1. Northern Tajikistan

Wolves Turned Cropped

You’re beginning to think no one here likes their neighbors, they’re obsessed with privacy and they’re afraid of being robbed. You’re the guest of a village family living in a walled compound. Everyone lives in a walled compound. Everything is inside an eight or nine foot high wall of mud brick: their vegetable garden, their nut trees, their livestock, their living quarters, everything. And yet, a visitor has only to call from the entrance before walking in through a small doorway set into bigger gates. Of course, that doorway is barred closed every night.

One cold night, before you could honestly say winter had set in, you’re reading a chapter in Lonely Planet, Central Asia by candle light. You hear dogs! A pack of dogs by the sound of it in the alley outside the compound. Their howling must have started softly and built in intensity before you became fully aware of the noise. It’s so unusual, you decide to find your host, if he’s not asleep yet, and ask if this is normal. You’d never heard of a pack of dogs roaming the village alleys before.

“Dogs? He says and laughs. “Not dogs. Wolves!”


Excerpt from Lenin’s Arm

“They come down from the mountains in the winter for the sheep on the steppe,” he says, looking over at me. “And this winter, they’ve come early. You don’t believe me?” He doesn’t wait for me to answer.

“Some night, we’ll borrow a car and drive out onto the steppe for you to see them. They attack the sheep pens when the snow becomes too deep on the higher slopes and they grow hungry.”




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