The Ashgabat Gazette Issue 37


Above, the Presidential Palace gleams in the light of the setting sun as seen from the top of the Neutrality Arch. In the background are the high rises that stretch off toward Berzingy in the south.

--Saturday, 26 December 98--
I was up at 9:30 AM and fit as a fiddle. I went over to the Russian Market and got some bread, butter and Pink Floyd's "The Wall". The last was by far the most expensive, costing 90,000 manat ($7) but it was a two CD set so I was glad I got it.

The thing I didn't get was more Riga, the Hungarian bacon. I went to the place that had the most reliable supply and he said, "Nyet bacon. Finish." and crossed his fore arms and moved them apart for emphasis. I am really glad that I still have the six packages in the freezer. In this place, you buy all of it when it is available because when it's gone, it might be gone for good and if it comes back, it will probably be more expensive.

I walked over to the Iceberg Cafe to see if I could buy some lula kabab but they didn't have any today. I tried to buy some beer but there was a sign that said "sanitare" in Russian and I couldn't quite figure out what was going on. The guy who usually pours the beer attempted to explain something to me but all I got out of it was that I should come back later. When I did, I saw him sitting at a table with a friend and he gave me the thumbs up sign which I returned.

The phone rang and it was Serdar. He said that he had tried to see me and call me but that I wasn't in. Could he come over? Yes.

About 30 minutes later he showed up with a friend by the name of Igor. I offered Igor my hand across the doorway and Serdar said that it was bad luck to shake hands that way. Igor didn't seem to mind so I shook hands with him anyway.

Serdar brought me a "little gift" of a shell on a string to ward of the evil eye and a wrist band that does the same. I inquired if the latter was a good preventative for carpel tunnel syndrome but he wasn't sure.

Igor turned out to be a tall, sandy blond haired young man of about 20 who, Serdar told me, had also studied in the States. He spoke American well but without Serdar's confidence. We had tea, coke, and beer (guess which I drank) and chatted. Igor said that he was an environment major and was thinking about setting up a business in that field. "How will you find your target audience?" I asked. "I will set up a web site," he said.

We chatted about all sorts of things. I suspect that Serdar was showing me off. Eventually they left to go to someone else's house. I gave Igor an eagle feather which amused Serdar to no end. I told Igor to pay no attention to Serdar about eagle feathers, that they were much more important than Serdar imagined. Serdar asked me to guess how many blocks they would get before Igor got rid of the feather. Igor volunteered that he would be sure to take the feather home first. What would be second was much less clear.

We said Happy New Year and moved on to our respective fates.

--Sunday, 27 December 98--
I woke up this morning and decided that for once I would not got to Tolkushka. Instead I worked on emails and surfed the web for Turkmenistan sites.

At Noon I went to the Russian Market to try to buy some functioning batteries. Having been burned before I was extra careful. At one table, I asked to put some Panasonic batteries in my camera before buying them. I did and they were deader than door nails. The vendor suggested I try the more expensive brand and I did and they actually turned the camera on. I was so pleased I bought the set and walked around the Russian Market taking pictures thinking I had figured out how to lick my battery problems. Three pictures later the battery indicator said the batteries were nearly dead. What to do?

I walked over toward restaurant Dynasty that Grant, Elene and I had had beers in on Friday night, passing through Lenin Park on the way. I took another picture of the statue of Lenin, this time with mottled clouds and the sun behind him. I underexposed the shot just for emphasis.

Above, the view east from the Neutrality Arch showing the new pool and fountain opened with the Arch.

Concert at 6 PM at the Aina Restaurant at 6 PM. The concert turned out to be a lot of fun. The music was light and festive with Chattanooga choo-choo and works by the Beatles. I met Roustam and Eric there. They were both busy chasing women. Eric walked home with me to see my bike which he is considering buying. We chatted for a while and then he went off to a party which was starting at 10 PM.

--Monday, 28 December 98-- $1 = 12,500 manat
The dawn came amidst wispy clouds and I knew it would be a good day. When I got to the office, the sky was clear and blue and sun was streaming light from its low position in the sky.

At 11 AM I went over to the Tower of Power and went up to the top. The tickets are only 1,000 manat and then you take the elevator up the first leg of the trip. Your are provided for by the elevator operator who take your ticket and pushes the one button that says "Up". When the door opens you enter a small donut shaped room (the second elevator is in the center of the donut) that contains a bar with a few chairs, an incredibly gaudy clock made of brass and wood and a lot of windows looking out on the city.

After your tour you are ready for the second elevator. This is guarded by two young gentlemen, one of whom had a huge hickey on the side of his neck. Dracula would have been impressed by the size of it. Soon you are rising up and looking out the glass side that faces the War Memorial. The city shrinks before and building rise out of the horizon. This is a low city, the only thing that you can see that can be anywhere near as big as the Neutrality Arch are the minarets on the Seuliman Demeril Mosque. The view is quite impressive and I took several pictures.

A Virtual Tour of Turkmenistan
© 1998-99 Joe Kelley