It’s Christmas…

Well, I have several half-written posts which, when posted, will provide more background for this post, but I felt like this one needed to be posted on the day it occurred.

It’s Christmas,  my neighbor Sorbon, as I fell weeping in happiness into his wife’s arms, who threw her arms around me and held on tightly as she started to sympathetically cry right along with me.

Don’t worry, everything will be okay,  it’s Christmas, Sorbon reinterated, a  devote Muslim.

Yes, indeed it was Christmas day and I had just added another “first” to my list of “firsts”  – i got evicted!   The landlord was none too pleased to find that I had four kittens here of varying ages, why that was is something that you, my dear readers, will have to wait to read later.   I wasn’t surprised, but I hadn’t counted on her insisting that I redo the wallpaper in the kitchen and repair the shower which leaks.   After being told that I had trashed her house with my cats, I staggered over to my neighbors to tell them what had happened.    I had already called my colleague in Bokhtar, who had adopted the first cat I rescued and was planning to come in January to stay at my apartment and watch the kittens whom I had subsequently rescued at varying stages of near death, while he got his spayed, to see if he could take the cats there if I couldn’t figure out what to do. I checked the airlines and figured I could make two trips back and forth to the U.S. in January, if absolutely necessary, I called the vet, who rushed over at 7:30 at night to do another round of vaccinations in case we were going to have to get everyone on a plane sooner rather than later and I had already set the ball rolling with Turkish Airlines to see how to ship animals via cargo from Istanbul if necessary.

But what about a place to live?   They wanted me out by January 5, when my lease expires, the cats out sooner.   I couldn’t blame her, I would have felt the same way in her shoes, but I wouldn’t have expected the tenant to repair the plumbing.   Even in the midst of her tirade, and I am sure the family will be exclaiming over the situation for years to come, I was silently grateful…. the dogs weren’t here.  She had no idea that they had ever been here and I shuddered inwardly to think what she would be saying if she had known about them.

I had known that they had to be somewhere else this month, since she was due back, and they are boarding in a kennel, a very basic kennel, outside of Dushanbe, where I shlep ever day to walk them over the hillside overlooking what appears to be some sort of cement factory but, in the distance, the snow-capped mountains surrounding the city remind us of all the natural beauty in this tiny country.   The walks we take are actually better than the ones we took in town since there are no people around and there are lots of lovely grasses and what not to sniff as we trail along.

I am grateful:  The landlord has no idea that I had raised three puppies here for 2.5 months.  I had time to learn some Tajik, become friends with my neighbors who will undoubtedly be friends for life, and enjoy the gorgeous park across from my home.  But I was getting progressively more and more tired of sneaking around, and worrying about “getting caught” with animals while, at the same time, being unable to walk away from one in need.

Two phones calls after I set foot into my neighbor’s home,  I had a new apartment, $100 less than my current one as it was considered a “mid-range” apartment which meant I could probably pay for the repairs requested and come out more-or-less even.

Why was I crying?  Relief, more than anything, and simply touched beyond words that people whom I really barely know would hold me in their arms, both figuratively and literally, and find me a new place to live so quickly.

Don’t worry, our home is your home.

The new landlord doesn’t give a hoot about the cats, although I have yet to ask her about adding one dog in February.   She fussed and worried and called back several times because she was afraid that I wouldn’t like the apartment and didn’t want to toss the current tenants out if I was going to change my mind.  Foreigners never want to live in the older buildings in Dushanbe but, of course, the older buildings are where typical  Tajik families live and are, therefore, my cup of tea.   But she needed my reassurance so off we went, after wiping the tears from our cheeks and having a bowl of hot soup and a cup of tea.

Let’s just go see it now and put her mind at rest.  I said several times but it was not until the fourth call that Sorbon realized that we would need to go and verify in person that it was indeed acceptable.  Of course, I had to remind them all that my living conditions in Rwanda were far far worse than what they were describing to me.  I mean, a washing machine,  a refrigerator, a stove, AND a bathtub with hot water?  What’s not to like?

I will miss the heated floors though…. 

It is, as promised, a more modest apartment with painted wooden floors that are chipped and chipped paint on the cement walls, but the whole thing is bigger than my current apartment and has a outdoor covered porch which will be great for the animals.    And, for me, no carpeting is a plus.

