The Ashgabat Gazette Issue 65

--Monday, 11 October 99--
I visited the Carpet Museum Shop to look for carpets for Matt and Dean. They have many more carpets from the Esari tribe (Beshir region) than they used to have. They will try to get the kind that Matt wants, the gejebee gul, for tomorrow.

At six PM there were columns of soldiers marching down Pomma Street in front of the Ministry. During street reconstruction, Pomma is a dead end and the marching troops, combined with the cars all trying to leave in one direction actually produced a traffic jam. That is the second one I have seen in a year.

Geldey stopped by and I fried some bacon and served it with cheddar cheese and toast. He liked the combo. I showed him some pix from the party and he identified Karen as Armenian and Bairam as someone he knew from Lenin Park. Most interesting.

Serdar called at night to ask if we are going to Marv this weekend. I said, "Yes!". He will arrange a ride on Saturday AM with Ilia, a friend who has access to a car, and a student who is from Mary at whose house we will stay and get a Turkmen feast (I am to pay 150,000 manat for the fixings). After spending the night in the local's house, on Sunday we visit Merv and then drive home. So I am going to do the "Merv thing". I wanted to do this on my last trip but never got to it.

--Tuesday, 12 October 99-- $1 = 14,700 manat
I didn't eat all of my steak and cheese sandwich which I bought for lunch. I had a third left so I had it put in a bag which I gave to Ed. I told him to open the Budget Cadre door and throw it in but to pull his hand back quickly lest it be bitten by ravenously hungry analysts.

Erich came by. He brought the extra bike paraphernalia that we will give Asat -- if he wants to trade bikes with Erich. We chatted for an hour or more: Erich is a good listener but when he speaks he says interesting things. He happened to mention that he had been told that he could not teach certain classes because of his American accent might "contaminate" the class. The stodgier members of the faculty are still afflicted with the idea that the right "pronunciation" of English is what is spoken at Eton and Oxford. Such people have not examined world economic statistics in a long time.

--Wednesday, 13 October 99--
I went with Gulnara to the Carpet Museum Shop. She had told me that the carpet Richard had commissioned was a trapezoid rather than a rectangle but it didn't look that way to me. At her request, I took pictures so that she could send them to Richard.

At four this afternoon we went to CAAEF offices for a Strategic Planning session. We were told to bring beer so Ed and I went haves on a case of Heineken. As I was leaving for the meeting, staff told me that the owner of the travel agency that I had tried to use to got to Merv had called and said that I should meet him at 5 PM has his office -- five days after I had called for a meeting, clearly a guy who was all heart. I told the staff that I was going to a meeting and he could cool his heels in his office. I am going to Mary/Merv by car (God protect my knees!) this weekend. Where was this guy all this time?

Asat came by at 7:30. He came with his bike and said again that his bike was too big for him. By prior agreement with Erich, I offered him an exchange with Erich's glitzy Cruiser. Asat had a bare bones one-speed. Since Asat's bike is too big for his frame and Erich's is too small for his, it is a match that should work well. I made the offer and Asat agreed immediately. He sees a lot more sex appeal in the Cruiser and it fits his height as well. I told him that he had to be happy with the change so we would decide later if it was permanent.

Asat and I sat in the kitchen and exchanged kitchen words. Knife, fork, spoon, dish, bowl, etc. As always, it was pleasant.

--Thursday, 14 October 99--
The air was cool this morning -- for the first time -- and pleasant: crisp like mid-September morning in Chicago.

The Weather Here
In the Summer this place broils like Phoenix, Arizona, 115 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade and in the winter it is like St. Louis (latitude), generally at least chilly but sometimes actively cold and with occasional snow. Visually, there are cloudless skies that are powder blue in the middle of the day and darken to a cerulean loveliness at dusk, a sun that warms the afternoon delightfully and mild air temperatures. For my first three weeks, it was hot (95-100). Then on the autumnal equinox it rained and the temperature dropped and it was merely warm for two weeks. Then there was a windy, gusty, dusty day that threatened to storm, and after that the weather became cool like early September in New England.

After lunch, Ed, Paul, and I walked over to the Russian Market so that Ed could get some fruit. As we got there, Paul remarked that since I had told him about the Montana Sport jackets, he had been seeing them everywhere. I agreed and said that I rather liked the design and color scheme and had been thinking about buying one. Ed said that if I wanted to buy one I should look in the clothing section, which since we were passing it, we decided to do. Ten steps down the aisle we saw one hanging up. I tried it on and it fit me fine. So for only the outlay of 120,000 manat ($8.16) became the proud possessor of the most widely owned -- and worn -- piece of male Turkmen apparel. Some people refer to it as the "national dress for Turkmen men" but it is actually a "Training Suit" made of 60% Polyester and 40% Tri-Acetate.

Above, a Turkmen (?!) proudly wearing his Montana Sport jacket.

I wore the Montana Sport jacket back to the office since today was the first day that wearing a jacket made any sense at all, but mostly to horrify the staff. I succeeded in Spades: jaws dropped open, heads jerked back, broad smiles lit normally glum faces, eyes stared uncomprehendingly, as everyone tried to process this bit of arcana. To remove apprehension, I told everyone that I was "going native" and had become a Turkmen. That didn't seem to abate the gapes, muscle spasms, smiles, and staring. Somehow they don't seem to understand me at all. Ah, well.

Geldey came by. I attempted to give him my double vested suit but he seemed to feel he could not accept it. He doesn't understand that I brought it just so that I can give it away.

A Virtual Tour of Turkmenistan
© 1998-99 Joe Kelley