What “Welcome to Tajikistan” really means

12 August 2010 at 04:30 16 comments

By Donald Hart, KF12, Tajikistan 

Central Asia is famous for its hospitality.  As I set out for my fellowship in Tajikistan with minimal, (scratch that, zero) Russian or Tajik language ability – I had little else to rely on. 

My first week as a guest of Farrukh, one of the staff at Kiva’s Field Partner, Humo, has meant the following: 

  • Always being poured the first cup of tea among a group
  • Always being the first to be served a plate of food
  • Inviting me to stay at his home upon arrival
  • Opening his pantry to offer me food
  • Making over 20 calls to landlords to find me the right apartment
  • Translating the rental agreement for my apartment (and countless other things)

Were it not for these gracious actions from my host, living and working in this new city would have been immensely more difficult (my stash of 12 CLIF bars would have run out pretty quickly). 

While grateful for (and in need of) all the help, if I’m honest I initially bristled a bit at the extent of my dependence.   Generally, I had strived to be self-sufficient, to be independent – and now found myself in a position of vulnerability.  My first week in Tajikistan required me to recognize that vulnerability and embrace the role of honored (and reliant) guest.  It served as a reminder of how powerful a feeling it is to be helped – to be in a position of need and to have someone intercede on your behalf. 

My gracious host, Farrukh

When welcoming guests, Tajiks often use the expression “Ҳуш омадед, нури дида точи сар” – literally translated, “Welcome.  You are like the light of one’s eyes and a crown on one’s head.1”   Consider exercising your hospitality and making a loan to an entrepreneur in Tajikistan by clicking here. 

Donald Hart is a fellow serving in Tajikistan.  He hopes his fumbling words in Russian and Tajik transform into coherent sentences during his 3 month stay. 

1 A Beginner’s Guide to Tajiki by John Hayward

Entry filed under: KF12 (Kiva Fellows 12th Class), MLO HUMO, Tajikistan. Tags: , , .

Perspectives in the Field Finance in Freetown


  • […] a full meal, regardless of the family’s circumstances.  Hospitality in Central Asia might be legendary, but nothing could have prepared me for how full on, even overwhelming, it can be at […]

  • 2. Carol Hart  |  14 August 2010 at 09:40

    Donny we really enjoyed your account of Tajik hospitality. How beautiful the welcome you received. We are grateful for the kindness expressed to you in your time of need. Love mom and dad.

  • 3. Don Hart  |  14 August 2010 at 09:30

    Great entry. We will take to Hart your comments about hospitality.
    Donald I

  • 4. blakeB  |  13 August 2010 at 12:49

    Oh Clif Bars! Where would any of us be without them? That’s so great about your experience of being forced to be dependent upon someone else. For men in our society that is such a difficult thing to do, and something that we go to such great lengths to avoid. Makes me want to take a deep deep breath for you because I know how that feels! Way to go, man! Here’s to being a man and being able to accept help, may we view our own vulnerability as a sign of our vitality and the strength of our life-force rather than as any kind of a weakness=)

  • 5. Gabe Francis  |  13 August 2010 at 09:54

    I love the greeting, “Welcome. You are like the light of one’s eyes and a crown on one’s head.”

    • 6. Anjali  |  18 August 2010 at 07:16

      Me too! Sounds beautiful!

  • 7. amadasun  |  13 August 2010 at 03:21

    on comment now

  • 8. Vanick  |  12 August 2010 at 23:01

    Good work man, enjoy the trip!

  • 9. Liney  |  12 August 2010 at 17:23

    El ser humano es maravillosamente humano si tiene vocaciòn de servicio y es lo que lo hace encontrar la Feliz….si…da (Felicidad)

    • 10. donaldhart  |  12 August 2010 at 22:39

      Estoy de acuerdo Liney — tambien creo que la Feliz…si….dad esta en una vocaciòn de servicio. Gracias por tu comentario y buena suerte!

  • 11. First Kiva Fellows Blog Post « Notes from the Journey  |  12 August 2010 at 09:14

    […] August 12, 2010 by donaldhart Check out my first blog post on the official Kiva Fellows Blog:  http://fellowsblog.kiva.org/2010/08/12/what-welcome-to-tajikistan-really-means/ […]

  • 12. brittanygoesglobal  |  12 August 2010 at 08:27

    I find it interesting that you said how powerful it feels to be helped, but transversely, how difficult it is to be in a place of dependence. You should think about that in terms of development.

    Basically, if you connect the dots, that’s why MICRO-FINANCE AND KIVA ROCK!!!!!!!!!!! KIVA LOVE

    • 13. donaldhart  |  12 August 2010 at 22:28

      Well said Brittany – I like the parallel drawn to microfianance.

  • 14. Sam  |  12 August 2010 at 07:25

    The quote I’ve heard a lot is: “Our religion says that guests are gifts from Allah. You are our gift from Allah, at this time of Ramadan.”

    I am glad Farruhk has been there for you.

  • 15. tcapsuto  |  12 August 2010 at 07:02

    Great to see you’re being welcomed with open arms, Donald! Enjoy the adventure & keep us posted on life in Tajikistan

  • 16. johnfmurphy  |  12 August 2010 at 06:52

    Nice, Don! Way to roll with the punches.

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