Books: At Home on the Kazakh Steppe: A Peace Corps Memoir ( C )

Source: Amazon Kindle: At Home on the Kazakh Steppe: A Peace Corps Memoir

I struggled with this book. I’ve read a lot of travel books lately. I go through phases like this: sci-fi and fantasy, serious books, business books, a biography or two, and then back to tales of living somewhere else. I should map this out but if I had to guess I read a lot more “living elsewhere” books during winter. If you’ve lived a winter or two in Seattle that would make sense.

This book… at the end I didn’t feel I had a good sense of Kazakhstan or even really the small town the writer lived in. I had a good sense that she was experiencing the highs and lows of moving abroad. It’s harder than you might think and yet also in some ways a very easy adventure (disclaimer: moving to Switzerland and France is no doubt less jarring than a small town in Kazakhstan). Still I felt disappointed that there was a lot of talk about marital difficulties vs. what the town and people and country are like. The entire upheaval of a nation that had formally spoken Russian for decades but could suddenly use its native Kazakh was briefly touched on but never dealt with well. I would have liked more of that.

It wasn’t bad and it took a lot of courage for the writer (and one presumes her husband while reviewing the drafts) to put this out there. But it doesn’t make up for the fact that I don’t seem to know much more about Kazakhstan today than I did before reading the book.

Book: Postcards From Across the Pond ( C or maybe C+ )

was informed there was one in a nearby parade, which, after some confusion, I discovered means a strip mall in Britain. Finding the parade was easy enough,

Source: Amazon Kindle: Postcards From Across the Pond

I have been reading this very lightweight book about life in England when I came across this section. I like to think that I have a decent handle on UK English overall but “parade” for “strip mall” was completely new to me.

Somehow parade seems a lot nicer than what these awful things are — strip malls evokes “strip mining” or “Vegas strip”. Tawdry and bad which just about sums it up.

Mildly amusing, good for reading when you have a cold