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Guitar Hunt, Susannah Walden
It is almost three and a half months now that I have been searching for a guitar in this far corner of the world only to find one in bizarre circumstances ten days before I leave Tajikistan until who knows when. After asking around all the teachers at American Councils, my host family and anyone to mentioned anything vaguely musical I concluded I would have to survive without strumming away until I returned to my guitar in Edinburgh.
You can imagine then that I could barely believe my eyes when our Resident Director stepped out of his room at the Pamiri Lodge in Khorug holding a very beat up, but still intact, acoustic guitar. I spent hours that night (probably keeping everyone in the neighbourhood awake) trying to wind the old steel strings to a tune that had some semblance of a guitar. Despite the fact that my cellphone had no service whatsoever for the week we were roadtripping in Badakhshan it proved its worth with the guitar when the composer application gave me a true E to tune from. In the morning another student and I batted our eyelashes and convinced the lovely proprietress to let us borrow the guitar for the three days that we would be in Ishkashim and the high town of Langar before returning to Khorug on the return leg of our trip. In Ishkashim, with the telephone and a pencil and hair-tie combo acting as a capo we sat in the weak light of the porch at the guest house, drank tea, and sang standards with muddled chords and harmonies.
It turns out Badakhshan is a goldmine for guitars. The guesthouse in Langar was home to a Rubob player who also had a guitar that was a cadillac compared to our little beaut that was mostly held together with duct tape. With both guitars a group of us ended up perched on a rusted metal tank tread in the dramatic wind of the high mountains. Kaveh tried to keep his fingers warm to keep playing while our Director watched over the Osh he had been slaving over since the morning. The scent tickled our tastebuds while we wrote a song - all the students contributing a line or two. After hours of our own slaving away over a different art we fell on the delicious Tajik traditional meal with zeal. After everyone in the house (including the hosting family) were well fed and nursing full bellies the host got out his rubob and treated us to several traditional Isma'ili songs while his son accompanied him on the drum. His and our songs were very different in character and style but we shared our love of music as a preferred form of expression for love, religion, humor...life.
Upon returning to Khorug my heart tightened at the thought of having to leave behind our new found friend. So, the morning of our departure I made a deal with the proprietress to take the beat up little beauty with me back to Dushanbe. I've only ten days left but she will make a grand companion as I try to put into words what life is/was/will be after four months living in Tajikistan.
Susannah Walden is currently studying Farsi in Dushanbe, Tajikistan during the Spring 2010 semester.