Thursday, February 25, 2010

FoT President's Update

by Thomas 'Skip' Mark, T-8

Dear Friends:

On behalf of the newly elected Executive Committee and Board of Directors, I would like to thank you for your interest in Friends of Turkmenistan. I am writing this letter to update you on the current state of affairs of the organization, to share with you our strategic plan for 2010, and to describe to you the benefits of becoming a member.

Turkmenistan Updates

Turkmenistan beat Tajikistan 2-0 to advance to the finals of the AFC Challenge Cup for the first time. The AFC website pointed out that Turkmenistan has done well in the cup despite challenges, including the hot weather and spicy Sri Lankan food which does not sit well in Turkmen bellies.

Turkmen composer Nury Halmamedov, who died in 1983, would have turned 70 this week. RFE/RL posted a story in honor of the event, including some clips of the music he wrote during the Soviet era.

The Washington Times published an op-ed piece earlier this week urging more US strategic interest in the Eurasia, particularly Central Asian energy market. Outside the hydrocarbon market, Turkmenistan has convened a conference on alternative energy in Ashgabat.

U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke visited the former Soviet Central Asian republics, including Turkmenistan, to warn of the danger of Al-Qaeda sponsoring activities to destabilize the countries.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Job Resources and Suggestions for T-stan RPCVs

by Kelsey Beckner, T-11 (Dashoguz)

Welcome back to the US! Or if you're just finishing more school, welcome back to the glorious U.S. job market! In this article I will provide a bunch of useful resources for finding a job on your return from Peace Corps.

The author power networking herself into the prestigious FoT Vice-President position

1. Peace Corps Career Center and other resources. If you're in Washington, DC you might as well head over to the Peace Corps Career Center, located in Rosslyn, Virginia. I found the spreadsheet listings of international development organizations most helpful for learning about the multitude of development organizations that are in DC and around the country. While this is a good place to start and gives you a sense of purpose in your job search, I do not recommend spending too much time there. Try it out for a few days max and then move on to a coffee shop.

I also found the Hotline magazine pretty helpful as a resource for current job listings. It is also a good place to learn about development and other non-profit organizations.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Turkmenistan News

President Berdymukhamedov announced that Turkmen citizens will be allowed to register new political parties this year.  Currently, the only registered political party is the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistan has advanced to the semi-finals of the AFC Challenge Cup, the international soccer tournament for asia. If they beat Tajikistan, the Turkmen players will face either North Korea or Myanmar (Burma) in the finals.

Friday, February 19, 2010

3rd Goal Presentation Tips

by Charles Gussow, T-11

After completing their service overseas, Volunteers are considered "Returned Peace Corps Volunteers" rather than "Former Volunteers" to emphasize their continuing duty to educate Americans about their country of service. This responsibility is tied to the 3rd goal of Peace Corps - bringing the experience back home to the United States (the first and second goal are providing technical assistance and sharing American culture with foreign hosts, respectively).

In honor of the upcoming Peace Corps week (March 1st - 7th), Camel Spit is pleased to offer some suggestions for successfully sharing your experience at your local school or community center.

Don't be afraid! Use the classroom match at the Peace Corps site or just call a school/library near you and set up a talk. At least once during your service, you convinced a room full of children/doctors/ministry officials that you knew something about health/business/the English language that they didn't (okay, you probably didn't need to fake English language knowledge). You actually do more about Turkmenistan than most people in the U.S., so will be able to pass on a ton of information to your audience.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A taste of soccer glory at the AFC challenge cup

Sports fans!  Turkmenistan held South Korea to a 1-1 tie in the AFC challenge cup for under-23 teams.  The Turkmens only had 10 men on the field for most of the second half.  The South Korean team had been World Cup finalists. More coverage from, notes that the South African bound Korean team probably should have easily beaten the young Turkmen team.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Turkmenistan News

Turkey would like Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to join the parliament of Turkish speaking countries. In another forum, the Economic Cooperation Organization, Turkey held itself out as a role model of development for their Central Asian cousins to follow. Perhaps part of that development project is the new power plant built by Turkey in Ashgabat.

