Journalist Ilan Greenberg and photographer Carolyn Drake are in the middle of a series of reports from Tajikistan over at Untold Stories.
The first report on life in and around Dushanbe is mix of typical dire-situationist journalism with touristy-impressionism:
The countryside is wracked by devastating problems – from catastrophic water and energy shortages to rampant child labor practices in the cotton fields to jobless villages where Tajik men returning from Russia face unending unemployment.And then:
The grass is still yellow and chalky from the dry winter and leaves have yet to take hold on trees, but the muddy-red mountains ringing Dushanbe are beautiful. Women in traditional, cheery, and colorful Tajik coats walk the sidewalks. The roads are pleasantly dominated by vans --new and quiet, privately-run and Chinese-made vans-- a gift from the Chinese government. The small-wheeled vehicles furiously ferry people around this otherwise slow paced, even laconic city. The Chinese are also building new roads and tunnels and Dushanbe has a lot of new Chinese restaurants. There's a zippy vibe to the place.The next post from Greenberg and Drake focuses on resource issues and expat bars, followed by a little story of trying to cross over into Afghanistan.
A longer piece by Greenberg has also gone up over at Slate with scary buzzwords like destabilization, crime, and terror; as the writer probes deeper into the Tajik provinces, he signals imminent danger by noting that "cell phone coverage had evaporated."
(This last bit has me wondering about how long it will be until some whipper-snapper grad student publishes an article on "'Cells': Space, Terror and Mobile Phone Reception as a Device in 21st-century Journalism and Popular Culture." Not it.)
Like the gimmicky photo reproduced above, the reporting is a little cliche, but there are some worthwhile on-the-ground details.