Well, hello there, patient friends and readers. Admittedly, my truancy merits apology, but too many blog posts start off in just that form, so I’m just going to say HI! and hope that all is forgiven. Do you still love me? Because I still love you.
A lot has gone down in the last month or so, so let me try to give you a comprehensive, but not too boring update on the wonderful world that I live in.
I’m dealing with an abundance of riches in this department. Of the 12 schools I’ve heard back from (Still waiting on you, Michigan State!), I’ve gotten in to all twelve. I mean, I knew I was cool, but damn! But seriously, I’m overwhelmed by the positive response, and now I’m dealing with the task of now getting to choose where *I* want to go. I’m fairly certain I’ve got it narrowed down to Harvard, Columbia, NYU and Michigan. I’m also visiting UPenn and Northwestern for good measure.
Of the top four, I genuinely think I’d be happy at any of the four schools, and I think it’s going to come down to the type of internship that I get and what type of funding comes through. I should know more on both of those fronts in the next couple of weeks. I have to make my decision by April 15, and y’all will be the first to know. (Well, to be honest, Facebook will probably be the first to know…Actually, come to think of it, maybe my parents should be the first to know…) Either way, the decision’s not too far away. I’m excited!
I have, thanks to the assistance of my awesome assistant Murat and the incredible Kyrgyzstan Peace Corps network, made some great strides in my project. I’ve collected data from four of the country’s seven oblasts. I’ve processed about 2500 surveys, and I anticipate picking up another 5000 or so. A lot of that will depend on whether and how much I’m able to collect from the South. As long as the situation remains stable, I’m hoping to spend a couple of weeks in Osh collecting data from there, Jalalabad, and possibly Batken. I also need to get a lot more data from Bishkek and Chuy, and some more from Issyk-Kul. So I’ve got a busy three months when I get back to K-stan.
The research itself is a lot of fun. I hang out with sixth- and seventh-graders and have them fill out a survey about how they feel about language and how they use language in different situations. I’ve given the same spiel dozens of times now, which has made me damn near fluent in survey Russian. I can say “Circle the number that corresponds to your opinion.” But I still don’t remember the word for “arm.” I can even follow the basic spiel in Kyrgyz now, even though I couldn’t say more than two or three sentences in total.
Most of the school directors that we meet with are super welcoming. A few of them a little too much so! We were visiting one school in southern Issyk-Kul oblast, and the director invited us to have lunch in the teachers’ lounge. Grateful and hungry, we accepted. All was normal until the bottle of vodka came out. Vodka! At lunch! At a school! Awkward, right? Then there was the time that one of the teachers in Kochkor pulled me out of the survey (which was fine, because Murat was conducting it in Kyrgyz), took me out into the hallway and presented me with two students holding hand-written resumes, and asked me to give them jobs on my project. I demurred as graciously as I could, but I felt horrible having to say no.
It’s not all business, though. The Peace Corps TEFL network has been invaluable to me. They’ve welcomed me into their schools and have provided friendly faces and company in villages small and large across the country. My funniest Peace Corps interaction occurred in Talas, when I was hanging out with several volunteers on a weekend. I was presented with the “Talas Oblast Volunteer of the Month” award for my general awesomeness. Unfortunately, upon presentation, the award promptly self-destructed, apparently unable to accept being given to a non-PCV. Sorry, Talas!
I don’t have any actual data yet. I’m holding off on analysis until I’ve collected another couple thousand surveys. I can tell you that data entry takes a damn long time. But it’s oddly therapeutic.
Last Sunday I flew from Almaty to Goa to participate in the USIEF South/Central Asia Fulbright Conference. After transiting in Sharjah, Dennis and I landed in Goa at about 430am. And it was warmer than I’d been in six months! In the car from the airport to the hotel, we rolled down the windows so we could see the landscape. The driver asked us if we were hot and wanted to turn the A/C on. We couldn’t have shouted no quicker if we’d tried, and we explained that we hadn’t felt temperatures above 45 degrees or so in months.
The conference was excellent. It was great to be surrounded by dozens of other researchers sharing stories and trials. Even though the Central Asians were a tiny minority, we still managed to make an impression.
And Goa is gorgeous. Thursday, the day after the conference ended, Dennis and I and three other Central Asian Fulbrighters headed about an hour north of Panaji to spend the day on the beach. It wasn’t unspoilt paradise, for sure (Hippies, Hippies, everywhere!), but it was still a beautiful time seaside. And the food! Fresh seafood curry, pork vindaloo, calamari, naan…so many things that I can’t get (or can’t get for cheap) in Kyrgyzstan.
On Friday, I flew from Goa to Sharjah to spend a little time in the UAE. And that, my friends, will be my next entry. Which, I’m fairly certain won’t take a month for me to post. At least I hope not. I’ll see many of you over the next couple of weeks in the States. Can’t wait!