Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Value of a Human Life

Through every different experience in life, I learn something new: if not about others or life in general, then about myself. Recently, I picked up a cold virus that had me weak, aching, fevering, shivering and helpless for an entire night. That was, by far, the most physically unbearable and uncomfortable experience I’ve ever had. However, it made me think about something else. Health is much more important to me than I realized. Health was a privilege that I didn’t give enough credit to. Being healthy is what made it possible for me to work on achieving my goals, attending events I needed to attend, traveling places I needed to travel, and not have to worry about anything else. Being healthy is a requirement on the road to success. In a way, being healthy gives you the opportunity to make the most of your life. And there’s that word, life. Every day, there are people whose lives are saved by a donated organ. And to those particular people, that second chance at life is priceless. Because life is priceless. Waking up in the morning, picking up a newspaper, having a job that you love, smelling the rain, finishing a task, starting an exciting weekend, winning a game, attending a fun event with friends, sharing emotions with family – priceless. And it breaks my heart to see that something so fragile and indispensable can be taken away from innocent people in a matter of a second as a result of something as insignificant as a disagreement in political ideals and misunderstanding of religious beliefs. The killings of the US Embassy staff in Libya yesterday were a cold, cruel, and most of all, an absolutely heartless act. I subconsciously draw a story in my head, of a man, with a big family: several kids, wife, siblings, parents; with a job that he is most passionate about, as that is why he is still paying off student loans for all the education he went through to get to where he is now – the US Embassy in Libya. A man in perfect health, a man that has good values and strong principles, a man that is involved in his surroundings. And then, imagine all of it’s gone. The man, the man’s involvement, passions, love, affections, fears, emotions – gone. Just because a radical group of Libyans is at disagreement with some video, this man’s life is taken away, in an instant. Without a second to think, without a chance for survival, without reason. How can someone intentionally take away the one most valuable, meaningful, irreplaceable thing from this man and his family? A life. An attribute of the highest value – a human life.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

My Best Photos Yet

When I see something beautiful while at home, I try to snap a shot of it if I've got a camera on me. Not to brag later, no, but to have something to hold on to as I grow and change, something to look back to as a token of my roots, reminder of the person that I am and will always be. A Turkmen. Born in the Soviet Union, but living in democracy and capitalism. Taught in the East, though educated in the West. Raised in one millennium and living in the other. Studying last century - learning about the next. My home city, along with my native culture, is changing every hour. It grows but doesn't lose its trends, patterns and direction. Beautiful in daylight, it shines even brighter at night. And as it represents me today, I'd like it to do so even better tomorrow. The tasks I dwell upon are the tasks that worry my culture as well. Battling conformity to reserve individuality by combining conformity with enough individuality. Modernizing the traditional without changing it.
I'm no photographer but these are my best photos of home yet. One is a historical statue turned into a centerpiece for a modern park downtown and another is a childhood attraction renovated and moved to a more contemporary region of the city.

Another Guinness Record Goes to...Turkmenistan

May 18th is annually celebrated in Central Asia as the Day of Revival, Unity and Poetry. Turkmenistan is no outsider to these celebrations. In 2012, the day was even more special: as part of the celebration, the planet's largest ferris wheel in an enclosed space (setting a new Guinness record) was unveiled in the country's capital (which also happens to be my home) city, Ashgabat. Inside a massive glass/white steel casing decorated with a giant 8-point star, lies a 47.6-meter-structure that holds (and spins, of course) 24 six-seat cabins. This structure is part of a new entertainment complex called "Anem" (translated from Turkmen as "the universe") that was opened to the public along with the new ferris wheel. I had the chance to see the place for myself a month ago (June 2012). It is truly nothing like one would have ever seen before and is surrounded by a great park area with fountains. At night, it's filled with young people as it is beautifully lit and is currently "the next big thing", so to speak, not only for tourists but also the city residents themselves. Like me. Came with my family and loved it.
It should be known that Turkmenistan is no newcomer to the Guinness Book of Records. On the Day of Revival, Unity and Poetry of 2011 (last year), Turkmenistan unveiled its answer to the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. An 185-meter pillar devoted to the country's constitution was presented in the Ashgabat city.
The "Arch of Constitution" is now one of the most memorable sights in the capital city - decorated with 5 Turkmen national ornaments in gold, it is also surrounded by beautiful fountains, a great park and has 2 viewing decks.
Besides the 2 world records described already, Turkmenistan boasts to have the world's tallest flagpole, the longest carpet, the "largest star-shaped architectural feature" and the "largest cluster of fountains in a public space". Personally, the fountain record makes most sense to me because my home city has so many fountains that on a hot summer afternoon one will see that there are more fountains per square kilometer than people.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Caspian Sea Adventure

The closest you can ever get to the Caspian Sea in Turkmenistan is to head to the city of Turkmenbashi (named in honor of Turkmenistan’s first President), or specifically the Avaza resort, a resort that has grown so rapidly in the past 3-4 years that it could now be a city by itself. More than that, it is still growing at the same pace. Full of hotels, summer camps, health sanatoriums, restaurants and bars, the Avaza of the future is not yet even halfway complete. At this moment, there are construction sites stretching for over 50 kilometers north of the current-day Avaza. The hotels are great and are the biggest attribute of Avaza. It may also help to ask around and visit restaurants outside the hotel to try different dishes and kebabs, especially the ones out of fish. If planned well, one’s vacation in Avaza should go more than smooth and definitely pleasant. The new Turkmenbashi airport is flat-out gorgeous. Just the right size, very organized and clean. An American-style highway system has recently been laid from the airport to Turkmenbashi and straight to the heart of the Avaza resort. The hotels provide many amenities, responding to almost every age, taste and preference. The pools are cleaned every morning and there are lifeguards at the sea. There are also many restaurants, disco bars, museums and fun little tours on boat along the man-made river that runs through the entirety of the resort. My family and I stayed at the hotel named Kerven and enjoyed our time there. Would I go back to that particular hotel next time? No, but only because I would want to try one of the newer places that are currently being built. Either way, no matter what hotel you choose, you’ll always know it’s worth it when you see the view from your room and breathe in the fresh and healing Caspian air. The air and the sea should have been the main reasons you came down there anyway.