One of our local communications gals, Zulfiya, drops by my desk at work frequently, usually with some member of the press in tow that wants to see our library. Late this evening, she walked into the library with about ten guys from Russia, documentarians who set up giant cranes and TV cameras and then started interviewing students around our university.
While they worked, Zulfiya and I sat and chatted over coffee. She tells me that our marketing department has three women workers who handle all the new web copy, the PR, the tours and media relations, as well as develop all of the reports and budgets for the university. They’re overwhelmed and looking for a fourth, but admin says they need a man who can go to beer nights and other manly events and represent the university in a manly way. A lot of amazing female candidates have sent in application, but Zulfiya’s had to put their resumes in the rubbish, still looking for a Good Man. Which is, apparently, Hard to Find, because committees rejected both of the two passably manly candidates who bothered to throw in resumes. I’m wondering if a little cross-dressing and gender impersonation wouldn’t be an adequate solution here…
I ask how Zulfiya got into the woman-heavy communications field, and she tells me she’s always wanted to be a journalist. As a student in Ust-Kamen, she wrote articles for the youth section of her local paper, and got an internship in high school doing interviews for the local TV station. She then moved to study in the capital, where an internship with a local paper became a full-time job. After college, she got a scholarship to study mass communications in Nebraska.
“I’d like to get a PhD,” she tells me, but she’s not interested in living abroad anymore. I press her – aren’t there better programs outside of Kazakhstan? – but she’s frustrated with her boyfriend, who’s away in the U.S. He came back promising to write up his dissertation here, but then decided to go back to the U.S. for a teaching-assistantship. Zulfiya’s upset, talking quickly – she’d waited a year for him to return, and then he left. She wonders how much longer he’ll be gone, and I can sense the tension – him pulled back to the freedom, the college community he loves, her getting more and more frustrated with his absence, his lack of progress on the dissertation.
As the TV men begin to pull down their equipment, she laughs and says her parents are always visiting from her hometown, asking her, “You’re twenty-eight, why aren’t you married?” He’s still in the U.S., but no one’s asking him about it, she complains. So right now, she’s waiting, working coffee-fueled, late into the evening, dressed in pretty clothes and waiting to see what the future holds.