Sports fans - check out the profile of the Turkmenistan international soccer squad, written by an Indian sports site excited about the upcoming Asian championship.

Dashoguz has a new cotton mill.

Cool Things in Random Places posted a story about the perpetual gas fire in Darvaz, called "The Door to Hell." Catchy title.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Peace Corps Week-3rd Goal Activity Suggestions

Peace Corps Week 2010 is from March 1 to March 7.

If you are interested in participating in a Peace Corps activity in your area, the Peace Corps website has a list of events that are taking place all over the country between late February and early March. You can find it at the following link:

Peace Corps also offers "How To" tool kits for third goal activities. You can find it at the following link:

Let us know if you participate in any of these activities and we'll post it on the blog.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Education News & A "Great Game" Update

According to Trend News of Azerbaijan, President Berdimuhammedov, who reinstated the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan last year, has named Gurbanmurat Mezilov to be the full-time president of the Academy.

A Swedish newspaper reports on Afghan students studying in Sweden, including a young lady who originally left Afghanistan for Turkmenistan, before migrating north to continue the medical studies she began at Turkmen State University. reports that Turkmenistan's universities are expanding. The government will increase the number of available postgraduate study slots while adding 7 new faculties (roughly equivalent to American university departments) and 48 new positions for university professors.

If you see a foreign university student studying in Belarus, there's a good chance she or he is Turkmen.

Central Asian watchers are often fond of describing regional relations as "The Great Game," borrowing the term from the 19th century contest between the British and Russian empires in the region.  Those commentators usually mention China as a "new player" for the 21st century, since it enjoys new wealth and old geographic and cultural ties to the region. The analyzes China's recent overtures to Central Asia, concluding that one more major power interested in the region could be a boon to the Central Asian republics by providing more foreign policy options.  Meanwhile, the Obama administration's newly proposed aid budget for Central Asia is austere, with levels remaining largely constant and aid to Turkmenistan falling from $12.5 to $10 million dollars.  Of course, these figures may change by the time Congress approves them.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Does Peace Corps Help Turkmenistan: No, but...

by Maya Saryeva
This essay is part of a continuing Camel Spit conversation.

I would like to present a subjective account of my experience with Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs), and please note that none of what I say is directed at any PCV personally. These are simply my thoughts, memories and experiences that I gathered over the years.  I cannot argue that Peace Corps Volunteers make Turkmenistan a better country. However, I can say that they certainly facilitate a great deal of cultural exchange and touch the lives of different individuals and families in different ways. While there are a few jewels amongst the waves of PCVs that come and go, most are there for the experience of enduring a life outside of United States and coming back to say that they actually made it, and if they are lucky or strong individuals, they were actually able to enjoy it.  I found it especially interesting that very few of the Volunteers (most of the ones I became friends with) had a sense of pragmatism and interest in the lives of Turkmen people, while many others didn't. Undoubtedly some PCVs came with the goal of changing Turkmenistan, while others had a strange air of ideological bias that "we are here to show you things that are not necessarily different, but are essentially "better".  I believe for most of the latter, the attitudes change in time as they realize that there is much in their way, and that the only difference they can truly make is in their neighborhoods, villages or a group of friends.

Does Peace Corps Help Turkmenistan : Yes & No

by Nate Truitt, T-9
This is a response to the question we posed in an earlier posting.

Yes and no, depending on who you ask.

Perhaps the most important thing I learned in Peace Corps was that, by and large, people in other countries are quite content with their way of life. Of course, they have problems and complaints, as do all of us. But they also place a high value on the attitudes, ideas and traditions that under-gird their day-to-day existence.

With very rare exceptions, no nation thinks of itself as desperately in need of foreign assistance. To the contrary, when people think of how foreigners or foreign organizations might help their own country, they usually define the word "help" in very narrow terms.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Turkmenistan's GREAT salt lake: Mollakara

by Charles Gussow, T-11
As is occasionally apparent, your humble Camel Spit editor was a proud temporary denizen of Balkanabat. Readers will need to forgive this, and other instances of regional boosterism.

