News from Ashgabat
- This is a e-mail from our fellow NTPCA member Sharon Sugarek current
serveing as PC director in Turkemenistan.
Update from Ashgabat #10 October 2003
Well I understand that Arnold Schwartzenagger is now Governor of
California. Interesting! I get the BBC report on news in the US. It is
always interesting to hear news from another perspective. However
their coverage of hurricanes in the States is not too good. At some
point during this summer, I was eagerly awaiting information on a
hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico and their entire coverage was
basically: "There is a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico and it is
expected to hit the Texas coast sometime tomorrow". End of report!!!
Now you and I know that the Texas coast is mighty long and many of us
have friends and family scattered up and down the coast. So I was not
real thrilled with the lack of detail on that particular report!
Life here in Turkmenistan continues to be very challenging form a work
perspective. Seems the government is changing the rules every day but
neglects to tell us or to train their own people so there is a lot of
confusion. One of the apparent remainders from the old Soviet system
is to keep one's head low and never make a decision. No one ever got
punished for doing nothingbut people do get punished for doing
something. Very frustrating to an American or anypne else who is
actually trying to do something. But we do the best we can.
Since the last update 58 trainees have arrived here from the US and
are now half way through their training program. One opted to go home
after two weeks but everyone else is hanging in there. They all went
to their permanent works sites Tuesday for a four day visit and will
return to the capital for the last 4 weeks of training. We have made
a number of improvements in the training program this year but there
is still more to do especially from an operational perspective. This
group seems very down to earth and very mature especially considering
that most of them are under 25 years old. I am looking forward to
working with them.
I made a personal commitment to visit all Volunteers at their work
sites during the first year of their service and I have a few visits
left to accomplish in the next few weeks. I visited a couple of
Volunteers in nearby towns two weeks ago. I always enjoy that because
I get to meet the school officials, teachers and students or the
health care providers that PCVs work with. I see where they work and
what they do. And I often get to visit their host families as well.
That is the fun part of my job although I have to admit it is
exhausting. And I almost always come back sick from a week out
visiting PCVs. Guess I meet new germs too! Oh well, it is worth it!
I also had the great pleasure to attend a wedding in a village about
an hour from Ashgabat a couple of weeks ago. The host sister of a
previous Volunteer was getting married and the family invited me to
the Bride's party. Here the weddings last three days and consist of a
Bride's Party, a Grooms' party and a wedding celebration party. The
actual wedding ceremony is very short. It was quite fun for me and we
had a visitor from headquarters visiting so we took her along too.
Our guest really enjoyed the whole thing as well and we have been
immortalized on videotape giving an elaborate toast and then dancing
in honor of the bride and groom. All of the wedding festivities are
videotaped and watched over and over again. In fact, if you go
visiting, you may be shown the video of the latest family wedding.
Interesting tradition. I did not take photos at the wedding but I
heard today that I may get a copy of the videotape of the Bride's party.
Had a funny thing happen yesterday. Picked up the phone at my house to
call someone and had no dial tone. Now I had dial tone at 12:30 am
that morning because some idiot called me then, the phone rang and
woke me up. So I called the office on my cell phone and set the
appropriate person on the task to find out what was happening. Six
hours later, he callson the cell phone-- to tell me that the phone
company is changing all of the phone numbers in my district and they
will turn all the phones back on when they finish!! Sure enough about
10:45 pm I get a call from my landlord telling me that the phone
number in the house has been changed and he gives me the new one,
which is one digit different from my previous number. Indicates how
mystifying things can be when you don't know what is going on and the
lack of customer service focus here. The good news is that the phones
do work most of the time.
Looks like I'll be taking a two-week vacation in Thailand in December
(7-21st) so if anyone is in the neighborhood or wants to meet me
there, let me know. I am looking forward to about 10 days on the
beach and 3-4 days in Bangkok to shop, watch a movie at a movie
theater and see the historic sites in Bangkok. I'm looking forward to
the break. And the food in Thailand is wonderful so that will be great
Can't think of any other important news today so I'll close and send
this off. To all of you that I owe an email to, thanks for writing and
I will answer you! I really enjoy hearing about what you are doing
and what is going on at home.