Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Turkmenistan News on The 'Net

From the United States, With Love
Secretary of State Clinton released a Nowruz greeting to Turkmen media on March 19th. Secretary Clinton expressed her desire to continue preserving Turkmenistan's historical heritage sites and offered continuing US support for the "process of reform and development" in the country.

From Turkmenistan, With Love
The Turkmen government has given clothes and books to members of the Turkmen diaspora in Tajikistan. There are 25,000 ethnic Turkmen in Tajikistan.

From Germany, With Love
Someone in Turkmenistan is cruising in style.  Daimler recently agreed to a $185 million settlement with the US Department of Justice for paying foreign bribes, including the gift of an armored Mercedes to an unnamed
Turkmenistan government official.

From Russia, With Love (surely you saw that one coming?)
There may be no competing with the Germans for luxury cars, but Russia produces quality military equipment. This year, Turkmen government has beefed up its military with purchases of 10 tanks, 2 fast attack boats, and 6 rocket launchers.  Turkmenistan's military purchases are actually fairly modest compared to the build up by other nations in the budding arms race developing in the Caucuses and Central Asia.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sorry I Cannot Hear You, I'm Kind of Busy

by Steve Lynch, T-13 (Dashoguz City)

Former Peace Corps Volunteers do not call home. They do not buy phone cards. They do not page through scuffed tetrads (notebooks) filled with lists of digits from their village, calling codes cramped into the corners, hunting for their favorite dukançy's number. We return home, shake out the rug we bought from someone in the capital, and make a few drunken speeches to whomever will listen here about how this experience changed us and how we learned more from them than we think they learned from us and that's crazy, man. But we do not call home.

Almost every conversation between RPCVs (former Volunteers) will loop back through the same doorways of the same circular home of conversation: it's insane how it feels like forever ago; yeah, I was thinking about that, too; and then, finally, have you talked to your host family at all, like called them or something? There is the same look of guilt shading all of our eyes--no, I didn't but no one does and the land lines are terrible, right? There is comfort in knowing we are a type, that we have self-similar habits here. Because that guilt always turns to relief when the other person admits to host familial silence. Our communal guilt is a comfort.

I am the ugly duckling, for I have called my host family almost without fail once a month, almost every month, since I returned here in October 2006. I am a rarity. For almost three and a half years, I spend an hour on the phone with a family that suffered, stuffed, angered, adored, and amused me for two years and we, like Volunteers, cycle through the same conversations every single time. It goes like this.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Turkmenistan News on the 'Net

Congratulations to recently Returned Volunteers Gary Goodson and Robin Wilson, who got the picture above, labeled, "An assemblage of Turkmen" into the Turkmenistan newstream.  The picture accompanied an article promoting their upcoming talk about their Peace Corps experience.  If you're near San Marcos, Texas, swing by the public library tomorrow (March 16th) at 7 pm to hear the talk.  Remember - just because Peace Corps week is over for 2010 doesn't mean that the window for Third Goal activities has closed.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in Turkmenistan for an official visit.  According to Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency, the visit will discuss ways to strengthen economic relations, especially in the gas sector.

President  Berdimuhammedov announced plans to demolish illegally built homes and other buildings in the suburbs of Ashgabat. The goal will be to increase cleanliness and allow construction of orderly roads.

A recent demographic study by the Turkmen government found that women outnumber men in the country.

Earlier this month, Turkmenistan invited Haitian children to enjoy a respite from the problems in their country by vacationing at Avaza, the newly rebuilt resort community on the Caspian Sea.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Turkmenski Shashlyk

by the Shashlyk Master of Ashgabat
Camel Spit has published multiple plov recipes, but has yet to provide instructions for that essential Turkmen party staple: shashlyk.  Sure, you could translate the dish as "shish kebab," but that does not do justice to the fire charred, fat laden, tangy meat that tastes uniquely of Turkmenistan, and the scarce wood from the desert sacrificed to cook it.

Whether you first had it in the shady back alley behind the Presitzhe bar & grill in Abadan (Bizmein) or with the famous shashlyk masters of the Nebit Dag Bazaar, or that special gem in Ashgabat, the Iceberg Café, shashlyk was always a great break from the grechka/chorba/chorek diet of village life.  It did not even have to be good shashlyk, just some grilled meats cooked outdoors with a pivo (beer) or three. 

Many Volunteers have attempted to recreate various shashlyk recipes, and below I’ll try and recount as many as I can remember from some of the great PCV shashlyk masters of yore, and of course our Turkmen counterparts who actually know what they are doing. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Turkmenistan News

Israel is planning to open an embassy in Turkmenistan.  However, diplomatic relations have hit a snag because Turkmenistan has delayed ratifying the appointment of Israel's ambassador, because they are uncomfortable with an ex-Mossad (Israeli secret service) official serving in the post.

While Richard Holbrooke was not able to coordinate a meeting in Turkmenistan, another U.S. official, special envoy for Eurasian energy Richard Morningstar did meet with President Berdymukhamedov, according to  Reuters analyzed the meeting within the familiar framework of energy diplomacy.

According to the Neutral Turkmenistan, as reprinted on, President Berdymukhamedov  has announced a major criminal law liberalization program.  The maximum prison sentence in Turkmenistan will be reduced from 25 to 15 years and fines will replace prison sentences for some crimes.  This move comes after Turkmenistan faced criticism about its prison system by a number of international non-governmental institutions.

Sad news for Balkan Welayat soccer fans: Balkanabat's Nebitchi lost in the President's Cup finals to Ashgabat's Altyn Asyr.

Monday, March 1, 2010

RPCV Advocacy Efforts on Behalf of Peace Corps

The National Peace Corps Association will mark the anniversary of the founding of Peace Corps with a Day of Action tomorrow (March 2nd).  RPCVs will visit Congress to urge continued bipartisan support for the agency. NPCA has an action page if you would like to help advocate in our home state.

In a similar vein, Push of Peace Corps is currently advocating for increased funding of Peace Corps (to $465 million in 2011). If you would like to write your Representative on behalf of the goal, the organization has set a deadline of March 15th.  More information on getting involved with this campaign is available on their website.

Turkmenistan News on the 'Net

Turkmenistan's AFC Challenge Cup run ended with a loss to North Korea, 1-0 in the finals.

Neil Bush, brother of President George W. Bush and son of President George H.W. Bush, visited Turkmenistan and passed on the best wishes of his father and to President Berdimuhamedov and conveyed the hopes of the U.S. business community for strengthened relations between the countries.

Perhaps reflecting warmer relations between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are on the horizon, announced that Dashoguz will host a festival of Turkmen/Uzbek friendship in September 2010.