An eerie image of the Anau
ruins in late twilight. You may have to adjust your monitors to
see this one. Who says that bad photography isn't beautiful?
-Tuesday, 12 January 99-- $1 = 13,800 manat
A holiday in Turkmenistan, Memorial Day, in memory of the great defeat
of the Turkmen around 1881 by the Russians who slaughtered about 15,000
of them. A work day for us consultants.
Well, if this doesn't beat all! My name appeared in an article on the
top of page 3 ("On Various Things") of the January 9 four-page
issue of the only national newspaper, "Neutral Turkmenistan."
Titled "Christmas Celebration in the Orphanage" the article
was little more than a list of contributors. Whatever happened to my low
Just after I got home the door bell tweeted and it was a friend who said
that he had a friend and a car downstairs and asked me if I was interested
in visiting Anau, an ancient ruin near Ashgabat that had a famous Mosque
that had survived everything except the 1948 earthquake. I considered
the question at length for ten seconds and said, "Yes."
Twenty minutes later we were looking at the tumbled ruins in the growing
gloaming. The light was poor for photos but that didn't stop me. I got
some pictures of some of the mosaics, some odd things made of piled bricks,
and eerie photo of a black outline of the ruin against an intensely deep
--Wednesday, 13 January 99-- $1 = 13,700 manat
Today the most significant news was that of a great man leaving the country.
His modesty forbids me naming him here but he knows who he is and why
this announcement is here. National security prevents me from saying more.
Please do not press me on this matter.
--Thursday, 14 January 99-- $1 = 13,700 manat
The office party for Gary Kelly's departure was in the Manuscript ministry
building near the Embassy. There were about 100 people there and there
was much animated conversation. Ed gave a toast to Gary that was a short
speech. In this country, all respected toasts are at least a short speech!
At the end, Ed suddenly called me up to give my "May the road rise
with you, ..." Irish toast. Natasha, who translated, had to ask my
meaning more than once but she got through it. Then I gave Gary the "May
you be in Heaven a half an hour before the devil knows you are dead"
toast. For some reason, that one never seems to get translated.
I met George McLean of Catholic University and Father Andre, a Polish
Priest and a very pious one at that. He told me that the Apostolic Nuncio
had told him to be patient on the issue of registration (you need 500
believers in one city in order to "register" so you can legally
hold religious services). So he is biding his time. Given that they mustered
only about 20 people for Christmas Mass (including two Episcopalians),
it seems the wisest course.
I spoke with George and told him that I thought the current Pontiff had
departed from the principles of Vatican II slowly but rather dramatically,
departing especially from the principle of collegiality, the principle
expressed so wisely and beautifully by Pope John XXIII. I went on in my
quiet way to say that I thought the Pope was sincere but misguided, etc.
He didn't really agree or disagree with me. But then, in Turkmenistan,
the walls have ears. Who knows how Turkmenbashi feels about Vatican II?
--Friday, 14 January 99-- $1 = 14,500 manat
Getting my training approved has turned out to be a major production.
Although government officials have had the agenda for weeks, they suddenly
told us that it had to be approved and by the highest levels. This took
a day but it did happen, so the things progress, however slowly.
Tonight's Russian lesson was the 11th and the first one where I did not
feel completely at sea. There was a lot that I didn't understand but I
understood why I was not understanding it. Now that's progress!
--Saturday, 16 January 99--
I woke up feeling chipper and decided that even though I didn't really
need anything, I would go and poke around the Russian Market. There was
no bacon to be had, not even for ready money. I did find some soap that
is very soft and dissolves so quickly. The third thing that I meant to
look for I forgot. I took a couple of pictures and walked home. It was
noon now and I was hungry so I cooked up half a package of my stockpiled
Hungarian bacon and made myself a cheddar cheese omelet. Yum, yum.
A Peace Corps volunteer that I met called and will come over tonight to
get the Cruiser. He is buying it. I will miss the Cruiser but it has served
my purposes and I don't like to ride a bike in cold weather -- I like
to ride a bike in sunny, blazingly hot weather with the sweat pouring
off me. Now that is pleasure.
Of course, each to his own.
A sample of the blue mosaic
tile for which Anau was so justly famous. It appears that more and
more of the ruin ends up as mementos for travelers. Why does the
light and dark blue combination remind me of something?