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Letter from Sharon Sugarek, Country Director Turkmenistan

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  • chapinr75081
    Ashgabat Update- August 2002 August 11, 2002 Dear friends and family, The last two months have been quite a whirlwind I spent from mid June to mid July in
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 13, 2002
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      Ashgabat Update- August 2002

      August 11, 2002

      Dear friends and family,

      The last two months have been quite a whirlwind I spent from mid June
      to mid July in Washington DC in Overseas Staff Training (OST) at
      Peace Corps headquarters acquiring the knowledge and some new skills
      I will need to be an effective Peace Corps Country Director. It was
      a great experience and I must compliment Peace Corps on the quality
      of the training. It was excellent and I met a bunch of remarkable
      people including my fellow trainees.

      With a considerable sense of excitement and some apprehension, Lulu
      and I boarded our flight (s) that would take us from Dallas to
      Istanbul via New York on July 23rd. Lulu had never flown before and
      I was a bit concerned. But she did great, flying in the cabin with
      me, all the way in her carrier. Thanks in large part to the
      excellent training of my dear friend Kathy Carson who spent the month
      I was in DC working with the dog trainer to get Lulu accustomed to
      traveling and being around people. I have to also say a heartfelt
      thanks to Mari Madison who held my hand, went shopping with me and
      told me Lulu would do just fine. And to everyone else who pitched in
      to get me ready for this big adventure--thanks for your help, your
      support and your good wishes.

      On with the journey!! Lulu and I made it to Istanbul, where we
      enjoyed a 12-hour layover at the Hilton Hotel. We took walks and a
      nap. And after a shower and dinner we went back to the airport to
      retrieve our luggage, which seemed to grow every time I looked at it
      But after a few discussions and the exchange of money to pay for Lulu
      and my excess luggage, we were on our last flight—4 hours t Ashgabat
      arriving at 3:45 am! Ugh! But we were met by several of the PC staff
      that shepherded me through the entry process, which took forever!
      But the staff made me feels very welcome! And Lulu never said a word
      and no one ever asked for her papers in Ashgabat since she was so

      So Lulu and I have settled into the house pretty well. Although she
      and Serk, the cat I inherited, have not yet made peace so breakfast
      with the animals is always exciting around my house! Amazingly, my
      air shipment (250 lbs worth) arrived less than a week after I did. In
      addition to Lulu`s dog food and pen, it contained clothes, which I
      was glad to see since I had been wearing the same clothes for about 6
      weeks and was sick of looking at them. I was also very happy to see
      a few cans of tuna, a good cooking spoon a big bath towel my 220 volt
      curling iron and full salt and pepper shakers! I'll be happy to see
      my surface shipment, which has good sheets, more towels, cooking
      stuff and lots of other goodies. If I'm lucky it will arrive in
      September or maybe October.

      I've been looking at houses, thinking about moving but haven't found
      anything yet. The one I am in is okay. I am very happy to announce
      that I am mobile! There are no car dealers here in the sense that we
      think of car dealers. All cars are sold at Telcuchka (the big
      bazaar on Sunday.) Telcuchka is Russian for "push and shove' and
      that's what they do there! Andrey our head drive and I looked at cars
      for about an hour and I picked out a Jeep Grand Cherokee I liked.
      It's a dark green with tan leather interior and every know option you
      could think of! Had the owner bring it over for me to drive on Monday
      or Tuesday, struck a deal and took possession the following Monday.
      It's fun and seems to work fine except for the weird alarm system
      that seems to have a mind of its own on occasion! So far I only know
      the two main streets but I can get to and from work and to the
      Turkish supermarket and back. So I can work and eat!

      When I started this job, one of my goals was to visit the volunteer
      s at their sites before the new group of 50 trainees arrives
      September 7th. So that's what I've been doing. I have traveled to
      Mary'a bumpy 300 kilometers from Ashgabat to visit with host families
      of two volunteers, their host country counterparts--and the places
      they work (schools, hospitals and clinics) and live with host
      families. What a terrific group of young people and the host
      families are wonderful. The Turkmen people are very hospitable. So
      starving has not been an issue lots of food, chai (tea) etc.

      I have to admit that this week I felt like such a tourist! As we
      were pulling up to the compound where I was to visit with another
      volunteer and his host family (in a nearby town) , we encountered a
      herd of camels (8-10) just walking down the road in this little
      town. As we came to a stop, I leapt out of the car, grabbed my
      camera while saying hello to the Volunteer and his host brother. I
      snapped a few photos and then we chased the camels away because they
      were eating a valuable tree in the yard. Later after lunch we took
      several photos of the family etc. Hope the photos come out okay.
      They looked pretty good at the time.

      People here love the volunteers and were very sad when Peace Corps
      pulled out last Fall. They are excited that more Volunteers are
      coming soon. Everyone including the staff, the trainers, the host
      families and the entities who will receive Volunteers are very
      excited and everyone is working hard to get the training program
      ready. For me it's great to get up every morning and go to a job I
      love! (Note I didn't say it was an easy job! It is definitely

      For those of you wondering about the food in this far off, desert
      country, this time of year there is plenty! The melons are in season
      and absolutely out of this world (In fact today is the Melon
      festival) . Plus we have grapes, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers,
      eggplant and cherries. Peaches, figs, pomegranates are just coming
      into season and ZI have spotted something that looks like butternut
      squash. (Since I adore figs, this place is heaven to me!) On the
      whole, food is cheap and there is plenty of mutton, chicken, beef and
      some fish available. The local milk is questionable but they have
      irradiated milk, which is okay for cooking. The breads are very
      good. I understand that during the winter things are scarcer. But
      people to can tomatoes and other vegetables and make fig preserves
      so there is something for the winter. I also understand that most
      everything is available here year round. Just the price varies.

      So as you can see, Lulu and I are settling in. I like Turkmenistan
      and we are happy to be here. I miss you all and miss dancing,
      hanging out together, etc. But I do love being here. And I have an
      extra bedroom!! So keep us in your thoughts and send an email when
      you can/. Internet access here is very slow but we are trying to get
      a high-speed connection into the office so things might get better.
      I'll try to update you once a month or so. Meanwhile hotmail seems
      to be working fine or if you want to use snail mail, my address is

      Sharon Sugarek
      7070 Ashgabat Place
      Dulles, VA 21089-7070
      Have a great month and I'll send another report next month.
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