I arrived in Indiana on Thursday to finally start my Kazakh language classes. The Midwest is certainly different from good old Philly. First of all, just consider this announcement at the baggage claim area of the Indianapolis airport, “Ladies and gentlemen please carefully check your luggage to make sure it’s yours before you leave the baggage claim area. Many bags look alike. We want everyone to be able to sleep in their own pajamas tonight. Thank you and have a wonderful week!” And here are some stores I drove by on the airport shuttle to Bloomington – Braid’s Guns and Bulk Ammo, Big O Tires, churches that occupy more land than the Pitt campus, and, of course, a Sonic.
As for Indiana University – Bloomington (IUB) my general impression is that this place is not so great. For starters, it was nearly impossible to log onto internet and the necessary software basically took over my computer like a virus. Also my dorm is in the middle of nowhere and the hours for the dining halls, none of which are near my dorm, are not at all convenient. I haven’t found a grocery store in close proximity, only convenience stores. And I only have access to a communal kitchenette on my dorm floor unless I drop $100 to rent a combo fridge-microwave for the duration of the program.
Classes started on Friday, but we did not learn one word of Kazakh, only read over the syllabus in English. Our class, which was supposed to continue until 12:30, ended at about 10:30. I am not sure what the logic is of having us go to school for one day on a Friday so we can spend the weekend doing nothing here. It would seem more logical to just start class on Monday.
On Saturday I checked out the gym (pretty nice), went on a grocery store run (via car) with a few friends and went to “Taste of Bloomington” in the evening. “Taste of Bloomington” is an outdoor food festival type event. You pay admission and then go to each of the local restaurants’ booths to try their food. Somewhere along the line my friends and I got the impression that once we paid admission the food would be free, but that was definitely not the case. Still, it was a fun local event and the food was decent.
So far the best part of SWSEEL is that all people here are ridiculously nerdy about Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, just like me. It’s so fun to talk to the students here about research, travel and languages. For fun, Keri and I checked out the main IUB library yesterday and they have an awesome array of material on the region. Nerd alert: I have already checked out five books – material on the Kazakh language, Kazakhstan in general, and the WTO. I am hoping to get to the law library sometime in the upcoming week.
In current events news, there is still a female IUB student missing, which is kind of creepy. I encounter her face on every lamp post and every doorway in the form of reward posters seeking information about her whereabouts. We share similar height, weight, build and complexion but our blond hair is different: hers is long, mine is not. This has made me think twice about running in the wee hours of the morning.