--Thursday, 16 September 99--
For the third time since I arrived, the water is off in my apartment.
I live in a complex called the Pentagon -- from the number of military
officers who used to live here -- and we are supposed to have 24 hour
water. But we don't. What we have is a water regime with an unpredictable
schedule. It is mostly on but you cannot count on it.
I had received an email from an avid reader of the web version of the
Ashgabat Gazette who told me that she had spent two entire evening reading
it because her husband, Terry Reedy, was leading a People to People delegation
to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and they were very interested in local
living here. She told me that they would be in the Nissa Hotel and encouraged
me to visit. I tried but they had no record of Terry or the group at the
Nissa so I called Murl about the People to People people and he told me
that they were due in his office in 20 minutes and he had not prepared
his discussion points for them. I asked him to give my phone number to
Terry and he said he would.
And so he did since I got a call from Terry who invited me to join his
group for dinner at the Ak Altin where they are staying. I said that I
had an engagement but might stop by later. He said he would have an empty
chair at the table so I asked him to put a sign on it that said "Virtual
Geldey was to come by at 7:30 PM but he came by at 6:15 with his friend.
They settled in and watched TV and I provided cheese and bread, but not
enough, Geldey asked for more. Clearly I have to work on my hospitality
Geldey seemed surprised that my bathroom had its own water heater. He
was completely fascinated by my toaster; he attempted to operate it by
pushing down on the top of the bread. He was surprised when I showed him
We watched Russian TV (Ulitsa Sesami = Sesami Street) and chatted lightly.
After an hour, I told them that I was taking a taxi to the Ak Altin to
meet Americans so they packed up and left.
I left just after they did and took an informal taxi to the Ak Altin.
The car that pulled over contained three young men -- not an advisable
situation if you are worried. I said "Tzirkus" (which is a block
from the hotel) to the driver and he corrected me, "Tzirk?"
I said, "Da," and got in. They were pleasant young men and tried
to conduct conversation. In answer to various questions, I said I was
here for "rabota" (work) and that I worked for a "firma
computer" (you can translate that yourself). When they asked me if
I was "Britanski?", I proudly replied, "Amerikanski."
They nodded approvingly. I told them that I was on my way to meet Americans
at the Ak Altin hotel and they very kindly went out of their way to drop
me off at the front door. I thanked them, over paid for the ride and went
into the hotel looking for the People to People people.
The staff was helpful and directed me to a special room on the M floor
where I found the group observing a "traditional Turkmen musical
performance." When the music ended I walked over to the table and
Terry Reedy introduced himself to me and pointed out an empty seat at
the end of the table -- it had no sign but I took it anyway. I got to
talk to several people at that end of the table. Beside me sat a genteel
woman of mature years. She asked me if there was anything that could be
done about the harsh toilet paper here. I said that she wouldn't know
how good she had it until she went to Romania where they used recycled
sand paper. Terry gasped and gagged and sent a stream of beer geyser-like
from his mouth. I must watch my phrasings in the future.
The hotel had a team of young Turkmen who danced for the group. This is
the first time I have seen this. It was a well orchestrated performance
emceed by a very pretty young lady who spoke superb English and didn't
hesitate to push expensive jewelry and paintings by local artists. There
was a big belt buckle offered for $300. There was some interest in it.
Terry introduced me to the group, and when the native dances and jewelry
and painting sales were concluded, I got to talk to the group. They paid
me a lot of attention. I was on a stage; I performed; they loved it. At
the end I got a lot of thanks, handshakes and compliments. It was worth
--Friday, 17 September 99-- $1 = 14,600 manat
I got up this morning and the water was running. What a pleasure a shower
We had lunch with an Expat today who confirmed his previous story of a
bomb going off in Dashauz. The story is that the government nabbed two
Uzbekis and a Turkmen but nothing appeared in the media (surprise!). There
were no deaths and possibly no casualties. The reason appears vague but
is thought to be religion-based. Apparently the arrested Uzbekis come
from a center of religious fundamentalism.
The press and other media in this country are completely controlled and
only approved stories appear. The result is a magnification in the fascination
of gossip. But experience shows that the gossip is often untrue and nearly
always significantly inaccurate. The advantage of free media is that they
tend to seek out the facts -- if only to upstage one another -- and allow
the recipient an opportunity to make an independent judgement. Here you
ask, listen, and wonder how much you hear is true. Little enough, I think.
Above, a worker applies a
finishing cover of cement to the facade of a building on Magtymguly