Archive for January 23, 2008

Galiya, the Kazakh Businesswoman

I learned from one of my students yesterday that it was 9 degrees F and -16 Celsius.  His formulation made sense to me, take -16 and subtract 32 and then multiple it by five-ninths.  I think I got that right.  Last night Galiya emerged looking cold at our door from ascending the five flights of stairs to our flat after she had driven her Toyota from her office. How do I know Galiya? About three months ago I had popped into her office asking if they needed an English teacher.  (That is how I met the young Kazakh man who needed help with passing his oral interview to get his visa for the U.S.  Happily he is studying English in school now in L.A.)  Currently Galiya is my student because she wants to brush up on her English skills before she goes to the U.S. for three weeks in February.

Brush up, nothing!  She has interference with whatever German she learned in school about 15-20 years ago and she doesn’t have a grasp of much English vocabulary.  Turns out I’m using my very bad Russian to translate sentences so she knows what we are talking about.  Last night I sent her off with the assignment to study irregular verbs, especially the 25 most used ones in simple conversations.  I also need to hunt down a phonetics chart for her which resembles Russian sounds so that she can pronounce “my” correctly.  She does not say it with the *I* /iy/ sound but something more akin to the Russian /oy/ or /ow/ combination.  For the next eight sessions we will muddle through somehow.  I want to build up her confidence before she goes to the U.S. and use some simple sentences correctly.  (i.e. G’day toilet = “Where is the toilet?” is always helpful to know) I also need to locate a CD that she can listen to of other simple English phrases that will be the most useful for her.

The first evening we met, she told me it takes her TWO hours to drive her car from the western suburbs of Almaty to first drop off her 15 y.o. daughter at high school which is half way to her office in downtown Almaty.  Then she goes to her aunt’s place to pick up her young children to bring them to their detsky sod (elementary school).  Then she shows up at work and helps people find placement at universities in either U.K. Australia or U.S.  The organization she is with was started by an Uzbek businessman who is General Director of six offices in Uzbekistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Czech republic, London and of course Kazakhstan.  When she returns home in the evening, she drops off her boss at a place close to our flat and then takes the ring road home, it takes one hour to commute home. I kidded her that she was really a taxi-driver, she laughed. Three hours in the car in terrible gridlock, she is a brave woman!!!

Galiya’s older sister was killed in a tragic car accident about 12 years ago when the car she was in hit a tree.  The three others in the car survived but Aliya left behind a 5 year old son named Ruslan.  Galiya has three brothers who are younger than she is, Hamid, Assat and Maxat, and all together she has five nephews with one on the way.  Unfortunately, Galiya is divorced, it happened around the time her sister Aliya died.  Her daughter was only two years old at the time.  Fortunately, Galiya and her daughter are Christians and she knows a few missionaries and pastors from church.

Two years ago she was in CA, TX and also Nevada but now she plans to go to New York, Boston, Miami, all along the East Coast for a conference and university visits.  I want Galiya to fully absorb what she experiences in the U.S. on her next upcoming trip in February.  The only way is to get her to talk, listen and understand English better.  I feel blessed in getting to know her, she is a delight.

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