Archive for June 14, 2008

Noone is Indispensible But We are Disposable

Today is Father’s Day in the U.S. and I’ve already sent my e-greeting to my dear Dad back in Minnesota.  Fortunately, he is looking after mowing our lawn, making sure everything is in order by the time we get back to our “dacha” farmhouse in less than a month.  Can it be, we are finally going to our own home soon?  However, it will be a quick visit before we return to our jobs where we are “disposable” targets. 

What do I mean by that?  Since my husband and I are “guests” as Americans in an institution that is a “guest” kind of western styled university in Central Asia, we are viewed with much skepticism if not outright derision.  Our institution of higher learning is really an anomoly among all the others in Kazakhstan.  From the Commander in Chief Nazarbayev, our place of employment has had his blessing from 15 years ago when it started up to now.

That could all change once his leadership baton passes to the next.  Leadership at our institution should and must change if we are to sustain a distinction of being a western university in a land proud of their own traditions.  As foreigners, we have NO job security and to pretend that there is a tenure system in place for us as it would imitate what exists in America or other western countries is laughable.  We are at the mercy of whomever doles out the work permits.  Someone in some ministry somewhere in the capital of Astana decides if there are too many westerners and that the job can be better filled by a native Kazakh employee.  Work permits are seemingly becoming tighter with each passing year.  As foreigners we are dispensible and should be easily disposable.

If last Sunday’s graduation ceremony was any indication of how many foreigners actually teach or are administrators in our western organization in Almaty, we will all soon be quickly disposed of.  Our expertise in whatever given subject we have taught in or have experience in as administrators will all eventually be taken over by Kazakhs.  So, essentially we are working ourselves out of our own jobs.

Education is a tricky thing, especially when it leaves God out of the equation which is what much of western academia has essentially already accomplished.  That is a given, western educators have done so with the zealousness of a communist atheist.  So much puffed up ego is involved with supposedly knowing more than the next person and having a title to PROVE that you know more is part of the game played.

What I’ve witnessed about Women Studies programs in many universities and what angry women have done to promote themselves as “womyn” saddens me.  Their tactic is to the detriment of what is really true and good in educating our young people.  They hold up women as far superior to men with this “feminine goddess” idea and that men are to be reviled as mere sperm donors.  These “educated” women (there are feminist men too) would want all people to continue with this “logic” that men are dispensible and disposable.

In the former Soviet Union, especially in countries like Ukraine and Kazakhstan, men as fathers and husbands were systematically taken out because of the communist ideology.  Many men were branded as “Enemies of the People” if they happened to be good breadwinners and worked hard to earn a living for their family.  (Seems that lazy men who later became thugs were safe.)  These unfortunate family men were targeted as either farmers or stockbreeders.  They were simply doing what men were equipped to do, be the head of the home raising and protecting their wife and children. Once these men were “kulakized” and either killed or sent off to the gulag, there were women and children who were forced into the collective in order to survive and expected to tout the party line.

What is the connection between what happened in the past under communist times and what is happening to us as western educators in Central Asia?  First, I am reminded of my experience of teaching in China in 1986-88 where we as foreigners told ourselves that we were being used.  The phrase “being chewed up and spit out” often came to mind during my two years of teaching English.  In a country of one billion people, what is one little American’s quality of life matter?  Second, I think we have some things to offer the Kazakhs but they are either not ready or willing to accept it yet.  Third, their own pride of not wanting to appear needy factors in.  Fourth, there have been some abrasive westerners who came in with their seedy ideology, such as the women’s studies example.  Tough to sort out the good from the bad, so the Kazakhs need much wisdom of what to embrace and what to dispose of from our western form of education.

Finally, I’m reminded of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians 4:10-13 about being a fool for Christ.  In my case, while teaching in Kazakhstan, I have to take solace in what Paul experienced as being disposable, “And we labor, working with our own hands.  Being reviled, we bless, being persecuted, we endure it; being defamed, we entreat.  We have been made filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.”

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Kazakhstan: A Country of Immense Consequence!

yurt entranceyurtAstana Memorial


A complimentary response from one of my blog readers in the U.S. made my day yesterday:

Kazakhstan was a so-what name till I read your posts here. Whether you stay or not, know that your fine hand brought it alive for me, with real people and their superstitions, Kim, boulders, wildflowers and pine-scented towels.”


Yes, it is a real privilege to be a part of a maturing country, such as Kazakhstan, which simultaneously has a very old history.  To put past and present together with three languages involved (English, Kazakh and Russian) is the challenge of all educators and administrators in Kazakhstan. I believe that Kazakhstan is a well kept secret and it would flourish as a stronger economy if tourism were promoted more.  I believe Kazakhstan should open it’s door more for the rest of the world to know about its hidden wonders along the Silk Road route.  Better yet, I need to encourage my writing students to write about their fine country in English for others to learn just what a GREAT land this really is!!!!

My husband and I were planning on celebrating our own important holiday of Fourth of July by flying up to the new capital of Astana as of 10 years ago. (Since I have to remain in Almaty anyway for my summer session one grades to sink in for my masters students in the six-week reading and writing course I’m teaching.)  It WAS a good plan until my husband read in the Russian newspaper (my Cyrillic reading isn’t so good) “Delovaya Kazakhstan” No. 23 (120) June 13, that very weekend is the 10 year anniversary of Astana being a capital.  The photo is one of the new memorials in Astana to commemorate those who died under the Soviet “repressions.”


Scratch those plans of our intended Astana visit, it will be far too busy at the newly built up capital to the north on OUR Fourth of July weekend.  Maybe instead we will travel with my colleague friend Yelena and explore what life was like in a yurt out in the countryside instead to help celebrate our Independence Day. We hope to go to Astana next fall upon our return from Minnesota after visiting our family and friends for a month. 

No, Kazakhstan is NOT a “so what?” country, but one of immense consequence if only people knew more about it.  Thank you, dear reader, for your kind input.

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