Archive for November, 2017

A Man a Plan Turkmenistan

November 27, 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope all is well and Happy Thanksgiving. I spent this past week in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, where my Thanksgiving dinner was Turkish, so not quite turkey, but good enough given the circumstances. Here’s a survey weeks’ worth of posts in one.

Aloha Ashgabat: It took a while to get here, almost 24 hours, but the flights were easy.


The layover in Frankfurt was eight hours, so I went to the city to walk around. It takes 10 minutes to get there on the S8 or S9. At 6:00am, the area outside the Central train station was shady with interesting characters so I walked quickly to the Main river and had a nice walk there to see the sunrise over the bridges. My favorite thing about the stop was that walk and the sandwiches in every café. I was exhausted by the next flight (to Ashgabat, with just on little stop in Baku) and felt like I was in paradise getting an entire row to myself.


I passed out for 3 hours. The Ashgabat airport is very modern with white, green, and gold, and very clean, and I soon learned that’s par for the course here, at least for the city centre. The visa and baggage process took a while but was smooth. Driving through the city at night, there are lines and lines of big white buildings with up-lighting on each level.


There are a lot of neon signs. I wasn’t expecting so much! After checking into the beautiful hotel, I spent some time unpacking and then slept. Next morning at breakfast, a woman sat down near me and made very inquisitive conversation.


Working in Ashgabat: Monday I started the survey in good time at the largest mall. At lunch, I went to an Indian restaurant in the top floor of the mall where I was the only one (this was also common throughout the week at many restaurants). About ten minutes after I sat down, they put on the Latin channel. I’ve been listening to a lot of salsa lately so that was weird but great.


After lunch walking toward the grocery store, I bumped into a receptionist from the hotel with whom I had a flirty exchange in the morning. He said he’d go with me around the mall. Okay no problem. It was nice to have the company, though I did get the sense he was checking up on me. “Are you surprised to see me?” (Should I be?) So I took him to a grocery store and showed him what we did. He left after a bit (it’s really boring to watch). At night I went for a walk outside. And that felt very safe because there are guards and cameras everywhere.


Tuesday I visited the Russian Bazaar, had lunch at a hotel where there is a panoramic restaurant that for some reason doesn’t look onto the heart of the city. My meeting late in the afternoon got postponed to even later in the afternoon so I did homework instead, but I fell asleep doing that so there wasn’t much progress (I’m now in an evening MBA program). Finally after the meeting and dinner, I went for a swim. There’s an awesome pool and spa area with a hammam and sauna, so it was very refreshing. At the pool I met two brothers from Afghanistan who asked me if I was a “sportman.” An athlete! I took it as a compliment.


On Wednesday I dealt with registering my visa with the State Ministry of Migration and the embassy and worked with a fantastic translator, Bibi. We had two meetings in the morning and went to Turkish lunch together.


We get along so well. I loved learning about her life and at lunch we talked about management stuff and how to give feedback (which I’m learning in school). In the afternoon, I went to another market. I’m getting comfortable with taking shared taxis. There’s no uber here, every car is a rideshare! Like in Kazakhstan, except this time six years later I’m not too nervous to take them.


Thursday (Happy Thanksgiving!) I spent the day with Bibi again and nearly finished the survey. We had a delicious shashlik chicken lunch and celebrating thanksgiving together, and in the evening I had a coffee and chocolate scrub at the hotel spa, which made me feel a lot like a brownie.


Friday was the last day. I tied up some loose survey ends and then went for a walk on the Walk of Health. There are two walks of health, one 30km that each citizen is supposed to do each year, and then a shorter one for 8km.


My original plan was to do the longer walk (why not?) but due to linguistic barriers I ended up on the 8km path. This was a good idea because the afternoon was so rainy. The path is very well defined with fake animals all around. The path was Not a loop, so I had to catch a taxi back into Ashgabat from outside the city. With the found time, I ate delicious Turkish food and went to get a manicure. Then I packed up and left for my flight at 1:00am.


Now, I’m in Brussels! I was blessed this weekend to have a great friend show me all around the city, and now I’m working out of my company’s Brussels office for the next few days before flying home.