It took 32 hours and three different flights to get to Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Being born into the United States Military, travelling long distances was no new experience for me. Except this time it was. The difference was that it wasn't the immortal guardians of history, culture, and earth that were waiting for me, but rather something very mortal and fragile. I had come to meet my Tajik family for the first time.
My father's friend and colleague from the American Embassy of Dushanbe, Tajikistan drove him and me at midnight to the apartment complex which housed the most important people of my new life: my new stepmother and Tajik-native, Dilorom -Dila for short- who I had met only once when she visited Florida the year previous; my new grandmother, Maia, who only speaks Russian and Tajik; and possibly the most important resident of the small abode was my newborn baby sister of two months, Yasmina Marie Ganieva-Maxwell. I only had one strong fear about meeting them: whether or not they would accept me as a foreigner in their home.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
My nerves tightened as I slowly escalated the deeply cemented, ex-soviet built steps of the complex. The bright fluorescent lights that lit up the stairway seemed as if they were the eyes of the entire country staring down at my arrival as I shook in fear of not being accepted. I reached the second floor after what seemed like hours of taking each step carefully and cautiously. Then there was just a door, and it was the only thing in between my old life and my new.
The door opened and I took my first steps onto a fabric of gold tinted fabric that shined even in the darkness of midnight. This traditional Tajik fabric was used to welcome family into a household for the first time, as my father and my newborn sister had done before me. As I crossed the golden fabric, I was immediately led into my grandmother’s arms. She was crying. She fought through her tears to say to me in the most eloquent Russian (which was then immediately translated by Dila), “I’ve waited 34 years to have a grandchild, and now there is one standing here before me!” In this moment I overcame my fears and went past the cement barriers of history, the judgmental watch of culture, and I had not only been accepted as “one of them,” I had been accepted as family.
With their hands holding mine, my two new relatives led me into a small room. A copy of the Koran was on display to bless a large, ornate bassinette covered in pale, transparent fabrics. Inside it was the most perfect and personal sight of my life: my newborn baby sister. Growing up an only child, I had always wanted a sister, and in this new, foreign world, I had found her. The new feeling of bondage by blood gave me the reason to go beyond observing a culture and rather become part of the culture. I had gained the inspiration to become someone that my sister can emulate and learn from on how to be a proud participant of two cultures equally as one.
Rather than my experiences in Tajikistan becoming locked up in my memory, my experiences became the reality of my life. I became eternally bound to the land that would let me call it home and would accept me as family. What could have been a trip was not a trip; it was a journey that led me towards the rest of my life.
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