20 February 2011

How to Outdo the Principal

I know I keep going on and on about the cost of food here, but since my life is dominated by food right now, that's really all I'm thinking about.  Food prices really are a lot higher, but salaries haven't increased much.

For example, the director of a school in Tokmok makes about 4000 som a month, or $85 at the current exchange rate.  Obviously no one can support a family here on that amount, so nearly everyone has more than one job and extended families live together to help support each other and all the children.  But to give you an idea of how low that salary is, a person can also make 4000 som a month by:

Selling four or five bags of laghman a day
Selling 2 or 3 gallons of milk a day
Selling 30 loaves of naan a day (any decent tandoor turns out FAR more naan than that)
Giving four or five people a ride in you car as a taxi

Obviously it's not quite so simple, but if you have just one cow that produces well, you're going to make more than the local principal.  It's not impossible to get customers for your taxi if you have a car; the taxis line up at the bazaar for their turn to drive someone somewhere.  If you get in line, you're going to make your money.  Making laghman requires very little intial cost, although I'm not sure there's enough demand for bazaar-bought laghman in Tokmok to support everyone who's trying it.

(About that laghman- I'm clearly starting to be known in the bazaar as someone who buys laghman fairly often.  I think I've bought it from a different person every time and I am always getting asked if I want laghman.)


  1. Thanks for the excellent comparison. Have you discovered the best person from which to buy laghman?

    This may be an impossible question but what can buy in the US that is most like laghman noodles?

  2. Wow. Does being the director of a school require as much education as it does in the U.S.?

  3. Heather, having one or two degrees beyond a bachelor’s degree is very common and certainly the director of a school would have at least one advanced degree, if not more (PhDs are less common; there is more than one type of advanced degree here). A lot of the people selling in the bazaar have several degrees, and so do the taxi drivers, and many people who can’t find any work at all. I feel more embarrassed here with just my bachelor’s degree than I do in the US.

    And, no, Jadda, I haven’t figured out if anyone is better than anyone else for laghman. It all seems to be about the same to me. Udon noodles are similar to laghman, except they’re thicker. You can get them frozen at any of the Asian grocery stores around you. Or just make your own laghman. It’s much better than way.