--Thursday, 07 October 99--
Golya tells me that she saw the President on the TV speaking to the Energy
Minister of Turkey and talking as if he knew/suspected that the gas pipeline
might never be built. He told the Energy Minister that he knew that Turkey
had signed a gas agreement with the Russians and that they had committed
to buying only a fraction of the amount of Turkmenistan's gas that Nyazov
wanted them to buy. He went on to say that Turkmenistan would not starve
and that it had agriculture and industry to rely on. Straws in the wind.
Golya says that Isvestia on September 30 carried an article stating that
Turkmenistan had a secret agreement with the Moslem fundamentalists in
the Taliban to allow them to aid the Chechnian rebels. The GOT has firmly
denied this. This is Russian disinformation, likely aimed at weakening
Turkmenistan's ties with the US. Information about this part of the world
is so scarce that such disinformation campaigns can actually be relatively
The announced project for Russia to build a pipeline under the Black Sea
to Turkey is also disinformation considering that there are two existing
pipeline through Romania and Bulgaria that could supply Turkey at much
less cost -- but Russia wants total control and would rather pretend to
be able to build an expensive pipeline under the Black Sea than to forge
a partnership with other countries.
It was in the country's only newspaper that Turkmenistan has expelled
the Azeri merchants residing in Turkmenbashy. This caused some complications
with Azerbaijan a few weeks ago. Also Armenian craftsmen who the government
said had improper papers were deported. Golya says that the Armenians
wanted to become citizens but were not allowed to.
Delara turns out to live in the building just north of mine so we are
neighbors. The dinner was pleasant and we got to meet Delara's two young
daughters, her husband, a neighbor, a cousin, and a guy named Dima of
unexplained relationship. The food was good. It consisted of an Iranian
Palov, split pea soup, a potato dish with broth, and some chicken. The
desert was apple sauce folded into beaten egg whites and made into white
sticks. It was tasty without being too sweet. I was home by 8:45 which
gave me time for my beauty sleep.
Avis, who I had met at the Iceberg Cafe, called tonight and we talked
about him coming over. There was a certain vagueness about it all. I got
the feeling that he MIGHT come over but that it was dependant on how much
fun he was having somewhere else. He never did show up.
--Friday, 08 October 99--
In September I had sent an email to a person working for a local tourist
agency asking about information on a one-day trip to Merv. The response
asked me to "come directly to our office to discuss details of your
further trip - your case is rather special so my boss wishes to meet you."
I was a little put out by this (I still think in terms of settling these
things by phone) but, yesterday, I called for an appointment. My contact
said that his boss wanted to meet me but was not in the office at that
time but he was expected back around five. He said that he would call
me when his boss was available.
To his credit he called me back around 5:30 to say that his boss was not
back yet and that we should reschedule for 11 AM. I said, "Yes,"
and he said that he would call me before 11 AM to confirm. I took this
as a hint.
Today he called to say that his boss was not in for an 11 AM meeting but
that he would likely be in during the afternoon and that he would call
me. He didn't call and, once again, I was driven to contemplate the strange
standards of business in this land. Will I get to Merv at all. I was determined
enough in my planning to have Mary included in my visa, but what should
I do next?
Ed, Paul and I went to the Central Restaurant for lunch. We decided to
give Paul a tour of Berzingy while we were at it and did so. We showed
him the 24 hotels, all in a row.
On the way there we saw the latest monument to Turkmenbashy. As a structure
it looks like a Toltec temple mated with a Babylonian ziggurat and it
is rising up near the intersection of Turkmenbashy with the turn for the
Wholesale Market. The corners have staircases that lead to the top. Guess
what will be on the top?
Our meal turned out to be delightful. We had a superb quesadilla appetizer,
Paul had a Po' Boy sandwich and Ed and I had two different pizzas, one
meat and one vegetarian. The pizzas were bigger than the local standard
and so good that Ed took everything we couldn't eat home (half of each
pizza) as take out.
At the office this afternoon a local character stopped by. He presented
himself as an expert on vision, advising Ed to stare a the rays of the
rising sun for fifteen minutes. Eleonora translated in a bored way "It
seems to me I have translated this before!" but Ed was much amused.
The guy was over sixty but incredibly agile. He took his foot out of his
shoe and put in on the edge of the desk and bent his torso parallel to
his extended leg then bent his torso almost parallel to his other leg.
I winced in pain just watching such suppleness. But I won't be staring
at a rising sun anytime soon.
While walking out of the MoEF entrance there was a young man idling against
the wall. I glanced at him and he glanced back: there was recognition
in the look. He said, "Hello," and so did I. I stopped and we
chatted. His name is Bairam and he is a student of Spanish at the Language
Institute but wants to learn English. I need to learn Russian from as
many sources as possible, so I gave him my phone number.
I expected calls or visits from Shokrat and Asat tonight but I needed
some time alone so I was grateful when the phone didn't ring. I put the
program prioritization model I had discussed with Ed into Excel and then
worked on my notes.
Later, I decided that I wanted some exercise so I walked over to the Iceberg.
While walking along Magtymguly I passed two people who recognized me.
They were from the ARCA class to which I had read poetry. They were both
young and they were a he and a she. They were students in School 16, one
of the better ones in the city. He was short, even for his age, but he
proudly sported a small collection of dark hairs on his chin.
They practiced their English on me and it was easy to cooperate for their
English was pretty good. When we reached Navoi, he said that he had to
leave us and gave my hand a particularly firm handshake, especially considering
the smallness of his hand.
I walked on with the distaff side of this team and she told me that she
regretted the curfew because she liked to walk at night and the police
stop people now and examine papers. She said that they want money; she
wasn't sure how much but she said that they want more from foreigners.
I asked what I should do if I was stopped and she said that I should say
nothing so that the police wouldn't know that I was a foreigner. I suggested
that based on my experience everyone could tell that I was a foreigner
at 100 meters. She agreed. We arrived at the street that she lived on
and parted company, leaving me with my curfew problem.
Above, a picture of the building
planned to be constructed across the street from the Hall of Congresses
and Art (what I used to call the Mejlis building). I don't know
its name or function yet but the site has been cleared and construction
might start at any time.