Sarah Carter


Sarah Carter

A record of my adventures and misadventures as an English teacher in Tajikistan--a land so unknown to me and mine that we've tried to tether it to something familiar with the nickname "The Persian Colorado." You know, on account of the mountains. And the Persians.

*Disclaimer: This is not an official Department of State website. The views expressed here are purely those of the author and are not necessarily indicative of the beliefs held by the English Language Fellows Program, the United States Department of State, or any other organization.*

Asia » Tajikistan » Khujand May 19th 2013

This story begins with a little girl, a girl who, while her friends collected fuzzy bagworms on a dusty Oklahoma playground and put them into cute jars and tried to feed them grass, cowered in a corner, horrified. This girl can't tell you where or when or how it developed, but she suffered from a blinding fear of caterpillars. They haunted her waking and sleeping hours, covering floors with their writhing bodies in her nightmares, seeking her out like heat-guided missiles on family picnics, making her humiliate her coming-of-age self as she ran and screamed like a maniac to escape them. This little girl grew up, and in the process outgrew many things, but not this phobia. "Sarah, they can't hurt you!" her friends would say. "Sarah, they're cute! Sarah, they turn into butterflies!" But reasoning ... read more
So. Many. Silkworms.

Asia » Tajikistan » Khujand March 18th 2013

Walking home from the university today, I ran across these boys flying kites off of the bridge I cross daily. I envied them; all it took were twigs, their mothers' sewing thread, and plastic trash bags to make their kites. I've only ever flown storebought ones, and now I think I'd feel silly waltzing into a store buying a kite. What 30+-year-old lady buys kites? They're getting ready for the spring holiday, Navruz, a tradition that encompasses Iran, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan, just like kite flying. When I was a kid, I loved flying kites. It just seemed so miraculous: how could that thing, many colors, way up in the sky where I wanted to be, fly the way it did but still be connected to me? How was this little string in my hand doing anything ... read more
He saw me take a picture of his friend...
My university in the background

Asia » Tajikistan » Khujand February 23rd 2013

To quote a British friend here who, on a recent night celebrating that Britishest of pre-Lenten festivities (Pancake Day? I'd never heard of it), said that it seemed we all were coming down with a case of the midwinter blues. It's been cold for a while, though I can't blame the cold for my lack of internets communication--mostly I blame busy-ness. Lots more classes this semester, lots more extra stuff I want to do, especially as I see the end of my time here swiftly approaching. I feel--and I'm sure I'm not the first one to feel it--that just as I finally get my Tajikistan-legs, my perfect personal mix of individual strength and cultural respect, of hardness and kindness, it'll be time to go back to my wonderful home, and get a new set of legs ... read more

Asia » Tajikistan » Khujand January 9th 2013

A picture is worth a thousand words, so please allow me to share many...much love!... read more
I Go Back to December Allll the Time
Home of King Place
Hobbit Door

Asia » Tajikistan » Khujand November 30th 2012

Full disclosure: I stole that title from a headline of a newspaper somewhere describing why, alas, I haven't been able to access ye olde facebook for many moons. I would tell you why facebook is blocked in Tajikistan, but I'm a little afraid to, lest He Who Must Be Named Many Times and Also Have His Picture in All the Places also shuts down my blog. Not having facebook has made me realize how reliant upon it I am over here--maybe too much so--but checking it relentlessly makes me feel home-ish when I am home-sick. Now I must find other, more creative ways to feel home-ish. Ways such as...celebrating Thanksgiving! I've had a most memorable one--I know my family also has, and I hope friends one and all had a great holiday. Missed you all quite ... read more
Pilgrims and Indians
This is the part where they find America
Look ma, I cooked it!

Asia » Tajikistan » Khujand October 14th 2012

A brief anecdote that I was thinking about when I woke up this morning, maybe because I was dreaming about it, I don't know: I spent Friday in a village that had not seen a foreigner since 1977, and it was great. After visiting some schools and an English program, we were driving back to the family where I would spend the night, and the sun was setting so they were bringing all the cows in from the fields. I asked my student, "Whose cows are those?" "The whole village cows are coming in." "Really? How do the people know which cow is theirs?" "The cow knows! Cow goes to his house by himself. He knows his home." Oh to be so lucky...... read more

Asia » Tajikistan » Khujand October 9th 2012

Woefully behind am I—in many things actually. Absorbing, emailing, writing much of anything, unfortunately. After a first couple of days in Khujand trying to figure out where to buy food and how to get the minibus to stop so I wouldn’t end up miles from my destination, I have settled into the closest approximation of a routine I think I’ll get here. Every day brings something new, and lots of somethings at that (insert here my lame excuses and apologies for being lax in blog-age), all of which involve many minds starving for English. It always tugs at me a little to know that half of that starving is a starving to leave this place and go to the U.S. I don’t know yet how to tell the wide-eyed students that knowing English alone does not ... read more
In Tajikistan, when you want meat...
In Tajikistan...

Asia » Tajikistan » Khujand September 9th 2012

Quick quiz: which of the above-mentioned place names is NOT actually a place in Tajikistan? Strange place names out of the ancient past aside, I have finally arrived (as of last Wednesday) in the place I will call home for the next 10 months. And what a home it is! Khujand is in—well, right next to—the mountains, so the air is clean and fresh and not as dusty and dense as the capital. With the help of our hard-bargaining embassy liaison, we found an apartment so cute that it may beat out any apartment I’ve lived in in the states (even—yes Britt, it’s true—our lovely pad in Fountain Court, remember the days?). In contrast to many apartments we looked at, it has a wide-open kitchen with tons of sunlight, a washing machine, and windows that seem ... read more
Nom Nom Nom
Treacherous Good Hands
Sweet Pad + Guitar

Asia » Tajikistan » Dushanbe September 2nd 2012

So much has happened, and I’m afraid I’m going to forget it all—but I think I should resign myself to forgetting many things. When you are first somewhere so new and other, everything is a something, and you ride in a bumpy taxi thinking, “Look at that boy carrying a bag of flour on his shoulders bigger than he is! I have to remember that! Look how that woman is swathed head to toe and she’s walking next to a girl in a strapless top! What situational irony! Remember that! Look at how this little girl is putting on my shoes and trying to walk around! Remember, remember, remember!” And then you realize that there is no way you can remember everything, and that the day will come when deadly potholes in the middle of the ... read more

Asia » Tajikistan » Dushanbe August 26th 2012

I wrote this actually last Thursday, while still en route, but now I finally have access to internet to post it! Hurray! Pictures to follow soon. One of my favorite things about traveling long distances to places where no one speaks my language and all the signs are covered in funny letters is the sudden necessity to, well, need people. Riding the El in Chicago or cruising across the middle states in a car I bought myself, I am the picture of American independence, and I will not ask for directions. Transport that me to a hot, sweaty Beijing airport lugging 4 giant bags around, and I become one very un-American melting puddle of need. After landing in Beijing from Chicago, I kept checking the clock—two hours to schlep myself and all those ridiculous bags through ... read more

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