir, so a lucky day too.

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This photo has not been altered in any way:

The cleanest barf I've ever seen

The cleanest barf I've ever seen

BTW, am now in Prague for a work conference.  Which doesn’t start until Wednesday.  Will be drinking beer shortly.

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We went out to the countryside yesterday about 70 km from Dushanbe to Nurek Dam.  Nurek was a purpose-built town that the Soviets created when the dam was built.  Construction started in 1961 and, I believe I heard correctly, was completed in 1978.  Although it doesn’t look as imposing or impression as the Hoover Dam, due to its construction of stone and dirt rather than of concrete in my opinion, it is taller (984 ft. v. 726 ft) and produces more energy (up to 2,700 megawatts at a time v. 2,080 megawatts).  According to the chief engineer of Nurek, that’s equivalent to the power generated by two nuclear reactors.  The Nurek reservoir behind the dam is also quite big, almost 38 square miles large, although this is a lot smaller than Lake Mead, which was created by the Hoover Dam and is over 246 square miles in size.

That said, Nurek was pretty impressive.  Below are photos showing the dam and electrical works.

On the road from Dushanbe to Nurek

On the road from Dushanbe to Nurek

Enormous statute of Lenin in Nurek town's main square

Enormous statute of Lenin in Nurek town's main square

Yup, another big statute of Lenin, this one in the center of Nurek.  There apparently are more ehtnic Russians and Ukrainians than in other parts of Tajikistan as many workers shipped to Nurek for construction of the dam stayed on after its completion.  I can’t verify this, but I did notice fewer Tajik-style hats being worn by the men of Nurek, so there’s that.

A painting of Brehznev visiting Nurek upon its completion; it's resting again a beautiful Soviet Realist staining glass installation in the control center of the dam

A painting of Brehznev visiting Nurek upon its completion; it's resting again a beautiful Soviet Realist staining glass installation in the control center of the dam

Because we were with the chief engineer we got a tour of the facilities including the control room, which looked like a set from a Bond movie in 1962.  Lots of weird dials and knobs and old-fashioned gauges overseen by guys in knockoff Levis and smoking cigarettes.  It was surreal; I kept expecting Goldfinger to come out from behind the curtain (yes, the walls — not the windows, the walls were curtained).  They wouldn’t let us take photos of the control room, which is a shame, so above is shown the mural and stained glass directly outside the control room, which are pretty impressive exemplars of Soviet art.

Nurek Dam viewed from the grounds of the power facility

Nurek Dam viewed from the grounds of the power facility

View of the Nurek power dam from the top of the dam

View of the Nurek power dam from the top of the dam

The reservoir stretched on for miles behind the dam and we were lucky to be able to hire a house boat to swim and have a Tajik “picnic” on the man-made lake.  Apparently, our host, one of my friend’s landlord in Dushanbe, had quite a few connections and that and a few Somoni got us in.  Those pics are for another day, but this is a view of the Nurek reservoir:

Nurek reservoir

Nurek reservoir

I’m off to Prague for work tomorrow, but that probably means good wireless access, so I’ll try to get some more photos up soon.

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  • кўл [kül] n. lake

I’m heading to Nurek Lake south of Dushanbe tomorrow to hike and swim, and it’s supposed to be pretty cool, so hopefully I’ll get some more photos for all y’all.  We’ll see if the thunderstorms that are predicted for tomorrow hold off.

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One of the things I negotiated to have included in my monthly rent was satellite TV, and, after a few hiccups that included visits by the TV guy at odd hours, everything appears to be up and running.  So, last night I took some time to look through all 375 channels I get and see which ones were in English or were otherwise interesting.

The vast majority of channels come through the Hotbird satellite (though I’m not sure which of the three Hotbirds I use), and I was pretty excited to see what I’d find when I started scrolling through and watching bits of various channels.  The excitement was quick to wane.

I’d discovered that expat Italians make up an inconceivably large worldwide diaspora, or that there’s a ton of people in Italy itself that watch satellite television, or that some programming dude at Hotbird just looooooves himself sexualized Italian variety shows . . .

What's Italian for "I read it for the articles"?

What's Italian for "I read it for the articles"?

. . . but whatever the case, there were simply a ton of Italian channels on my TV last night.  Out of 375 channels, I’d say a good 100 of them were Italian.  All the Rai networks (aka Berlusconi TV) were there, plus all sorts of regional channels (say hello Napoli!).  If I ever wanted to practice my Italian language skills via phone sex, well, I now have no less than eight (8!) options beckoning me from my television.  Cooking channels, home shopping channels, bizarro game show channels, you name it, and I have an Italian version of it on my TV in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

I also have some English channels, but between the propaganda organs of various governments and the stridently evangelical preachers, there’s not a lot of choice; here are my English options and other channels of interest (with language indicated in parenthesis if not English and a brief description in italics if needed):

Channel Name
35 Gem sitcoms
68 All Music
72 CCTV9
73 Al Jazeera International
92 TV5 Monde Europe (Fr.)
96 NHK World
136 France 24
170 Bloomberg Europe
172 Bloomberg UK
191 MusicLife
200 Dubai Sports (Ar.)
203 Al Arabiya (Ar.)
216 RAI Sport (It.)
239 High Life TV
267 KICC Christian African
270 3ABN Christian US
271 VTV4 Vietnamese
275 Arirang (Kr.)
292 Loveworld Christian Caribbean
352/355 BBC World
353 Sunshine
370 Luxe.TV (Fr.)
384 AIT South African

Suffice to say, I think I’ll be watching a good bit of the Beeb.

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Below is a video guided tour of my place:

I think it’s a pretty cool apartment, especially compared to the seven other ones I looked at.  There’s certainly still some oddities in the decor — the fire engine red, the lack of side tables, the diamond-jutting cabinetry — but those are pleasant peculiarities compared to some of the Soviet-style messes I saw.

It’s been a fun place to live so far.

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