Many travelers assume that Balkanabat is not a prime location for aquatic adventure. This is a misconception. Sure, the town is surrounded by high desert and mountains, but that doesn't mean you need to go all the way to Turkmenbashi City and the Caspian Sea to enjoy a day at the beach. Balkanabat is a short taxi or marshrutka (minibus) ride away from Mollakara, a GREAT salt lake, located in the outskirts of Jebel. The saltiness means you become super buoyant as you float around and the high mineral content is believed to have strong health benefits. In fact, after Avaza gets rebuilt, Mollakara is due for a sanatarium upgrade.
Until then, here are some tips for enjoying your trip to Mollakara.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Turkmenistan News Round-Up

It seems that Turkmen/American relations took some interesting turns in the fall.

The circus is back in town!  On April 24, the Turkmen State circus will reopen in Ashgabat.

Skiing is coming to Turkmenbashi City.  A covered ski run and skating rink will be built in the reconstructed Avaza resort zone.  In other Caspian news, the unexpected guests on the Aerosvit flight diverted into Turkmenbashi airport from Baku have written letters to the Turkmen government thanking them for the hospitality and hot meals.

The director of the TV station "Turkmenistan" has been fired and the Minister of Communication reprimanded after a February 4th meeting in which President Berdimuhamedov expressed dissatisfaction with the mass media in the country.  A friendly request from Camel Spit - more Lachin Mamedova coverage, please!

President Berdimuhamedov has won the race to be the first world leader to visit the world's tallest tower in Dubai.   He was in town to sign a memorandum of understanding to enhance commercial ties between the United Arab Emirates and Turkmenistan.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Turkmenistan News Round-Up

Business Week notes that Turkmenistan is open for business and may provide returns for adventurous investors. believes that Turkmenistan may become the "Dubai of the Caspian Sea." However,  The Economist is more bearish on prospects for this year. India is in the optimistic camp regarding Turkmenistan's economic potential, as it is sending Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur along with a delegation from the Confederation of Indian Industry to explore strengthening business ties between the two nations.

Iran continues to enjoy strong commercial relations with Turkmenistan, with a recent Iranian delegation highlighting the completion of the Turkmenistan-Iran gas pipeline and construction of a rail link between the nations.The Iranian Vice-President indicated his country's desire to open a Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan-Iran ferry link connecting into the port of Turkmenbashi city.

Turkmenbashi city's airport experienced some more short-term excitement a few days ago - a Ukranian Aerosvit flight from Kiev to Baku had to make an emergency landing in the city's airport due to bad weather.

Plans are underway for Asghabat residents to enjoy more reliable electricity as the city grows.  Following Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov's visit to France, he announced that a consortium of European countries will receive a 2.2 billion Euro contract to improve the capital's power grid.

Vancouver Winter Olympics: Sorry, no Turkmen athletes will be competing this year, though that may change someday.  Central Asian fans will be able to root for Kazahkstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyz Republic, and Uzbekistan, according to

Vegetarian Plov

Camel Spit's third in an ever-expanding series of plov variations.  This recipe suggests the addition of a hard-boiled egg, not exactly a plov standard, to provide a little more protein give some meat-like texture.  Letting your guest peel the cooked garlic head and hardboiled egg also adds the element of hands on plov eating which is often missing from American dinner parties. Of course, if you leave out the egg, you will have a perfectly respectable vegan recipe. 

Ingredients:1 tbsp (or more) grapeseed oil
1 cup jasmine rice
2 cups water
1 or 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
8 large carrots, cut into long, thin slices.  [Slices should be about as long and wide as your pinky, but only 1-2 centimeters thick.]
2 small onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped (+ optional head of garlic)
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp ginger powder (or chopped fresh ginger)
(optional pinch of cinnamon)
(optional fresh jalapeno or chili pepper)
salt and pepper to taste

Friday, February 5, 2010

Past Projects by Friends of Turkmenistan

Friends of Turkmenistan (FOT)'s new leadership is busy exploring options for projects to pursue this year. Because we are a member-driven organization, any FoT member can suggest projects for the organization. So, if you have any idea you're passionate about and are willing to work to help realize it (and have paid your dues at NPCA or by sending a check for $15 to FoT), let us know!

