Here are a couple snapshots of my new place -- very comfortable and in a good location. It's in a semi-old apartment building (dom) but a few things, namely the bathroom and kitchen, have been recently remodeled.
I've been keeping fairly busy this week, between moving into the new digs and meeting with old and new Almaty acquaintances. I'm also working on a bunch of school-related projects, one being the long-neglected first chapter of my dissertation. It's coming along...should be done with that in a week or so if I keep at it! Also, I'm trying to put together a proposal for a course on Central Asian music that I might be able to teach at UCLA next year. They have this nice program that lets advanced grad students teach their own course, which is great for an aspiring professor's resume! The tentative title of the course is "Sounds of the 'Stans." I assume the people in charge will find this funny and not obnoxious. Anyone out there have any suggestions for my reading list? :)
I also went to see one of my old Kazakh teachers today, Kunduz-apai. "Apai" is the Kazakh word for "older sister" or "auntie" but it is commonly used with any older woman as a sign of respect. My American friend Anna is studying Kazakh for four months with Kunduz-apai, and I was invited to attend their first class. So, I tried to resurrect my rusty knowledge of Kazakh, and within fifteen minutes I was chatting pretty freely although probably just at a five-year-old's level.
Ugh, languages. The bane of my existence in Kazakhstan. I feel like I get by pretty well in Russian - not always, but usually - but since I am studying so much about Kazakh music, I sometimes feel like I should be conducting more of my research in Kazakh. It's a tough situation because language (like most other things) is fairly highly politicized here - the language you choose to speak automatically says something about you, especially if you're Kazakh. A Kazakh who speaks Russian but doesn't know Kazakh is considered sort of a traitor to his/her ethnic identity. Conversely, a Russian who speaks both Russian and Kazakh is considered really great, except that this type of person is almost completely hypothetical (ie, Russians generally don't want to learn Kazakh and don't feel that they should). Very few people expect me - a white girl who can pass for Russian - to speak Kazakh anyway, since the general assumption is that only Kazakhs (Asian-looking) do this. Of course, they love it when I do speak Kazakh, but I often feel like its value to most Kazakhs is simply as a novelty.
So, this week I hope to get back in touch with a few people that I interviewed during my last stay in Almaty -- a couple of professional kobyz performers, one musicologist, and one local pop star. I'd like to start kobyz lessons sometime soon, too.
I also found out after arriving here that a couple of key people aren't in town - one has moved to London for two years! - which sucks, but what can you do? Just gotta keep going and not be too afraid to get in people's faces a bit....