Above, a handsome specimen
of a horse. This is one of the breed of Akhalteke horses of which
Turkmenistan is so proud. These horse carried Seljuk and Ottoman
invaders all the way to Constantinople and were noted for their
beauty and endurance. The are claimed to be the ancestors of the
Arabian horses so noted in history.
--Friday, 25 December 98-- $1 = 13,000 manat
A reader writes:
"Please do recount and experiences of Jesus in the land of Muhammad."
The land of Muhammad, yes, but only nominally. They even eat pork here
and refer to it as "the other white meat" or "white mutton."
VERY FEW people go to a mosque and liquor is available everywhere. This
is not a country that is passionate about religion. I feel comfortable
To understand Christmas here, "in the land of Muhammad" you
have to remember that for the better part of this century, the Soviet
government disapproved of religion and did what it could to discourage
it. So the celebration of Christmas as a religious holiday was discouraged
and the much less religious holiday of New Years was encouraged -- after
all, the people need holidays. So, over the years what we think of as
Christmas (gifts, trees, family, celebration, etc.) became merged into
the New Year celebration.
So December 25th is just another day here without any special significance
But That Is Them and We Are Us
Today is Christmas Day and Julie and Paul Hamlin had a Christmas brunch
at 1 PM. Murl Baker contributed a cooked turkey (God bless his soul),
I provided the makings for Mimosas and a half kilo of cooked bacon. Everyone
had a good time. There was a lot of conversation and much enjoyment of
I listened to a young man who works for the British Embassy in Moscow
and lives there. I said that the KGB is still active although without
much of a purpose. He said they will enter your apartment and leave a
sign of their presence such as turning off your freezer or taking a dump
in your toilet and not flushing. Based on my wide experience in these
matters, I said, "The least the KGB could do would be . . ."
but he interrupted by saying that they do it "Just to keep the pressure
on." Hmm. Rude. Very rude is what I think.
I took some of the deserts back to the office at 3:30 PM and surprised
everyone by showing up. Edjegyz called me aside to ask me if I was going
home at 6 PM and seemed very confused when I said I would be going home
early today. I found out from the driver that Edjegyz had put some fish
she had bought in the car and was hoping for a ride home.
Above, another image of a
Tonight is my second Russian lesson. It is sure confusing in the beginning.
I fared better tonight but got totally lost at the end when the trainers
asked for names of family members. Since I have no children, I assumed
they wanted to know about parents and grandparents. When they pointed
to the pictures on the wall they were naming grandchildren as my grandparents.
Confusing at the time.
Grant, Elene and I stopped at Dynasty, a restaurant across from the US
Embassy. It has a very European ambiance and a fascinating Western oriented
menu that includes a Chiliburger. I will have to have lunch there soon.
I was studying my Russian vocabulary at 1 AM when suddenly the electricity
failed. It was just another periodic power outage that is so common here.
We had one in the Ministry building last week that lasted over an hour
so I sent the staff home 15 minutes early. [Please don't report this to
It makes me want to know enough
about horses to appreciate these wonderful creatures for their full
On the Eve of the New Year it has come to my attention that the Special
Persecutor has expanded his activities to target those who disagree with
his views. Apparently infuriated by my participation in the 70 percent
of Americans who do not think the President should be impeached or removed
from office, he has commenced an investigation into my activities here
in Ashgabad. Press leaks directly from the SP's office indicate that he
will allege substantial and credible evidence that I knowingly and willfully
misspelled the name of the city in which I currently reside.
I appeal to the American people to listen to my side of the story, to
judge for themselves the truth or falsity of the charges made and to do
that before any referral to the House of Reprobates is made. What I tell
you now is the truth! Or at least not technically false.
I admit to an inappropriate relationship with the Cyrillic alphabet. I
sometimes mistype Ashgabat but about this I have a problem. When Turkmenistan
was a Soviet Republic the only spelling was in the Russian (Cyrillic)
alphabet and the transliterations ended with a "d", mostly.
Sometimes with a "t" but I insist the "t"s were in
Now, while Russian predominates as the language of government and business,
the country has a new official language, Turkmen, and a *new* Latin-like
alphabet to express it. And now, the official spelling of the capital
city is "Ashgabat" in this new alphabet. I admit to this now
but I swear I did not know it when I did the deed. I further insist that
the "t" of the Turkmen alphabet is really the same as the "d"
of the Latin alphabet.
What am I to do? With all good intentions I have mislead untold numbers
of people into thinking that the name of this city ends in a "d"
when there is reasonable and credible evidence that I knew, or should
have known, that it does or should have been seen to be ending in a "t".
How should I respond to this ethical dilemma? I intended no harm to the
national interest, I only wanted to have a good time writing emails that
described my experiences in this far away place with a strange spelling
Who will believe that I have not been asked to lie when the President
never personally told me to tell the truth? Clearly I will have to live
with this stain on my blue-tinted escutcheon. I can only say that I am
determined to work out my term here and to go on doing the best job that
I can do to preserve and protect the American Way -- regardless of the
alphabet it is expressed in.
And I further promise that from now on, "Ashgabad" will be spelled
as "Ashgabat". It rhymes better with Gazette, anyway.
Happy New Year!!