Archive for December 23, 2007

“Democracy” in Kyrgyzstan – Part II

The gap in Kyrgyzstan widens between the former socialist, totalitarian system that had a stronghold for 70 years versus the democratic, political system and market economy of the industrialized countries. One 34 year old married male felt sure that “the developed countries have reached more prosperity due to keeping the democratic values, human rights and promoting market economy [while] the socialist countries disappeared due to substantial abuses of human rights, repression of people and recession of democracy.”  This same man admitted that “fraud and falsification of election processes exist in Kyrgyzstan” while the government officials are sunken in bribery and nepotism. 

A 39 year old single female from Tokmak, K. had her own ideas as an educator about where democracy starts, she believes it begins at school.  She wrote: “My motto is freedom but responsibility. Democracy is not a beautiful word that allows you to do whatever you like.  So I’m a guide that should bring democracy to education…teacher’s main goal is to change people’s attitude to children, as society will not change until individual attitude changes.”  Another 29 y.o. married male from Osh said that all of the CARs countries are “trying to recover after a long period of totalitarian system, yet experience difficulties in adapting to democratic changes, as many still think in an “old” way.” 

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Unconventional Christmas in a Nightclub

What a FUN party we had last night with about 25 Kazakh students packed into our small living room.  They are eager to practice their English in order to go to the U.S. next summer.  Our three room flat really maxes out with our arrangement of chairs and sofa at about 18 or 19 person capacity.  But six bodies were sitting on the floor which was okay since I had moved another carpet into the dining room area after I moved my office desk to make room for the dining room table in my office. That’s where the food stuff was set up for these hungry students. Thanks to Ken for getting all the extra food provisions, my Spritz cookies just did not happen.  Either the flour is wrong or the butter is. 

The guests’ shoes were all clustered in the entryway area and 25 coats thrown onto our bed.  Actually, once the party was in earnest, being on the floor was preferable because of all the body heat conducted throughout the room.  Eventually we opened our kitchen balcony and the outside door for some cross breeze of cooler air.  Other doors in our flat are sealed off for the winter to keep the cold air from coming in. 

Unfortunately, I have no pictures because my camera is in sad disrepair (see earlier post of my dunking my camera in Rooibos tea at Thanksgiving)  Fortunately, Ken is gifting me with a NEW waterproof ORANGE Olympus camera for my Christmas gift!!! (Thanks dear) Unfortunately, Ken’s digital was piled under all the coats.  Discovered after all possible “Kodak moments” had been snapped by other students’ digitals and the last coat retrieved with the goodbyes and final Merry Christmases.  Many Christmas related games seemed to break the ice and some of the guys turned out to be REAL characters.  (Of course, the girls sat demurely and just looked pretty.)  The guys took over being hams, especially those more comfortable with their English. 

We played “Twas the Night before Christmas” where they had to pass gifts to the Right or to the Left and by the end of the poem they would open whatever they had in their hands.  Then we did the Gift Exchange of “white elephant” gifts but it seemed that many of the gifts revolved around the rat, since it is the Chinese year of the rat.  Many gauche gifts were “stolen” from each other, once the students got the hang of the rules of the game.  One gift that picked up lots of momentum was a rat on a cross; another was a yellow, glass ashtray with two small, red Santas.  Another was a headband with fuzzy, orange pipe cleaner antennae with balls on the end of each.  The guys seemed to enjoy wearing that. 

We sang “Twelve Days of Christmas,” which was the only carol we sang of the evening, good practice for numbers in English. After those games, colorful costumes were put on by willing volunteers for each character in the Luke 2 story.  We had trouble finding the correct prop for the baby Jesus, so one of the smaller girls took on that role.  The funniest was a rather outgoing sheep who was one of the “lifes of the party.”  He didn’t know that his role was minor to that of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and wise men.  No matter, the students had fun dressing up. 

Oh yes, the last game was “Pass the Parcel” and there were about 15 gifts to unwrap when the music stopped. I happened to use Amy Grant’s Christmas Album.  However, one of the requests with the sixth or seventh gift that was opened was to sing a pop song in English.  At first, the crowd was stumped but then the guy who played the sheep and another who kept holding on to the present started singing a song.  They sounded like the REAL thing.  I was only vaguely familiar with the tune, due to my “generation gap-itis” but most of the others chimed in. 

We didn’t have much to clean up, thanks to paper plates and cups, but it was good to get our living room temperature down to a normal temp after all the final group photos were taken.  The students were all profuse in their thank yous and we were happy that it turned out without much planning.  Thanks to Peyton, Clover and Aliya, we had a winning combination of versatility, talent and youthfulness exhibited.  Ken, of course, was the supreme “host with the most” taking care of the restocking and clean up. 

About our Christmas Sunday worship service in a nightclub?  Yes, we attend the “Dancing Star” bar every Sunday so that is now “conventional” for us.  The interior colors are somewhat garish in its red and black theme with no outside windows.  Thus, we were greeted today with total darkness upon entering the bar but many votive candles lit the way for us to find our seats.  It was truly a worshipful experience with familiar Christmas songs sung, sermon with good stories and communion at the end.  How easy to imagine the lostness in the crowds that Mary and Joseph must have felt that first Christmas when they groped in the darkness in the unfamiliar environs of Bethlehem to have their child, Jesus.  We didn’t feel so unconventional as we reflected on how our Christ child’s birth was a bit like our worship of Him in a nightclub without electric power.  God’s real Power shone in the darkness especially when we sang “Silent Night” at close the worship service. 

Merry Christmas was celebrated in an unconventional setting in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  Where will we celebrate next year?

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