Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Trip of a Lifetime

It was to be the trip of a lifetime:  to spend a year in an exotic and interesting part of the world, see a new capital rise, listen to the cacophony of languages mixing in a picturesque tapestry of sound, to thrill to the sights and sounds and experience of a new and rising and flourishing nation… and pay for it?  No, no, no; this was employment!  Hard enough to come by in the States, but they’re practically giving it away here.  Ah, I thought to myself: a professional traveler. 

I’ll experience the culture of Kazakhstan as it really is, and of course I’ll write a blog about it.  They may be a new nation, but I have the eternal optimism and “get it done, yesterday,” American spirit of the perpetually young United States.  I would go forth and conquer; I would make my mark.

That, of course, is the most important part of any blog-worthy travel experience.  Or any blog-worthy experience, for that matter.  Certainly, had blogs been around when he walked on the moon, Neil Armstrong’s iconic words would’ve been blasted across RSS feeds all over the world and there’d have been a lolcat meme about it before he even got home to earth. 

Making one’s mark, though, is harder these days than ever before.  The world is getting smaller, not bigger; it’s been conclusively round for many hundreds of years, in the U.S., even, non-whites and women have all the theoretical rights of their white founding fathers.  Wars have been fought on a global scale, and Justin Bieber successfully escaped Canadian pop-stardom.  What more, really, is there to do?

And honestly, I’ve pretty much done everything here in Astana.  Pictures of Bayterek Tower.  Pictures in front of Bayterek Tower.  Pictures of Bayterek Tower at night.  Pictures in front of Bayterek Tower at night.  I even have pictures of President Nazarbayev’s residence.  They brought me here for something, but in all the rush of preparing for it, of moving, of arriving, of going to work, of coming home from work, of taking the bus, of walking to various parts of the city, of taking photos of Bayterek Tower, of learning how to be a vegan in the most meat-based dietary culture I’ve ever encountered… I forgot quite what that was. 

How would I do it?  A pertinent question.  Would I go native, renounce the culture of my birth, adopt the language as though it were always my own, and finally say “we,” not “they?”  Would I write humorous reminiscences about the silly, simple ways of the people and situations I encounter, with just the right amount of amusement and condescension? Or would I find my niche by hating everything and turning to a patriotism I’d never before known?

Make no mistake, though, I will make my mark.  It’s the American Way.  I’ve got the American Spirit, the can-do attitude, the optimism.  I did it yesterday, will have done it yesterday, and I have conquered.  Or will conquer.  It’s manifest.  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Introduction: A Pleasure Cruise

This blog is a record of my residence in that new and wholly independent Republic of Kazakhstan, of which we all know so well.  In it, I intend to set forth such trifling and amusing instances which may crop up from time to time in my year working at a large university library.  As such it will not contain that gravity to which readers of expatriate blogs are accustomed, and which is so proper to writing of that nature.  

For months, the offer of work in that younger sibling of nations, Kazakhstan, had been bandied about on professional job-boards which librarians are known to frequent.  It was a novelty in the way of employment tactics.  To my experience, its like had not been tried before.   The fascination it elicited was equaled only by the very opportunity it represented—the experience of a university library in the so-called “Western world,” and all one need to was move oneself twelve time zones into a future world.

It was to be a vacation on a grand scale.   The participants would greet each day with the certain knowledge that they were enjoying the pleasures of living in an unknown and exciting land, they were getting to “take a royal holiday beyond the broad ocean in many a strange clime and many a land renowned in history.  It was a brave conception; it was the offspring of a most ingenious brain.  It was well advertised, but it hardly needed it: the bold originality, the extraordinary character, the seductive nature, and the vastness of the enterprise provoked commentary everywhere and advertised it in every household in the land.”  How could I not but take the offer?