The Ashgabad Gazette Issue 08

--Sunday, 04 October 98--
Took two long walks today. In the morning I walked west on Magtymguly Street until it ended beside the Iranian Embassy, south on the street it ended on (my map is quite derelict in its naming duties) and then east on Gorogly Street and then north to my apartment.

The walk took three hours but that included a stop at Maksim's, the outdoor cafe near work, where I had a Fanta. Maksim's is the cafe I mentioned in an earlier email that has bug busters on poles every five meters or so. I noticed that the bug busters were not on during the day. Indeed, I was forced to notice because of the pesky flies.

The flies here are different from those in the US of A. They are smaller (good) but much, much more persistent (very bad). While sipping my Fanta in a gentlemanly way, one of the irksome flies landed on my right ear. I waved my hand in its direction. It flew off but landed on the back of my head: I could feel the hairs tingle from its slight weight. I rubbed my hand over the back of my head and the damned thing dive bombed my nose. I took an emergency grab at it but it eluded my hand and I ended up holding my nose.

I calmly put down my Fanta and prepared for battle. Coming around from the back it landed on the right lens of my glasses. I felt it staring me in the eye like some malevolent creature from a B-rated science fiction movie. I ran my fingers at it taking care not to stab my eye but it looped down out of sight for the moment.

Now I was more than irritated, I was angry. To be so innocently engaged -- drinking not a beer but a simple Fanta -- and to be so harassed. It was as if this fly had personal knowledge of all of its thousands of cousins that I had mercilessly slaughtered by slapping, thumping, whacking and swatting.

Grimly, I watched as it circled me looking for an opportunity; it did a loop-de-loop over the glass of Fanta and pounced on a drop of orange nectar on the rim of the glass. I rushed my hand at it from below but it escaped by a millisecond, flying straight up. Unfortunately the Fanta glass was not as stable as I might have hoped and, as if fainting from a too close encounter, it disgorged its contents on the table accidentally creating a Mecca for all the other flies in the vicinity.

Furious, I concentrated on my still circling nemesis and swatted at it from arm's length. By a sudden change of direction it elude me once more and circled behind me. Not to be fooled again, I whirled around slashing at it with both arms extended toward different directions and then, taking a page from its book of tactics, whirled in the opposite direction, hoping to catch it unawares.

Only then did I see the several dozen seated customers staring at me with the frozen-faced wonderation normally reserved, at least in the West, for an overly energetic mime performance.

I paid my bill and left. They were still staring as I walked away. Everywhere I go, I get stared at but I can't quite figure out why.

A Virtual Tour of Turkmenistan
© 1998-99 Joe Kelley