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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

 

Central Asia's North Korea, Here We Come

Oh boy, oh boy, we're planning a trip to Turkmenistan in April!

It's a huge hassle to get visas, and we've only got about a 50% chance of getting one. Plus we have to go on a tour.

Still, some friends just came back (see photos at expat monkey) and we decided it was just the place for us.

You may have heard about Turkmenistan only because its President-for-Life, Sapurmurat Nayizov (who named himself Turkmenbashi -- father of all Turks), has:

--Renamed all the planets after himself and his mother;
--Required that university students study his own book, to the exclusion of all other subjects;
--Built an enormous gold statue of himself in Ashgabat, the capital, that rotates so he is always facing the sun.
--Recently closed all the hospitals in the country, under the logic that anyone who is sick can come to Ashgabat for treatment.
--Has razed all the traditional housing in Ashgabat and replaced it with high rise marble apartments, linked by brand new, four lane thoroughfares that have absolutely no cars on them.

It's always hard to decide where to go when we need a break. Naturally, we want to go west where life is convenient, but coming back to Baku is a real drag. We decided to go east, instead, to check out one of the world's most repressive and authoritarian regimes, to appreciate more what we have here.

If we don't get visas, I don't know where we'll go. Maybe Spain.

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