The Ashgabad Gazette Issue 33


Above, a view of the sea of humanity that swarms to Tolkushka on chilly Sunday mornings. The line that goes from the lower left to the upper right is the aisle of seated vendors in this part of the market.

--Wednesday, 09 December 98-- $1 = 11,600 manat
This morning, as I left my apartment the sun was casting long shadows down Karyeva Street. It is almost the shortest day of the year. When we turned onto Kemine, the sun was directly in our eyes. I pulled my baseball cap low across my forehead. Another day was at hand.

At 11 AM Edjegyz took me to the Carpet Factory because she knows the director. I showed him my Tolkushka purchase and his contempt was visible. He flipped the fringe and said that the woof was COTTON! Imagine that. This is a country that has carpet attitude that we can hardly understand.

I hid my lack of disappointment and in short order, I bought two carpets with Ahal-Teke patterns that are old designs but new carpets. I choose not to get the standard Teke design because I have seen so much of it.

The next event was to take the carpets to the small room beneath the Carpet Museum where they issue export certificates. Turkmenistan believes that it should not export it carpet heritage so they have an elaborate procedure to document the age of exported carpets. In reality it devolves into paying a fee to two ladies who sit in a windowless room and fill out forms. They probably know their carpets but when you arrive with certified rugs from the Carpet Factory, they just fill out the forms for you.

I had lunch (pasta Sophia Loren) at the Nissa Hotel and they would not allow payment in manat. Rational but yet one more symbol of the declining value of the local currency.

--Saturday, 12 December 98-- $1 = ???? manat
Neutrality Day. I thought about attending but I decided I was so neutral that I should stay home. So I missed whatever ceremonies were incident to the inauguration of the Arch of Neutrality. From what I had seen in the days preceding the event, it was another major public relations event for the government. Panis et Circus.

In the morning I walked over to the Russian Market and bought four quarter kilos of Hungarian bacon. I walked on to Univermag but it was closed because of the holiday. I walked through Lenin Park on my way back and saw the same guy that I had noticed last week. He was creepy and had a distant stare in his sunken eyes. Out of touch with this surroundings. Crazed. I kept walking.

I walked over to the Peace Arch and saw the crowd who were enjoying the newly opened park around its base. I took some dramatic pictures of the sun backlighting the statue of Turkmenbashy.

Back at home I unloaded my kilo of bacon and walked over to the Iceberg cafe where I got some lula kabab and had three empty Fanta bottles filled with beer. This is the only Turkmen beer that I have discovered.

--Sunday, 13 December 98-- $1 = 12,000 manat
I slept comfortably late and got up at 8:30 to realize that Ed was supposed to call me about going to Tolkushka. Shortly thereafter he did and off we went to the "Pushing" market. We were pushed and jostled from here to there and Ed bought some woolen socks, some jewelry, some clothing, etc. and filled out his gift list.

We took the Teke Market bus back to the city and had the pushingest experience yet getting on. From there we dumped the stuff at Ed's apartment and then went to the Florida club to see what the UN was putting on. A Charity Bazaar, it turned out. I ran into Serdar's mother who recognized me.

I went back to my apartment and cooked myself the best cheddar cheese omelet that I have had in years. The bacon was the very salty Hungarian stuff, Ringa, by name, and I loved it. Yum, yum -- and I get to leave the dishes for the maid. There are some benefits to being an expat.

--Wednesday, 16 December 98-- $1 = 13,000 manat
I walked over to Lezzet to buy some Efes and no Efes! I asked why and he said "Dollar" and pointed up with his finger. I asked for ten Marmara and he said, "No, only four." So I got the four Marmara and then he suggested a shrink wrapped package of five bottles of Efes with a drinking glass. I took that also and he had to go to great effort to get it out of the window display thus implying it was the last set that he had. So my bellwether can of Efes has capsized in the increasingly turbulent economic waters. What next?

A Virtual Tour of Turkmenistan
© 1998-99 Joe Kelley