Archive for May, 2009

Soviet Postcard “Leftovers”

two baby ducksThis past month of May blogging I’ve gotten some mileage from all the scanning I did of 50 year old Soviet postcards, about 35 of them front and back. I always think this will be my last segment of showing off the artwork from the 1950s until I run out of words. So, my fall back is to go to my “scanned pictures” folder to find something else to share with my blog audience. animal picnic

I’m outta words today and thought I’d share these “leftovers.” Amazing that “leftovers” is a new word to my Kazakh teaching colleagues, a word we take for granted. They think it is an interesting word combination in English, perhaps they have a good word with a similar meaning in either Russian or Kazakh. In any case, we have words in our lexicon that we may use so much without thinking and then when nonnative speakers try to use it, it becomes new to us again. Why do we use the phrasal verb of “left over?” Why use the irregular verb “leave” when the food didn’t go anywhere but stayed on the table? Why not say “uneaten food” or “remaining food?” The English language can be idiomatically complex sometimes. Enjoy my “leftovers” of Soviet artwork from scanned postcards, invitation and mini-record album for children.Happy new year cardrecord writing

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Dedicated to my POP on his 79th birthday

Dear Dad, you qualify by fitting this job description of being my parent. I got this from my friend Jyldyz, so I didn’t make this up, it’s just recycled. Happy Birthday one year shy of 80! from your No.#1 daughter, Kazakhnomad

POSITION : Mom, Mommy, Mama, Ma, Dad, Daddy, Dada, Pa, Pop

JOB DESCRIPTION : Long term, team players needed, for challenging, permanent work in an often chaotic environment. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call. Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in far away cities! Travel expenses not reimbursed. Extensive courier duties also required.


-The rest of your life.
-Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs $5.
-Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly.
-Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf.
-Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers.
-Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects.
-Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings
for clients of all ages and mental outlooks.
-Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, and embarrassment the next.
-Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a half million cheap, plastic toys, and battery operated devices.
-Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.
-Must assume final, complete accountability for the quality of the end product.
-Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility.


-Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you


None required unfortunately.
On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.


Get this! You pay them!
Offering frequent raises and bonuses.
A balloon payment is due when they turn 18 because of the assumption that college will help them become financially independent.
When you die, you give them whatever is left.
The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it and wish you could only do more..


While no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options are offered; this job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth, unconditional love, and free hugs and kisses for life if you play your cards right.

Please feel free to forward this on to all the PARENTS you know, in appreciation for everything they do on a daily basis, letting them know they are appreciated for the fabulous job they do… or forward with love to anyone thinking of applying for the job.

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Grumbling, where does it get you?

fish for saleI admit it, in yesterday’s blog I was “grumbling” a bit. But who can complain for long when you see a little kiosk that sells fish as in this photo? My nearly two years spent in Kazakhstan have had their happy moments with my students, great friends, beautiful scenery and light-hearted yet sincere fellowship. We all need each other to cope with the oddities of living in a different culture than our own. I need to embrace the good times with the bad; I enjoy the challenges of living in cultures entirely foreign from my own. Kazakhstan certainly qualifies but living in Almaty is hardly Kazakh, it has so much of the Soviet flavor to it that I am dealing with more than one culture and all its complexities. As foreigners, we are all trying to unravel the mystery of this great nation. So, I suppose grumbling never gets you anywhere. However, this blog is my form of venting and I feel better once I share some of my frustrations with you, dear readers. The following is what C.S. Lewis wrote about “Grumbling” in The Great Divorce:

‘The whole difficulty of understanding Hell is that the thing to be understood is so nearly Nothing. But ye’ll have the experiences…It begins with a grumbling mood, and yourself still distinct from it: perhaps criticizing it. And yourself, in a dark hour, may will that mood, embrace it. Ye can repent and come out of it again. But there may come a day when you can do that no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood, not even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself going on forever like a machine.”sunset in AlmatyParliment former

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Columbine flowers and “Sensitivity” by C.S. Lewis

Zhamilya and NazgulThis photo is of two former Kazakh students of mine who just arrived in New York to do a Work and Travel assignment this summer.  They are cousins and are inseparable. I enjoyed talking to them before their departure about their plans to study in New York once they finish their summer jobs. Last semester when I had my students write about their grandparents, these two were particularly vulnerable to tears because they had just lost their dear grandfather.  I think my initial assignment to all students to tell me about their grandparents has great merit.  It gives this young, fresh talent a chance to convey their strong feelings of respect and love for their elders in ENGLISH!!!  I was happy to get to know Nazgul and Zhamilya better through finding out more about their wonderful grandparents.  Of course, their grandma doesn’t want to see them leave and be gone for so long in the U.S.  Yet, they are so full of life and excitement.  Wonderful to be around that kind of energy  and that is why I LOVE teaching!!!

