--Sunday, 12 September 99--
Today there was an office staff picnic in Chulee, a forested spot in the
foothills of the Kopetdag mountains about half an hours ride from the
city. We meet at the main office at 8:30 and crowded into a VW-van-type
vehicle and off we went.
When we arrived, the gate was locked and we couldn't locate anyone with
the key. So abandoning the vehicle we walked the short distance to the
camp site. We put the beer in the creek to cool off and Vitally and others
prepared chicken and pork hash. The best fun of the day was talking to
Ake of the WTO who is a navel war ship maven, especially about World War
II. He was very knowledgeable and added to the conversation a lot.
I suggested to Ed that he personally publish all his government finance
writing on the Internet. I described how it could be done quite simply
(main page with links to book/article index pages with links to content).
He said he was a convert and would do it.
--Monday, 13 September 99--
Ed went off to the National Economics Institute to lecture for over an
hour. I should have gone but I didn't think of it early enough to suggest
Had lunch with Ed at the Exclusive. I had a lamb kabob that I didn't quite
like and Ed had lentil soup and scrambled eggs. As he ate it he said,
"Look at this, it's way too much," and continued to eat with
Tanya and Roustam told me that while I was back in the States, two money
changers who were well known to regular users were lured to distant locations
with a lot of money with them and murdered. The perils of business.
Geldey came by at 7 PM and brought with him his best friend (who I had
met at the Iceberg and who I thought had invited me to his house) whose
name I can neither understand nor pronounce. It seemed to me that he was
showing off my place. His friend went into the bathroom and examined all
my shampoo, lotions, etc. He seemed impressed. Perhaps this happened because
my apartment complex has a reputation of Turkmen-style luxuriousness.
I fed them bread and cheese and they really liked the cheddar. I tasted
it myself and realized that Ed was right when he called it outstanding.
Geldey asked me how old I was and I wrote down 45. He put his forefinger
up, waved it back and forth in my face and said slowly, "Neeyet,
Neeyet." I held my ground (I've gotten away with this before) and
asked him how old he was. He wrote 32 which is about what I thought.
He asked me when I was going back to the States and I said, "November."
I think he asked me to take him with me and I nodded "Yes,"
and mimed a satchel bag in front of me and told him to get in it. I latched
it on the top and then stood up and jauntily walked away with it. Smiles
all around but Geldey repeated the request several times. My reply was
always the same.
Turkmenistan is the graveyard of motorcycle sidecars. You see them tooling
around everyone. What is so rare back home is commonplace here. I wonder
--Tuesday, 14 September 99--
Had lunch at the Central Restaurant on Turkmenbashy street. It is neat,
clean, nice looking, and run by Chuck Cakici who, not surprisingly, I
ran into there. We had a pleasant conversation and he helped me get the
kind of hamburger that I wanted.
Above, a view of the Russian
Market. You can see the grand concrete columns rising to support
the elaborate "fan vaulted" squares that constitute the
cover for the open market.
Later, at the Russian Market, I bought the rest of the log of that Red
Cow cheddar for fear that it would disappear before I could stock up.
Fortunately three logs remain so we shouldn't be without a good cheddar
for a while. I found out that it is made in Australia. Anchor, my favorite
butter is produced in New Zealand. My mind boggles at the thought that
somehow it is profitable to ship these perishables the great distances
from there to here and sell them at a reasonable price (to a foreigner).
At night I called Serdar, who had spent a year in a U.S. high school,
and we chatted on the phone. I asked me what I was doing and I said I
would probably go for a walk. He volunteered to accompany me and I agreed.
While waiting for him, the bell rang and it was Geldey. It was my fault,
when we had parted, he had said Tuesday in Russian but I had confused
it with Thursday. I told him that I was meeting a friend and he left in
a philosophic mood.
Serdar and I met at the cafe across the street. He looked different from
how I remembered him but I couldn't quite place it. When I asked him,
he said that he had shaved his head for the summer. We walked past the
War Memorial, down to the Neutrality Arch, under it to see the shops,
then over to the Iceberg Cafe. The latter was completely dark except for
the light from the shashlik fire. They had no electricity so they could
not clean glasses and dishes and thus had to close.
The night was so mild that I wanted to sit outside, so we walked back
to the park that crosses Magtymguly at Novoi and sat down to have a beer
and a coke respectively. During all of this Serdar talked of his plans
to run his own business, be it miniature golf, a disco or other plans.
But even he admits that he lacks the necessary capital. I suggested that
he needs to work running someone else's business to get practical experience.
He didn't really agree with my recommendation. His drive to own and run
his own business is very strong.
While we walked, he said that he appreciated the chance to practice his
English and that maintaining fluency is important to him. From the way
he said all this, it was clear to me that he lives in fear of losing it.
As we sat sipping our drinks, who should walk by but Verdi, someone else
I knew from my prior trip. He looked at me and stopped. I shook his hand
and we chatted. I explained to Serdar that I had met Verdi on my last
trip. We invited Verdi to have a seat and he did and we chatted for a
while and then exchanged phone numbers. Eventually he walked on to wherever
he was going.
Serdar and I came back to my place and I loaned him some CDs and "Analyze
This" on DVD. He said he would get back to me and went home. Friends
do make for a pleasant evening.