Archive for March, 2009

Poster session at TESOL about Ukraine

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These photos are of my poster session about Ukraine at the TESOL conference in Denver this past Saturday.  I had put my matted photos together at Greta and Dave’s place on a 4 x 8 feet quilt so that I knew how to space my photos out.  At first I wasn’t going to put any words than just the title “Ukraine’s History Matters: A Service Learning Success!” but then I thought I should identify some of the photos.  If I had had my own printer and other things with me, I would have done a nicer job with lettering by printing off my laptop.  As it was, this was for a nomad, like me, from Kazakhstan and easily transportable. I’m glad to be back in springtime weather in Almaty!!!

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Cold Sites in Denver, Colorado

Thanks to Perry and his hosting us, we were able to get around in the clunky snow Friday morning.  He took me to the light rail train which brought me to the conference center about 20 minutes later, then he picked me up when I was conferenced out.  I saw a friend of mine, Thom, from University of Minnesota days and also talked over Internet at the Electronic Village to Rick in Amman, Jordan.  Didn’t see my friend Colleen whom I see at EVERY TESOL conference I’ve gone to ever since we went together the first time to Vancouver in 1990.  Didn’t see Joy either but my main goal was to attend as many sessions as possible.  These are the COLD sites from Denver that turned into a warm, sunny day by the end of Friday.  Denver is so much like Almaty in its weather and views of the long mountain ranges in the horizon.

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Odd Sites Around Larkspur, Colorado

You could see the following photos  of odd sites anywhere in the U.S. besides just Larkspur, but I thought these were particularly funny to see.  No disrespect to Ken and his wonderful cousins whom we stayed with before driving up to Denver.  Thanks Greta and Dave!!!

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My Hometown* Ice and Snow (Part II)

My hero Dad is snowblowing out the snow that came down yesterday which thankfully slowed the river a bit, the other photos are taken by my hero Mom.  Meanwhile, nearly 1,000 miles away in Denver, Colorado which translates into about 14 hours of driving time to my hometown* in NW Minnesota, I am presenting a paper at the international TESOL conference  titled “Kazakhstan’s Orality vs. Infoliteracy.” 

My British friend, Wendy, always thought it strange that Americans use the word “hometown” when referring to their birthplace or home place orientation.  I suppose it is because our country is so big and there were so many small towns that if I were to say the name of my hometown, it would not register with anyone except those from the area.  Wendy thought it odd when she used to live in the U.S. and heard people say “My hometown” from a good friend of hers in Texas.  Now she knows. I just hope the people from my hometown can ride through this latest crisis of high waters.

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My Hometown Made National News

flood20002Glad I’m visiting relatives in beautiful Colorado and not in my hometown in northwestern Minnesota for a number of reasons, sub-zero cold, snow, ice and FLOODS!  Last night my hometown DID make the national news on TV.    Of course, with jetlag I was fast asleep and missed it but my husband told me they showed a photo of Roberts Street bridge that often gets jammed where ice junks complicate the river flow heading north. Flood scares dominate spring time all the way up to Canada for people living close to the Red River of the North.   You see, this river goes against the tide, it empties into the Hudson Bay in Canada where most all other rivers drop south.  Seems my parents “may not be out of the woods” yet as the river height hovers close to 25 feet.  (These photos are off the radio station KROX website.)

Just in case, I believe my folks brought everything up from their basement worth saving, if the dams had broken as predicted.  Ken and I, being in Colorado, could have been helping my folks if their home had been flooded but instead my Dad was out at our place working with our sump pump making sure our basement didn’t flood. (Thanks Dad!) People in the Red River Valley, who live there year round, are definitely my heroes! 

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Five Flipped Over Semi Trucks and Trailers

To experience 40 mph winds bucking you in your car is one thing when the speed limit is 70 mph, but to see semi trucks flipped over on the side of the road is quite another.  Very sobering site as we passed five such scenes going west on Hwy. 70 bound to Denver.  Too windy to roll down the window to take photos as we slowed down while state troopers swarmed the tragic scene, so none exist for this blog entry.  Similar to seeing a downed elephant, regal yet forlorn. I have high respect for these drivers and their rigs who crisscross the country with their loads, they are normally very good drivers.  I hope none of them died or were badly injured in what must have been empty trailers being caught in the strong gusts and then making the truck up front start to fishtail.  Later we saw three trucks and trailers driving on the shoulder of the road probably going 30 mph close to each other, gingerly since they probably had a deadline to make to return with their rigs, high winds or no.  

