Saturday, June 8, 2013

Future Plans!

Comrades,

Well, it is summer! So far, I've been spending some time in New Jersey - visiting the Jersey shore (because we really are stronger than the storm!!) and getting some much needed sleep and chill time. And of course, working on some projects. But I'm ready to get back on the road again!

I wanted to share with you my future travel plans, as I will be blogging along the way.

I will be spending the next two months in Ufa, Bashkortostan, Russia on the State Department's Critical Language Scholarship Program. I am so honored to be selected for the second time to do this program, as I did it last year in Vladimir. IT will be really interesting to compare life in Ufa, which is the capital of the administrative region of Bashkortostan. Bashkortostan is in fact a "-stan" and it is a titular republic for the ethnic Bashkirs. Just as Tatarstan, Chechnya, Dagestan are ethnic republics, so is Bashkortostan. Some of my CERES classmates have visited Bashkortostan and said it is a wonderful place and you really get the feeling that you are in an ethnic republic. Conversely, Vladimir, where I spent last summer, is at the epicenter of Medieval Russian history as it was defended by Alexander Nevski during the Mongol invasions and was the home of famed Russian icon artist, Andrei Rublev. But more on Russian and Bashkir history to come.

After Ufa, I am deferring the second year of my MA program at CERES and will spend the next academic year in Kazakhstan on a Fulbright! I will be in Kazakhstan September through June/July and will return to the hilltop to finish my MA for the 2014-2015 academic year. While I am still in school, technically, I am looking forward to spending time overseas, speaking Russian (and hopefully learning some Kazakh) and researching on my own terms.

I received a Fulbright research grant to explore "Challenges to Small-Business Entrepreneurship in the Formal and Informal Economy." Through participant observation at the bazaar, semi-structured interviews and an internship at a local NGO in Almaty, I will research the challenges to small-business entrepreneurship in the formal and informal economy in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Is starting and operating a business in the informal bazaar economy easier and therefore preferable to doing business in the formal economy, and why? Basically, I turned my love for the bazaar into a research project exploring the challenges to formality in an emerging market. I took a class on informal economic institutions, and that certainly influenced my methodology. More to come!

When in Kazakhstan, I will maintain my blog, but will withhold details on my research in order to protect the integrity of my research and respect the privacy of the people with whom I am working. I do neither want to taint with my methodology by sharing details publicly nor offend anyone I work with. With that said, I have no doubt that I will still have some fabulous stories. Since I'll be based in Kazakhstan, I look forward to travelling to some of the other Central Asian states and Xinjiang. I am dying to see the Silk Road cities of Bukhara, Samarqand and Khiva in Uzbekistan, as well as Kashgar, Urumqi, Hami and the Dunhuang caves in Inner China! All are welcomed to visit me in Almaty (especially the Hoyas I know who are moving to China next year)!  

Finally, please let me be clear: Even though CLS and Fulbright are funded by the Department of State, "The Sholk Road Adventures" is not an official Department of State Web Site. All views, photos and information posted on this blog are entirely mine, not those of the CLS Program, Fulbright, the Department of State, or the local institutions in Ufa or Kazakhstan.

I wish everyone a wonderful summer and safe travels! Stay tuned! 


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