Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A funny thing happened on the way to Almaty....


Reporting from the Philadelphia Int'l Airport, en route to Kazakhstan!

Just had to share this funny "Tale from Airport Security"....

So, I am bringing a Kazakh instrument with me to Almaty - it's called a kyl-kobyz and its portrait is hanging to the right here. It's carved from wood and has two strings made from horsehairs. The sound is incredible, very mournful and resonant, and able to imitate sounds of nature. Kazakh shamans used to use it for ritual communication with the spirit world. I bought mine two years ago in Almaty and took lessons from a local Conservatory student. The kyl-kobyz (or just kobyz for short) is one of two Kazakh national instruments. The other one is the dombra (described in earlier post). Eventually the kobyz will be part of my dissertation because I'm going to look at the "national instrument" concept and how it bolsters the formation of national identity. But I digress....

So here I am going through airport security with this kobyz sticking out of my otherwise unassuming tote bag from an SEM conference.* I made sure to leave the instrument partially uncovered so as not to provoke fears that I was packing some sort of oddly-shaped heat, and it seemed like nobody was really paying attention to it besides a few fellow travelers. Then I started loading all of my crap into the x-ray machine....boots off, laptop out, etc. The bag with the kobyz went in first.

And what do you know -- it gets pulled for a search!! I was actually a little curious to see what they would do with it (by the way, i had an unpleasant experience in a London airport on account of this instrument as well -- but actually they were just idiots who wanted to make fun of me so I guess it wasn't that big a deal...). As I was gathering my things to go over to the search area, the lady in front of me asked if I was carrying a berimbau -- the Brazilian instrument used for capoeira. She had brought one home from a trip for her son once, she said -- which made me sort of incredulously wonder how she would confuse my kobyz for its apparent Brazilian counterpart.

ANyway....

So there I am watching the girl search the bag, and I ask her if the instrument is indeed the issue.

"No," she said, rummaging around in the bag. Then, finally, she found what she was looking for -- a tube of hand lotion! (cue the comedic "wah wah wah.......") The hand lotion had committed the egregious offense of being in my bag without a ziplock baggie around it. For shame! I quickly corrected the error and went on my sheepish little way.

So, I guess one possible moral of this story is that maybe people are actually more tolerant about unfamiliar things than I give them credit for. Or more apathetic, I'm not sure. Either way, I'm just kind of glad they didn't make fun of me this time.....

*SEM = Society for Ethnomusicology. We have a journal, we conference, it's cool.

1 comment:

Beto Dotô said...

oh boy... don't get me started on the "it must be in a ziplock baggie no larger than 4x5 but not smaller than 3.5x4.7 inches" BS...

Great story, but also highlights how pathetically paranoid the US is with regards to various hand creams and shoe soles...