Does the English Language have a Stronger word for Hospitality?
Seriously.. English needs a better word for hospitality… Somewhere, Turkmenistan to Merv, Turkmenistan
So I forgot to mention a few things… first the people of Turkmenistan are absolutely the most friendly I have ever seen. Ever. Single. Car. that pasted us waved hello, or gave a wave and a smile or a friendly honk. Also we blew a tire on the way up to the Door to Hell. AND…based on the conditions of the roads ahead, we absolutely needed to get a replacement. This is goal numero uno… also this is kinda a challenge.. None of us speak Tajik, or Russian (which surprisingly lots of people do… or ROOSK or ROOKSY as it is pronounced by the locals), none of can read the signs… so we just kind just walk into stores that have tires on the outside of them.. whatever the store may look like.
We are referred down the road for the shop above and after communicating in our favorite hand gestures and squiggles on some paper, we think they can get us a new tire. Now the only problem is.. they don’t have the right size.. They have 175R13 and a 165R13…. not the 155R13 size we need…Marshal, being of the most car savy… meaning he has a degree in Mechanical engineering… and we can blame him if anything goes wrong, says its ok to have the 165R13 on the car… its not the end of the world. We try to barter a bit with no avail… and finally get our new tire and get back on the road.
So the second goal for the day is to make it to Merv, which at one point was the largest city of the Silk Road only to be ransacked by Genghis Khan sometime in this plundering and pillaging days of early 1200s. The entire population apart from a few hundred souls were killed…
But we got lost in the city of Mary, we asked this van at a stop light where Merv was and this girl pops her head our the drivers side window over I presume was her brother driving..
“Hello! I saw you on the ferry!!!”
She exclaimed excitedly as she point to me. Everyone seems to think they know me whether or not they have seen me or not. Is there something I don’t know?!? This was Zulfiya, she spoke the most english…the rest of the family not so much. Her brother, Apceh was driving and their mother was in the passenger seat.
Anyways this Turkmenistan family graciously drives us through the city to the highway we are supposed to be on. They pull off the side of the road and we get out to thank them for helping us find the right road. Then one thing leads to another and we find ourselves following them to their home… Zulfiya, Apceн, and especially their mother was very insistent.
After a bunch of turns, twists, and roundabouts, we come to this 5 or 6 story building. The building looks run down and looking like it just survived a few wars or the projects. We park and follow them up the stairs to the top floor of this small apartment. We are ushered in by Zulfiya to the only airconditioned room in their home and told to sit down… We all look at each other with hesitation as the sweat, dirt and grim is just permeating this ever so pristine room…
Apceн makes hand motions for showering, we once again all other at each other in sheer amazement at the level of hospitality this Turkmenistan family was giving. As we all took turns showering, a spread of fruits, breads, yogurt, and tea was brought out for us to enjoy. Josiah and Apceн leave for a bit and apparently come back with bread and three, not one…but three watermelons for us to take with us… (Also apparently you spin the watermelon up in the air to check if its good or not… like you would spin a raw egg or boiled egg. i guess.. Apceн knows the trick, just ask him.)
This was followed by the most delicious pilaf prepared by their mother. Zulfiya then asked if anyone was sleepy and wanted to nap, then brought pillows for us to nap on. We nap for a hour or so and then decided if we stayed too long we might never leave…
We exchanged contact information and thanked them over and over. This level of hospitality is out of this world. I’m pretty sure Alfred (Batman’s butler, mom) learned everything he knows from this family. It felt surreal and at the same time we all knew this would never happen in our own homelands. To take a smelly, stinky bunch of foreigners into your home, shower them, feed them, buy them watermelons and bread for the road, let them sleep in your home, and ask for nothing in return!!??!?! They were angels sent by God to lift our spirits for sure!
We leave the Turkmenistan’s family home around 4–5pm and headed towards Merv. This time in the right direction. The city was defnitely ransacked.. all that is left are a few scattered buildings… by scattered I really do mean scattered… if you dropped a few grains of rice on the floor and a gush of wind was blowing as you dropped them… This is about how scattered the ruins were from each other.
We circle the city at sunset, driving around hanging out the windows to reduce time getting in and out of the car to use the little precious daylight that is dwindling away…
It is dark now and we decided to camp near the city walls for the night, with a watermelon feast for dinner.
P.S. Zulfiya, if you ever get a chance to read this (The advertised internet speed in Turkmenistan was 512kbit/s..…)…. We are so overwhelmed by you and your family’s hospitality and your amazing spirit. We wish you the best in school and hope we can show a fellow travel a smidgen of the love you guys have shown us. Come visit us in America! Thank you a million times over!