--Saturday, 09 October 99--
The Day of the Party
In the afternoon I decided to walk to the Iceberg Cafe and have some lula
kebob. They were serving it so I got some exercise and some good food
well before the party started. I have discovered that when you order something
here and you are told that it is not available, if you ask in 15 or 30
minutes, they often have it. For unknown reasons there is no distinction
made between being out of something temporarily (e.g., the keg of Efes
is being replaced) and being out of it entirely so it pays to ask a second
As usual Eleonora arrived first, promptly at 4 PM. Jamal was second (I
guessed the knock at the door was Tanya but Eleonora said she thought
it was Jamal and she was right, again, as usual.) Later Tanya, Golya,
and Vlad arrived and the preparations went into high gear.
I volunteered Vlad into helping me completely reorganize the apartment
in order to make the best use of the space. We moved eleven big pieces
of furniture from room to room and got everything ready. It was a sweaty
business and I was glad to get it done.
During all this Bairam, who I had met at the MoEF yesterday, called. He
will come by tomorrow at 10 AM and help me with my Russian. I wonder if
he will help me move the furniture back?
I had planned to move the kitchen table into the living room and put it
beside the desk that I had moved from the alcove and then use both to
hold the food. The devil is in the details: no matter how we turned and
rotated it, the table would not fit through the living room entrance.
I ended up getting out my Swiss Army knife and unscrewing the table top
and then reassembling the pieces in the living room. What we do for a
I was pleased that so many people came. They represented quite a cross
section of the American expat community, the Russian Turkmen community
and the ethnic Turkmen community. Many people were exclusive Russian speakers
but there were many Russian speakers at the party (including two of my
Russian teachers from last Winter) and everyone seemed able to get the
translations they might need. People mixed well and seemed to have a good
Above, Vitaly, left, dances
with the Peace Corps volunteers.
Geldey, a Turkmen who I had met nearly a year ago, came and I was pleased
since I thought that he would never come, even though I had invited him
repeatedly. And he was not the only Turkmen, there were perhaps a half
Mrs. Gurina came by all dolled up. She stayed only long enough to present
me a small gift (a laser picture in a frame) and to say that she had two
"meetings" to go to so she couldn't stay. Several other people
told me that they had other parties to attend as well.
The invitation just said that everyone was invited to an informal party:
it didn't say anything about my birthday. Nevertheless, there were a number
of gifts and I was flattered. Sadat gives me a reproduction of an ancient
fertility goddess from the time of the Seljeq Turks. Edjegeez gave me
some woolen slippers. Colette gave me two nice bud vases in blue glass,
my Russian teachers gave me a hand-painted image of a traditional Russian
village, and Brian and Sheri gave me a spritzer of Turkmenbashy "Eau
de Parfum for Men, Paris". Mr. Orazov gave me a dark blue long sleeve
shirt. (I liked the design and cut of the shirt but it was 65% polyester.
This, a gift in the land of cotton.) The staff gave me a Teke throw rug
and a Teke telephone pad (a mini carpet designed to be put under your
Most people moved around the three rooms of my apartment. (Eleonora told
me that I have two rooms, that the kitchen is not counted.) To the extent
I could judge, everyone seemed to be having a good time. Tanya had forgotten
the party music but Karen had brought some disks and whomever was in charge
of the music even played some of my CDs. This really was flattering.
Jamal asked me if she could bring her sister to the party and I said "Yes."
Shortly thereafter she came back with a charming young lady who introduced
herself as "Jamal"! Later I discovered that the word for sister
and cousin are the same. Whatever the word, they both adorned the party
magnificently. They were the cynosure of male Peace Corps eyes. Before
long, the Peace Corps volunteers were busy asking the all the young ladies
for a dance and things were really moving.
Above, Jamal, left, poses
with her "sister" Jamal. They were the hit of the party.
Vitaly is dancing on the right.
Inevitably, I was asked to give a speech, so I gave one that began, "Unaccustomed
as I am to public speaking . . . ." but my opening didn't get the
chuckle I thought it deserved. I persevered and still managed to be brief
so as not to take the wind out of the fun times.
The After Party
At around 1 PM, most guest had left and I found myself alone with Vlad.
He was a whirling dervish of clean up in the living room and I did my
part in the kitchen. In a surprising short time, we had the situation
under control. I was pleased to discover that nearly all the food was
eaten and everything was drunk except three bottles of Fanta. But I love
to mix Fanta with my orange juice so even this pleased me.
Vlad said that he was going to Arlekino, the best disco in Ashgabat and
asked me if I wanted to go with him. I realized that, as late as it was,
I was wide awake and tomorrow was Sunday so I said yes. We took an informal
taxi to the Circus and went into the disco, where because of my mishearing
the Russian amount for entrance, Vlad paid mostly.
Arlekino is a two room affair with a loud noise in one room and a bar
in the other. The crowd was predominately young, twenties I'd say, and
there were a lot of young women there. This, of course, is extremely atypical,
for in Turkmen society, the women stay at home and the men go out. Vlad
confirmed my suspicions.
Vlad and I had a beer and went home. I got back around 2 AM and went to
--Sunday, 10 October 99--
This morning I awoke to a mostly picked up -- if anything but clean --
apartment. All I had to do was to reassemble the kitchen table in the
kitchen and wash the kitchen and bathroom floors. It turned out to be
less a pain that I had imagined. The place wasn't clean but at least it
didn't look filthy.
Bairam, who had called the night before, came by for a visit. He is bashful
but he had no problem helping me move the furniture back. This was a great
assist. The rest of the time was devoted to exchanging his Russian and
my English and some other things. It was a lot of fun and I learned a
few more words and phrases.
Late in the day, Beldi visited and I worked on my Russian some more. I
am really getting into Russian.
To bed early.