Wednesday, July 29, 2015
dreaming of "Tajikistan"
Yesterday, my younger son said that two men from his National Guard platoon would be detailed to a security assignment in ... wait for it! ... Tajikistan. My son said that he had offered to go. Whether he will or not is up in the air ... a short assignment next month ... a couple of weeks ... but still ... "Tajikistan!"
On the one hand, my parental concerns for an offspring revved their motors. It was so far from home, so far from a place where, with luck, I could protect and defend him. But that is the nature of being part of a military unit: No parents are allowed to participate. Weep and writhe, sure -- but not participate.
And then the old Romantic idiot kicked in and, like my son himself, I felt the warm winds of excitement and adventure and ... Tajikistan ... wowsers!
Of course my son saw the matter from behind lenses I was not wearing. This was an adventure, a grown-up, can-do, real-world assignment, even if he didn't know what the assignment consisted of. He would be among others assigned to be armed grown-ups fulfilling a mission no matter what the environment.
But me -- I had first of all needed a map to tell exactly where Tajikistan was. I had only the vaguest of ideas. And where it was was another of those confluence points of many cultures, where traders and cultures mingled and squabbled and traded goods in the past. A small, poor country with an economy centered around cotton and aluminum and some drugs ... a place that depended on the many Tajiks who had gone elsewhere and sent money back to relatives left behind. A land bordering some of the biggest players on the world stage at present: China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan ... with a history of Russian invasion that had left behind an educational system that meant over 99% of the population was literate, but also found those capable of higher education dismissing the opportunity because there were so few job opportunities that required advanced smarts. A place of beauty and poverty and religions (heavily weighted towards Islam) pretty much getting along.
I read up on the history and wondered how hard it would be to learn a little Tajik, the focal language, or Russian, a language employed by many. My son didn't see mixing and mingling as part of the assignment or even a very useful pastime. He was doing a military thing in his head. When I suggested that the military man who does not scope out his environment and its customs is a half-trained soldier, his eyes took on a dismissive glow. No matter: My parental habits may fret, but the idea that my children might visit other lands -- lands beyond the barriers of Atlantic and Pacific oceans -- has been a long-held dream I could not finance.
In earlier times, I had had dreams of visiting Tierra del Fuego and Afghanistan (before the American invasion that followed the Russian invasion), and the Orkney Islands ... places far away and foreign and utterly outside my ken. Those pipedreams had receded, or so I thought until yesterday, when "Tajikistan" provided a whole new possibility and sense of excitement and wonder. Not knowing there are others on the planet who live quite different lives in quite different ways is a gaping bit of ignorance in my opinion.
Anyway, I dreamed yesterday, rolling around in a half-formed idea the way a dog might wriggle and roll in the beach sand.