Although I’m often amazed at how great telecommunications work in this country, there are still stretches of time when internet jok — there’s no internet. In anticipation of those long hours, days, weekends, I like to load up on reading material while at work or cafes. But for the past two weeks, I’ve been enjoying super speedy, super abundant capital city internet – so instead I’m working with internet gop (lots of internet). Here’s a compilation of some of the things that made me look twice and think a while, mostly about Kyrgyzstan, international development, foreign policy, feminism, and language. Enjoy.
The Shampoo Summit – A 7-minute documentary “about a special hair salon called Fifi’s, which is owned by two Christian Arab women and is beloved by Jewish and Arab women alike.” It made me think of Jalal-Abad, and wonder about the hair salon I visited, which was smack-dab in the middle of the bazaar, where mostly Uzbek women run the vegetable stands and Kyrgyz people shop. How many of the women getting their hair washed, dried, done were Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Tatar? I usually couldn’t tell in the intimacy of the shop.
Why Some Cultures Frown on Smiling – Kyrgyz people don’t really smile for pictures… This article explains why. “Krys focused on a cultural phenomenon called “uncertainty avoidance.” Cultures that are low on this scale tend to have social systems—courts, health-care systems, safety nets, and so forth—that are unstable. Therefore, people there view the future as unpredictable and uncontrollable.”
Soviet Language Policy in Central Asia – I’m giving a training session about the history and politics of Kyrgyzstan for the new volunteers, and while researching for it, I fell into a deep hole of academic articles about Soviet history in Central Asia. This article in particular does a great job looking at the different periods of language policy in the region over time and considers the debate between language policy and attempts at Russification. “Given the sheer number of Central Asians and their long-standing cultural heritage which has remained strong in the face of numerous external influences over the centuries, it seems unlikely that they will ever willingly allow themselves to be completely Russified.”
Remembering Muhammad Ali’s Visit to Uzbekistan – “At every event he attended, Ali was greeted with tables creaking under the weight of fruit, candy, wine, brandy and, inevitably, plov, to which he apparently took quite a liking. On his return to Moscow, Ali claimed he had piled on four kilograms during his stay in Uzbekistan.” I know that life.
Peace Corps’ Challenges in the 1990s – It’s 1990, the geopolitical balance of the world is totally changing, and Peace Corps as an organization is faced with big questions about its future and its mission. This piece, which covers the administrative history of the Peace Corps from its creation to the collapse of the Soviet Union, says a lot about the issues the organization continues to face and feels relevant even today, 20-some years after being written. “The ultimate mission of the Peace Corps is the pursuit of peace. In any of our capacities, if we can bring about a more peaceful world, that’s what we ought to do.”
What Hillary Imagines – #imwithher, obviously, and it’s been fascinating to hear Kyrgyz people’s takes on the American presidential election.(It takes up a lot of news time here, half-way across the world in mountainous Kyrgyzstan, who woulda thought?) Any meta-curiosity about how my neighbors understand the election are on pause for now, because I’m so excited-thrilled-inspired by the historical significance of Hillary’s candidacy. “And can you imagine going back in history and sharing Clinton’s news with the suffragists? This is one of my favorite mind games – pretend you’re returning to 1872 and telling the story to Susan B. Anthony while she was being handcuffed for the crime of voting while female.”