These photos of columbine flowers are dedicated to these two students and their success in the U.S. Also, these flowers are close to our supposed new flat which is half the price of what we are paying now for a 3 room Soviet style apartment.  This new one has better air because it is higher up in the mountains, a 45 minute walk from my university (instead of 20 min) and is VERY Soviet style with only 2 rooms.  So, seeing these different columbine flowers perked me up because I will miss many things about the old place we lived in nearly two years. yellow columbinepurple columbinepink yellow columbine

I’ve probably quoted this passage from The Great Divorce written by C.S. Lewis, but it bears repeating:

“Did we pretend to be ‘hurt’ in our sensitive and tender feelings (fine natures like ours are so vulnerable) when envy, ungratified vanity, or thwarted self-will was our real problem? Such tactics often succeed.  The other parties give in.  They give in not because they don’t know what is really wrong with us, but because they have long known it only too well, and that sleeping dog can be roused, that skeleton brought out of its cupboard, only at the cost of imperilling their whole relationship with us.  It needs surgery which they know we will never face.  And so we win; by cheating.  But the unfairness is very deeply felt.  Indeed what is commonly called ‘sensitiveness’ is the most powerful engine of domestic tyranny, sometimes a lifelong tyranny.  How we should deal with it in others I am not sure; but we should be merciless to its first appearance in ourselves.”

I have to purge myself of the anger I feel toward a few of my fellow Kazakh teachers who do not know how much airfare costs for me to go home to the U.S. to be with MY family.  Such costs should be considered as part of my salary (as it was done in Ukraine where they paid for our flat and airfare) because apartment and travel costs alone eat up whatever salary I receive teaching my dear Kazakh students.

Meanwhile, an older Kazakh administrator told me the other day that she only spent $1,200 to get to New York on a round trip. (perhaps that was years ago on a different airlines)  Little does she consider that I travel during peak season to the Midwest when rates go up to $1,700 or $2,000 for a roundtrip so I can be with my own family.  Also, she probably already had her apartment given to her when she was a former communist party leader and so she doesn’t have to pay $1,000 a month for rent as I do.

Yet this same older teacher and administrator is the one who is “sensitive” about students knowing so much more than she does about computers while she is getting more behind as each semester passes.  She does not feel the unction to practice on her computer to improve her skills.  At the same time she probably resents the fact that I keep banging on the same drum about all Kazakh and Kazakhstani teachers need to be using their computer skills in the classroom for the benefit of their students. Perhaps they feel “hurt” when I so much as suggest that they should use e-mail to get students’ homework instead of getting paper hard copies from them only during class time.  Sometimes I really question why I sacrifice so much to teach in Kazakhstan but then when I run into former students like Nazgul and Zhamilya who are eager to learn, the sacrifice does not feel so heavy.

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Russian Handwriting and Stamp Side of Soviet Postcards

children and projects writingIn earlier posts this past month I’ve been showcasing the Soviet Postcards from 40-50 years ago. Today I will show just a few of the Soviet Stamps that are from the 1960s. I would like to ask other of my Kazakh or Kazakhstani colleagues to give me their old photos or postcards to scan. I’m thankful to Sholpan for trusting me with the treasure from her family. Some of the handwriting is not only Russian but Kazakh as well, both Greek to me.

On a side note, I found out from a teaching colleague of Ken’s who went up to Moscow recently that there is definitely a resurgence of hammer and sickle emblems. In fact, Russian impersonators are parading around in Red Square as Lenin or Stalin lookalikes to have tourists take pictures of them in their get up. Kind of like Elvis Presley wannabes who dress up and sing in Elvis’ different incarnations. Why is there all of a sudden such Soviet nostalgia for those criminal days of Lenin and Stalin? That continues to perplex and trouble me.singing baby writingthree roses writingpansies writinghappy children writingchild and snowman writingchild happy new year writing

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More Soviet Artwork of Flowers from Scanned Postcards

blue flowersgeraniumspansieswhite morning gloriesthree tulips

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Facelift on Busy Almaty Street Corner

children paint worldI walk downhill to get to my university and I notice changes but this change that happened with the landscaping took nearly one week to do.  The transformation is amazing, the flowers took a long time to put in to the soil and hopefully with the next big gushing rain they will not budge.  We shall wait and see.  The billboards are promoting a UNESCO event for children in the next couple of days.  10 yearsnew look IInew look

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Our University’s Graduation Ceremony for 2009

Bakhyt and granddaughterThe distinguished faculty and administrators processed in, the Kazakh students walked across the stage, the commencement speech was given, the students whooped it up and all went according to plan. Graduating class of 2009 have much to be thankful for, they finished!!!K & Kathy & Nancysparklers and hatsDana StevensKathy Parkisoncloseup of Bang

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More Soviet Art from Children’s Records

Little records coverLittle RecordsThe following scanned artwork came off a child’s set of mini-records.  I enjoy the color and variety, wonder what was on the records that the children listened to?sun and birdsroosterMay 1 childrenmushrooms and strawberries

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Bouquets of Soviet Art

bouquet and orange w knifeMore bouquets of flowers for us beleaguered teachers (and some administrators) say nothing of the students. The students especially deserve our love!!!  We all deserve a prize for making it to the end of this spring semester and it has been a lovely one.  I DO love Almaty in the spring!!!flowers in black potdaisy bouquetbouquet and pear

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