Archive for October, 2007

Quote from Sufi poet

Just got our Internet set up at home this afternoon, finally!  One more quote from Nazarbayev’s book, I have been still settling into our flat, will post photos soon.  

p. 125 “The Kazakhs have a long tradition of supporting peace and living alongside other nations and peoples.  They are also tolerant, patient, and well meaning and respect the way of life, customs and cultures of others.  Their good qualities were summed up by Khodzha Akhmet Yassaui, a Sufi poet, who is considered by Muslims to be second only to the holy Mohammed:          

The prophet has this wish:         

When one day you meet a stranger,         

Do not do him wrong.         

God does not love people with cruel hearts.

These words are written on his mausoleum in the town of Turkestan, in Kazakhstan, which is considered by Muslims as a little Mecca and is a place of pilgrimage for believers from across the Islamic world.  The Kazakh people are always true to the words of their prophets.”

We will be travelling on Thursday to Bishkek where I lived for a year and a half in 1993-95.  Looking forward to how much it has changed.  Surely not as much as Almaty I hope!!!

Comments (1) »

Former Soviet Union’s absurd economics

Another quote from Nazarbayev’s autobiography from the chapter “Poisoned Legacy” p. 46:

“The whole thing was worsened by the absurd way in which the economic indicators were calculated.  Although officials would boast in their speeches about millions of tonnes, square metres or kilowatt hours of output of a product, performance was actually calculated in financial terms.  In a Western-style market system this is logical, but in a planned economy, when prices are arbitrary and there is no competition, it makes no sense at all.  The more a plant increased the cost of inputs needed to make each unit of production, the more it could charge and the more its turnover increased; in other words, the more inefficiently an enterprise worked, the better it seemed to be doing.  Why make miniature switches for machinery when you could boost revenues hundreds of times by making enormous, outmoded ones instead?  Why use inexpensive but sturdy materials for construction when you could hit your rouble-denominated targets much more easily by using huge concrete blocks and panels?

The whole Soviet system formed an enormous vicious circle.  Every breakthrough cost us tremendous effort.  It was increasingly clear that this vicious circle was caused by an absurd economic system which had developed a momentum of its own and almost completely turned its back on the real needs of the people whom it was supposed to be serving.  Of all the 15 Soviet republics, Kazakhstan was the most vivid example of this.”

I don’t know, I think Ukraine had some fairly staggering examples of absurdity in their Soviet-style economics as well!!!

Leave a comment »

Another quote from President Nazarbayev

From  Nazarbayev’s autobiography p. 91 

“When considering the former Soviet republics, many of which were torn by internal conflicts at the time, I was reminded of the parable about an old nomad.  The man died and his sons decided to share out his possessions equally among themselves: his sheep, his camels, his horses and all his furniture.  Each one was happy with his share, but suddenly they remembered their father’s copper saucepan – who was to have it?  They could not divide it up and as no one was prepared to give in, they began to fight over it.  After a long struggle, they finally decided to make peace.  But by then they had lost everything; all their sheep, horses and camels had wandered away.  The only thing left was the copper saucepan itself, but nobody needed it anymore, because they had nothing to cook in it.

 We do not want to make the same mistake in Kazakhstan.  We do not want to waste all our country’s economic and intellectual potential in conflicts, whether inter-ethnic, religious or of any other sort; our main aim should be instead the strengthening of stability.”

Leave a comment »

Nazarbayev’s autobiography

Sorry for the gap in posting.  We will have wireless Internet access at our new flat soon, in the mean time we are still settling in. I’ve been in Almaty less than a week and have been meeting many people. Also, I’ve been reading Nazarbayev’s autobiography that was published in 1998.  He has an interesting perspective about the Kazakh Nomad from his own experience from p. 16. 

