Monday, December 31, 2012

tuesdays in turkmenistan: a new year, no promises

For sophisticates like myself living 13 hours ahead of the lagging West Coasters, the New Year has already arrived. In fact, it arrived nearly 12 hours ago to great and glorious fanfare for the neutral nation of Turkmenistan. And we were playing Mario Kart Wii when it happened. It was as awesome as you think it sounds.

Interestingly enough, yesterday was a holiday in Turkmenistan. Well, sort of. By decree from the great and glorious neutral leader of Turkmenistan, they did a bit of horse-trading for the days. Basically, Saturday was a "normal" working day and Monday become part of the weekend in its place. So people with "normal" jobs had Sunday (as is typical), Monday (traded for Saturday), and today (New Year) off. Strange and magical indeed. Of course, the business I'm in does not take days off. In fact, Sunday was a ridiculous mash up of semi-panicked activity to get a few things out the door. In the end, it's yet another day off added to the already absurdly long list of public holidays in Turkmenistan.

Of course, since you are reading this, you are literate. It also means I'm back after a four week hiatus. I'm not sure where I have been. It was dark and a bit stuffy, so perhaps a broom closet or stuck under a large tea cozy, but I'm free once again. Free to post intermittent and irregular updates and also free to travel back Stateside on Friday. Eight weeks in this time and it is time to start taking some of my accrued days off. I have a few small items for myself, but do wish to share with people when I get back. The most novel one is the English-language Turkmen newspaper I snagged while I stayed in a hotel in Ashgabat earlier in my rotation. (Why was I in a hotel and not a staff house? The staff houses were full since several people were in town. Why was I in Ashgabat? Business totally and in no way related to activities of the CIA. Yes, that sounds right.)

I'm not sure what the game plan is while I am in the U.S. There are some nebulous plans to visit a guy from work who lives out in South Carolina. Perhaps a swing through my storage place and then a drive back across the Southwest with a stop in Los Angeles. It's all quite wonderfully vague. And something about furniture moving.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

earthquake, barely

There was an earthquake last night. It wasn't much of one as my first thought was that someone had hit the side of the building. Plus, it was far less rumbling than when the train goes by. However, it was distinctly an earthquake in that way everything moves that is hard to describe to people who have never been in one. My confirmation came this morning when several people mentioned it so it was obviously not the train or a building issue. Checking out the USGS site, it might have been this quake in Iran as nothing else listed remotely matches. However, that is a long way off in the eastern part of Iran, nearly in Afghanistan. It is possibly the same quake, and the timing sort of works out as well, but the distance is a bit much for me to believe we would feel something like that out here in Balkanabat.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

tuesdays in turkmenistan: wrong ali

There's someone who works for one of our clients with the name Muhammad Ali. Actually, it's not spelled exactly like that, and he's obviously not the boxer, but every time I hear his name, it makes me want to say, "You spoke with Muhammad Ali? How was that?" This must be the curse of people who share names with famous people. You hear the same jokes time and time again so no matter how original someone thinks they are being, you have already heard the line before.

Even a seemingly not-especially-unique name like my last name attracts countless comments. (According the 1990 U.S. census, the last name of Love was the 330-something most common. I'd find you a link, but our network here has become insufferably slow.) For the most part, the comments are positive:
Someone: "Love? Really? That's such a cool name."
Me: "Yeah, it's working out pretty well so I've decided to keep it."

In all fairness, it is a good name. Short, rarely mispronounced, makes you memorable in a non-negative way, women seem interested in pairing their first name with it, etc. You learn to take it in stride, though the jokes do get old. I cannot recall the last original one someone said when referencing my last name. Still, better than being named Smith or Jones.