--Friday, 01 October 99--
Asat called me this morning at 7:30 and was as charming as ever and as
uncomprehending as usual. I told him his phone was out of order and he
said, "Ya, ya,ya," as he tends to do. I have come to realize
that he says this whenever he doesn't understand what has been said. He
wants to get together so we fixed on Tuesday night.
Someone told me that only one percent of government-owned corporations
were profitable (and thus paid taxes). This is hard to comprehend unless
you realize that the fee structures (what these companies can charge for
their products and services) are set by the government with the intent
that they should NOT be profitable -- a form of price control. Thus, substantially,
lack of profit is a government policy and not a measure of business mismanagement.
I had a meeting where I learned a lot about the process for recommending
and approving capital projects. Afterwards I told Ed that I had some good
news and some bad news. "Tell me the good news," said Ed. "The
Good news is that I have discovered the man who is more responsible for
capital projects than any other person." "Great! But what is
the bad news?" said Ed. "He has already refused to meet with
us," I said.
Geldey stopped buy and we watched some Russian TV. It was a strange game
show that involved guessing letters of a word. There were multiple hosts
and many young women with short dresses who carried gifts or winnings
in and out of the set. The contestants were parents because each had a
child of about 8 in front of him or her. The children were interviewed
and amused the audience a lot. I couldn't figure out who won and the fact
that at least one contestant seemed to give a gift to the main host really
confused me. Still, it was fun to watch.
I walked over to Oleg's apartment across from Lenin Park and met him in
person. We had exchanged emails earlier this year and he had just returned
to Ashgabat from graduate school in England. There was a small party going
on and his wife, two children and three friends were sitting in a room.
One person I was introduced to seemed to know a lot about linguistics
but he had to leave before I could talk to him for any length of time.
I was flattered to have been invited to a homecoming party.
--Saturday, 02 October 99--
Shokrat called me at 10 AM for mutual language training. He showed up
promptly at 11 and we started exchanging vocabulary words. We did it for
hours. At the end he asked if he could use my computer and I showed it
to him. He asked about games and I showed him Free Cell and demonstrated
how to make the moves. He quickly caught on and played fairly well.
He asked to borrow Serdar's copy of "The Last of the Mohicans"
in English and I lent it to him. He said he would bring it back tomorrow.
He invited me over to his house for lunch. I declined several times and
then agreed. We met Grigory, who works in the headquarters office, and
his girl friend in the yard, and got a ride to Shokrat's place which turned
out to be near Natasha's. We had lunch Turkmen style, lying on pads on
a rug-covered floor and leaning on thick pillows. The table was about
10 centimeters high and between us. Shokrat indicated that I should sit
cross-legged before the table. While this is very difficult for me, I
did it. As is Turkmen custom, we dined without women although his wife
served the meal.
The food was tasty. There was a dish of sliced bell peppers and onions
and then a soup of angle hair pasta with potatoes and lamb. There was
bread, butter, and tea as well. He invited me to add some strange dark
green powdered spice to my soup and cautioned me to only use a little.
I did but didn't really taste it at all. There was one very familiar spice
on the table, Crystal Hot Sauce from New Orleans, Louisiana. I added a
little of that to the soup as well. After dinner Shokrat arranged an informal
taxi to take me back to my building.
Beldi came by at 5:30 PM, a half an hour late. I had been idling in front
of my computer looking at various graphics and was glad to see him. He
brought me a gift of a nice painting of a still life that he had painted
himself. I presented him with something very personal from me. We both
enjoyed ourselves immensely.
--Sunday, 03 October 99--
Shokrat came over at ten and returned the movie. We traded Russian words
again. We went over what we studied yesterday and this time I wrote them
down for further study. We did this for about two hours and then he played
some games on my Mac. He left around 12:30 PM.
Serdar showed up late for the second day in a row. I was just searching
for a piece of paper to leave in the door telling him that I had left,
when the bell rang. I told him it was rude to be late and that it was
never wise to be rude. Then we walked over to the Iceberg Cafe. The weather
was sunny and warm with light breezes. It was blissful.
In our conversation -- he visits so he can practice his English -- Serdar
mentioned once again his fear that his American is getting rusty and how
much he wanted to be in the US.
At the Iceberg we listened to the throatiness that the speakers give to
the base part of the music and had some lula kebob and some liquid refreshment.
After we ate, Paul Stroh happened to wander by and joined us. Later I
had four 1.5 liter bottles filled for later consumption and Serdar and
I walked back to my place where we watched "Analyze This" on
DVD. To help his American, I turned the subtitling feature on.
I am only slowly coming to grips with the strength of the force to learn
English that some people have here. One consequence is that they fasten
on you and make you talk to them.
On the other hand, there is a lot of attitude in the academic community
about vocabulary and pronunciation. Erich has been told that he should
not teach certain classes because his "American" pronunciation
would lead the students astray.
Above, Serdar, who spent a
year in the States and wants to keep up his American language skills.