Many events, none of which add up to any excellent stories ...
I have a new apartment all of my own. It's nearer to work, and near the lake, which, given the condition of lake Kokshetau, probably detracts from the property value. My place is super, and it's a space that's all mine, for the first time since I've arrived. The decor could be taken out of any 1950s Soviet sitcom, but I'll work on that. My landlord has a car and helped me move. Shortly, I'll join them for plov.
By the way, I read that our "rice pilaf" comes from the word "plov", the ubiquitous Uzbek meat-and-rice dish. "Pilaf" as I knew it in America is a shameful mockery of this delicious national Central Asian dish - a culinary crime on the order of what passes for "pizza" here.
My host brother Chingis found a job as a waiter in one of Kokshetau's best hotels.
I was having dinner with friends of my host family, and one of the more drunken guests was midway through one of the all-peoples-are-brothers speeches that are common on such occasions when I, as an American, am introduced. His speech turned worryingly to politics, and he mentioned Nazarbaev. Your president, I said. No, he said proudly, our Khan. America and Germany, he said, have presidents. We have a Khan. Telling.
It was Jay's birthday. We celebrated by making tacos in my new apartment and then visiting disco.
Mstan's cds arrived, which has given this week a singular soundtrack. It's dizzying to suddenly have so much new music to listen to. Like stepping out of a hallway into a large courtyard. Or discovering that an uncomfortable car seat you've been sitting in for hours actually reclines after all. Or finding excellent nachos in a bar in Almaty.
If you've ever sparred with someone who's a better fighter than you, and they got distracted or over-confident and you managed to slip in a punch on the nose that's not enough to beat them but enough to make them a angry and then you knew that now you're really going to get it, then you know how I feel. I played the aforementioned chess playing shop teacher at my school, and though it was hardly a fair game - he was trying to supervise his class at the same time and moved very quickly, taking about one minute to think for every three I spent staring at the board - I beat him. No less, I beat him with a group of kids standing around watching saying things like, "it's Kazakhstan vs. America!" How did this happen? A lot of luck on my part, and a lot of overconfidence on his - he tried for a quick victory and underdevloped early in the game, leaving himself tied up from late in the middle game on. Of course he didn't -seem- angry, but I'm waiting to get clobbered next time we play. And we will play again.
I have taken many steps along the road to becoming like a local - cooking traditional food, considering shots of vodka at lunch unsurprising, putting my toilet paper in a little basket instead of flushing it, washing my clothes by hand, having a local girlfriend, hoarding chalk at school, pushing in lines, and yelling at service-sector workers. However, nothing has made me feel as authentic as my recent acquisition of a giant furry hat. When I'm wearing my long wool coat, giant furry hat, and Komsomol pin, I am an excellent imitation of the real thing. Until I open my mouth. Or walk. Or do anything other than stand there and glare.
The lady who works at the university cafeteria, who knows me and knows how I feel about the cutthroat way lines are usually executed here, and especially in the cafeteria, yelled at someone for trying to cut in front of me in line, bless her heart.
Pelevin fans, take note. I discovered that there are sections in my Russian copy of "Generation P" - also published in English as "Bablyon" and "Homo Zapiens" - that are missing in my English translation. What's in it? So far, something about monkeys in jeeps chasing human women, and the color red. The Russian is obtuse and colloquial, and I must consult my tutor.