The Ashgabad Gazette Issue 17

Would you wash your clothes with this product?

--Tuesday, 20 October 98-- $1 = 8,000 manat
This evening I delivered the additional pictures to Duran and politely avoided going into the house. He and his brother took quite a shine to my bike, the Cruiser.

I went to the Iceberg Cafe and ordered a lamb shashlik and more of that locally brewed beer but the shashlik wasn't the ground meat kind I had before. Later I discovered that I got what I liked the first time because I DIDN'T know how to order. Here, shashlik is what we call shish-kabob. The ground meat version is called lula kabob. When I first tried to order, I used the word kabob, not shashlik, and got what I really liked. When I learned the correct word, it was for something I didn't like as much. This is proof that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

--Wednesday, 21 October 98-- $1 = 8,000 manat
Ed, Grant, and I had lunch with an American petroleum expert. He was quite fascinating. I asked about the refinery situation. It seems that Turkmenistan has two refineries, one in Turkmenbashy and one in the East. The Turkmenbashy refinery is 50 years old and has a capacity of 6 million tons a year. The refinery in the East has a capacity of 3 million tons a year but is just a "tea kettle" refinery (a rather limited ability).

The proposal is to expand, upgrade and rehab the Turkmenbashy refinery to the tune of one billion USD. But the current need in Turkmenistan is for 2 million tons a year and the outside estimated need for 2010 is 3 million a year. Hmm. With gasoline at 30 cents a gallon, the logic in all this is elusive.

Language Lessons
I got Roustam to help me with my Russian vocabulary. From him I learned that the word for brother and cousin is the same and the following food terms:

-beef kabob = gaviazhe kebob
-lamb = baranina
-plain hamburger = gamburger smiasum be-ess dabavak = hamburger meat without additions
-no mayonnaise = be-ess mayonnaise
-no pickles = be-ess salenee
-no cucumbers = be-ess agourtsof

--Thursday, 22 October 98-- $1 = 7,800 in the morning and reported to have fallen to 7,500 manat by noon. By late afternoon the word was that it was back at 8,000 and by close of business the word was 7,500. This is the first down-up fluctuation in the exchange rate. Was it some reaction to government pressure?

Bureaucratic Jargon: "The Mission also liased with the representatives of ...." I don't know about you, but I found myself squirming (along with my spell checker) when I read this. Why couldn't it have been "met with" or "discussed the issues with"?

Ed was so pleased with the work of the lad Vlad and Jamal that he said we should have pizza for lunch. Roustam and Tatiana got them and we invited Grant and Katchia. Tatiana contributed a bottle of champagne and we all enjoyed it. She said it was a gift "from before" with no further explanation. It was a very pleasant time.

Went shopping with Roustam and Tatiana. They brought me to a post office where Roustam helped me get stamps and what passes for postcards here. Then we went to the sole department store (really a collection of small specialty stores) in Ashgabad where bought two bottles of aftershave ($6). What I didn't buy was almost more interesting: a laundry detergent called "Barf". I am sure it is a good product but I doubt it would sell under that name in the States.

A reader writes:
"You said that 'another expat...." So the question is are you an expat in the way we traditionally think of that term here,,, or do you mean that you are a foreign traveler and business man and out (ex) of the pat (country)?"

Overseas, expat means someone from a country other than the one you are in. I think it comes from ex (from, out of) and patria (fatherland). The notion of exile is not implied. We also use the word "repatriate" to refer to going or being sent home. "She was repatriated last month."

A Virtual Tour of Turkmenistan
© 1998-99 Joe Kelley