Cheleken, Turkmenistan, Russia
Summer 1996
A two weeks culture shock
in Turkmenistan

Part 7

Turkmenistan emblemIt is a cold yet bright and sunny morning today. It is still a little bit too early and the doors of the diner will still be closed. I walk around the camp a little and along the fence. Not too far away from the fence I notice heaps of dung. I learned earlier this week that there are wild dromedaries here that roam these planes. The dung must be theirs, but no matter in what directions I look for miles around, they are nowhere to be found! How strange! Maybe they are very small dromedaries, dog size dromedaries? Or maybe they have just run off, very far and very fast. Meep, meep!

In the far distance on the east side of the camp over the Caspian Sea, I notice a plume of pitch-black smoke that rises high in the sky, almost vertically. As it reaches a certain height, it bends straight to the left and follows a horizontal path. At the far left of the horizon the smoke trail makes a "U" and returns again. Standing here it is quite easy to determine the direction of the winds high above. The plume of pitch-black smoke stretches out for many, many miles across the horizon. Another member of the accounting staff joins me in my staring, and explains that I am looking at the smoke of a carbon black plant.

This type of factory produces the toners that are used in laser printers. The pollution in the direct neighborhood of the plant must be enormous. Not to mention the smell. He tells me that a couple of years ago a Japanese company offered to install some filter mechanisms for free, in order to control the output of the plant. According to the story the Turkmen authorities refused the gift since they did not trust the Japanese. Depressing story! Depressing view! The diner has now opened its doors, hurray for breakfast! Meep, meep!

Since my arrival a week and a half ago we have come far. A live accounting system has been set up, on which I have been introducing data every now and then. Also a dummy system for demonstrations and hands-on training of staff members has been put in place. In Amsterdam I already learned that the company works with two sets of books. One for the western members of the Joint-Venture, and one for the Turkmen members. The difference between the two sets of books is enormous; let me assure you! This explains the differences between the two sets of books where the number of processed invoices is concerned. We process all invoices in order to have an accurate picture of our liabilities, and they don´t. Their always behind in our view.

The Turkmen point of view, or Russian if you like, differs considerately from ours. To Russian standards it is not relevant to print VAT numbers on invoices or whatever. As long as they are properly accredited, then everything is cool! I have seen hand written sheets of paper torn from notepads that were considered legal "invoices" due to the fact that a shit load of stamps covered them, and every Jack, Joe, Jill, and Iwan had placed his or her signature on it. Therefore it was officially a legal invoice.

I have seen invoices from western companies being refused, although they carried all the required information, on bases that no stamps were placed upon them, therefore it was illegal to post them in the Turkmen set of accounts. Thus resulting in the western books being far more accurate with keeping track of ins and outs then the Turkmen books, and therefore being totally out of sync with these. Needles to say that above anything else, the Turkmen authorities were clinging on to their set of books for being more accurate.

Today two British colleges have arrived from Amsterdam. One of them is representing the company that has taken over our interests in these local oilfields. It is an individual whose presence I find difficult to endure, due to the man´s endearing personality. The further away from me, the more likeable he becomes! I met this individual for the first time in Amsterdam a couple of months ago when his supervisor was doing the negotiations during the sale of our interests in the oilfields to Dragon Oil PLC.. It was then that I noticed that the man´s lips frequently touched unusual cheeks. And it was not just me who noticed this. Some people just don´t seem care how much they embarrass themselves in public. He is clearly one that likes all sorts of luxury things. His clothes spoke for him in that respect. A spoiled and arrogant brat with a matching attitude and a Santa Claus waistline!

I learned from an Amsterdam college that this is quite a character. According to this college a meeting had been scheduled between the CEO of the buying company and the CEO of the company I work for. One was flying to Turkmenistan and the other one was returning from it. They met halfway somewhere. The both of them were thinking that the other one had requested the meeting and both were evenly surprised what this was all about. As they met, it became clear that this meeting had been arranged by my chubby "friend", because in his infinite wisdom he had decided that it might be a good idea if both the CEO´s would meet again and talk some more.

The other chap is an outside financial consultant who has organized and set up our accounting system and who worked for the company of and on for quite some time now. This is a totally different kind of individual, one of which I learned a great deal from over the past couple of years, and a person whom I can appreciate. When we bought the accounting package some years ago, he fine-tuned it. The both of them have come over here now to check upon things and to see how things were progressing with the hand-over.

and welcome!


Highslide JS
Bungalow for the crew members.

Bungalow for the crew members.

Highslide JS
A room with a view!

A room with a view!