The Ashgabad Gazette Issue 02
--Wednesday, 23 September 98--

I left Chicago on Tuesday the 22nd, the day after the autumnal equinox. As if on schedule, the air had turned brisk and refreshing just as the days passed their majorities to nights. This summer was mild and pleasantly drawn out: the first three weeks of September had been an extension of August -- sunny, hot, and wonderfully mild. The hottest day of the whole season was on the Sunday before I left when it hit 90 degrees for the first time.

The summer had been a lot of fun. I had visited old friends that I had not seen since before I went to Romania at the end of February and I had met new friends at the pool. Some of the people even agreed to my suggestion that we have dinner at the Little Bucharest restaurant. Of the food let me say that it was an interesting idea to dine there but perhaps not a wise one.

Getting Here: The Weariness of the Long Distance Traveler
I left my apartment for O'Hare at 5:15 PM so I didn't have a chance to get a decent meal under my belt. At the airport I ordered a pepperoni pizza that turned out to have three mangy, thin slices of tasteless pepperoni. So much for American food.

I flew from Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany and had a blessedly brief ninety minute layover for the flight to Ashgabad via Baku. After leaving Frankfurt, the captain announced that the flight time to Baku would be four hours. I wondered how long we would be on the ground in the capital of Azerbaijan (yet another former Soviet republic).

What passed for food was served with unsalted butter -- my dietary troubles were beginning. The "meal" was chicken parts - the closest thing to cat food I have ever been served. The desert was raspberry goo covered by some white stuff that was completely tasteless. The salad we won't eve discuss.

The flight attendant on my aisle of the A310 Airbus had high penciled eyebrows, carmine red lipstick and creases in her face deep enough to hide a dime. I had been told that Lufthansa service was efficient but not to good with the warm and cuddlies. I learned this first hand when dime-deep ran the beverage cart over my toe (I was in the second row of economy and the first row had one fewer seats thus exposing my foot to a manual panzer attack) so I guess I wasn't surprised when she ran the cart into my elbow three times. I wondered if this was the anniversary of some WW 2 battle. At least the beer (Krombacher) was good.

Four more hours in the air, more ground time, and the third (and last! Yes!!) leg of the trip. At least it was Wednesday. I had been flying since Tuesday night.

I did have some fitful sleep, but not much. Extended traveling produces a complete loss of the sense of time in me: I went through two sunsets on my way to Ashgabad. I arrived weary, tired, confused and sober, with a two day growth of beard, a dirty smell and the enervating effects of a distinct lack of exercise. It was hard to tell which part was worse.

Fortunately the staff on the project had had me declared a "CIP" (Commercially Important Person) which meant that someone was assigned to get my bags while the group of CIPs were escorted to CIP room where we got VIP treatment. So, after paying $51 for something and $15 for something else, my bags were x-rayed and I could leave airport and be delivered to my hotel in a very tired condition. To hotel, to bed, to sleep. To hell with travel. Being there is all the fun.

A Virtual Tour of Turkmenistan
© 1998-99 Joe Kelley