Saturday, January 8, 2011
Following the Dodgers, Even in Tajikistan
My employment in Law Enforcement periodically sends me abroad to conduct training clinics to foreign members of the International Law Enforcement community. Back in May, I was assigned to go to the Afghanistan/Tajikistan border and give a class to Tajik officials for a week.
Now this place is about as far away from California that you can get on the planet. Exactly 12 time zones on the opposite side of the globe, (something that made it easy to calculate what time it was at home).
When I first arrived, they gave us a few days to adjust to the time change so we stayed at the Hyatt Regency in Dushanbe. While there, with wifi access (at a substantial cost), I was able to watch Dodger baseball from 8,511 miles away on the MLB internet feed. So while preparing my lesson plan in a hotel room on the opposite side of the globe at 7:30 am, I watched the Dodgers live as Kershaw defeated the Padres 4-1 on May 20th.
I have also had the opportunity to follow the Dodgers from afar in Costa Rica, Argentina and Peru. The internet has made this all possible. It wasn’t that way in 1980-82 when I was away in Argentina on a foreign assignment.
Baseball was alien to that country and today, pretty much still is. I knew that the Dodgers were in the 81 World Series because my brother wrote me and gave me the news. But it would take two weeks to get his letter. So I found out about the ’81 Worlds Championship about a week after it was over, and not from snail mail from home. I was so impatient and eager to receive some Dodger news, that I took a two hour train ride to Buenos Aires on my first day off with the expressed purpose of finding out who won rather than wait another week for the letter from my brother.
I’ll never forget it. The only place where I knew I could certainly find North Americans was at the Sheraton Hotel. At the time, there was nearly palpable anti-U.S. sentiment in the country. Much had to do with a 4 year uneasy relationship between a rigid and now infamous Argentine military regime and the Carter administration. As a result of those four years, U.S. based businesses were for the most part absent from the scene. You would be hard pressed to find U.S. hotel chains, restaurants, and even newspaper and magazines.
There was one newspaper there that was for he British expat community, but the sports news was mainly European soccer. The only baseball news would be final scores. I couldn’t bare reading Dodger World Series results from one line, no narrative flash.
So I entered the Sheraton and headed for the news stand. No New York TImes was to be found. Not even a Time magazine. I stepped outside and saw a 50 something business man conversing in good old North American English to a bellhop. “Who won the World Series,” I said. he turned, looked a bit surprised and said, “why it was the Dodgers...they came back from being down 0-2 and won four straight.” My traveling partner proceeded to slap me a high five and we started for the door without even thanking the man. He said, “I take it that you’re happy about that.” I turned and nodded, he then said something about being a Pirates fan and that they’ll get ‘em next year.
So that was how I experienced the 1981 World Series. Isolated from my beloved Los Angeles, in a remote area of a foreign land that knew next to nothing about baseball. The internet hadn’t been invented yet, there was no access to phones and print media from the states was difficult to find.
Now, as I travel the globe, in an instant I am connected with all the news I desire. With skype I can instantly converse with my wife, kids and grandkids from anywhere. At least I thought that until the Tajikistan trip in May.
On this assignment I was transported to the Afghan border for 5 days of teaching a course in one of the most remote regions of the world. While there at the border there was no internet, no indoor plumbing, dust storms, no air conditioning, 100+ degree heat, mosquito infested humidity on the Pyanj River. I'm not stealing a line from Kenny Powers, I say the honest truth when I say that we were fed by local villagers hired to bring in meals for us. It was very isolated.
On day one I laid awake in the early morning hours, trying to sleep in the abandoned quarters of a Tajik border guard. The insects were eating me alive, the unbearable stench of my adjoining bathroom with no running water was obviously close. There was complete pitch darkness in my room so penetrable that I couldn’t see my hand directly in front of my face. I felt an uncomfortable uneasiness that the insect bites my body was being inflicted to might result in some type of exotic illness unknown to man.
In my panic, I fumbled through my backpack and pulled out my blackberry. It lit up the dark room like a lighthouse beacon that shocked my eyes. Amazingly I had reception. On the display it said “Afghanistan” which proved that it’s GPS was off kilter by about half a kilometer since I was still in Tajik territory. As I scrolled through the display there it was, “Bottom of the 5th, Tigers 3, Dodgers 2, Xavier Paul drives in two runs with an RBI single.”
“Come on blue,” I thought, “we can take this one.” What's a mosquito? For a few moments, my mind was back at Chavez Ravine.