Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Tajik Funeral Scam

So last night being the very brave monkeys we are, we returned to Dushanbe from a day of interviewing in the south, found our internet cafe to try (mostly unsuccessfully) to email home and then decided to skip the expat, menu in english, restaurants we are used to and we went to a small cafe on a side street for traditional Tajik food. We had no idea what was on the menu, actually we didn't even bother opening it. The waitress just said a few words that we couldn't understand and we nodded and were brought food. It was really good. The traditional salad of pickled vegetables, with Tajik bread and what I am pretty sure was chicken. After our successful venture we headed back to the apartment, impressed with our worldliness. Just as we were going to bed someone started knocking on the door. I went to answer it and there was an older worn looking woman with blackened peg teeth standing there. She told us in broken english that she was a neighbor and that another neighbor of ours, an old lady with no family, had died and that there was no one to bury her so the neighbors were all pitching in to cover the costs and could we contribute? We were a tad wary but unsure of the customs we said yes and my companion went to get some semoni. As she was grabbing her wallet, the woman pulled out a book. It looked like a photo album and I thought at first she was going to show us pictures of the dead lady. But it was a nature picture book that I think she wanted to sell us - now that she had marked us as suckers with money. I am not sure if she was hocking the old lady's things or if there was no old lady and it was a total scam but either way I am pretty sure our modest contribution will never make it to any funeral. I am also willing to bet that we haven't seen the last of our 'neighbor.' Oh well, so much for our worldliness ;)

-A. Monkey