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
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
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
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
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.