Thursday, February 24, 2011

Back in the USSR

But I don't feel so lucky.

So we had area studies again this week. This makes week five of the past 6 weeks that we have spent area studies discussing Russia and/or the Soviet Union.

You might remember that NONE of the people in my class are going to Russia.

I say five of the past six weeks, because last week we had a command performance at the "Appeal of Conscience" program.

First, you can't brag about attendence if you make the event manditory.

The first half of that program consisted of diplomats talking to us about religious freedom. The second half started with one of the religious leaders asking for a show of hands of "believers."

I am not sure that has a place in a manditory training class.

Anyway, this week, we had a lecture on how the collapse of the Soviet Union led to 9/11.

And interesting topic, without a doubt, but really, I would like to hear something about where I am going.

It took him one hour and 45 minutes to even MENTION one of the countries we are headed to, and then only in terms of that Russia could take it and Belarus back if they wanted to lessen the percentage of Muslims within the Russian federation. yes really.

Nine minutes later, he mentioned Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, but only in terms of saying he asked as the Soviet Union was crumbling if FSI knew how many speakers of those languages we had since they might have embassies soon. He said he was told that they would never be independent (sure he was, because his whole persona is based on being the ONLY one in the government who knows anything but that no one would listen to). Five minutes later, he referred to the imam in Kiev. Two minutes later, class was over. Poor Poland never even got a footnote.

In the course of this class, he spouted lots of stats, like how the average birthrate of Chechen women was 10. When someone asked him his source, he said he wasn't sure and he didn't think the number was right
. But then why would he use it to make his argument (because it was key to the point he was making). Like I have said before, every time he says something I know about, I know the areas he is wrong. And this makes me question everything he said.

And he has this really irritating habit of saying something controversial and then quickly adding "but anyway" and changing the subject so that your only option is to chuckle or grumble and move on.

But no matter. Today was his last day.

Yep, he is quitting. Our former instructor is returning.

So we are losing the instructor who knows, but never actually shared, something about the Balts, and regaining the professor who made our class all Ukraine, all the time. At this point, I am grateful it is at least about ONE of our counties. And on the bright side, should I ever be assigned to Russia, I shouldn't have to take area studies. Really, I'm good.

But of course, because our old instructor has been gone for six weeks, our current instructor set up classes for the next three weeks.

Next week's topic: Russian Foreign Policy. Yes, really.

I am not sure what the week after that is (I think it is a joint session with another area studies), but the third week is an Azeri journalist talking about Azeri NGOs.

Hooray! It isn't Russia.

Except, none of us are going to Azerbaijan either...

1 comment:

Sadie said...

I feel your pain. MENA Area Studies almost never touched on Saudi Arabia. I mean, ~22 countries in one class - crazy! Also, I am shocked and disturbed that this year's Appeal of Conscience had the believer question again. He did that last year, and there was a lot of complaining and discussion of how inappropriate that is. Sad.