I’ve been travelling in Tajikistan for a few days now and I’m not liking it much as a linguist. It’s not because the people aren’t friendly; for not a single night have I lacked invitations for a place to dine and sleep comfortably. But conversations here tend to all be the same. The first repetitive response happens all over the former Soviet Union:
Your name is Christopher, eh? Like Christopher Columbus/Christopher Lambert! I guess I’m used to that one, and I just laugh and pretend I haven’t heard it myriad times before.
But essentially all conversations devolve into this very quickly:
Tajik: Are you married?
Me: No, I am not married yet.
Tajik: How old are you?
Me: I am 29 years old.
Tajik: You need to get married! [The more good-humoured locals will at this point indicate the closest unmarried woman and propose I marry her]
Me: I don’t wish to get married yet.
Me: Because I wish to travel and study and remain a free man.
After this they tend to grumble a fair bit — it does seem that some are appalled by what I said — and the conversation returns to marriage constantly. It would be nice to talk about something else and to perceive some element of culture. What happened to even fairly poor, rural locals knowing something about shashmaqâm or Persian classical poetry as travelers in Transoxania reported less than 20 years ago? It’s especially frustrating since I came hear to learn Tajik, but there’s not enough of a variety of conversational topics to really expand my vocabulary.