In less than two days back in Turkmenistan, I am pleased to report that no fewer than five different people have mistaken me as or made a comment that I look Kazakh or Turkmen. It started with two different comments in a client office in Ashgabat. First, a comment at a morning meeting when I was introduced to several people for the first time. After the meeting, we ate with the client and while doing so, someone everyone else knew came into the restaurant and came up to the table to shake everyone's hand. When I said "Hello" as I shook his hand, his reply was "Oh, you are not Turkmen." Indeed, I am not.
Back in the office, I was setup in the visitor's room since I'm not based in Ashgabat and there were a couple new to the office engineers including a Turkmen guy transferred back here from Nigeria. He thought I was Kazakh. The other guy in the office was Kazakh and he thought I was Turkmen. Nice to know I'm so visually flexible.
At the end of the day, I went with a local employee to have dinner and we took a taxi and since about all I can muster in Russian without having m pronunciation mocked is privet (hello) and spasibo (thank you) so of course we were speaking to each other in English. But the taxi driver just kept looking back at me in the mirror and I realized he was confused, or at least puzzled as to why we would be speaking English. Upon getting out of the cab, the driver asked my colleague a question. It was apparently to ask if my colleague was an English teacher. Not exactly.
Finally, I was having dinner in the canteen this evening and a new engineer trainee (not in my segment) was at our table trying to guess where I was from. I thought the accent was a dead giveaway, but she guessed Kazakh. Trainees have so much to learn.
In conclusion, I guess it's good to be back at my home away from home. Or maybe it's just my home. Whatever.