Friday, 17 May 2013

The Dementors of Ashgabat - A Play in Three Acts.

Scene: A large concrete building subdivided into small offices. Each contains an official, a desk and assorted stationary.

Direction: The play has no words. All forms are in Russian. There are no signs, no computers and absolutely no smiling.

Act One. Immigration.

Scene 1. Fill in two forms. Form A is a declaration of the foreign money you are bringing into the country. Form B is a promise (in duplicate) not to sell the bike in Turkmenistan.

2. Go to Office #1. Passport check. Get visa stamped for entry.

3. Go to Office #2. One official fills out insurance papers (one form and one card) another fills out the Entry Permit including a map of the route we are allowed to ride.

4. Go to Office #3. Official stamps and signs Entry Permit and enters all details in a ledger.

5. Follow official from Office #3 (where he has been having tea with his colleague) to Office #4. Two more stamps and initials on Entry Permit.

Act 2. The Police

Scene 6. Go to another building and down an empty corridor to an empty office (#5) where a plainclothes policeman copies details from your passport onto a small square of paper, signs it and waves you away.

7. Leave the building, walk around the corner and back in another door which slams behind you. You find yourself in a large concourse (office #6). A woman sits behind a glass screen with a small brass grille covered (from her side) by a piece of cardboard. She slides the cardboard away to allow you to open the grille and pass the small piece of paper through.

She copies the details onto a smaller piece of paper and adds a sequence number from a printed list. The new paper is pushed back through the grille which is shut and the cardboard is replaced.

You leave. The door slams again.

8. Back to the original building to a cashier (office #7). She takes the smaller paper and copies the details into three duplicate books. You pay $90 for processing, disinfecting the bike, carbon paper surcharge, customer service training etc. plus $14 for parking (Two days. While you have been waiting the clock has ticked over to tomorrow).

You receive three pieces of paper in return. (At this point you start to wonder if this is actually an elaborate ethnic welcome in which the exchange of paper symbolises the bonds of friendship).

9. Return to Office #6. The door slams. The cardboard is removed and you pass two of the pieces of paper through. Receive three in return. One (in duplicate) is the pass that will let you out of the port. Is the end in sight?

As you leave you try to slam the door hard enough to knock over the cardboard, but fail.

Act 3. Customs

Scene 10. Queue up at Office #8 for customs. Hand your passport, vehicle title, copies of both, Entry Permit and the two forms (A and B) you filled in at the start to the man in uniform. He goes for a cigarette break, then to the toilet.

The details of your motorbike are entered into two ledgers. Form B is torn in two and the two sides compared by holding them to the light. Both are stamped and initialed several times so they can't be changed. The Entry Permit is stamped twice on each of three copies and initialled.

All the papers are now carefully aligned by tapping three times on each edge (always three times, no more, no less) and then stapled with the blue stapler. One copy of the promise is stapled to your vehicle title with the red stapler.

11. Take the stapled documents to Office #9. Wake up the woman. She stamps everything.

12. Take them all to office #10. Wake up the smart young man in uniform. He stamps everything again.

13. Return stamped and stapled documents to Office #8.

14. Go out to motorbike with man from office #8, woman from office #9, young man from office #10 and several conscripts with torches.

They search the bikes by looking in one pannier, ignoring the other and the tank bag. They don't bother checking that the bike matches any of the details which they have painstakingly entered on every form and ledger.

15. You leave, handing the exit passes to the guard on the gate as you go.

The End.

The play lasts 6 hours for 15 bikes. There is no intermission, no refreshments and no applause.


  1. Just like the DfE Academies division!
    EWS enjoying your blog.

  2. Absolutely hilarious. In retrospect.