When I tell people my book is about the Peace Corps, they tend to think it’s a book about living in some hut with no electricity and no running water, which is pretty inaccurate. There was electricity. There were televisions. There were tons of satellite dishes. I probably drank more Coco-Cola and ate more Snickers bars there than I ever had before or since. It wasn’t the complete isolation that some people expect.
What amazed me was what came to Turkmenistan from America. There were music videos with all the bumping and grinding. There were action movies with all sorts of guns and explosions. There were horror movies with the chesty heroine in the tank top getting more and more blood covered as it went on. There was no Woody Allen. There was none of the music I like (part of this is because action, horror and sex translate really easy while metaphors and lines like, “we can walk to the curb from here,” do not). It was all the garbage that America spews out (I mean straight to video stuff)(think Shark Attack 3). Which left Turkmen with some pretty odd impressions of what America was like. Based on action movies a lot of people were under the impression that every one in America has guns. I was regularly asked how many guns I had and how many high speed chases I’d been in. When I replied that I had no guns and didn’t even own a car they looked at me strangely, as if they doubted I were really an American. Many men were also under the impression that you could go to any bar in America and have sex with any of the girls there. They were so let down when I explained that was not the case (maybe some slick pick up artist can do it)(but not the guys I was hanging out with).
Probably the best question I ever got was while I was watching Lethal Weapon 4 and during some chase scene a cop car leaped off the interstate and into the third story of a buidling and ended up driving all the way through the floor and launching out the other side and back onto the interstate. In complete earnest I was asked, “Would insurance pay for that?”
When I explained that none of the things they saw in American movies was real, people always seemed confused. I was asked why America made itself look so bad in the movies.
They were never satisfied with, “It’s just entertainment.”
Check out Joe and Azat in September for more about Turkmenistan and what it’s like to be an American there. Check out my blog, too. Check out Run To Your Grave by the Mae Shi as well. It’s my new favorite song.