from Balkanabat to Ashgabat. Prices have recently gone up and then up again and now that trip costs 60 manat. (It was 30 during my first year.)
Since I didn’t want to spend the entire day in taxis, I decided I’d stay in Ashgabat and continue to Mary the next day. When I got in, I discovered that Preston, one of the Mary volunteers, was in for medical attention and would be returning on Tuesday evening, so we were able to taxi in together. We went to Stephanie’s, where I would be staying during my visit, and had dinner.
The next morning I did a day trip up to the capital of the Lebap welayat, Turkmenabat. There I met with two other vols who showed me their fast food type restaurant that serves burgers and pizza. The owner speaks English and the vols in Lebap have a really good rapport with him. Then we headed to their “world bazaar.” It is huge and I found a few things I couldn’t find in my own bazaar back home. We hung out for a bit before I had to head back.
Thursday, I went with Steph to her work and watched the first episode of Game of Thrones season 2 on her computer while she cleaned her office in preparation of leaving. Then we had lunch with Sam, another vol who had come into the city. (He trained in the other Anew group.) Steph had an errand to run, so Sam showed me around a bit of the city, including a Soviet MIG on display and their Russian Orthodox Church. Then we met back up with Steph and headed to Bayramaly to meet Preston for our trip to Merv.
Merv is the site of an ancient Parthian settlement. It is still being excavated whenever archaeologists can get permission from the government. It is a large, sprawling site that could take you an entire day to explore if you did it all on foot. We took a taxi out to the farthest part and walked our way toward the city. Part way through, the Turkmen we were supposed to meet for dinner called when we didn’t show up on time. She then offered to come
drive us around the few sites in Merv we hadn’t reached and then drove us to her house. Merv was the one thing that I wanted to see in Turkmenistan, having read about it before I even came. I’m glad I went and got what Preston calls“the platinum tour.” I finished my trip on Friday with a quick visit to Mary’s bazaar and then flew to Turkmenbashy where I met up with Phil for lunch before taking the taxi back to Bbat.
Bbat. I’ve discovered my city is more liberal. There’s a lot more interracial marriage in Bbat and fewer women wearing yalyks. It may not be as exciting to visit, but I think it’s a better place to live. Plus it has a camel statue. I love my adopted hometown.