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Update from Ashgabat #13 March 2004

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  • chapinr75081
    The latest report from Sharon Sugarek reporting from Turkmenistan. Dear friends and family, We are having the last of winter here in Ashgabat this week.
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 20, 2004
      The latest report from Sharon Sugarek reporting from Turkmenistan.

      Dear friends and family,
      We are having the last of winter here in Ashgabat this week. However,
      we had at least two days in March where the temperature reached 90 or
      higher. That had me worried since it would indicate a very long hot
      summer. So we are grateful for the rain and cool temperatures. The
      fruit trees have already blossomed and the trees are leafing out so we
      don't expect any more freezing weather. It has been a dry winter—not
      much rain. So I am wondering if that will have an impact on water
      availability this coming summer. Last winter was very rainy and water
      did not seem to be a particular problem in most parts of the country.
      But this year may be a different story. We'll see.

      The big excitement at my house this week came when Lulu, my miniature
      schnauzer, decided to try to eat one of the toads that seem to pop up
      this time of year. And the one she chose was a nice fat one! Needless
      to say that was not a good thing. I've been told that toads, when
      grabbed by another critter, pee in the critter's mouth. Well I don't
      know if it is true, but after their encounter, which took place while
      I was in the house, Lulu started foaming at the mouth. This went on
      for quite some time even though I put her in the bathtub and rinsed
      her mouth out numerous times. Then in the middle of the night she
      threw up all over the bed—lovely! However, she did survive the
      encounter and I hope she has learned her lesson about toads—but
      somehow I doubt it! ( I think the otad survived too but haven't seen
      it lately.)

      I don't know how many of you are familiar with the many education
      programs the US government sponsors overseas for talented young
      people. Most of these programs are administered by US AID and, as you
      can imagine, many students who are taught by or work with Peace Corps
      Volunteers, apply for these programs. They are wonderful programs that
      serve the participant and the US well. And in some cases, these are
      the only programs that locals have access to for higher education that
      meets global standards. Right now applications are coming due for the
      American University in Kyrgyz Republic. This is an excellent
      opportunity for students here to get a full four-year college
      education from a globally recognized university, something that they
      cannot do here. Other is also a wonderful program to bring high school
      students to the US for one year of school. It is a terrific program
      and I have been so impressed with the skills and talents of the young
      people from Turkmenistan who have participated in that program as
      well. It gives them such a broad perspective and exposure to other
      ideas and new ways of doing things.

      Today we have about 80 Peace Corps Volunteers working here in various
      schools and clinics. I am hoping to get out and visit some of them
      soon. Somehow it is always hard to get away from the office. But it is
      rewarding to go out and participate with Volunters in their various
      activities. I visited PCVs in the Balkan region in February and
      celebrated my birthday with them and many of their colleagues. I also
      got to attend two teacher-training conferences, several teachers' and
      students' English conversation clubs and a meal or two with PCVs and
      their host families. These PCVs deserve a lot of credit for their
      creativity and their persistence in a challenging environment! What
      impressive people they are! Over the next few months I hope to get to
      other parts of the country and participate with Volunteers in camps,
      clubs and classes with them. I can't believe that I have only 8 months
      left here! And it will pass quickly.

      I am scheduled to go to Bishkek (Kyrgyz republic) next month to meet
      with our new Regional Director and the other Country Directors from my
      region. It is always very useful to spend time with other CDs. I learn
      a lot from them and am able to share what I have learned as well. I've
      been to Bishkek before and it is a nice place—small like Ashgabat but
      it has a real department store and a real grocery store. (I guess we
      have one grocery store but the selection is pretty limited and it
      carries no American products!)

      I was fortunate enough to be able to meet my friend Kathy Carson and
      her sister-in-law Nancy in Italy this month for a few days. Kathy's
      niece is in the Air Force stationed in Northern Italy so we took
      advantage of the opportunity to visit with her and see some of Italy.
      It was a whirlwind tour but we saw a lot. We managed to see a bit of
      Milan, Venice, Florence, with a side trip to Pisa, and Rome. Venice
      was very interesting and we enjoyed our time there. I would like
      another day to see the glass factories etc.

      Florence is lovely and definitely we could have spent more time there.
      It is serene and beautiful. The trip to Pisa by train and back was
      wonderful. And yes, the tower really does lean! Pictures cannot do it
      justice! I'm glad we went!

      Rome was very busy and bustling. But we enjoyed out time there. We
      spent a day doing an overview tour (2 hours) and then wandered off to
      see the ancient Rome sites! Wow. The second day we spent focused on
      the Vatican. After standing in line for about an hour, we got into the
      Vatican Museum and saw many Vatican treasures, culminating in the
      Sistine Chapel. Then we toured St Peter's Cathedral, which is quite
      awesome and holds the Pieta by Michelangelo. Italy is so full of
      treasures and history! We really enjoyed the small taste of Italy we
      got on this trip. It is an expensive place but well worth seeing. We
      found people to be very nice and helpful. We figured out the trains
      with the help of a kind ticket agent or two and Kathy's niece and we
      also managed to use the subways in Milan and Rome after a false start
      as well.

      That's about all the news I have today. I hope this finds spring
      coming to your neighborhood. And I look forward to hearing from you.

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