When I got to Turkmenistan, my attitude changed a little, at least in regard to cell phones. When MTC was here, having a cell phone was great for mental health. I could text friends in other welayats and it seemed they weren’t so far away. If something came up to delay me, I could call Lindsay and let her know I was going to be late. That convenience came to an abrupt end when Turkmenistan kicked MTC out of the country and the only cell phone provider left was Altyn Asyr, which was not ready to handle the increase in customers. That was over two months ago and I still haven’t been able to get a SIM card from them. I’ve managed to survive, but the cell phone problem is not the only one I have here.
Land line phones are even more sinister to me here than back home. When the phone rings here, I know it’s never for me, so when I’m at the house alone, I never answer the phone. I don’t have the language skills to explain that whoever they’re looking for isn’t here. It’s much easier to communicate in person because you can use body language, but over the phone it’s solely verbal language. I tried answering today. It was so frustrating, explaining that I don’t speak Russian and I only understand a little Turkmen, trying to answer the questions I was being asked. But the guy kept talking, ignoring the fact that I couldn’t understand. I finally hung up. He kept calling back, but I didn’t answer. In the States, if someone doesn’t answer the phone, you hang up after four or five rings, right? (Or more often, they have an answering machine that picks up after three rings and you leave a message). This idea is lost on Turkmen. Today I counted once and the phone rang twenty-one times before the person on the other end gave up.