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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great time was had by all on Thanksgiving.

Since your piece is pretty humorous, I thought I pass along with this one:


There must be other candidates from other regions.