Posted by: roamingolivia | July 1, 2010

The spy scandal and me

Periodically, I get a lot of spying jokes. I get a lot of people asking if I am one, and making jokes about my espionage work in most of my offices. We can clear this up now – I am not – and then move on to the entertaining stories below.

I have gotten this throughout my admittedly weird career. Obviously a blonde Russian-speaking American running around without clear purpose in Central Asia is bound to arouse some questions. Especially if she likes to ask questions: On one long drive from Tashkent to the Ferghana Valley, I began quizzing my taxi driver if he knows any IMU members, causing him to ask, “You’re a spy, or what?”

Then there was the time I was pretending I am not a Russian speaker, with the purpose of listening in on conversations – e.g., so kind of actually spying but not for anyone, and just for a few hours. My colleagues, who are not native English speakers, said I was able to really look like I don’t speak Russian, and then they wondered if I actually secretly speak their language too, since I look the same when they’re speaking it.

Anyway, you will all have heard about the spy scandal in the US, and the spy ring. We all love spies. This has opened up a whole new round of speculation in my office about whether I am a spy – I am actually sure that no one really believes I am not.

I think it is interesting the way Russian-US relations are so heavily influenced by the spy narrative. I imagine Russians in the US immediately are believed to be spies by most people – especially those who actually lived through the Cold War. Probably even “young people” (e.g., people who are younger than I am) think of these Russians as potential spies, and the Cold War’s been over for a while? For sure my Russian and Russian-speaking colleagues still are suspicious of people who speak their language and are Americans.

And you still get awesome spy scandals involving Russia and the US, in a way you don’t get with other countries. Sure there’s this current one – lots of my friends and colleagues have picked out their favourite spy from this group just announced (the Latin American journalist? the obvious honey trap?). But there was also the fake rock incident (okay, this one is about the UK), and loads of prostitute scandals (US or UK – take your pick).

Is it just more creative spying, or does the Russian-UK-US James Bond-y theme just capture our news imaginations more?


  1. ‘We can clear this up now – I am not – and then move on to the entertaining stories below.’

    You would say that though, wouldn’t you?

  2. I think there is something about the Russian-UK-US James Bond-y theme, because this is one of the most exciting blog entries I’ve ever read, and nothing even happens in it.

    Now I’m going spend the rest of the day thinking about how to get people to suspect me of being a spy. Hmm. I could start with opportunities to reference my “other passport.”

  3. It’s probably for the best that you tell everyone you know that you _are_ a spy, and that way they’ll know you’re kidding, and the authorities won’t arrest you for being a spy. Which they shouldn’t do anyway, because you’re not a spy, but nobody would believe you if you go and tell them that.

  4. Querida m’ija,

    Eres bastante bonita, bastante inteligente para ser, pero espero que no seas, y que continuas a decirles a tus amigos y compañeros que no seas.

    Has oido las noticias de un puesto para tu hermanaita??

    Espero que tus amigos no piensen que esto tambien sea asombrante.

    Te amo,

  5. This is an interesting question… I could imagine that Russians would be naturally suspicious because they have a history of being spied on by their own government! (maybe this is also why they are so good at human intelligence?)

    As for you, its clear that IF you are not a spy already, then you are well-suited to the job. 🙂

  6. hey, i really like this post. also, like ben and josh said, you’d say you weren’t a spy even if you were …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: