Why do Turkem women wear clogs that are one size too small? Why do the street cleaners work with brooms that are only two feet high? Why are the modern pedestrian underpasses always empty? Why are there more police than civilians wherever we go? Why are the streets and markets picture-perfect clean when there are no public garbage cans? Why are people not allowed to smoke in the streets but are allowed inside restaurants, cafes and clubs? Why are there more security guards at our hotel than guests? Why does the hotel open its three restaurants, spa, bar, business center, two gyms and three swimming pools if there is hardly anyone staying at it? Why does every tree in and out of Ashgabat have its trunk painted white? Why are cakes so prolific and why are they so thick and so large? Why are the stray dogs so big?
But my most pressing why--once I absorbed the view of city blocks of nothing but empty marble palaces, empty marble office buildings, imposing gates that lead nowhere; once I walked past pristine butcheries and odorless fish markets, past the array of monuments, statues, fountains, and national emblems, past the presidential palace with its majestic screen showing the president's speeches 24/7; once I crossed the expansive, modern, four-lane highways with no traffic--was: why is everyone so serious and, and, more important, why can I not find leave-in conditioner for my curls?