Last updated on
November 22, 2022.
November 22, 2022.
It is six in the morning and time for a "rise and shine" and a good breakfast. And breakfast is definitely good around here, let me at least assure you that. A rock solid "English breakfast" with bread, bacon, sausages, eggs and fried potatoes. In the pitch darkness we all stroll to the camps diner to eat and to finish waking up. When finished with my breakfast, I stack the dishes in one of the trolleys and get myself a fresh bottle of mineral water. Drinking mineral water was recommended to me. I was warned not to drink any tab water at all. It is okay to brush your teeth with it, but that´s as far as you should go. The quality of the drinking water here is not the same as back home. Drinking the local water strait from the tab can lead to a condition what is known around here as "Chelly-Belly". Take it from me; you don´t want to know the details about this.
As of then it is business as usual. I brought with me the databases of the accounting software. These need to be installed here, and the accounting staff needs to be instructed about the menu structure and the ins and outs of the financial software package that they are going to use. I am here to instruct the English, as well as the Russian staff how to work with the software. I report to the manager of the accounting staff and start making plans with him about how to follow up on things. Eventually we agree about a training schedule for everyone involved to take.
The database installation is not that much work at all. Most of the time spend here will be dedicated to the training of the staff. Around eight, to eight thirty we stop and go and fetch ourselves a cup of coffee. It is now bright and sunny but still a little nippy. I have a good view on the camp now. It consists out of a large rectangle area with a ten feet high fence around it. On the east side, that is one of the narrow sides, is a gateway that is permanently supervised by guards. It looks and feels just like a POW concentration camp. The only difference is that the quality and quantity of the food on the inside is a hell of a lot better than on the outside.
The camp is constructed quite a distance away from the nearby town of Cheleken. It is in fact located smack in the middle of nowhere, since the authorities do not want their people to associate with these "decadent westerners" on a large scale. When you walk through this relatively small camp, you can see steppe all the way around for as far as the eye reaches. In the far distance there is a huge mountain range with snow covered peaks that towers high over these empty planes that are scarcely covered with tough vegetation. You definitely need a car to go to town, or to go anywhere else for what that matters!
A wide path runs directly down the middle of the camp separating it into two sides. On each side wooden barracks are placed with the narrow side pointing towards the path, thus filling up both plots. Some barracks are offices, some are living quarters and some are joined together and form a small infirmary. The largest building in the camp is the diner. It consists out of a dining section for the staff, a large kitchen and a bakery.
The soil on which the camp was erected upon is of a clay like structure that cracks open in beehive like patterns when exposed to the summer sun. There is hardly any vegetation in the camp itself. For this reason a gardener has been appointed whose task it is to take care of the little bit of vegetations there is. The man is a local senior citizen, about five foot-ten, with his back slightly curved forward, and he has a dark weather-beaten face and looks like he should be enjoying his pension rather than being at work. His upper lip is decorated with a large, grey moustache that curls upward at the tips.
The natural vegetation that covers these planes are though grasses that reach up to the knee. They come in two-feet wide clusters with bare soil around them, and cluster wise they cover all of the land as far as the mountain range at the horizon. Therefore, in order to give the camp a bit of a cheerful face, lots of small bushes have been flown in and were planted in flowerbeds in between the barracks. It is only the last week of November, so during this time of the season there are of course no leaves on these bushes. During the summertime these flowerbeds are regularly watered because of the severe drought in this region.
In the other barrack facing the one that is our office, the coffee corner is situated. And this is not hard to locate at all. We are not the only ones that are interested in coffee. It is operated by two of the local girls. By the way, the water used to make coffee is boiled well! So there is no need to worry about the aforementioned condition. We stand here for a while, sip our coffee and talk with the colleges that come in for some coffee. During these moments I notice that the locals are not speaking the Russian language. I have heard enough of the Russian language the last couple of days to be able to make that distinction. I then learn that aside from the Russian language most of them also speak a Turkish dialect. Hence the name Turkmenistan! This is such an educational trip for me!