He is suspicious, muttered Sorbon, my neighbor and self-appointed new apartment finder. He and his wife identified the first one, which was still in the running, but we both liked the one in the same neighborhood which was being rennovated so we had been following its trail with great interest.
Yesterday, it was all settled, we were to come at 11 and store your things in the room above the apartment and then you would move them down when you moved into the apartment but .. now he is saying that he may not rent it to you after all.
That’s it! I said. We’re done here.
Of course, by this point we had already accomplished the following: Waited an hour for the key to the storage apartment to arrive, unloaded and carried everything upstairs. So now we had to turn around and bring it all down. And we were no closer to knowing where to put it, or me, for that matter, for the long-terms although I had wisely booked an apartment hotel for the four days between when my current unwritten lease expired and I left for the U.S.
The day had started off innocently enough, although I had long ago stopping counting any chickens that I thought I might have concerning housing. Perhaps I am naive — almost certainly I am — but I was quite sure that something would work out somehow, in some way.
The first plan that my neighbor Sorbon and my driver Mahmud came up with was to take everything out to the kennel where the dogs were. They may not have many canine (or human for that matter) amenities but they did have a lot of space. The cats were already there, waiting to be taken to Bokhatar by my colleague and friend, Vincent, who had come to help me move somewhere. Putting all my worldly responsibilities and possessions in one place made sense.
But Sorbon was not thrilled with the idea of driving clear out there, so he contacted the landlord for the Christmas miracle apartment which, although the animals would be welcome, still remained tantalizingly out of reach because the tenant who did not pay her rent regularly had not moved out yet. Sharafot, the owner was still interested in renting to me and assured us that I would most certainly be able to move in on January 27th, after my first “animal rescue” run to the U.S. with three dogs and two cats. Apparently she owned another apartment building nearby and would let me keep my things in an empty apartment in that building until my return and ultimate move into the Christmas miracle apartment was possible. So that plan was put into motion.
The other apartment building is one of the more glamorous new high-end apartment building in Dushanbe. The contrast between it and the building where I was to be was stark, but I certainly didn’t want to live in a high end apartment surrounding by expats from various embassies and such in Dushanbe. She was also willing to let me bring the dogs from the kennels to stay in their carriers during the day before their flight to the U.S. since we were not going to leave for the airport until 1 AM. Everything seemed to be coming together, as I had believed that it would.
So we moved everything into the apartment, and the next day we met to discuss the rental agreement, which was to again be without a contract so that she didn’t have to pay taxes on the rents collected. I wondered if this was what was going on with my first landlords who, if so, had not been honest enough to tell me this, no surprise there. I paid her the rent for February and we amicably agreed that we liked each other and that it would be a good arrangement for us both. I would pay for any damages done by the pets; she would pay for any necessary maintenance. The apartment was old, with wooden floors and concrete walls with pain chipping off, I was confident that there was probably little damage that the pets could do, especially since the most destructive one, my first puppy, who got me into so much trouble over the wall paper in the kitchen, would soon be in the US driving her forever family nuts with great delight and canine appeal.
I moved into the apartment hotel for the four days to await the flight day. I was one of only two people in the entire building, so they upgraded me to a large room which was accessed directly off a fully equipped kitchen so I could cook for myself and even do last minute laundry. Life was good, but for a viral infection that affected my inner ear and left the world spinning whenever I turned over in bed, or stood up quickly. Still, the future looked promising in terms of me being able to live with my last three rescues until I left in June. But I was still not counting my chickens. As long as the present was taken care of, I knew I needed to wait to see what the future would bring.
Would the Christmas miracle indeed be true?
The trip to the U.S. went smoothly, the dogs went happily to Vermont, two found homes immediately, the third needed to be spayed before being put up for adoption. None of the animals soiled their carriers for the 30 hour trip, a miracle in itself. The cats came to Florida with me and, apart from an episode of diarrhea in the carrier while waiting for our Delta flight things went well. People cooed over the pets, and offered to catch and hold them when they escaped in the bathroom where I went to clean up the stinky mess before we boarded our last flight. Again, timing was good; I had just enough time to get everything and everyone cleaned up and ready to do. It was lovely to have my pets be admired instead of viewed with suspicion or disgust.
The cats were happily settled in their very luxurious suite: Master bedroom and bath, complete with cat trees, cat food, and lots of cool bed perched high in the back of the closet, their favorite haunts during the day. At night, they appear to carouse and eat. They will be lonely for the next five months, but they will be well-cared for by a woman named Hope, and they are off the streets. Five new US citizens.
I was still wondering what would happen with the apartment but knew that I would only know the truth at the last minute, so I waited to ask. I had booked a temporary apartment with the man who owned the one where I stayed when I first arrived in Dushanbe (thank goodness for booking.com) and did not want to cancel it until I was sure that the Christmas miracle apartment would actually be ready when I arrived.
Two days before departure, I inquired. Two texts from both Sorbon and Saodat, his wife, confirmed that yes, indeed, my new home was ready. A miracle at last?
I canceled the other apartment only to receive a text the next day from Sorbon saying that the apartment was actually NOT ready, and he was sorry that Tajik people were unable to be “concrete”. I think he meant “reliable”, i.e. to mean what they say. Honestly, I was not surprised. If there was ever a time in my life that I was actually living day to day without any specific plan of what tomorrow would bring, apart from working on the Media Literacy curriculum, this is it. It’s a strange sort of limbo, reminding me of how Alice falling down the rabbit hole might have felt. Where am I going? My mind wanders from time to time through various scenarios for my future , some of which I do not like much, others of which would be fine. Options include turning around and taking the last animals back to the U.S. in February; this is my least favorite. Others are that the Christmas miracle apartment will, at the last minute, appear to save the day, or that a realtor, now tasked with finding me somewhere that would accept pets, might actually find one. Dushanbe is currently filled with hundreds of unrented apartments; I continue to believe that someone somewhere will be smart enough to make some extra money charging a pet fee and/or higher rent than a property merits from someone who is committed to leaving the apartment in the same, or better condition (as was the case in my previous apartment). This belief may prove to be fallacious but, for the moment, there it is — I continue to believe that something will work out somehow… Well, actually, it will, it just may not be my preferred solution but I have learned that I do not always get what I want, no matter how determined I might be to get it.
So now, as I sit again in Istanbul awaiting the last leg of my journey to Dushanbe, I can only note that now I am no longer homeless in Tajikistan with four dogs and four cats, I am only homeless with one dog and two cats. I have made progress.