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

Part 8

Turkmenistan emblemWhatever they had planned to do here, it didn´t take them that much time to do it. At some stage the both of them being finished with their business, gather around me while I am instructing some British members of the Russian staff. Initially I was sent out here for four weeks. I am supposed to train this accounting staff that has only two weeks left on their tour, and the first two weeks of the next accounting staff which is supposed to arrive any day now.

Looking out of the office window that is covered with fly droppings, he stares across the desolate landscape and mutters; I hate this fucking place. This facility is obviously beneath him. The consultant, who is also present in the room looks at him, than at me and smiles. Chubby turns away from the window and expresses his desire to leave for Ashgabat, and find a decent hotel. Then they could go out tonight and have a good meal and visit the casino there, before flying back tomorrow. The both of them agree about this.

Chubby then turns to me, and informs me that my stay here is cut short to two weeks because I am more needed in Amsterdam during the financial audit. I ask him what the second crew is supposed to do when they arrive? "Just train these fellows hard Johan, train them hard"; he says while laughing loud, "So these fellows can do the training of the next crew in the overlapping period". At that moment I was involved in a training session with the controller and assistant controller, and the three of us look each other in the eyes. I can read in their eyes what they are thinking of. It probably and most likely involves a pair of bricks or perhaps even a pair of rusty scissors. That what had been organized two months ago, had been altered in two seconds by this manipulative creature. And off he goes, to a better place named Ashgabat!

After having finished the training session I am off to the office where the travel agent is located. After some searching I find him, a local chap who speaks some English, and I explain to him what has happened. I need to return to the Netherlands ASAP, that is, at the end of this week! I need him to make reservations for me with whatever airline possible. This turns out to be more difficult than I anticipated. Naïve as I am I thought that expressing my wishes would be sufficient. Now he tells me that he is new at the job! Sitting on the floor with the flying tables all around me, together we determine what domestic flight I need to take in order to go to Ashgabat first. Then we call the Ashgabat office and ask them to book me an international flight to Amsterdam for the weekend. Finally he fishes my passport out of a large file cabinet and puts it together with some documents about my home flight in a folder. My god, it seems things are finally on the move!

It is night and I am in the bar having a beer with the guys while explaining the plans I have for the upcoming weekend. They suggest that a farewell party would be in place here. How about a piss-up? Sounds good to me! Remember, men will be men! After some negotiating I arrange a full crate of beer. It takes a little negotiating since all the beverages need to be flown in. It is therefore not available in abundance. I have it placed upon the table in between the five of us, and then it is every man for himself now. I already know that I am going to regret this tomorrow. But so be it! One has to respect the local customs, and at the end of the evening I amaze myself again by still being able to find my barrack in a wobbly world covered in complete darkness. Not to mention my room and my bed. I just wish that the bloody thing would stop moving so violently with me in it!

and welcome!


Highslide JS
The camps infirmary, with in the back the diner and the reefers.

Front of the camps infirmary.