Why I’m really here

19 09 2010

This weekend I got a taste of some of the research opportunity that exists for me here in Bishkek.  On Friday, I got an email from my contact at the American Embassy, Guljan, letting me know that there was an alumni reception Saturday afternoon and asking me if I wanted to attend.  I wasn’t entirely clear about which alumni the reception was for or where it was being held, but I figured I should start acknowledging my fledgling research sooner rather than later.  And it gave me a chance to break out my sportcoat for the first time since I arrived.

I got picked up early Saturday afternoon, and Guljan explained to me that the reception was for recent alumni of educational exchange programs such as Fulbright.  And that it was being held at the president’s house.  The president. Of Kyrgyzstan.  I quickly wished that I had worn a pair of dress pants instead of my nice jeans, but put that behind me quickly.  We couldn’t head back to my place so I could change, after all.

We arrived at the president’s compound and were handed agendas.  There was about two and a half hours of speeches, awards presentations, educational presentations and so on.  And it was all in Russian!  That shouldn’t have been a surprise, but my brain was definitely not ready for nearly three straight hours of Russian.  I probably picked up about 30% of what was said, but it was all interesting enough nonetheless.  After the presentations, there was a reception, where I met a few people from the embassy and others from various organizations around Bishkek.  I answered tons of questions about what I was planning on researching, and that process in and of itself helped me focus my research topic a bit more.  I had kind of been ignoring the whole research aspect of the Fulbright for the first couple weeks while focusing on my Russian skills.  Guljan assured me that was perfectly normal — acceptable even — and that I had plenty of time to work on my research.

The event also served to remind me that there are plenty of opportunities for networking out there.  I just need to make sure that I take advantage of them!

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