“Bolshevik historians misunderstood the nature of traditional Kazakh nomad culture. They believed that the Kazakhs did nothing but move around the steppes at random, like gypsies. In reality, their life was far more structured. Most had a permanent winter home, with out-buildings, normally built out of wood, known in Kazakh as a kystau. They usually had a fixed summer habitat as well. Typically, the Kazakh nomad possessed large herds of cattle and so needed a vast territory on which to graze them. It was simply impossible for them to stay in one place. The system was also highly regulated. Everybody knew exactly to whom each piece of land belonged and where the border ended, making it impossible for members of one family or clan to cross into land belonging to another. Indeed, borders were always an extremely important matter. Disputes about them, dzhirdau, lay at the heart of some of the worst crises or conflicts on the steppes.”

Leave a comment »

Vikings in Kyiv

Vikings in KyivAbout to leave Kyiv today after three very fruitful days of visiting my former university and catching up with fellow teachers and staff.  Getting stuff out of storage was a challenge but made easy by the university car bringing me to the storage on one end of town and back over the river to the other end where I have been staying these three days.  I feel like a Viking nomad with all the travel I have done in order to be together again with my Kazakh Nomad hubby, the Lord willing.  Too bad I missed seeing some of my former students, especially those I felt closest to.  I did meet some of the first year students who are reported to be the BEST ever. Ninety of them are proving to be a challenge to the teachers because they are like sponges wanting to learn all they can.  How I miss my students in Kyiv, but “to obey is better than sacrifice.”

The photo is of a mosaic mural on the side of a building close to my friend’s place on Left Bank.  The Vikings WERE actually here in Kyiv using the Dniper River, part of the rich history of Ukraine’s origins.

Leave a comment »

Pictures of walk to work

camelAlmaty billboardsKen took these pictures earlier this week on his 20 minute downhill walk down Prospect Furmanova, to Septaeva, and down to his university. He wrote the following:  

“You will notice the opulence of this oil rich country’s largest city. I did not photograph the Tiffany’s and Co. store near our apartment. Construction is everywhere.  You will notice the wide streets which do not have such great congestion at this place (they do some places) as so true in Kiev. The prospects for better traffic patterns are here, because Kazakhstan seems to have retained, “eminent domain” and is building thoroughfares through the city, as well as a new subway system. 

There’s a Turkish shopping center (a “mini Wal-Mart”) which will be our major store, being close to us. It also has a food court, with a small ice rink!  To the right is the national museum, and to the left the Presidential Palace, (although the president has moved with the government to a northern city, now called Astana, where the new capital is). 

I did get honked at on the sidewalk, as somebody was driving on it, he turned right and almost collided with another car.  The agricultural university is conveniently located close to where I work.  I hope to find time to visit its library and meet some professors there, as I take up my study of agriculture in this country. I once wrote extensively on it — back in 1992-1995 when I lived and worked here.”

Leave a comment »

Wedding Party=group of celebrants

second wedding partyEnglish can be very confusing to the non-native speaker and when Ken and I got married “again” in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in January of 1995 after our initial wedding end of December of 1994, well confusion ensued.  I had been very organized about what we were to do at what hour.  My students gainfully came at the precise hour to fill in the bridesmaids dresses that had been used in Minneapolis. They got to keep the dresses. My one Russian friend, Tatyana Kazanina was in the green dress and she wore it for both celebrations.  However, sadly Tanya is no longer with us. She died about 10 years ago.  She had been a major part of Ken and my courtship because whenever I came to Almaty from Bishkek to visit Ken, I would stay with Tanya.  I hope to see her parents when I arrive to Almaty in mid-October. 

 The confusion happened when I had written in the schedule of events that the “wedding party” was to meet in the office area to change from normal street clothes to the wedding attire so we could take photos ahead of time.  The dean of my school was ready to crash the “party” with some strong drink and good cheer.  I had to explain to her that the reception would be AFTER the ceremony. 

This word “party” had other problems earlier in the school year when I had a temperament inventory translated into Russian.  The guy who was translating the question “When at a party, are you more apt to go up to strangers to talk to them or do you stick with your friends?”  The word that was used meant more like the term for communist party instead of celebrating. 8)

Party, party, party…I’m doing anything but that with packing, packing, packing!!!

Leave a comment »