Mellnick ’95 and Peterson ’09 meet each other, and Lenin, in Tajikistan

Vlad and Us

It didn’t take long for Keith Mellnick ’95 and Grif Peterson ’09, attending a horse festival in Murghab, Tajikistan, to ID each other not only as Bates grads but as former denizens of adjacent rooms in Smith Hall.

They marked their meetup some 6,300 miles from Bates with this photograph, showing them flanking the city’s Lenin statue that’s left over from Soviet days. (Grif’s cap sits atop Lenin’s head.)

Peterson, who blogs for The Huffington Post, is an academic affairs officer for the Univ. of Central Asia, an ambitious new university set to open campuses in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in the coming years.

Keith Mellnick ’95 and Grif Peterson ’09.  Photograph courtesy Keith Mellnick ’95

Keith Mellnick ’95 and Grif Peterson ’09. Photograph courtesy Keith Mellnick ’95

Mellnick is a freelance photographer and writer who posts at his blog,

Afterwards, Mellnick headed west to report from Khorog, the site of recent armed clashes between government forces and local groups still at odds since the country’s civil war in the 1990s.

By the time he arrived, the city was quiet, yet buildings splattered with bullet holes revealed what had gone down, as did the presence of soldiers in the streets.

Soon, Mellnick was stopped, his bag searched and prodded with the muzzle of an AK-47. The soldiers demanded to know what he had photographed.

So Mellnick turned himself into Boring Travel Guy, showing each photo on the camera’s LCD display and narrating in excruciating detail: “Here’s my hotel in Murghab. This is the cat that fell asleep on my lap. This is the yurt in which I slept in the Pshart Valley….”

The trick worked, wearing out the soldiers, Mellnick reports. “After examining my passport, they told me to find another road and not to pass that way again.” — HJB