It has a big old claw-footed bathtub the sight of which thrills me,  and the kitchen is much more spacious.   What’s with a little chipped paint?  I suppose, if it bothered me, I could have it redone but for me, old chipped paint is better than new paint out-gassing.   And it is a traditional old Tajik home, which has not been rennovated, which I am sure  I will grow to love it for its down-to-earth, no nonsense nature, if not for its ability to bail me out of a very very difficult spot — pet owner in a city of people who, more-or-less, hate animals.

Best of all, I don’t have to walk around worried about someone finding the animals I have rescued.  They and I can live openly and free, as Sorbon said.

Now you can be free….

The new apartment is right downtown, catty-corner to yet another famous park and more in the “thick of things”.   More of a true citified downtown area, fancy shops, lots of “action” from what i could see tonight than my quiet little neighborhood by the Opera Ballet house.  But the truth is that I haven’t like my landlords since I first met them and one of the sisters (another one owns the house) ranted and raved that I should pay more rent to cover the cost of converting the local currency to dollars.  Then the next sister tried to get me to pay to fix the washing machine.   In the end, I will pay for the damage that the dogs did to the wallpaper although, mysteriously enough, the worst is alongside the refrigerator where no dog could possibly fit and up far higher than any of the puppies could have reached when they might have been small enough to squeeze between the refrigerator and wall.  But they did do some of the damage, so my suggesting that they didn’t do all of it didn’t go very far.  I should definitely have taken pictures of the entire place from top to bottom when I moved in.

There is more traffic downtown, when faced with the possibility of being homeless with four cats, the location still seems like heaven — city center, walking distance, down through the tunnel of colored lights  which arc over the center sidewalk which travels  the length of Rudaki drive, between two towering statues of men (of course) of historical significance to Tajikistan, and the main drag in Dushanbe, to my old neighborhood. I’ve already discovered that walking 3-4 a day is great for weight loss and overall health so given what could have happened, or where I could have ended up, it is heaven.    It will be fun to get to know another part of the city and, assuming I bring the fourth dog to live with me until June as previously planned, we can walk the boulevard and the new park together til the cows come home.

So, yes, indeed, it is, Christmas and a very fulfilling day it was.  Nothing like crisis to bring people closer.   My neighbors are my true heart here, and I am grateful for their sweet presence every day.  I’ll miss the phone calls, harbingers of some traditional food coming my way…

Do you have a plate?  Can you bring it to me?

I gave them four little stockings filled with chocolate, cashews, and dates, plus a cookies from the Korean bakery which, as it turns out, I think is just down the street from my new apartment, and they, in turn, gave me a traditional scarf and fabulous wool handwoven socks from the Palmir region where they come from.   Despite the country being 99% Muslim, there are towering trees outside covered in cascades of lights and ornaments, not to mention a small tree in my neighbors’ living room.    Apparently, and this probably happened while they were part of the Soviet Union, all of our typical Christmas gear was simply appropriated for new year’s.

I giggle to myself as I sit watching the cats sleeping on the bed next to me, despite my landlord’s instructions to keep them in their crates, actually they are the dogs’ crates but what she doesn’t know will never hurt her, and I wonder how I ever became a landlord’s worst nightmare.   Stranger things have happened, I guess.   I continue to surprise myself in my old age.  Being an irresponsible tenant is definitely a first.   It does make me more sympathetic in hindsight for some of the irresponsible tenants whom I had in the past.  That is, I certainly didn’t start out intending to be irresponsible, things just sort of happened in a way that ended up looking like I was one.   I could see myself in her as she politely ranted and raved at me.  Unlike her sister, she showed more restraint.  I am happy to know that the cats and I (and hopefully one last dog) will all be together for the remainder of my stay here, although I am still trying to work out the logistics of getting everyone home safely and to deciding where home will be — Florida with me, or a forever home in Vermont.   The jury is still out on this decision yet..

And, of course, there was one other outcome of all this, whatever remaining worries I had about how much it was going to cost to get all the animals home, simply danced away when confronted with the very real possibility of not being able to provide a home for the babies to whom I had promised a good life.  In the end, money can’t buy the delight I feel watching two kittens or puppies tumble over one another in play, knowing that they probably would not be engaged in what they were born to do were it not for my silly uncontrollable animal-loving heart.

Merry Christmas and a very happy Soli Nav (new year).