An unexpected party in Tajikistan

I must admit, I never expected to have a good time at a circumcision party.  I suppose it helped greatly that the circumcision was not my own, and in fact the deed itself occurred after the party.  Let me back up a bit and explain.
I arrived in Tajikistan full of optimism and energy, eager to start my job as a Kiva Fellow. After a few surprises at the airport, I arrived a day later at IMON International - Kiva’s field partner.  They’ve been doing business with Kiva for close to 10 years and IMON has helped Kiva lenders loan over $16 million to low-income and rural borrowers in Tajikistan, one of the poorest of the former Soviet Republics.
On just my second day at IMON, I was invited to a “child-wedding,” as it was called, for the son of one of the IMON employees.  In describing the “wedding,” it was quite charming to watch the young woman try to be both discreet and informative about the real purpose of the party.  She was successful, and I realized it was a circumcision party.
Two days later I found myself in the back of a car going to the big event with 3 other IMON employees.  On the way, we stopped by the central market to buy a large toy sportscar for the poor little tyke who was going to be shortened.  
The central market is an amazing place; one of the biggest markets I’ve seen in my life. Every type of meat, fruit, vegetable, spice and packaged goods were out on display and available for sale.  I can’t wait to get back for a wander around.
Here’s just one section of the tremendous market:

There's an outside section too, and this is just a tiny piece of it:
After that, we drove about 45 minutes past fields of corn, cotton, wheat, sheep, and cows to a small village of long, tan, one story houses.  We entered a gate and found ourselves in a courtyard made up of three of the houses attached in a U shape.  It had flowers and a fountain in the middle, with a large walkway on the outside that had a number of tables set up for the party.  
We sat, chatted, and ate the afternoon away.  Candied walnuts, pistachios, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew,  dried apricots, figs, candies, cakes, cookies - it was all laid out for us.  And of course, bread.  Tajiks love their bread and serve it at every meal.  Admittedly, it’s good bread.
After I had enjoyed a fair amount of snacking, the real food started coming in.  We were served samosas (or sambusa: meat filled baked pastries), meat and potato soup, mantos (or manti: steamed meat dumplings), ribs and of course the ubiquitous plov (or pilav: rice with carrot and meat), which is Tajikistan’s national dish.  I’ve had plov about every other day since I arrived.  It’s quite good.
The feast: 
The child who had a date with destiny was paraded around a few times during the day wearing traditional clothing.  He may have had some premonition of the future, for he didn’t look very happy.  Luckily for everyone, his shortening did not take place while we were there.  
At the end of the night, we made our goodbyes and, satisfied and satiated, began the long journey home.
I enjoy the work I do with IMON, who is committed to helping unbanked people improve their living standards. However, it was also enjoyable to be welcomed into an employee of IMON’s home to take part in the cherished cultural traditions of the Tajikistan people. 
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About the author

Kevin Dougherty

Kevin was born in the U.S. in Missouri. He pursued his undergraduate education at Georgetown University, majoring in Finance in Accounting. At Georgetown he was active in AIESEC, an organization dedicated to peace and positive impact through personal development and shared global experiences. He obtained his CPA certification while working in New York and promptly decided to travel around the world for two years, living mainly in developing countries. Upon moving to California, he worked in accounting, financial audit, and internal controls, with assignments that frequently involved international travel. Having learned about microfinance at Georgetown, Kevin has always been intrigued by the concept and finally decided to enter the field. In order to obtain lending experience, Kevin worked for four years as the Quality Assurance Manager at an independent mortgage company in San Diego. When he learned about the Kiva Fellowship, he knew it was the perfect opportunity to put his past skills and experience to work. His ultimate goal is to combine his love of business, travel, cultural experiences, and social entrepreneurship into a lasting and meaningful career.