Back from Istanbul/Going to Japan

Sunday, January 17, 2010 

Happy New Year! I hope you're all doing well. 

Things are good with me. As I mentioned in my previous post,  I spent a week in Istanbul over New Year's as part of a project I'm working on for the SSRC's "Teaching Islam in Eurasia" project. It was great to be back in Istanbul, but pretty hectic as well. The weather was often great, and I met up with a lot of friends. But perhaps most important of all, I ate and drank really well. 

 I bought a lot of stuff in Beşiktaş: two kilims, a Turkish tea pot, a new watchband--many things. But I did not buy any fish. 

Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Emirgan. That's the Bosphorus in the background.

At Saray, a dessert shop in Nışantaşı. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first place I ever had chicken breast dessert

On my way back to Detroit from Istanbul I spent a night in Amsterdam. I hadn't been looking for a flight that included a stopover in Amsterdam, but was really happy to find one included in an inexpensive ticket. I'd done this once before, on my way back to the US from Moscow in 2004. That summer I'd arrived in Amsterdam at 6 pm with a 2 pm flight the next day, and had had a blast even though my time was pretty limited. 

I was looking forward to a similar trip this year. Unfortunately, snow in Amsterdam delayed our flight quite a bit, and it was after 10 by the time I checked into my hotel. Most of the decent restaurants seemed closed, which was a drag, but I had a great time anyway. Amsterdam is a gorgeous city, and in the morning there were about two inches of snow on the ground. I walked around for a couple of hours and had a tremendous time, but unfortunately have no photos because I left my camera in the hotel room. 

The second semester at MSU started this past week, on Wednesday. I'm teaching two classes: "the Making of Modern Turkey" and "Russia to 1917." Both classes are upper-divisional, which means they're capped at 40 students. 

It's pretty cool, I think, that I get to teach this combination of classes. When I think of all of the jobs I applied for and thought of applying for back when I was on the market between 2006 and 2008, at how many of those places would I have been able to teach classes on both of the regions where I work? Not many, I would guess, but fortunately for me I've managed to repress those years--only seldom do I wake up screaming now, wondering how I'll type up a syllabus overnight to beef up the application of a job I'm applying for.

It's nice that those days are over. 

On Monday morning I'm flying to Tokyo, and then am heading to Osaka. The purpose of this trip is to participate in a workshop entitled "Comparative Research on Major Regional Powers in Eurasia--Islamic Institutions and Imperial Reach" at Osaka University. 

Actually, there's a fair bit of academic interest in Islam and Russia in Japan, and a number of the leading scholars working on Islam in Russia are Japanese. In particular, the Slavic Research Center at Hokkaido University has been very active in setting up conferences and workshops, publishing valuable studies, and doing an incredible amount towards bringing together scholars from Europe, Japan, the US, and the former USSR.  

A couple of years ago, I participated in one of these workshops--"Asiatic Russia: Imperial Power in Regional and International Contexts." It was a blast. We started off in Sapporo, where Hokkaido University is located, then headed down for two more workshops in Kyoto and Osaka. I was a postdoc at Columbia at the time, and took a couple of extra days at the end to hang out in Kyoto (photos from the 2007 Japan trip are here). Frankly, I wish I'd stayed longer. What did I have to get back to in New York? 

Anyway, I'm making up for that now! Actually, I did try my best to see if there was any way I could possibly avoid missing class this upcoming week--there wasn't. Leaving first thing Thursday morning could have gotten me into Osaka by Friday night, with the symposium starting up on Saturday and lasting through Sunday night. 

That seemed crazy to me, so I'm taking both Wednesday and Friday off--a graduate student from my department is showing a film to each of my classes--"Russian Ark" for the Russian class, and "Mustafa" for the Turkish one. Frankly, I'm really sorry I won't be able to watch "Russian Ark" with my students. It's an amazing film--but maybe one which has to be sold a little bit. 

MLK Day makes it easier to go, so I'll get to unwind for a couple of days in Tokyo before taking the bullet (I think, or at least very fast) train from Tokyo to Osaka. Actually, I'll be working a fair bit in Tokyo, preparing for the workshop and also working on a second project that may be developing. If possible, I hope to meet up with some Japanese colleagues in Tokyo. 

Well, that's all for now. If possible I'll try to send some photos from Japan. 

*** More links, info and analysis can be found at the Borderlands Lounge

No comments:

Post a Comment