The Ashgabad Gazette Issue 13

--Monday, 12 October 98-- $1 = 7,100 manat
No cold water this morning. For my apartment that means no hot water either. Another expat told me that he had district cold and hot water and a different schedule for his hot water and his cold water. So sometimes he has hot water but no cold water. This morning for me it was nada for both.

Photo of me wearing a Turkmen hat. Please do no confuse with big hair from Baltimore.

An expat who was here on a short-term assignment told me about being robbed at gunpoint in Almati, Kazakhstan of $1,500 (they ignored the Sterling, the Turkish money, the other Stan money and took only dollars) and they were the police. It was daylight and he was in front of his place of work. Fortunately, Almati is 500 miles from here.

Important Find
One discovery I made while waiting at the Nyssa Hotel for a luncheon meeting was that their amenities shop has foreign periodicals. Vogue, Paris Match, and more practically, Newsweek, PC Week (US Edition), and the Herald Tribune. I will be shopping there in the future.

To date, I have not located what we would call a bookstore in this city. My guidebook mentions as many as four but so dismissively that I have little hope as I continue my search.

Getting Around Ashgabad
The taxi system here . . . well, that doesn't quite describe it. They have cabs here but no cab meters. You pay a fixed fee, usually 3,000 manats (40 cents) or 5,000 for longer trips. On the other hand, there aren't nearly enough cabs for the need so to take a ride somewhere in the city you just stand in the curb area on the street and hold you arm out slightly from your body. A car will pull over and you tell them where you want to go (or show them the prelettered sign you brought). The fee is the same, 3,000 or 5,000 depending on distance. A great idea as the system works extremely well.

There mass transit here but it is in a sorry state. The government operates a ragtag collection of buses, engine covers flapping as they bump over pot holes, fumes spewing in every direction. This is the land that preventive maintenance forgot or that forgot preventative maintenance.

--Wednesday, 14 October 98-- $1 = 7,400 manat
Ed said that half the plugs in his apartment had no electricity. It turned out that it wasn't just his apartment but rather the whole neighborhood that was without electricity. It came on after he got home at night.

Today the Office Received an Odd Email
"Attention to the businessmen of Turkmenistan.

"Ladies and gentlemen!

"CLAIT firm director, Tatiana Pirkulieva, the companion of the leading Russian firms, addresses to all foreign businessmen with the statement: Turkey firm STEP Overseas Inc., with Muratkhan at the head and his partner Ismail, is an assembly of liars and villains.

"At the beginning of September 1998 our firm supplied to STEP the equipment form Nature guarding Ministry. On the low security this equipment was bought in Moscow and delivered to the Ministry.

"As mediator Muratkhan sold this equipment three times much, arranged it unprofessionally and didn't return to supplier in the person of my firm rest of cost. Now he refuses from meetings with me and my manager.

"So STEP firm continues to deceive Turkmen clients.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I want to warn you against cooperation with these Turkey swindlers."

I pass this on so you will be appropriately cautious in your dealings.

--Thursday, 15 October 98-- $1 = 7,250 manat
Took pictures of the staff today. It was a huge hit. Everyone acted like they had never seen a photo of themselves before. They all wanted copies. People from the various departments stopped in to ask to have their pictures taken. It nearly became a madhouse. They insisted in taking a picture of me.

A Virtual Tour of Turkmenistan
© 1998-99 Joe Kelley