The majority of links in this article refer to my Central Asian website, AmerasianWorld.com. Learn more about my experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer at this website. The below article will focus more on my experience as a mixed Japanese in Kazakhstan.
My two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kazakhstan (1997-1999) was the first time in my life that I lived in a multiracial and diverse environment where the people "looked like me." Being mixed started to have a different meaning for me. In Kazakhstan, most people were mixed in one way or another.
Being mixed Japanese in Kazakhstan
I will start with the experience I had in Karatau. I visited the local marketplace to say goodbye to the vendor where I always bought my Coca-Cola and cookies the last two years.
I preferred this Kazakh vendor since meeting her about a year before. I arrived one day and realized that I had forgotten my money at home. The vendor told me not to worry since she would credit the amount for me. I never forgot this moment. I thought it was strange that she would advance this credit system to an American when she knew I had the money.
So before I departed from Karatau, I wanted to say goodbye to this vendor. I told her I was returning to the US the upcoming week. I remember her asking me why I was going to the US. I told her I was American.
She realized, then, for the first time, that I was an American, not Kazakh.
This experience was quite normal for me during my two years in Kazakhstan. People I met in Kazakhstan assumed I was either Kazakh or Turkic. Of course, it helps that I am mixed Japanese living with a Kazakh host family. I also spoke Kazakh that further "disguised" my American nationality.
In my next blog entry, I will post an article about learning Kazakh and how it helped me fit into a multicultural country.