To get your creative juices flowing, here are some of the projects that FoT has undertaken in the past.

* Turkmenistan academic scholarship competition. To encourage graduate-level study of Turkmenistan, a team of outside readers chose the best paper or public health poster on Turkmenistan to receive a small scholarship. The winning scholar wrote about HIV prevalence among sex workers in Turkmenistan.

* Buddy program - RPCVs volunteered to be community contacts for UGRAD and Muskie fellows studying in their hometown.

* Community center support - FoT sent books and office supplies to two resource centers in Mary Welayat, building on a Peace Corps project that has been successfully picked up by the community

* Created PowerPoint presentation for teachers and RPCVs to use in introducing Turkmenistan to students. Available at FoT's homepage:

* Hosted pre-departure parties for Peace Corps Trainee groups traveling to Turkmenistan.

Peace Corps Memories: The Beekeepers

by Kenyon Weaver, T-12

Pamoimoo (to my mind). To me and my two Peace Corps compatriots, Derek and Ben, the word “beekeepers” triggers a response worthy of Proust.

It was our first night in Dashoguz City, which meant it was our last night of the trip to meet our permanent host families. As small and navigable as Dashoguz is, T-12 Ben and I were new and clueless; we latched onto guide and mentor T-11 Derek. The plan was simple: Meet up with the other T-12s at the American Corner, transfer to the Dashoguz Hotel, stay overnight, then pile into the first plane in the morning back to Ashgabat.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sending Care Packages to Volunteers

by Sheryl Abrahams, T-11
In honor of Turkmenistan inviting a new group of Peace Corps Trainees to start service in the spring, we are pleased to share the following hints for those looking to brighten the day of a loved one serving in our favorite corner of Central Asia.

Nothing makes a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV)’s day like receiving a package!  But with increased postage costs, it’s always nice to know that you’re sending the right thing.  Here are some suggestions from returned PCVs to make sure you get the most for your money when mailing parcels to Turkmenistan.

- Krispy Kreme doughnuts: This is not because PCVs won’t eat 3-week old Krispy Kremes that have just come halfway across the world in a cardboard box.  It’s because we WILL.  Every last one, in one sitting, all while telling ourselves that the green spots starting to appear on the top are ‘sprinkles.’  We just don’t need this kind of temptation.
- Tea: By the time your PCV has finished his/her service, s/he will have consumed approximately 7,000 cups of tea, all without any help from you.  Trust us, tea is one thing that your PCV will not do without at any time. Ever.
- Unmarked powders: Though it seems like a no-brainer, this has been done before!    Don’t send your PCV baby powder or cream of tartar in a Ziploc bag, for obvious reasons.  Keep it in the original, marked container, or just let your PCV go to the Turkish supermarket in Ashgabat.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Turkmen President Visits France

President Berdymukhammedov is visiting France to meet with President Nicolas Sarkozy. According to RFE/RL,  Berdymukhammedov and Sarkozy "expressed satisfaction about the continuing dialogue on human rights issues between the EU and Turkmenistan."

In other areas of satisfactory cooperation, the French construction company VINCI looks forward to new business opportunities in Turkmenistan, building on the legacy of Bouygues, a French firm which has demonstrated admirable efficiency in managing construction projects in residential areas.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Palow, Afghan Style

by Sheryl Abrahams, T-11 [modified from recipe by Rebecca Walton Chirak, T-11]

1 medium onion, chopped
0.25-0.5 cup vegetable oil, depending on your taste (olive oil works well)
4-5 cut-up chicken pieces, such as drumsticks and thighs
2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
3 cloves garlic, minced
0.5 cup seedless raisins (golden raisins work best)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
1/4 tsp saffron
5-6 cups chicken broth (If you can manage it, using homemade broth will make this dish absolutely amazing.  Substitute water for some of the broth if needed.)
salt and pepper to taste

Turkmenistan News Sites

Not sure that Camel Spit is giving you all possible information about current events in Turkmenistan?  Go to the following sites to satisfy your curiosity about the home of the Golden Century!
Turkmenistan Golden Age News Site (In Russian)
Turkmenistan Official Magazine
Turkmenistan news from the horse's mouth.