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Archive for September, 2009

For a game that I don’t particularly understand the nuances of and which is disdained by by most of my closest friends, I have a soft spot in my heart for soccer. Perhaps it’s my amusing experience with MyFootballClub, or that I always appreciated the intensity of European football fans, but for whatever reason, I’ve seen a variety of soccer matches over the past two years, ranging from the sublime to the less so.

So it seemed only natural, at least to me, that when Tajik soccer powerhouse F.C. Regar TadAZ hosted the 2009 Asian Football Conference President’s Cup, I should organize a road trip out to Tursunzoda, about 50 km west of Dushanbe, to see Regar defend its Cup title.

FC Regar TadAZ of Tursunzoda, Tajikistan

FC Regar TadAZ of Tursunzoda, Tajikistan

The trip to Tursunzoda in the “Party Marshrutka” I rented definitely had a Cannonball Run-esque aspect, but, after asking directions a couple of times and circling a rotary featuring an enormous photo of Tajik President Rahmon holding a sheaf of wheat thrice, we made it to Stadium Metallurg 1st District in one piece.  In fact, we got door-to-door service as the marshrutka drove all the way down to the front gate.  Once there, we did an approximation of a tailgate: Baltika 3, Kracks, and a phalanx of befuddled Tajik paratroopers doesn’t exactly scream “The Grove,” but it worked for us.

After paying our 3 somoni (about 60 cents) for a ticket, our international crew headed towards Section 28, which was marked on our tickets and was behind one of the goals.  But sometimes being a foreigner in Tajikistan has its benefits, and the militsya colonel acting as an usher directed to the VIP section that was just about at midfield.  We settled in to seats that were remarkably new and watched Regar take the action to their opponent Dordoi-Dynamo of Naryn, Kyrgyzstan.  Dordoi and Regar have a serious rivalry as they’ve faced off in three of the five President’s Cup finals with Regar winning both previous match-ups, including last year’s championship in Bishkek.

Game action at the 2009 AFC President's Cup

Game action at the 2009 AFC President's Cup

Regar pressed the action early on, and despite their terrible execution on set pieces, they scored on a lovely cross and header just seven minutes in.  Most of the action in the first half stayed in Dordoi’s end, and that trend continued even after the half and the teams switching sides.  As Regar continued to be on the offensive, the home crowd became increasingly lively.

Old Regar fan who whipped the crowd into a frenzy with his cane.  The militsa guys looked on nervously.

Old Regar fan who whipped the crowd into a frenzy with his cane. The militsya guys looked on nervously.

After Regar added a second goal (which counted despite the fact that S____’s mom, who is visiting from England, said that never the ball crossed the goal line), they went into a defensive crouch, but one that worked against a Dordoi side that seemed lackluster from the get-go.  After the final whistle, a pigpile of Regar players ensued, followed by official cup presentation ceremony.  And one thing you have to give to soccer federations, they know how to stage a trophy presentation ceremony.

A celebration well-earned (unless the refs and Dordoi were in on a fix)

A celebration well-earned (unless the refs and Dordoi were in on a fix)

So, flush with the crowd enthusiasm from Regar’s victory and flushed from excessive beer and potato crisps, we piled back into the marshrutka for a harrowing, but enjoyable, ride home.

U. took some very cool photos of the trip, and I have some more of mine posted too.

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While I’ve been slacking in the blogging department, my soon-to-be-flatmate (which I can say because he’s English) S____ has been a blog-posting dynamo.  Latest in his descriptive and tinged with questionable limey wit posts is the tale of our new abode in Dushanbe.

The new place -- across the street from the Health Ministry!

The new place -- across the street from the Health Ministry!

As you’ll see in S____’s post that’s linked above, he and his girlfriend C___ took the brunt of the house hunting, while I globetrotted and only deigned to visit places that they felt were up to snuff.  After looking at almost two dozen houses, and blowing through several “realtors” (the scare quotes are intentional, because there aren’t organized, official, competent rental agencies in Tajikistan), we found the above little gem.

Although smaller and narrower than many places we looked at, and though it reminds me a bit of a shotgun house, the lay out is much more conducive for flatmates as there is actually a hallway and you don’t have to travel through each room to get to the next.  Further, the front room, which will shortly become my bedroom, is nice and big and has A/C.  The house has great little yards front and back, and unlike so many Dushanbe compounds, has a post fence that lets you look onto the street and get to know your neighbors.  Finally, we have a sauna, and, as the owner stressed to us, it has three different heat sources — so that when the electric and gas go out, we have a wood-fired backup.

Once I move in, which will be in the first week of October, I’ll post some video.

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Us and Marx

And you thought the fall of Communism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union meant that all vestiges of the past had been wiped away?  Silly, silly person.

E., J., and I just outside the Kremlin walls with an "old friend"

E., J., and I just outside the Kremlin walls with an "old friend"

More photos to come, probably tomorrow.  (And yes, I thought I was being funny posing that way.  Mistakes were made.)

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I know you can hardly wait, right? But I’m looking forward to it.

To get a name in the Dushanbe hash, you need to set a trail.  SS found the area, and we all scoped the trail yesterday.  It runs through some orchards on the ridges above Dushanbe to the east, and it has some sweet views.  It’s also a bit of a bitch to run; straight up through terraced fruit trees for a good part of it.  JC, one of my co-hares, has a GPS, so the whole thing is tracked; I’ll upload it for all to see at some point.

As for the name, I’m hoping for something like Short Round.  I’m sure the reality will be far filthier.

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Sorry again for the light posting, work has been busy and next week is no better, but I’ll get some vacation pix up someday, I promise.

*** UPDATE (9 October ’09):

As some of you already know, my hash name turned out to be Vidal Baboon, which is a mock on my hirsuteness.  If you don’t look good, I still am hairy, apparently.

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I have been remiss in posting.  Apologies all.  And you’ll not get much today alas, as I’m slammed at work and need to run out to sign a new lease.  Yes, I know no Istanbul update, no Moscow update, and now a bombshell about moving with no detail.  It is your fate, dear reader, when you rely upon a blogger for information.

No fear, updates are to come.  In the meantime, a little Moscow teaser, with sizes indicative of their relative, actual importance to the life of a modern Muscovite.

St. Basil's Cathedral

St. Basil's Cathedral

"Rave Girl" babushka

"Rave Girl" babushka

Expect something Monday everyone and have a great weekend.

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  • сафар [safar] n. travel

As in, I’ve been on a bit of a сафар binge of late, first going to Istanbul and then heading off to Moscow on Thursday.  I took over 300 photos in the former Constantinople née Byzantium, and sadly, I’ve only posted 17 of them as of yet.  But the trip was terrific and I do plan to blog a bit about it.  Maybe that’ll happen this week before I go to Russia, but I’m not full of hope on that front.

In the meantime, one of my favorite pictures from the Istanbul trip is below.

A view of the Blue Mosque from an upstairs window of Hagia Sophia

A view of the Blue Mosque from an upstairs window of Hagia Sophia

I had to stand on my tip-toes to see through the window, and after I saw the view, I raised my arm and took the best shot I could.  When I looked on my camera’s viewfinder, the photo was terrible.  Luckily, with the magic of digital photography, that one got deleted and after several more tries, I captured the Blue Mosque in the distance as seen through the exterior domes surrounding the Hagia Sophia.

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