Miss Post-Teen Momushylu

Did you forget I had a blog? So did I, apparently. Here are the highlights of what I’ve done in the many months you’ve been denied my warm virtual embrace:

1. Rescued a dog from drowning in a trash pit
2. Visited India
3. Rescued a puppy from a 5 a.m. storm
4. Finally saw kokpar
5. Unleashed an UNO craze at my school
6. Immediately regretted unleashing an UNO craze at my school
7. Discovered that Z-sai has an ice cream parlor*
8. Discovered that the Z-sai supermarket has started selling canned whipped cream
9. Enacted an obvious but genius plan involving #7 and #8
10. Won a Kazakh pageant

*Okay, it’s not so much an ice cream parlor as a patio next to a soft serve machine where, for twice the usual price, they’ll put your ice cream in a glass bowl and let you sit there and eat it. But still–awesome?

Of all the items on this list, #10 seems the most deserving of explanation. Actually, now that I’m looking at the list, there are probably several items that deserve explanation, but I’m going to let you use your imagination on the rest of them. (Especially #9–if you’re thinking naked whipped cream fight, your imagination is way better than my life).

If you’ve know anything about holidays in Kazakhstan, you’re probably aware that they always involve lots of food, plenty of vodka, and some kind of talent show/concert/”spectacle.” This past weekend was Men’s Day (May 7th) and Victory Day (May 9th), so my school organized a pageant for the female teachers that involved songs, salads, and slightly awkward comedy sketches. What any of this had to do with men or victory in Europe, I’m not sure, but the other teachers in the English department volunteered me as a participant, never realizing that they would be forcing me to relive a dark, sash-draped period of my own past…

Does winning the pageant count if you can't figure out how to correctly wear the sash?


Yes, I was your 1998 Pre-Teen East Tennessee Senior Division titleholder. Though Pre-Teen (which is not the best term to Google, by the way) was technically a “scholarship and recognition program,” it did involve hotel ballrooms, hairspray, and a group performance where all the participants danced to a medley of America-themed songs, from “Coming to America” to “God Bless the USA.” (I still experience a disorienting sense of dread and nausea when I hear Lee Greenwood–but then again, who doesn’t?)

Though it’s been years since I donned a shiny dress and strode across a stage, I felt fairly confident I could work some Pre-Teen magic (again, a term to avoid Googling) at this thing. When I was a kid, though, all I had to do was unnerve the judges with my incongruously masculine voice and they’d give me a trophy. But this pageant consisted of much weirder steps:

Round 1: Squeeze into a traditional Kazakh costume made for a seventh-grader. Endear yourself to the judges by wishing them wealth, happiness, and good health (and, if things are looking iffy, by slipping them a couple of hundred tenge under the table).

Round 2: Demonstrate talent. In my case, this involved singing a Kazakh song (“Aliya”) I’d hastily learned a couple of days before. “Aliya,” which you can find the words and video for here, is about a 17-year-old Kazakh girl who signed up as a sniper in World War II, only to be killed in battle. Downer? Maybe, but it sounds nice, as long as you don’t know what I’m saying.

Round 3: Make a salad. A “salad” in Kazakhstan is not like a salad in America. For one thing, it usually involves copious amounts of mayonnaise, and very little in the way of green roughage. For my salad-y masterpiece, I chopped up some fruit, slathered it with yogurt, and cut a little sun out of an orange peel to put on top. That’s right, bitchezzz–Martha Stewart ain’t got shit on me.

Round 4: Perform a skit. There was much debate about what we’d do for the comedy portion of the pageant, so, in true K-stan fashion, we a) waited until the day of the competition to figure it out and b) plagiarized it. I’m not going to tell you what our skit was about, because I think it’ll be more enjoyable if you make up your own plot. I will tell you that at least one of us was drunk (and that despite my performance, it wasn’t me).


You’ll be glad to know that despite competing against a girl who danced the

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