When we first arrived in Tajikistan, one of the first things we had to do was an RSO (Regional Security Office) briefing of all the rules to ensure our safety for these next two years. It covered everything from using your credit card online to fire drills to bomb threats. I left feeling a bit shell shocked and it was the first time it really hit me that living and working in a foreign country could be potentially dangerous.
As the weeks went on the fear faded. I’ve said it over and over, Tajiks are very friendly, welcoming people. We received lots of curious stares as we began venturing out but I knew that was to be expected. Nothing felt in any way intrusive or malicious. It’s human nature to be curious.
On Friday, September 4 I was out early in the morning with five other ladies for our newly-formed running club. The botanical gardens are perfect for running; flat, gorgeous, and very safe with guards patrolling day and night. It was our first week and the first time I’ve ran in quite some time. I decided to push myself and do one more lap before heading back to the gates.
Suddenly my phone rang. Mikayla. Her message was short, “hey we have to head back, there’s a security issue.” My first thought was that something was going on in the gardens so I ran as fast as my tired legs would let me back to the gate.
Sean called. Twice. l picked up the second time and he told me what was really going on: armed assailants in police uniforms had gunned down security officers near the airport. The RSO had instructed everyone to shelter in place and await further instructions. The Embassy was officially closed for the day.
We locked ourselves in the bedroom and waited. After my initial panic wore off I went back to sleep for a few hours. When I woke up, still no new instructions.
Around 2:00 p.m. I saw the story start to break on English speaking news sources so I knew I needed to tell everyone we were fine. Just bored.
On Sunday we were allowed out again. Sean and I went to the market to stock up on produce since we heard rumors the larger markets would be closing and remain closed until after Tajik Independence Day on September 9. The city felt electric. Not panicked or scared, but definitely not calm. The North Market was about half as full as normal and many vendors were either missing or closing up shop. The rest of the day passed without incident.
Monday was Labor Day and after four days of mostly being confined to the house I was going stir crazy. I deteriorated to the point of watching approximately 50 makeup tutorials on YouTube and subsequently trying (and failing) to recreate the looks on myself.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to get back to work.