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Update from Ashgabat

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  • chapinr75081
    Subj:    Update from Ashgabat # 9 August 2003  Date:    8/17/2003 7:02:59 AM Eastern Daylight Time  From:    Sharon Sugarek
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 17, 2003
      Update from Ashgabat # 9 August 2003

      8/17/2003 7:02:59 AM Eastern Daylight Time

      "Sharon Sugarek" <sharonsugarek@...>

       Greetings all,

      We are in the depths of summer here and it sounds like the last few days in=
      the US
      have been interesting –with the blackouts, the hurricanes and the summer st=
      Hope all of you have survived this will a minimum of impact! 

      Here is Ashgabat, it is getting into the 100s every day. Summer is in full =
      swing. There
      is a nice swimming pool at one of the hotels out near the Embassy compound =
      and I
      have been out there a couple of times this summer.  Last month three of us =
      to spend the weekend in Turkmenbashy (named for "guess who"—hint- it means =

      leader of all Turkmen). Turkmenbashy is on the Caspian Sea and is quite lov=
      ely. One
      can actually swim in the Caspian on the Turkmenistan coast—it is not too
      contaminated. However, there are snakes in the water—I saw two!! So I opted=
      to swim
      in the hotel pool, which was quite beautiful and had no snakes!  It was a g=
      ood break
      to get away from Ashgabat and I could almost forget that I was in Turkmenis=
      except for the fact that the hotel ran out of Coke, Sprite and all other so=
      ft drinks the
      day before we arrived and no one ever went to the market to buy more the en=
      tire time
      we were there!  During the summer, many people from Ashgabat go to the Casp=
      Sea for a week or two for vacation. It is a local tradition. The sea is a b=
      it cooler and of
      course the scenery is nice.  Everything around Ashgabat is starting to acqu=
      ire that
      summer brown tone and it is getting dustier.

      The best part of summer here is the fruit and vegetables that fill the mark=
      et. Cherries,
      nectarines and peaches are available and the watermelons are really good no=
      w. There
      are a number of other melons available as well and the grapes are starting =
      to ripen.
      So for the next couple of months we can enjoy them. Two things I miss here =
      that we
      don't get are avocadoes and mangoes.  Do see mangoes in the market occasion=
      but they want about $3.00 for one and I can't quite bring myself to pay tha=

      I have plans to make picante sauce with the fresh tomatoes, onions and pepp=
      ers this
      week. And the figs should be coming in soon as well. It is interesting that=
      there is
      more need to make certain things from scratch here and of course I love to =
      cook so I
      enjoy doing more cooking here than I did at home.

      I had the opportunity to go to Bucharest, Romania several weeks ago to atte=
      nd the
      Peace Corps Country Directors' Conference. Bucharest is quite charming and =
      I really
      enjoyed being there. Because of flight schedules I had a couple of days fre=
      e there to
      explore. It is a lovely old European city with lots of outdoor cafes and so=
      me excellent
      restaurants as well. I have to admit I went to the movie theater a couple o=
      f times to
      catch up on movies. I found walking around interesting since the architectu=
      re of the
      buildings was preserved—not the Soviet concrete bunker architecture seen in=
      post-Soviet countries. People were friendly and most spoke English to one d=
      egree or
      another so that was a nice change for me. We stayed in the Hilton Hotel, wh=
      ich is
      famous for its history of intrigue. Apparently it has been around for a lon=
      g time and
      used to be the place to hang out to hear the latest gossip and intelligence=
      . Guess all
      the spies used to stay there. (Didn't see any this time!) The hotel is exce=
      llent and the
      staff understands the concept of customer service-something generally missi=
      ng in
      Central Asia!  

      Our conference was very successful and it was extremely useful for me to me=
      et the
      other Country Directors in my region, some of whom I had corresponded with =

      through email or met over the phone. Plus I got to renew my contact with CD=
      's I met
      in training last summer and the Central Asia CDs I had met last year in a l=
      conference.  I also got to see my friend Bruce Cohen (CD in Morocco), who w=
      as my
      mentor as I was applying to Peace Corps for this job. We all had a chance t=
      o share our
      knowledge and to discuss issues that arise in the crazy job. I came back to=
      with a number of new ideas and tools to help my staff and me work more effe=

      On the way back from Romania I stopped for a couple of days in Istanbul. Wh=
      at a
      wonderful and amazing place. I stayed in the old city, within a few blocks =
      of the Blue
      Mosque and Topkapi Palace. Istanbul is rich in history and has a wonderful =
      feel about
      it. It is exotic and comfortable at the same time. Since Istanbul spans bot=
      h Europe
      and Asia, it has a blended culture that is hard to describe. During my brie=
      f stay I did
      have an opportunity to see the major historical sites, although I look forw=
      ard to
      returning to spend some time at the archeological museum. I also hope to go=
      out to
      some of the historical sites away from Istanbul. Turkey has excellent Greek=
      Roman ruins that are worth seeing according to everything I have heard. If =
      you are
      considering going to Turkey, I highly recommend it.  August seems to be the=
      tourist month but Istanbul at least is geared to handle tourists. And ever =
      the street
      hawkers who try to sell you everything from toys to carpets stop bothering =
      you after
      the third time you tell them "no" and they are good natured about it.  The =
      Bazaar is a place to behold. It is huge and I think you might be able to be=
      completely lost there is you aren't careful! And you can find everything in=
      the bazaar
      —lots of silver, Romanian, glass, all sorts of things form India, Uzbekista=
      n and
      Turkmenistan too! Lots of carpets from the region too. Whatever you want!

      In case you are wondering the Turkmen language is a derivative of Turkish l=
      and I was actually able to understand a little while I was in Turkey this t=
      ime (mostly
      numbers!) Turkmenistan also has a significant Turkish population and the Tu=
      culture can bee seen here as well. (And I know now why Turkmen drive the wa=
      y they
      do—that's how the Turks drive!)

      Meanwhile, back in Turkmenistan, we are preparing for the arrival of 60 new=
      on September 12! This group has four married couples –the last group did no=
      t have
      any. So I am looking forward to this change. Everyone tells me that married=
      add a degree of stability to the group. We are all excited about the new gr=
      oup and are
      now busy learning names as we put the finishing touches on the training pro=
      and on the permanent placement sites for these folks. From now until Novemb=
      er, we
      will be concentrating on this training program and supporting these new peo=

      I think I will sign off now. I will keep you posted as the new group arrive=
      s and we
      move into fall here. I really enjoy hearing about what is going on back hom=
      e so keep
      those emails coming. While I work like crazy the next few months think abou=
      t Lulu
      (the dog) and Serk (the cat) basking on the topjon!

      Have a terrific summer.




      PS. Several Volunteers here worked with their local counterparts and other =
      parties to translate "A Comedy of Errors" by Shakespeare into "modern, simp=
      English and then they adapted it to the Turkmen culture. They performed the=
      several times –in their local city and in the capital --as part of the Cult=
      ure Week
      sponsored by the American Embassy around the July 4th week. It was a wonder=
      success displaying the incredible talents of people in this country.  I wil=
      l never see
      this play performed again without thinking about the Turkmen version done h=
      ere. It
      was hilarious!
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