Turkmen women examine some of the rugs at
Tolkushka, the Sunday Market. Most of the designs you see are relatively
low quality Turkish carpets. The exception is the carpet on the
--Sunday, 01 November 98-- $1 = 7,500 manat
I tried to call Asat to go to the Tolkushka Market at 9 AM but the line
was busy. When I hung up the phone rang. It was Asat; he asked me to wait
for him. He came over promptly and we went to the market to do some preliminary
It was interesting. I have clearly improved my skills in judging carpets
because I could tell the Turkish rugs from the higher quality Turkmen
carpets. That's the good news. The bad news is that I will probably never
own a Turkmen carpet if the prices quoted to me are the going rate. I
don't think i want to invest $1,800 to $5,000 in a carpet. Wow! The quality
was good but I can live without it.
Later on, I realized that Asat understands less of what I say than he
lets on. He tends to say, "Yeah, yeah," a lot and I now realize
that when he does this, it is because he didn't get what I said. I told
him to tell Marat that I would like to photograph him in his uniform.
He said, "Yeah, yeah," and then went on to reveal that mistook
me to mean that I wanted to photograph him in his suit. That is true but
not what I said. His price translations were way off so I will check at
the National Carpet Museum.
The Sunday Market has every
thing you could want. Fresh cut meat included.
Just after I exchanged some money, Noble appeared with a friend named
Scott who told me that he had met me at the concert. I dislike being reminded
that I have forgotten someone because I do it all the time. Just to be
polite, I made a point of introducing Asat to both of them.
I asked Noble if he had gotten my invitation. He said, "Yes, but
I have a wedding to go to that day." I remarked I probably had lost
the Embassy contingent as they were asked to be at the Ambassador's residence
that night. Noble said that he might come over after the wedding. I said
the party would go on as long as a guest was standing.
In the afternoon, we went to the Iceberg Cafe and had lula kabob which
Asat could not translate and which I could not find in his Langanscheidt
dictionary. The food and beer were good.
--Monday, 02 November 98-- $1 = 7,700 manat
Entered my office to discover a discolored rug and a dank smell. They
had tested the heating system over the weekend and my radiator leaked
all over the floor. Not really a big mess (nothing was on the floor) but
an inconvenience at best. I opened the window and set to work, hoping
for the best.
Eleonora warned me that the breeze from the open window was dangerous,
"especially in the Autumn." So once again I am with people who
believe that "air that moves is air that kills."
--Tuesday, 03 November 98-- $1 = 7,500 manat
This morning I discovered that the leak was continuing so the room smelled
as bad this morning as yesterday. When the room was given to me, it had
exactly one object in it, an enamel pot with rusted insides and a lid.
Now I understand why. I put the pot under the leak but it didn't quite
make it under the lower pipe. I jammed the lid under the leak and over
the pot and the drips now go into the pot and not onto the carpet.
Eleonora asked if the building people had done anything yesterday. I said,
"Two man came in and looked at it." "That is our Soviet
system," she said. "First to come and look for two days. Then
to discuss for three days. Then to reach a conclusion in two days. Then
to have this conclusion approved in five days. Then to prepare to implement
this decision in three days. And maybe by the end of the month, they might
actually do something."
--Wednesday, 04 November 98--
Trip to Asat's class for a discussion; to arrive at noon. I did and was
met by Asat who introduced me to a friend named Machmood. We went into
the institute and to a class room that had no blackboard and a puddle
on the floor. There were no working lights and few chairs. The students
seemed a little embarrassed by this and soon scouted out a room that was
bigger and had a few working lights, and a "greenboard" propped
up on two chairs and leaning against a dreary wall.
I was about to start talking to the class of twelve students when one
of the young women got up and left the room not looking at all well. The
teacher signaled another girl to go with her. It seemed best for me to
ignore the event so I drew a deep breath and . . . a howling scream came
from the corridor. The class rushed out of the room and Asat asked me
to wait in the room. I did so and remained alone for a while. I could
see the class gathered around a prone body in the hallway. Soon the body
was lifted up and carried away. Asat came back to tell me that "She
has a bad heart." I thought it was more like epilepsy, especially
since the class seemed concerned but unsurprised by the event.
When the class had reassembled I talked with them about the differences
between English and American, where I was from, and how I pronounced words.
One of the students told me that I spoke very rapidly and I agreed with
After the class, I walked back toward my office with Asat. He told me
that he had to go to the hospital (he had a pain in his stomach). Since
he had to stop at this home on the way, we parted company.
Fractious readers write to correct incorrectnesses:
"Joe: . . . I enjoy your Ashgabad stuff, but have the following comment
on in response to your most recent post: The green/yellow/red lights that
you describe are not street lights. They are traffic lights or traffic
signals. Street lights are the lights that provide illumination of the
roadway, not traffic control. I'm a public works director, so I know about
I am sure he is and does and I stand corrected.
Another reader writes:
"Joe, the Russian for "to live" and "to eat"
are really different words though they sound alike. . . . The sign of
longer translations is usually that the translator really doesn't understand
enough to translate it directly and therefore has to explain it."
The first point is correct. My statement that the Russian for "to
live" and "to eat" are the same is wrong. But I disagree
with the second point. Proof? Compare a Russian version of Tolstoy's "War
and Peace" with an English version. The Russian version has about
50% more pages.