Happy 2010!

I’m going into hibernation for a couple of days.   Happy 2010 and Mr. B and I wish you the very, very best.  Thank you for reading and commenting and making my life a bit warmer :)

S Novim Godom

New Year, New Happiness! (I know it sounds stupid in English.)


China and Russia Face Each Other on the Banks of the Amur River

I came across this really interesting story yesterday, which details the relations between Russia and at Blagoveschensk in Siberia and Heihe in China, across the Amur river.



The tension between Russia and China has been going on for quite some time, especially as the Chinese population continues to grow and rend at the seams of the country and Russia’s Siberian frontier remains vastly uninhabited (except, for of course, the Chukchi, who are, coincidentally, my favorite Russian nationality to pronounce, with the exception of the Mordva.) Much like in the United States with Mexico,  the Russians are wary of a possible population rush of Chinese into Russia, flooding Russia with non-Slavic nationals.

This has, ostensibly, created unease on behalf of the government:

All that has led many Russians to fear that China will eventually exert control over the region. “[I]f we do not step up the level of activity of our work [in the Russian Far East], then in the final analysis we can lose everything,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said last year. Kukharenko of the Confucius Institute spelled it out for me: “It’s a law of physics, a vacuum has to be filled,” he said. “If there are no Russian people here, there will be Chinese people.

An interesting tidbit from the article:

For most of the last century, this border was closed. In 1969, the Soviet Union and China even fought a battle over a disputed island farther downstream. Hundreds of soldiers died.

As a child of the ex-Soviet era, I frequently hear about travel out of Russia to the West being disallowed (my mom often tells me how she was lucky to go to Georgia, then a Soviet republic, for vacation,) but not often do we contemplate Russian excape into China.

And, the hostility of the Russians with regards to growth:

In one telling episode, in 2007, in an apparent attempt to play up its Russian connection and appeal to tourists, Heihe placed garbage cans that were designed to look like Russian matryoshka dolls around the city. Some excessively sensitive Russians saw this as an insult—Russian culture was trash. The mini-scandal made national TV news in Russia, and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested.



In several small ways, the Russian government has made it difficult for Russians and Chinese to interact. Heihe has street signs in Russian, but there is almost no Chinese to be seen in Blagoveshchensk. While Russians can cross into Heihe visa-free for a short visit, Chinese can’t do the same to Blagoveshchensk.

What’s the disincentive for Russians to reap from Chinese tourism and trade?  Classical economics always tells us that traders are better off than non-traders.  But it doesn’t account for the Russian fear of invaders, especially of the Mongoloid kind, practically ingrained in the Russian psyche for a very long time.

It would be interesting to carry out an economic experiment to see if Blagoveschensk stood to gain from more Chinese living in the region.  The dynamic of the two cities-so close together, yet thousands of miles away culturally and ethnically, will continue to be an interesting scenario to follow over the next ten years or so.

What’s MOST interesting is that China also has a border dispute with its other BRIC neighbor: India.  Wouldn’t it be fun if Russia and China and India, three of the world’s most powerful emerging markets, went to war?

Related on the Blog:

BRIC-A-BRAC: China Messes with National Stats
Russian President Medvedev, it’s like you’re trying to fail on purpose by cutting down on beer


Letter to my one blog visitor from Shiraz, Iran

shiraz analytics

Dear Solitary Blog Visitor from Shiraz, Iran:

How did you get to my blog?  Were you Googling, perhaps, “marry russian man his mother cook chicken” or “map of the life of ari ben canaan”  or “russian mushroom folklore ” as several visitors who have come to my blog from Google have done?  Were you trying to get some purpose from what I write?  Or just stumbling through on your way to somewhere much more important?

When I look at that dot, Shiraz,  it sends shivers up my spine, which is the same feeling I get when I look at impossibly far away pictures like this, where Tashkent is close enough to show road signs to both Kabul and Warsaw-Europe and Asia.

Wegweiser am Südrand von Taschkent

What are you doing in Shiraz, once the home to fabled poet Hafez, who I learned about from Roya Hakakian, and the center of the arts in the Persian universe of the 13th century, city of flowers and mysticism?  Are you composing poems, too?  Or are you simply working and living your life quietly, listening to 70s era disco music that is still popular in Iran, oblivious to the headwinds of politics constantly blowing over your country from the West?  Are you a man or a woman?

Are you a purposeful interloper, a hacker trying to ping  the West?  If you are really trying to take out your anger at America, the best place to start would probably not be my blog, but Amazon.com.  That’s where all the Americans are online.

Maybe, as I was looking for pictures of Shiraz, I stumbled onto your blog without knowing it. If I did, would you let me know?




On the Blog: The Women of KabulThe Iranian Threat-Isn’t
On the Web: Iranian Women and Contemporary Memoirs


Best of 2009


You may notice that I have been putting up very picture-heavy posts to distract you away from the fact that I haven’t had any content, like some kind of bread and circuses program.  That’s because I am getting ready for THE NEW YEAR.  You’ll be seeing some changes (for the better-I hope!) on the blog to make it look a little more solid.

In the meantime, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite blog posts from last  year.

As I was working on my plan for this blog for the next year over a jar or two of Nutella, I realized that my mission always remains the same: to write about what I find fascinating, amazing, and beautiful in the world in hopes that other people find it fascinating and want to talk about it, too.  I do it  in the only way I can write about it-through the lens of someone who has grown up as a semi-outsider in the country that is currently the epicenter of the universe and is torn between at least three different worlds, if not more, and someone who, by profession and education, takes almost everything with a huge grain of salt.



I cried unabashedly at Disney movies and complained about changing my last name


Haunting container boxes, sitting empty in ports


I mourn the women of Kabul and, also, people that have subprime mortgages


I complain about being a married career woman in DC


I go to the World Bank and compare Nutellas


I complain about roosters (I do a lot of complaining around here.)


I fast for Tisha B’Av and complain about that, too

I make Uzbek food


I review Amreeka, a very touching movie


I go to a lecture at the Middle East Institute and write a poem about Nutella


I learn about the Indian Jews of Israel and avoid Black Friday


I watch an extremely touching movie from Kazakhstan and talk to a friend about his life in New York


Pictures: A Florida Sunset

Shayna is my friend from college and is one of the sunniest, friendliest people I know. So it would make sense that she would take the sunniest, warmest photos.  She recently moved to Florida where she took these pictures of a sunset at a fancy golf course.

What’s crazy is that she doesn’t have a professional SLR camera. Given that I am in the Frigid North, they warmed my heart immediately.  Hopefully you like them, too.  Enjoy. :) (You can click on them to enlarge)