Above, a Teke "Gul"
[design]. In this instance, the usual orange of the upper right
and lower left part of the design is here replaced by a light brown.
--Monday, 25 January 99-- $1 = 15,000 manat
One of the locals in the ministry came buy to ask if I was interested
in buying a Teke carpet from a friend of his. I looked at it and, since
the price was right ($100 for 1.3 by 2 meter carpet) and it was my first
standard Teke design carpet, decided to buy it. Now I have to go through
the shipping experience again.
An expat made an interesting point to me recently about the number of
families that are dependent for him for their income. He counted five:
his landlord, his translator, his driver, his guard, his housekeeper and
his cook. For me the list is shorter: my landlady has a job and derives
extra income from the apartment, I use Ed's driver but my translator is
mine indeed. I have no guard, but there is a woman who comes in to clean
twice a week. I guess I am making a smaller impact on the economy than
--Thursday, 28 January 99-- $1 = 16,000 manat
I asked about a very small collection of graves that had been located
very close to the Neutrality Arch but which had been moved without notice
to an unknown location. I was told that they were of people famous in
the Soviet era. Apparently there was at least one First Secretary and
possibly the woman who first took of the veil and burned it publicly.
This happened in the 1920s and was a forerunner of the bra-burnings of
the 1960s. Apparently in the new era of independence, these five or six
people were the heroes of a previous time and of no importance now.
Today's issue of the City newspaper, Asqabat, had a picture of a model
for a monument to the country's Independence. It looks like a cross between
Chichenitza and the Neutrality Arch. The structure is basically a series
of six square one-story buildings set one on top of the other with each
addition smaller than the one below. At each corner is a steep, narrowing
staircase that rises to the sixth floor.
On the top is a round platform supported by columns and a smaller round
platform on top of that. And crowning it all is a glittering statue of
--you guessed it -- Turkmenbashi!
This is just a proposal but the tender for design drawings has been announced
so the government intends to proceed. About the only speculation is where
to put it. On person thought it might be put out near the airport so people
arriving could be appropriately impressed by it.
At midday, I went to the Carpet Museum Store and photographed some of
the basic designs for my web page. I bought a Yomut carpet for $45 that
I swear was priced at $25 last week and I don't think the price changed.
This afternoon I started sneezing a lot; I could feel some sort of illness
(probably the cold Ed caught from Roustam) coming on so I wanted to have
an easy evening. I answered emails, finished off my carpet pages, looked
at TV (saw a strange special on Laurel and Hardy) and went to bed. Slept
well but wanted more sleep in the morning.
--Friday, 29 January 99--
Went with the driver at 10 am over to the dungeon under the Carpet Museum
to have the carpet certified that I bought from a local friend. It turns
out that the won't be there today until three o'clock. Go figure.
I went back at 3 PM and the carpet experts were there. The driver measured
the carpet and the experts hardly seemed to notice it. They devoted their
energies to filling out the form allowing me to pay some money to export
Today we had a meeting with an official in City Hall. We were told that
that it cost 283 manat for one kilowatt of heat and that the population
pays 10 manat per square meter of heated area with the difference subsidized
by the central government. He remarked that very often the money appropriated
by the central government was not enough to meet costs.
He went on to say that much of the existing infrastructure is obsolete
and referenced the water supply pipes which he described as being 40%
to 50% in critical condition. There is no multi-year plan to deal with
any of this or the other issues.
He told us that water consumption in Europe averaged 125-150 liters per
person but in Ashgabat it is 1,000 per person. He has asked for projects
to deal with problems but is told "there is no money."
Asked about priorities, he said, "We have multiple priorities: roads,
heating systems, waste collection and recycling." Also the water
system and the sewer system. Of the latter, he said the city has no treatment
plant. "We let nature treat it."
He added an insight: The president knows all these things because he was
once the Mayor of Ashgabat.