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Daily Life in Turkmenbashy's Golden Age: A Methodologically Unsound Study of Interactions Between the Tribal Peoples of America and Turkmenistan Paperback – October 3, 2010
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"Visits to ancient Silk Road cities and run-ins with secret police along with covert operations to spread his views on human rights and democracy all make for a fascinating read." --Open Central Asia magazine (Spring/Summer 2011)
"For two years, Tranum lived [in Turkmenistan] with host families, outside of the capital, Ashgabat, deeper than most foreigners go in one of the most closed societies in the world." --Transitions Online (April 22, 2011)
"Further reading" -- US Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center's "Turkmen Cultural Orientation" publication, 2012
"Engaging and perceptive account of two years' work and travel in Turkemenistan from a then Peace Corps volunteer. The best of a crop of volunteer memoirs of Central Asia." --Lonely Planet guide to Central Asia
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Top Customer Reviews
It is an unusually well-written example of that generally underwhelming niche genre: political awakening accounts by young American community development volunteers posted to developing countries. They have been around since the'60's and the heady American-idealism-can solve-it-all times of the Alliance for Progress mindset.
But this example is the best I've come across yet: gripping, funny, often ruefully painful and sometimes just infuriating as the author, Sam Tranum, a young middle class idealist of a Peace Corps volunteer, confronts the realities of carrying out community improvement projects in the hyper-paranoaic milieu of a post-Soviet dictatorship rife with petty to high level corruption, inaction, ignorance and, at times, the very real threat to him of personal danger. But Sam just keeps going on, day after day, refusing to give up or to acknowledge reality, figuring out how to elude the authorities and visit forbidden sites around Turkmenistan, organizing summer camps where democracy is tentatively on the agenda, putting up health posters, going for grants that he comes to realize will never produce the desired outcome, and building deep personal relationships with members of his host families, even as they sometimes splinter apart before his eyes under the almost intolerable pressures of "making do"on a daily basis. He comes very close to despair and describes a growing desire to just call it quits and hie on home. Happily,for the reader, he stays on.Read more ›
At the same time he describes Turkmenistan itself in such a realistic manner that I could sometimes remember precisely the sound and smell and the very look of the countryside, the markets and the health clinics where many of our PCVs still are assigned and, above all, the meals so lovingly prepared and served by this most hospitable people.
It adds great versimilitude that Mr. Tranum does not hesitate to put in writing his own indiscretions and cultural mistakes. We all make them when we are abroad but we don't usually record them for everyone to read. Bravo to Mr. Tranum for proving that he is an honest observer.
One final note. I have become somewhat obsessive about the lack of proper editing in the publishing world these days. I think it is something of a national disgrace. I don't know whether Mr. Tranum did his own editing or whether his publisher arranged it, but this book is remarkably free of the errors, typos, non-sequiters and the like which seem to fill many of the newly published books I read nowadays.
I've been living in Russia for two years now, so I can certainly sympathize with a lot of his experiences from bureauocracy, unreliable transport and being ripped off. But Turkmenistan is definitely a stranger country, with a lot of absolutely fascinating sites like a massive irrigation canal built through the heart of the desert, crumbling prehistoric ruins of early Indo-European civilization, a burning crater, and of course, self-flattering monuments of Turkmenbasy himself.
The reason that this book gets a five star rating is that Sam Tranum has excellently woven enough history into the narrative of his two year Turkemenistan experience. I came away feeling like I had actually been there, and plowed through the book in just a matter of days (while riding around on unreliable Russian transport, I may add). Though the subject matter will hit home best with other expats who have lived or are living in similar countries, even those who don't travel much would walk away with a good understanding of Turkemenistan, as experienced by a Westerner.
As a former Peace Corps volunteer in Bulgaria from 2000-2003 who resides there today, I overall enjoyed his honest account into life as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to understand what the Turkmen people have to endure under their government. When I get a chance to read another book, I plan to check out his book on oral histories in Soviet Kyrgyzstan.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A rare look into life in Turkmenistan that shows the author's growth along the way.Published 2 days ago by Ricardo Almonte
I found this clip of life in Turkmenistan extremely absorbing. Written from an outsider's point of view, but Sam is so incredible at becoming part of the culture and family to the... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Brenda Caprotti
Well written account of the day to day life of people in TurkmenistanPublished 14 months ago by James
Having been followed by the secret police during my very brief visit to Ashkabat, stories of life outside that city were fascinating. An excellent read!Published 15 months ago by Stylish Beach-town Senior
I bought this book because my friend and I have long talked about going to Turkmenistan as it is so obscure and bizarre. I was not expecting to enjoy the book as much as I did! Read morePublished 18 months ago by Katrina
Interesting if you want to find out what everyday life in turkmenistan is all about. Well written and not a heavy read.Published 24 months ago by Dinesh Bhatia
Sam gives excellent descriptions of his life in Turkmenistan - the uncertainty, the danger, and the delights. Read morePublished on October 29, 2013 by Catherine Onyemelukwe