October 31, 2003


For two weeks now I have been nursing tethered nerves over my application for a Peace Corps passport. (During my term of service, I am required to use this passport in place of my normal one.) A slight SNAFU on my part two weeks ago could have resulted in an eight week delay, which would have jeopardized my departure for Uz on the 15th of January. This would have forfeited my Uz assignment, and thrown me straight back into the pool of candidates to await another country assignment and departure date. It would have meant a few more months of nervous anticipation, the likes of which I had already endured from May until October. That was way more than enough pain for the pleasure. My nails are desperately trying to grow back from the obsessive gnawing.

In the end, I found out yesterday that everything is in progress for my passport, and the path is once again cleared for me to depart as scheduled.


October 28, 2003



Since 1966, UNESCO has been working on a project to present a comprehensive picture of the cultures of the Eurasian continent from the dawn of civilization to the present day. So far, the multi-volume History of Civilizations of Central Asia has produced five volumes. It’s fifth volume (of most interest to me), ”Development in Contrast: From the Sixteenth to the Mid-Nineteenth Century” was recently launched in Paris.

“This volume continues the history of Central Asian civilizations from c. 1500 to c. 1850, a period which saw the last medieval empires, notably the Uzbeks, Safavids, Mughals and Dzungars, and witnessed the early impact of colonialism. Like the preceding volumes, the present one also deals with all the diverse elements of culture. It describes the last phase of nomadism as a viable system of social organization; the effects on Central Asian economies of the shift of the main lines of international trade from the Great Silk Route to the oceanic routes; the various schools of art; the last great age of classical Persian literature and the growth of Turkic literatures; and, finally, in the religious sphere, the Shi`ite triumph in Persia, the conversion of the Mongol peoples to Buddhism, and the rise of Sikhism. It also analyses the problem of the lag in Central Asian scientific and technological development in relation to Europe and the nature of early colonialism – notably British and Russian – in Central Asia. The conclusion sums up the main trends in Central Asian history from the sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth century.”

I have been looking for sources that explain the cultural transformation of nomadic people into the varied modern state society that exist in the region today. What is it that forms allegiance to statehood where one did not exist before?…and I am hoping that it will not have been the coercive force of a militarized foreign imperialist regime that bludgeoned its citizens into submission and decimated their traditional culture and religion.

Am I being too hopeful here? Let’s find out after I read the 934 pages.

October 26, 2003


Some days I don’t want to go away, like today. Some days my life is simply satisfied by being among loved ones, by going about my pleasant routines, and by enjoying the peaceful environment of my town.

The challenges seem too daunting on days like today. The risks seem unwise. The sacrifices seem intolerable. The possible regrets seem unforgiving.

For two years, I will leave a mother to suffering and a man to solitude. My mother is too old to wish for time to pass by quickly. My companion loves me too much to let me go, yet he loves me too much to ask me to stay. I love them both too much to leave behind. And they are not the only ones…whose heart will wither.

On days like today, my pursuit seems to be a selfish endeavor rather than a selfless act, and I do not know how to make peace with myself in the dichotomy of my world.

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