Day 5: Turkmenistan

We check into the Grand Turkmen Hotel.  Even though its not as fancy as our first hotel we are all glad to be in the middle of the City in a Hotel that seems more like a hotel rather than a convention dorm.

Today we visit four completely different settings to perform for students. Our first visit is to one of the big marble edifices in the City.  This school is dedicated to horse training.  Two girls in folk dresses greet us with trays of candy.  We then are ushered into a hall with about 100 students already seated. We had come early to set up the projector but were told they were not ready for us. We waited around and now the wait has put us in a rush to get things going. I plug in the computer and nothing comes up. We try their equipment, then our equipment and nothing. It was so easy the first day, just plug it in and go but that was not to be today. We finally decide to go without the introductory slide show.

This school seems to be based on discipline. The students are almost blank as they listen.  A small student ensemble shares some of Turkmen folk music but it seems passionless.  When we ask for questions the only person allowed to pose questions is the principle.  Rather than asking a question he asks if we would please thank the President for allowing us to tour in Ashgabat. After our solicited statement of  gratitude he asks what our impressions are of their heavenly horses. He obviously is not interested in what we have to share but what he might impress us with. We are glad when this session ends and because of the delays it makes us late for our second school.

Things could have not been more different at the music school we attend next. The teachers, the kids, the Principle, all alive in anticipation for our program. We don’t even try to set up the projector and screen but introduce ourselves and make an informal program of songs, poems, and talk directly to the music students.  It is fun to speak with passion then see that passion translate into a new language. The students absolutely love the program and we do too.  The school is decrepit compared to the fancy horse training school but we all feel right at home with these good people. At one point a student comes down and plays a bit of guitar song. He is very shy. Then a teacher pulls out a long bamboo flute and performs a shepherd’s call which is incredibly beautiful. After numerous smart phone photos with the students we adjourn to the Principles office where we are served tea and cookies. Though our interpreter, Zohre Meredova, he tells us that this was the best program they had ever had at the school. He was genuinely grateful, as were we.  What a treat.

We then go to our new hotel, the Grand Turkmen Hotel, to check in and have lunch. I fear we over ate in the very nice restaurant here so when it was time to climb back into the vans many of us were a bit sleepy. Our third school was to be younger music students but when we arrived at the school we were told there was a change and we would go to a sports school instead.

We show up there to an auditorium full of mostly fit looking teenage boys. This is a boarding school and is a nice facility. The place does not have the same totalitarian feeling as the first school but then again, does not have the same heart as the music school,  somewhere in between.  This time the technology works flawlessly though, it being our first time doing the introductory remarks, the slide show takes a long time to go through, particularly with lengthy interpretation. The program goes well but the students seem sleepy. I know how they feel.

The last performance is for an English conversation class at the Embassy’s Media Library housed at the hotel where Gail and I did a media presentation on the first day.  For this workshop we have  no interpreter so we go through the introductory slide show pretty quickly. We sing, we answer many good questions and have a great time with these aspiring English speakers. It is a nice culmination of the day. We then go back to the Hotel Ashgabat where Candra needs to do some final accounting with the Horse Association.  We get back to our new hotel ready for a light dinner and beers before hitting the hay around 10pm.

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our gang

our gang

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