Be afraid! Be very very afraid!

23 09 2010

So I had my security briefing at the American Embassy today.  Which consisted of a combination of perfectly reasonable common sense advice (don’t walk alone at night; don’t carry large amounts of money on your person), light fear-mongering (terrorists can strike ANYWHERE!), and mild xenophobia (avoid public transport; be wary of locals who are being friendly towards you).  I appreciate that they were doing their job, but there’s something about being told to avoid contact with locals as much as possible that just rubs me the wrong way.

I don’t know.

The rest of the staff that I met was quite lovely, and I was invited to a reception next week to welcome a new staff member.  So I’m definitely looking forward to getting to know the embassy staff, and hopefully being able to utilize their knowledge in making contacts for my research.  I think there’s just a different level of intent between a young(ish) guy who’s trying to understand and research aspects of Kyrgyz culture from the ground level and the average embassy employee.  Or maybe I’m being a travel snob.  Both are probably a little bit true.  Either way, I’ll be interested to see how my relationship with the embassy staff develops over the next year.

Vocabulary

xenophobia: ксенофобии (ksen-ah-FOH-bee-ee)

embassy: Посольство (pah-SOHL-stvah)

terrorism: терроризмом (ter-ah-REEZ-mum)

passport: паспорт (PAHS-port)

ambassador: Посол (pah-SOHL)

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10 responses

23 09 2010
Ceci

I had the same kind of security briefing.
Don’t carry too much money on your person, but always have enough money with you in case of a revolution-disaster-etc and banks don’t work anymore – how do we quantify that? And credit cards don’t really work, so we need cash!
Don’t use public transport, don’t use non-registered taxi, don’t walk alone when it’s dark (which means 5 o clock in the winter) – how the hell am I suppose to go around the city?
My security briefing also involved a list of places I should avoid: dodgy bars (Anton’s!), bars frequented only by expats, bars frequented only by locals, crowed places, deserted places, shopping malls…
So to be perfectly safe, the only safe places are the office and my house (although I don’t have a fire estinguisher, so it’s not safe AT ALL for UN standards). Maybe I should just live in the office 🙂

23 09 2010
kurtinkstan

Yeah. I mean I’m generally appreciative of the information, and I understand that they only have my best interest in mind. But I came here to actually *live* in Kyrgyzstan. And that means the occasional mashrutka ride and bazar shopping. Huzzah!

24 09 2010
Security briefing « Bishkek blog: life in the Kyrgyzstan capital

[…] students studying Russian at the school on a Fulbright scholarship has something interesting to say here about the “security brieing” that all US students get shortly after arriving in the […]

25 09 2010
DB

Contrary to the security briefings, most the embassy folk come to live in the country too! They say those things for a reason, actually, considering the number of calls each week about Americans getting into bad situations. Take with appropriate grain of salt, and enjoy is what I always take away from them

25 09 2010
kurtinkstan

No, I know that’s true for the most part. And I know that there’s a fine line between safety and xenophobia. And in this particular situation it wasn’t as much the information that was presented than the tone in which it was presented by the individual presenting it. She maintained a very strong “us versus them” mentality throughout the presentation. And when she discovered that we were both learning Russian, she reacted in a way that seemed very condescending. Even if that wasn’t her intent, that was certainly how it read.

So, no, I shouldn’t lump all government workers into one large xenophobic category. True story.

25 09 2010
Sarah

It sounds like what my Mom told me before a family trip to NYC. In all seriousness, it sounds influenced by legalese.

25 09 2010
kurtinkstan

I’m sure that had to do with a lot of it. It just would have been nice if there had been at least a little bit of acknowledgment that they weren’t dealing with people who were leaving the US for the first time. Both my fellow Fulbright and I are fairly seasoned travelers.

All that being said, I understand where they were coming from (for the most part).

26 09 2010
DB

Yeah, well, if it makes you feel any better everyone gets the same briefings and often we’re all treated as if we’ve never left the US before. In fact, much of the time people are treated as if they were just born yesterday and previous experience means nothing. It depends on the person who’s doing it as to what their approach is. They are more often than not pretty heavy-handed though. Again, it’s usually `cause the people feel smug in their knowledge of a) having had to deal with many “seasoned travelers” who wind up doing something that gets them into trouble b) many goings on in the country that normal folks aren’t always privy to c) there are actual “threats” to people in some places and d) that they can just be smug.

I wish we had more cognates! There are some, but they always seem to be unexpected so it’s nearly impossible to guess.

25 09 2010
Maree

I am enjoying the Russian vocab with pronunciation guides! It amuses me when words are pronounced *almost* the same but with a Russki twist.

Also, I hope you do not get mugged or terrorized. I’m pretty sure everything else you can handle.

25 09 2010
kurtinkstan

Thanks! I can even deal with a minor mugging if it happens. Heck, I got robbed at gunpoint in New York. And guns aren’t much of a thing here. The point is to minimize the damage if it does happen. Don’t have your credit cards on you. Don’t have a lot of cash. So if you do get robbed, they don’t get away with anything valuable. My Kyrgyz cell phone, for example, cost me about $20. So, if that gets nicked, I’ll certainly survive. 🙂

It’s really fun in class when we’ll be having a conversation, and I’ll pause and ask for a word, and it ends up being a total cognate. That happened with democracy and constitution the other day. The funny thing is that whenever I try to guess at a cognate, it ends up not working. Silly languages.

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