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Update from Ashgabat #11- November-December 2003

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  • chapinr75081
    The latest news from Sharon Sugarek in Ashgabat. Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. Here in Ashgabat this year, the Ambassador invited a bunch of us over
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 29, 2003
      The latest news from Sharon Sugarek in Ashgabat.
      Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. Here in Ashgabat this year, the
      Ambassador invited a bunch of us over for turkey and everyone brought
      a favorite dish to share. It was a lovely day with warm weather in the
      afternoon so we were able to sit our on the patio until the sun went
      down. Then it got a little cool. All in all, a very pleasant holiday.
      We had a wonderful Swearing In ceremony for the newest group of 56
      Volunteers on November 14th. We had more than 500 people attend the
      ceremony and received a letter of congratulations from the President
      of Turkmenistan. It was an exciting time for the new Volunteers and
      for the staff as well. So now, the Volunteers have all gone off to
      their work sites and the staff is recovering from the intensive
      training period we just completed with them. What a fine group of
      people they are. Guess that's what makes this job so rewarding.

      I had originally planned to go to Istanbul in November and would have
      been there about the time they bombed the British Consulate and the
      Jewish Synagogues there. Would have been in a different part of town
      but it still makes one pause! It is really a shame these crazy people
      are running around blowing up things. Anyway, I hope it calms down
      there. It is a lovely city with lots of history.

      I am very excited about my upcoming trip to Thailand. I have wanted to
      visit there for many years but never had the opportunity. But on
      December 7th I will be going for two weeks. The plan is to spend about
      10 days on the beach in Koh Lanta—just south of Phukett and 4 days in
      Bangkok. I hope that the place we are staying is nice. I'm looking
      forward to good Thai and Indian food and some rest and relaxation.
      Seems that when I am in country, I am on call 24 hours a day seven
      days a week, especially during training periods. So two weeks with no
      one to be responsible for except myself sounds appealing!

      Had a great time putting up my Christmas tree yesterday. I bought a
      fake tree last year and have managed to find assorted things to
      decorate it with in addition to the stuff I brought with me. Somehow,
      I'm not quite in the Christmas spirit yet but baking cookies will
      probably help. It has been sort of a tradition here to send little
      Christmas packages to the Volunteers. The packages usually include
      home baked cookies as well as assorted other goodies. This year they
      will have bars of Ivory soap since I was able to buy a bunch from an
      American leaving the country. We usually include some American candy
      and a pen or marker as well. The staff has a good time putting them
      together and the Volunteers enjoy their treats. But this year we have
      92 Volunteers here, so we have a lot of cookies to bake!!

      I'm afraid this update is not too exciting. There is not a lot going
      on that I can tell you about. The situation here continues to get more
      and more difficult. This puts a constant strain on the Volunteers who
      are trying to do their work and on the staff who are trying to work
      with the authorities to remove barriers, when new ones are thrown up
      every day. There was an interesting report issued by the International
      Crisis Group recently that talked about the Youth in Crisis in Central
      Asia. I've included some of the information from their press release
      below. It gives you some insight into why we keep trying to make a
      small difference every day. (Those of you who have decent Internet
      speed can probably download the whole report. I'm working on that as I
      type this document.)

      Central Asian Youth In Crisis, Group Warns

      UN Wire, Tuesday, November 4, 2003

      The poverty, illiteracy, drug use and despair that plague Central
      Asia's huge population of young people could foment serious trouble
      in the future without focused national and international attention,
      the International Crisis Group <http://www.intl-crisis-group.org>
      warned Friday.

      In a new report, Youth in Central Asia: Losing the New Generation
      , ICG said struggling economies and crisis-riddled education systems
      that have suffered since post-Soviet independence have left young
      people with few job prospects and little hope, a state of affairs that
      has left an opening for escapism through drug use, crime or membership
      in radical Islamist or Christian groups. The HIV infection rate is
      soaring and many young people are emigrating from the region.…

      ICG advises the governments of Central Asia to raise education
      spending to pre-independence levels, retrain teachers and encourage
      critical thinking rather than rote learning. The report says
      Turkmenistan's education system in particular seems to be geared to
      "produce a generation of automatons who know nothing but state

      It is a matter of great concern since there are lots of bright,
      talented young people here.

      Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because the idea is to stop and
      give thanks for all that we have. The thing I am most thankful for is
      that my ancestors got on the boat and came to America. From my
      previous experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer I also added hot
      showers and drinkable milk to the list of things I am thankful for
      every day. And from my current Peace Corps experience I will add
      personal freedom and the support of family and friends to the list of
      things that I won't take for granted any more. We Americans are so
      very fortunate.

      I'll close now with good wishes to you and your family for a wonderful
      holiday season and a happy New Year.

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