Being in Turkmenistan is much like being in a box. Of course, one could argue that anywhere on the planet, or even the universe, is like being in a box, just much larger. Still, while Turkmenistan is a good-sized box in it's own right, it is quite a bit more boxy than most other places. It has some straight borders, is mostly empty, and much if it tastes like cardboard. Ok, perhaps it's not strictly a box, but if it was, then it would be a very plain one and the problem with plain boxes, aside from being boring, is that they are inherently uninspiring. It is difficult to feel particularly motivated when most of your surroundings are rather lifeless and devoid of interest.
While I am here I end up spending a lot of time by myself. Being able to keep my own counsel has been a necessary part of work since I first started. In the camp, while I'm in close physical proximity to many people, keeping my own company is very important to my sanity. Also, since smoking is allowed in all the common recreation areas, I usually dislike spending time there. The smoking thing is very important to me and it has really brought out how much I positively detest smoking and view it as something with no possible redeeming social benefit. Smoking is one of the few absolute deal breakers I have when it comes to relationships and anyone else I plan to hang around with any significant amount of time. In the end, my time alone is quite significant and when in my cargo container-esque room, it certainly holds the potential to be rather depressing if you don't know how to be good at being alone. Perhaps that sounds odd, but some people seem generally terrible at being by themselves. There's a difference between being bored and needing/seeking continuous contact with people. You simply have to be okay enough with yourself to spend lots of time with just yourself. It sounds simple enough, but I feel like it's a skill some people do not have.
Anyway, this box here. It's also becoming quite the sandbox to borrow a term from video game parlance. Turkmenistan is in its own world here. Perhaps it's just the fact some more recent reports have been published that cast a skeptical eye (to be very polite) on the situation here, but Turkmenistan feels increasingly like some sort of Hotel California for locals. (I do feel like I can check out from here.) When I have time, perhaps by next Tuesday, I want to have gathered up all the recent reports and try to explain what I see with my own eyes. Plus, the election is soon and that will surely be interesting, in a certain sense of the word.
Also, for what it's worth, I'm still in Ashgabat. Today's flight to Balkanabat was cancelled due to snow in Balkanabat. Something like 2-3cm was on the ground so apparently the airport there did it's best Madagascar impression and shut down everything.