The Ashgabad Gazette Issue 23

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 far right.

--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 rug shopping.

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 her.

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 these things."

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.

A Virtual Tour of Turkmenistan
© 1998-99 Joe Kelley