Americans Abroad

Although I’m supposed to be focused on Central Asia these days, China just won’t leave me alone. A while back I was in contact with friends who work as producers for the US public radio show This American Life; they asked for leads on interesting Americans living in China. While they didn’t end up using material from any of the folks to whom I introduced them, they did produce a really good hour of reporting about the expatriate experience in China. Everyone should be able to stream the show here. I also get thanked at the end, which is exciting and, let’s face it, the real reason I’m posting about this. That’s a joke.

The one thing I will add in order to bring this post back around to my experiences in Kazakhstan is that, like Michael Meyer, I am asked numerous times a day several of a list of questions, usually in this order:
1. Where are you from?
2. Do you like Kazakhstan? (Which is an unfair question, coming from a Kazakh.)
3. Where did you learn Russian? (Usually preamble to: And why don’t you speak Kazakh? Answer: I can’t reproduce either the vowel sounds or some of the hard consonants.)
4. Are you married? (Headache-avoiding answer: Yes.) Where’s your wife? (New York.)
5. Do you like [our] Kazakh women? Why don’t you have a Kazakh wife / girlfriend / service-provider? (Headache catches up to me: I can’t afford two wives, let alone a wife and a girlfriend.)

Almaty being a blessedly and forgivingly small city, this is about as far as the conversation usually gets before I pay and go about my business. In longer taxi-rides, I’ve ended up talking about circumcision, my salary, and (of course) my thoughts about Obama and Putin. One female friend of mine was told by a taxi driver: “If I weren’t already married, I would kidnap you.” We decided this was meant as a complement.

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