A can of the "bellwether"
Efes beer currently priced at 4,500 manat.
--Sunday, 15 November 98-- $1 = 10,500 manat
Ed and I went to the Russian Market and I shopped with glee. We searched
for butter and bleach, we bought raisons, fruit, bread, cookies and whatever
else tickled our fancy. It was fun.
On the way home I stopped at Laze's for my ten beers. And then it happened:
a can of (imported) Efes beer was now 4,500 manat's, up from 4,000. I
have been tracking the decline in the value of the manat and have been
wondering when I would see the effect on imported goods. There the evidence
was, a 12% rise in my favorite product, one whose price had shown great
stability. Henceforward I will refer to it as the "bell weather"
can of Efes beer.
The Sunday Market
Went to Tolkushka, the Sunday Market. Mostly I just wanted to experience
it but I needed AA batteries for my camera so I used that as an excuse.
I got a ride from an ungraceful driver who wanted 10,000 manat (over a
dollar!) and then balked at driving me to the entrance. I paid the 5,000
manat I had agreed to and walk 200 meters/yards to the entrance and noted
that I was making better time than the cars.
Tolkushka is a giant amalgamation of too many cars, too many people,
dusty lanes, car exhaust, and countless little booths and ground displays.
The aisles are crowded with humanity of every type, pushing and jostling,
looking and offering. The very name, Tolkushka, comes from a word meaning
"pushing against." No market was ever better named.
Everything in the universe seems to be on sale here, from late season
melons to carrots, from goats to rugs to old Soviet medals but, at least
today, no Duracell batteries. I would swear that if you wanted to buy
a nuclear warhead, this would be the place to find it.
I decided to take the bus back to the city. Several leave every minute
but there was quite a pushing match underway to get on them. The women,
being feminine to the core, pushed hardest. The old ladies pushed hardest
of all, grasping bus parts with bony hands and heaving themselves in body
checks that a hockey player would been proud of. I got myself on the bus
by cleverly maneuvering myself into the center of a phalanx of babushkas
and was swept by their assault into the bus.
The trip to my stop took ten minutes and I handed my 1,000 manat note
to the fare taker, a boy about four years old who succeeded in balancing
himself on the bus's dashboard regardless of the sways and bumps produced
by the potholes and the drivers attempts to swerve around them.
All in all, another day at the Sunday Market.
Serdar arrived around 2:30 PM. We were chatting in the foyer when the
buzzer twitted and we looked at each other. It was Asat with his Russian
dictionary in hand. I said, "I thought you were coming at 7 PM."
"Yes, but I have something I must do then." "Come on in,"
I said, thinking, "when it rains, it pours."
We all went into the living room and Serdar and I chatted while Asat listened.
Serdar wanted to set up a business as a guide to foreigners. I gave him
my opinions on the topic: He needs a business card, a flier with proposed
tours (shopping, historical, communist, Turkmenbashy, etc.) and that he
needed to realize three things about all his potential customers: they
are a bit nervous, they want to be entertained, and they have time to
kill. I went on at length, even designing a business card for him. Serdar
likes to spend time with Americans.
He finally asked if he could use my computer to check his email. While
he was doing it, Asat taught me numbers and I taught him body parts (eye
brow, chin, wrist, etc.).
Then we sat around my Macintosh G3 while I showed it off. They were both
impressed. It came to be 7 PM and Asat left. I gave him a feather. He
was too confused to decline my generosity.
Serdar stayed on and we talked and talked about an endless succession
of meaningless items. He left at 10:30 after borrowing my Central Asian
guide book, accepting six postage stamps and shaking my hand many times.
--Monday, 16 November 98-- $1 = 8,500 manat
This morning is an example of the dictum, "Never get up early."
This morning I violated this sound advice and all it did was get me was
trouble. First the water wasn't on so I couldn't shower. So I futzed around
with my emails and the kitchen and the horns, etc. The water came on an
hour late and whatever. So by the time I was ready, Voluzhia rang the
door bell, indicating that he thought me late. So remember: never get
I sent official government postcards to my mother and my aunt. I decided
to translate the cover phrase "Bayramynyz gutly bolsun!" as
"Having a grand time, wish you were here," for my mother but
it came out "The guilty boys will be punished!" for my aunt.
Ah, the travails of translation!