I miss girls!

It’s not that I’m fed-up with Harry … he is my flip side. It’s that my bike draws boys and scares away girls!

And the Pamir has girls! They dot the countryside. They pop out in pretty dresses! I want to slip into a flowery print … with yellows and pinks and greens. I want to dash down and join them … with squeals and giggles … in a song and a dance. And I’m not even a girlie-girl!

Life in the Pamir is a nasty riddle. It has short summers and deadly winters. A low sun burns and a foul wind blows. There is no arable land. A few fertile valleys provide barely enough. There is no industry. And the Pamir relies heavily on others for its upkeep. It’s Moscow or Dushambe (capital of fledgling Tajik republic); aid envoys or the Aga Khan Foundation (an active Ismaili charity).

And we realise ‘where have all the young men gone’? They have ‘gone for jobs in Russia’s construction industry, Kazakhstan’s oil industry, every one.’ ‘Every’ lucky ‘one’ … leaves at home, young sons and old grandfathers, and Girls of all Ages.

The Power of Flowers …

That’s what little girls are made of! Hard seeds, tough roots, knotty bulbs, spear-like stems, leafy shoulders and protective buds. That’s what it takes! At last, little faces rest on pretty petals.

Summer is an open window and winter is a closed door. Flashes of colour work those ‘short summer’ fields to fill those ‘long winter’ stores. Girls work. And girls wrap up! Not in thin pastel shawls but in tough, bright textiles. A piercing sun and cutting wind, demand extra-ordinary measures. Cover up. Cover up. Leave only a slither open to see.

Layers of cloth only drop with the sun. Fine, light dresses only rise with the first evening star. Delicate skins and silky locks only parade in a cool evening breeze! It is time to rehearse for the celebration of their Imam; their spiritual leader. We watch Girls of all Ages float across stages. Feet glide; heads ripple, hands beckon and suggest, and voices soar and sway. I’m sure; it’s the story of a short summer and a fiercely fragile flower.

We skip to our home with Rano, and her son Emin, and her daughters Asia and Noz. We fuss and flap about this and that, until Asia and I discover a terrible problem! I can only count to ten in English-ski! Asia can count to ten in English-ski, Rus-ski, Tajik-ski and Pamir-ski! We have a lot to do … immediately, Asia and I take action. She becomes committed school madam and I become ardent pupil. ‘Adin, dva, tri, chi tih ri, pyat, shest’ … ‘One, two, three, four’.

We holler and laugh … but never give up!

Aren’t girls great!


Boys rush up to us to see our Bikes! But girls always stay in the distance!


I miss Girls!


And in the Pamirs we find Girls!



Girls Work.


And Girls Wrap up.



All those layers work! When we ask to take this picture; this sister removes her shawl and reveals skin so much more nourished than her brother’s.


The Power of Flowers! These girls sell the fruits from their fields along the roadside.


And each little face tells a different story.


And this little face says ‘I’m NOT happy with today’s outfit’.


And this little face says ‘I wish this silly goat would stay at home’.


After work, girls in light long dresses rehearse for a festival rto celebrate their Imam; their spiritual leader.


… with song …


… and dance …





We stay at ‘Rano’s homestay’. Here I stand with Rano and her son Emin and older daughter Asia.


Here Rano is with Asia and her little sister Noz.


Asia takes perfect care of her sister Noz. Later she has to school me too!


Harry takes Asia for a spin around the village. Don’t you wonder who she was for those 20 minutes …