Saturday, January 5, 2008


Welcome, dobro pozhalovat, khosh keldingiz....!
As many of you know, I've been working on issues of music and national identity in Kazakhstan for a while now. I spent 2005-06 in Almaty researching, and now I'm going back for a shorter stint of five months. Hopefully, this will result in a decent dissertation so that I can finally finish my doctorate in ethnomusicology at UCLA!
Last time I spent time in Almaty, I was planning to keep a blog but failed miserably. So this time, I will stay true to my word and keep you (my family, friends, and/or beloved random readers) updated on my life and work in this crazy, crazy town.
Since I'm not leaving until January 30, my posts over the next month will probably be infrequent and full of pre-travel jitters and logistical babblings. On that note, I've already started having dreams about leaving. This often happens to me both before and after making the day-long trek to Kazakhstan. Usually my dream-self loses her luggage somewhere in a nondescript airport and spends the rest of the dream unsuccessfully searching for it.
Another thing that's occupying my mind is GIFTS. I don't know how true this is when travelling to other countries, but if you are going to Kazakhstan be prepared to reserve at least 1/4 of your suitcase for gifty-type items. It's not just a courtesy there -- for a country and a people that pride themselves on their hospitality, giving generously is an expectation and a time-honored tradition. As for me, I availed myself the abundant post-christmas sales around town -- my favorite christmas tradition by far -- to start my fulfillment of this obligation.
Lastly, I am trying to kick my ass into gear and get a chapter of my dissertation done before I leave. I've been talking about it since November, but as I am a highly trained and very experienced procrastinator I have yet to write a word. In fact, the very raison d'etre for this first entry is that I am actually supposed to be writing pages and pages about the history of Kazakhstan.
OK, I can already feel the collective pressure from the possibly dozens of eyes that will see this over the next few months so here I go! Chapter 1, page 1........

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