Tuesday, November 27, 2012

tuesdays in turkmenistan: where there was no thanksgiving

And never will be.

That sounds a bit gloomy. Actually, I did get something from my embassy while I was in Ashgabat last week. I received an invitation to U.S. Culture Days in Ashgabat. Sadly, but not really as that is not the emotion I experienced, I flew back to Balkanabat a day before the series of events started. I actually passed the invitation along to my manager. While he is not from the U.S., he previously worked there and his children were born there so they are U.S. citizens.

Interestingly enough, I saw a news piece on the event last night while flipping through the channels. Wait, first a bit about the channels.

We used to have various television channels. Let's say about 12-15 working channels. Over time, fewer and fewer of them were working owing to poor service and whatever kind of chicanery goes on here that I would rather not know about. This past weekend, just three days ago, they restored channels, though not all the same ones as we had before. One of them happens to be a local Turkmenistan television channel and this is what I saw last night.

During the segment, there was a voice-over presumably describing the performance. I assume the performers were part of the Della Mae bluegrass group based on some rigorous process of elimination while looking at the schedule in the link above. In shots that showed the audience, they seemed to be comprised of politely sitting schoolchildren, perhaps ages 11-14, who were not there on their own volition. Despite it being a Saturday, there were all wearing the traditional schoolgirl dress and hat, much like these students though they are older. And while they were a polite audience, they seemed less than enthused, no doubt attending not entirely on their own accord.

I wish I could get a TV Guide equivalent for the local news channel. I only know a few shows that will be on at certain times and this is because they are on the TVs in the airports while I wait for my flights to and from Balkanabat. Around 13:00, there is a program where performers play some sort of traditional stringed instrument. I believe they are called dutars. That's what we see while waiting for the ASB-BLK flight. The return leg usually has a news program on around 15:00. It often features government officials standing in front of either a carpet or a picture of the President or both while they update the President with various reports. I cannot tell if the news does a voice-over of this or not as the audio is never on in the BLK airport. Sometimes, they cutaway to show the President sitting at a large U-shaped desk with three monitors along one side, a laptop on the other side, and him looking very serious. His computer setup is undoubtedly pretty sweet, for sure he's a big Minecraft fan.

What I find most fascinating is the English-language reporting they did for a while last night. Two questions came to me. First, who is the target audience of an English-language broadcast that only airs in Turkmenistan? (Related question is why anyone like myself would consider the news to be impartial.) Second, could they have found someone with better English-language skills to read that segment. The fellow's accent was thick and the enunciation non-existent. I had to listen for a while to be sure he was actually speaking English.

In summary, I had curry for Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

tuesdays in turkmenistan: mary!

The city, not a person. And pronounced more like Mah-Rhee. Regardless, I'm there right now sitting in the airport at 21:45 and tapping this out on my phone one thumb press at a time.

Several of us came here on a day trip for work.  Early morning flight, then a two hour drive, meetings all day, two hour drive back, and then the last flight back to Ashgabat. Sadly, no sightseeing or visits to historic sites could be arranged. And the scenery was rather bleak. Tough-love cotton fields amidst the encroaching sands of the desert seen through the scoured windows of a bus that lacked a strong enough heater.  There may not be snow but winter has arrived.

If I have done this correctly, you'll see what passes for proof that I am here in the Mary airport.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

tuesdays in turkmenistan: where i cheat with this post

The title should really read "where i cheat shamelessly with this post" as it is being put up two weeks late, has nothing particularly to do with Turkmenistan and is in fact a lot of random rambling. This is my gap entry, a missed TinT, that hasn't even nagged at me like these normally do. I'm simply too busy. I'll get into some generalized specifics in the entry that is actually supposed to be posted today (Nov 27), but this space is just filler. Idle words and bits in the digital abyss, like a overly stylized special effect from Tron 2.0.

My time off hasn't really been much in the way of time off. Plus, it ended not so great this last time. I went to London prior to my return to work. That should have been good. Conceptually, it was great. However, I somehow managed to hurt my foot (and I'm still not sure how I even did that), my first full day there so I spent the next couple of days gimping through the pain. I did take it easy the next day, but every step hurt. It is fine now and was seemingly some sort of deep bruise though there was no discoloration, perhaps a bone bruise, though I am not actually a doctor so this is lay speculation. However, it took more than a week before I was able to shake off the pain for good. It was also the first time I resorted to any sort of pain medication in several years.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

leaving on a jet plane

Leaving on a jet plane, still got that A380 route. (Sing it to the Peter, Paul and Mary tune.) Lufthansa is still running the A380 on this route despite now being on what I call their Winter schedule. Last year, they switched to the 747 in November. This year, according to the lady who checked me in, they will try to run the A380 to SFO until January. The route is popular enough that they are (were?) looking for 10 volunteers to take tomorrow's flight instead. The offer was rather generous and if I was not meeting up with a friend at a set time and place, then I would have more seriously considered their offer. As it is, I'm ditching the lounge soon and will go board in 10 minutes. See everyone in about two months.