Wednesday, August 20, 2008


This is the water from the sink of my luxury hotel in Dushanbe. This is a representative photo, after the water has been left running for some time--when it's first turned on it is sometimes much worse, but I never saw it get much better than this.


This is the star attraction of Dushanbe's one museum—it's the last of the giant Buddha figures of central Asia. The Taliban destroyed all the rest but this one, which was hidden in a cellar for years to avoid it's destruction. The fact that it is displayed in a room that looks more like a conference room than the Met actually makes it look even more impressive, as it is out of scale to the room that they've managed to fit it in.


Coca-Cola in Central Asia. It's bottled in Kabul, Afghanistan, where all the Coke for central Asia comes from.


Because when when we think of beauty, we think of human children suckling at the teats of a wolf.


Because of the scale of Dushanbe, the Soviet-era murals work very well on the street, and often they're the brightest and most color-saturated things visible. I don't normally associate the former USSR with brightness and color, but in Tajikistan I do.


The Princess Diana Hair Salon. The pop culture part of my lizard brain begs to make some kind of snarky, pithy comment, but I will leave that as an exercise for readers of this site.


Babillou, a Soviet/Iranian film star who has retired and runs the only independent arts facility in Dushanbe. We had tea together in his office, and he showed me pictures from his career, including this one.


The view from the edge of the theater, where the first presidential palace is visible...and it fact Babillou told me that those windows are the windows into the president's office. Since our storytellers' pieces were honest and truthful, which is a rarity under this repressive regime, I think it matters that we did it here.


One of my favorite storytellers, Anahit, at the mic during sound check. Her story of life during the war after her husband had been disappeared brought the house down, and she did such a fantastic job that I still get chills today remembering what she said. Anya, our fabulous translator, watches her work--Anya did marvelous work for the performance itself, and without her fantastic simultaneous translations in rehearsals we never would have been able to pull this off.


The performance was magical--we had a house that filled up, and as darkness fell in the open theater we heard story after story in different languages, and the crowd was entranced. There were spontaneous shouts, applause and at one point people in the audience all began reciting a poem together loudly--I have been unable to determine what poem and exactly why, but it's clear that it was a positive reaction.

Catherine, the artistic director of The Moth, did such a fantastic job shaping the stories, and I was honored and thrilled to assist her in that work—I learned a great deal here, about the country, about my own country, and about myself.