 

We also saw the wind farms that had their tall towers with the three propellers stopped.  That also looked a bit haunting through the thick, chestnut colored dust that was carried away from the farmers’ topsoil.  If the brakes had not been put on the props, they would have been spinning wildly in the severe wind and perhaps do more damage than good.  Looking at some of the farms as we passed on the highway sometimes at 60 mph or less, I wondered how they managed to eke out a living, things looked so dry.  Also, with all the wind that was there and the absolute dryness, I’m sure prairie fires had wreaked their damage to many a farmstead in the past.

 

Finally, what is notable about Russell, KS (besides being the birthplace of Robert Dole) was that they have a kind of limestone rock that farmers and rangers used for fence posts.  This rock was used because wood posts were so hard to find on the treeless prairie OR if they were used they would burn with the next prairie fire.  One could see them in the fields holding up the barbed wire fencing all along the way about 25 feet apart from each other standing about a yard high.  So this stretch of area grew rock instead of trees but also what is underneath is oil that is being dredged out.

 

We have four more hours to drive to get to Denver but the weather could turn worse with snow and sleet showers. Weather reports sound off with tornadoes and high winds behind us, blizzards north of us and floods to the northeast of us.  Wow, spring is coming in like a lion and going out like one!  I’ll keep you posted as to when we finally arrive into Colorado, this is becoming a perilous journey but my husband is an old hand when it comes to tricky driving up mountain passes.  It will start looking like Almaty, Kazakhstan the closer we get to our destination.

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Geocaching (Part II)

I suppose geocaching is for the yuppies to enjoy who own a Garmin GPS.  Also, for those computer geeks who live in the Twin Cities and other urban areas of the U.S. and Canada.  This phenomenon has spread throughout the world and there are different versions of it which started in 2000 after Y2K (remember that scare?).  The “Planet of the Apes” movie promoters began a kind of scavenger hunt with finding things from the movie located in different places.  Many different themes and varieties of geocaching, some are exclusively for kids, others are more challenging.  Needed: computer to check website for where the treasures are stashed, GPS and then good hiking boots to muck about in the woods.

The general rule of thumb for geocaching is to find the cache, replace something of equal or greater value in the container and sign the log book.  I had seen a name that had been written in as early as 2004 on one of the four places we located the other day.  Some are spoilers of this game who take the cache away from the location and then the computer website has to say that it is compromised.  Those people who do that are called “mufflers” if I understood my sister correctly.  She said that there is a city-wide family event coming up with a kind of competition to see who can find the most in the given amount of time. 

I think it is great that parents are doing this activity with their kids and they all LOVE it.  The good thing is to do these hunts in early spring before the leaves open out and the woodticks come out which makes it a bit more intimating.  How I HATE wood ticks!!!  LOVE my nephews, however!  Good work guys on finding the caches (pronounced cashes)!

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Geocaching with my “geek” nephews in Twin Cities

Getting out into nature after being cooped up in a plane or airplane seemed to work wonders for me yesterday!!!  What a very beautiful spring day in the Twin Cities to share with my two nephews.  We found four sites and the boys had a blast looking through the contents in the camoflauged container and signing their names off on the little booklet included in the ziplock bag.  I actually spotted the fourth one nestled under a tree when we went on our second hunt.  The names scribbled in the booklets are telling:  taconite, Momandson2006, timbrwlf, picke explorers , richrick and many others.  This has been going on for years and really picking up in other parts of the country.  My nephews just came back a month ago from Florida and they did geocaching there as well.  Looking at a map, you don’t see much going on in North Dakota or South Dakota yet but it is BIG in the Twin Cities. I looked at a world map and I didn’t see Kazakhstan on the website for geocaching. The purpose behind doing these treasure hunts and finding the stash using a Garmin GPS is toGet geeks away from computers and out into the real world!!!”

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Watched Six Movies in 24 hours

I landed safely in Minneapolis after two long and uneventful flights and a long wait in Amsterdam in the span of 24 hours.  To pass my time on planes I usually can’t sleep and I like to catch up on movies.  The following are the six movies I watched in the span of 24 hours.  Lots to sort through!   

Slumdog Millionaire – set in India using the popular game show “So you want to be a millionaire.”  Heard so much about this movie because of the academy awards, I just HAD to see it.  They used a kid named Jamal who grew up on the streets who ultimately won a lot of rupees from the game show Indian style.  How did he do it? *Spoiler*  Shows torture of Jamal at first like water boarding, electrocution and slapping around to get to the bottom of that answer.  The “truth” was even more riveting to Jamal’s accusers than what they thought was some kind of electronic scam.  Many improbable scenes happen so it seemed surreal throughout in that sense and had a typical Hollywood happy ending.  I liked the last dancing scene at the train station when they rolled the credits.  Very creative.

