I’m writing from my hotel room in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. It’s beautiful here. As I look around the city, I can see snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance, two boys running down the street with a goat on a leash, birds darting through the air, thousands of butterflies (I don’t know for certain, but there must be a monarch butterfly migration happening), the air smells like firewood and fresh-baked bread, and I can hear kids laughing and playing in the distance.
Our last day in Kazakhstan was bittersweet. We were all sad to conclude our time there, as we felt we’d made good new friends, and really enjoyed every aspect of our tour.
The day started with a school visit which turned into an all out, festival-esque concert on an outdoor permanent stage with hundreds of kids in the courtyard. They were so sweet as they crowded the stage, practiced their english, and their voices were SO strong when we led singalongs, I didn’t even need a microphone.
A concert at a school. So fun.
After an extended, especially-enthusiastic autograph session where we were completely surrounded by kids shouting “Tony, please! Joey, please! Alex, please,” pushing as close as they could to try and have their card be the next one picked for a signature, we learned that the school had prepared a special, homemade lunch for us that we’d eat in a tent called a yurt. Resembling a teepee in some regards, the yurt had feast-ready tables set up inside with local dumplings called manti steaming hot and ripe for the plucking (yes dumplings can be ripe, and can also be plucked… from a plate).
We’re in a yurt!
We had fun at our next two stops as well: visiting with English Access Students and youth with different abilities (the conversation/Q&A was so extensive, it had to be cutoff for time), and we concluded our day at a pedestrian mall jamming with local guitarists, ukulele players, singers, and percussionists. To lead the event, I just asked each new person who showed up if they knew a song we could all learn. Every time someone came, we jammed on a new tune. Before we knew it, almost two hours had passed. We played everything from Celine Dion to Sting to Daft Punk, and even a couple Tony Memmel tunes. It was a blast.
Almaty jam session amigos
The band and I relaxed at a local Georgian restaurant later that night, and recapped our amazing tour-to-date over khachapuri and drinks.
Our luggage was all waiting for us when we passed through passport control in Dushanbe. We were met at the airport by our new friend Mahmud who has been an AMAZING host.
He took us to a place known for its grilled kebab where we feasted on fresh bread, smoky, juicy chicken, flame-kissed lamb chops, steak, tandoori-baked meat pies, fresh cucumbers and the best tomatoes we’ve ever had. To give you an idea of the special quality, Joey says, “I’m not usually a tomato-guy, but these are incredible.” So there you have it.
Kebab for days!
More to come soon…