Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan
Day 5 -
Wednesday, 26 April 2000
Today the missing luggage belonging to the "one-hour connection"
people was retrieved from the airport. Don, Mary, Joanna and Libby had more to
wear - and carry!
When Atajohn arrived at the hotel, he brought my dress that his
sister had made using the fabric and embroidery we bought at the Sunday Bazaar.
I was ready to look like a Turkmen woman. Well, sort of.
Once we were all together, we headed out to a village. Because of
the trip to the airport to get the luggage, we were late arriving. Some of the
waiting villagers, anxious because we were late, headed out in a car to call us
from a nearby village where a phone was available. Fortunately, we met each
other on the road, and they joyfully led us back to the village house.
There we were met by an astonishing sight. All the young girls
were dressed in traditional costume, many laden with bridal jewelry, and they
greeted us with songs. I quickly slipped into my Turkmen dress (third from
the right above) and we were soon caught up in a wonderful experience.
The songs continued, and other
"entertainments" unfolded. Some of the women were making bread. We watched as
one woman slapped the cakes against the inside wall of the heated "tandoor"
oven. When the bread was done, we all got a taste. It was wedding bread,
sweetened and quite tasty.
We were served tea in small bowls, probably safe to drink since
the water had been boiled. The water most likely came from the nearby stream,
which flows down from the mountain behind the village. Later I saw a woman
dipping a kettle into the stream. Sometimes it's better if you don't know.
A little behind this house is a stream, and a flour mill which is
run by the stream. As we went back to see it, we encountered a young woman
feeding a 10 day old baby goat from a bottle.
There were many chickens in the yard, and probably they are
growing them for the market. But some of these chickens found their way into a
pot with rice, and became our lunch. It was very tasty, and we were given the
opportunity to eat it the Turkmen way, with our fingers. Atatjohn showed us how
to cup our fingers together to scoop the rice up to our mouths. There was a
lively discussion about the different chicken parts included, such as the heart
and the gizzard. I didn't see any feet, however. Fresh herbs and delicious
tomatoes were also on the table, and we could have Coca Cola to drink.
I rode a donkey cart with a few small boys. What a nice way to get
around in the country.
When lunch was over it was time to go. But
there was one more thing. At the fashion show on Sunday, I had bought a dress.
It had to be altered to fit me, and it should be ready now. This village is
where the sewing is done. I found the proprietor, and she beckoned me inside
the house. There was the sewing room, with wedding dresses spread out on the
floor. Also, she had my dress, which I quickly tried on.
As I was going in to try it on, Joanna came by, looking for her
backpack which she had left somewhere in the yard. Later I saw her, she had
found her backpack, but now she and her mother had discovered the sewing room,
and some things for sale, and shopping was in progress.
I changed back into my other Turkmen dress, and with the new one
in hand, I went back to the bus. A little time went by before we on the bus
learned that when Joanna went to pay for a small purchase, she discovered that
a large sum of money was missing from her backpack. Apparently the village had
seemed so innocent that she was a little too trusting. Someone, we will never
know who, had taken out the money, leaving the wallet behind. A considerable
Meli finally told us all to go on to the airport, but she would
stay behind with Joanna and wait for the police, who had been called by cell
phone. Someone mentioned that the KGB also would be coming. Atajohn also stayed
This is the donkey cart
that Geri rode. These kids stayed close to the "picnic grounds" where we ate
lunch. Note the small herd of goats on the hill behind the cart.
We were still at the airport when Meli and Joanna caught up with
us, a little breathless with excitement. Someone had found the money - in the
outhouse! Apparently the threat of the police and the KGB had caused the thief
to know there was never going to be safety in having that money. So they tossed
it into the toilet. Someone subsequently caught a glimpse of one note - the
rest was already covered. Atajohn, may God bless him, donned some rubber gloves
and retrieved the money. The money had to be washed of course, and then it was
One more thing about Turkmenistan. In addition to the ubiquitous
picture of the president (Turkmenbasy), there is a slogan in big letters in
many places. "Halk - Waten - Turkmenbasy" is over the street, on the sides of
buildings, and on billboards. It means "people - motherland - leader". The
purpose is to remind people of their loyalty.
Our one hour flight to Dashkhovuz took us to the very edge of
Turkmenistan. It seemed like the edge of the known world when we checked into
our hotel. Another wonder of the Russian occupation, it had windows that don't
seal properly and great gaps allowed the jumbo mosquitoes to enter and nibble
on us during the night. The toilet in our bathroom didn't quite seal at the
bottom, and leaked water on the floor. I was very glad I had brought my rubber
thong slippers, or flip-flops, and could wear those to protect my feet whenever
I entered the bathroom. This was the worst hotel we stayed in on the trip. The
worst part was the mosquitoes.
We were glad when it was morning and we could leave it behind.
Unfortunately we had to leave at 6 am, the same hour that they turned on the
- Continues with Day 6 -