 

Changeling – The next sobering movie I watched was directed by Clint Eastwood.  He is a master at creating films that have an “edginess” to them with current social issues, this one was no exception set in the late 1920s in L.A. starring Angelina Jolie.  She did a superb job of acting, convincing the viewers that she was a single mom who simply wanted her son back alive.  Her son had been missing for five months and then things got really rough for her.  True story but the supporting role goes to the Presbyterian minister who was backing this mother to find out just how corrupt and devious the L.A. police department could be.  Never seemed that she thanked the minister for pulling her out of a psycho ward and the courtroom cases they went through while she was very motherly about correcting the boy on his manners when he came to live in her house who wasn’t her true son.  Seems when Hollywood directors use any period piece, they may discover that a lot of prayer went into the actually living out of the real life tragedy. I believe Hollywood does all they can to dilute how much faith happened back in our earlier days.  This has a mixed ending, similar to Eastwoods “Million Dollar Baby.”  I want to see his latest film “Grand Torino.”

 

First Daughter – After two sad and serious movies, I had to watch a comedy and this felt like I was watching Chelsea Clinton leave Wash. D.C. to go to Stanford for her university education.  Probably this movie script had all sorts of things that happened in real life for the Clinton family or for the Bush twins but it was made to look fictional.  I would have liked to have seen Anne Hathaway do this movie but she no longer is convincing as a college coed, another young actress did a very good job.  Her “boyfriend” looked a little older for the college scene but that was part of the plot too.  Watch it for some funny scenes that will make you LOL.

 

Doubt – Meryl Streep never disappoints in her acting roles, though I’m disappointed in her politics as with most all Hollywood actors.  This movie is set in 1960s in some Catholic Church and school and Streep is the battleaxe principal who does not like the warm, charismatic priest. (Think “Devil Wears Prada” but the opposite in fashion design with her nun’s habit)  The plot is rich with meaning about intolerance, discrimination and struggles with the Catholic faith as it tries to lighten up a bit from the Old School.  It reminded me of the Soviet teachers I am surrounded by who are stuck in the old ways and can’t get out.  Meryl Streep has an abrupt and surprise ending and it leaves you with DOUBT!!!  I recommend watching it to see what issues they are really dealing with.

 

Get Smart – Anne Hathaway and the other male actor (I forget his name) but he does a great job playing the Max character from the Get Smart TV series.  Lots of funny scenes that are set in U.S. then in Russia then in L.A. but my KLM airline pilot had to land so I couldn’t find out what really happened.  I believe the president of the US was saved from a certain nuclear attack in L.A. thanks to Max and his agent 99 (Anne) and they predictably got together in the end.  Agent 23 turns out to be the double agent but then I’m giving the whole plot away, right?

 

Australia – Nicole Kidman and cattle driving don’t seem to go together but she does a great job riding horses and being the prim and proper British woman at first who eventually fits into the Wild West cowboy scenes in Australia.  What was odd about this film was that the director’s made Nicole seem so cartoon-ish at first.  From being totally aghast at kangaroo hunts, shocked at the decay to their Down Under residence her late husband had built and then trying to be a mother to a little half Aboriginal child.  Then the second half of the movie Kidman suddenly becomes ultimately absorbed by Australia’s toughened charm. It was as if the directors forced Kidman to do a fast forward in her caricature and then she seemed more relaxed and likeable as a person once she started to fight the big fight in Australia against an adversary in the cattle drive business.  This movie is set in the late 1930s and continues into the war with Japan in the 1940s and how it changed many Australians lives as a result.  The scenery is beautiful; the history bits are good just to see how Australia was affected by WWII. I always knew from my Philippine days that the Australians were very involved in the Pacific conquest but have not known much in how they suffered.   This film also deals with the issues of the discrimination against the aboriginal peoples.  On the whole a good movie, though it seems long but is worth the watch. 

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My Shymbulak Outing – fun but no shashlik!!!

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Fun to meet up with Brenda and her friend Sharon the other day in the mountains and at a restaurant that is known to serve shashlik.  No such luck, but the food we enjoyed as we watched the skiers go downhill was fabulous.  I’ve heard so much about Shymbulak, I’m glad I went even though there is much to do to prepare for my trip to the U.S. for one week.  Thank you Julia for the nice time on the slopes!!!

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