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November 1, 2002

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Sleeping on the Afghanistan border, no surprise we saw no other tourists unless German soldiers fit in that category. This morning we browsed around Tajikistan and tested our Russian by finding a way out of the country. Because of Tajikistan's terrible reputation for drugs, smugglers, and guerrilla fighters, all of its borders are tight and public transportation rarely crosses the border into Uzbekistan. We knew enough Russian to ask at the ticket counter for our options and decided upon a cheap ticket to the nearest border town. We attracted a lot of curious bystanders in the bus station, people bored, interested in strangers, and friendly, one of whom wanted us to change buses and go with him to his village and attend a wedding. We declined and boarded our overcrowded bus, stuffed in a broken spring seat and wedged between standing passengers; we couldn't see anything but elbows and posteriors. An hour later we arrived at the Tajik - Uzbek border. We walked across. Customs dumped out our bags and the Tajik official wanted to "hold" our money. We refused and he asked for a $10 bribe. We refused again and he dropped his price to $5. Eventually he let us go without receiving any money. On the Uzbek side we hired a taxi which followed the main road to a town on the Afghanistan border called Termiz. This place should be off-limits to foreign tourists; they didn't expect anyone to arrive from Tajikistan so that's how we entered. Security guards stood everywhere. A policeman refused to let us stay at a cheap hotel within the train station until we talked to a barrage of senior officials who said we needed to be interviewed by the secret police. The main question, "How much money do you have?" We don't know how this question relates to security so we lied and said we were students with only $30 apiece; the secret police must have lost interest, they never showed up.
Hot fashion tip for Tajikistan: one eyebrow, joined across the nose, is considered very attractive for women.
An unplugged electric fence guards Afghanistan's border.
In Termiz we always seem to have a police officer staring at us. This is the lobby of the train station and our dormitory room.