Archive for May 7, 2009

Trickle Down Thoughts (Part II)

p50600341Many nations are represented in the Board of the AIWC (Almaty International Women’s Club) which do many “good works” in Almaty and beyond.  Australia, Bulgaria, France, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, U.K. and U.S. are among those countries, did I miss anyone?  Many of these women volunteer long hours to do different charitable activities for the good of orphans and widows.  I appreciate being a part of this volunteer group because I see how organizations can and DO work under healthy leadership.  Of course, there are many frustrations that our hardworking AIWC president and others go through due to different cultures butting heads and language snafus that inevitably come up.  To be a part of this team you have to have an infinite amount of patience and grace towards those who might think snarky thoughts about others’ “differentness.”  Enough said.

A continuation of my “trickle down thoughts” from yesterday, here are today’s “stream of conscience.”(pun intended!)  I wish the same civility and grace could be exhibited amongst my own colleagues where I work during team meetings.  One-up-manship and yelling at each other seem to be the order of the day for some of the meetings I’ve attended at my Center.  We need strong leadership from above  to sort out the problems amongst my colleagues, not authority figures that continue to exacerbate them.

BTW, I do “volunteer” work too every time I set foot on my campus.  What is not understood by my Kazakh colleagues or even the women I work with at AIWC is that the salary I receive every month just covers for airfare to and from the U.S. and high rent costs along with ever increasing inflationary living expenses in Almaty.  What is not known are the continuing expenses we pay at home with insurance and taxes.  I’m actually a “glorified Peace Corps volunteer” since I don’t have a Ph.D. as others do at our institution of higher learning.  I have a terminal M.A. degree with over 20 years of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) experience which should count for something.

Don’t get me wrong, I see the HUGE privilege I have with interfacing on a daily basis with some of Kazakhstan’s brightest and most promising students who will one day make an impact on Kazakhstan’s future.  What I see as terribly unfortunate is that the Ministry of Education is on one of the lowest rungs of the ladder when it comes to allocating money to improve teacher education for the benefit of the whole country of Kazakhstan.  I have Kazakhstani colleagues who will continue to teach the way they were taught (Soviet style and teacher-centered).  Yet there is a vast, globalized world beyond Kazakhstan that is going full speed ahead digitally.  Older Kazakh teachers don’t even know what they don’t know!!!

If companies and corporations come from other nations to “help” Kazakhstan explore all the rich, natural resources they have, then educating the Kazakh teachers needs to happen FIRST in order for the younger generation to have a leg up.  “Poverty” of education is happening not just at my institute of higher learning but is far, far worse in many other universities right within Almaty due to cheating, plagiarism, bribery and corruption.  As they say about felons who go to prison to serve their term, they usually are released knowing more about committing crimes than when they went in.  Hopefully, the same should NOT be said about Kazakhstan’s schools and universities, where the Kazakh students learn from each other and their authority figures to lie, cheat and steal in their grades and once they graduate go out into the business world employing the same strategies.

I guess there are map5060035ny diverse views about my university where I “volunteer” my time.  Some may think it is filled with spoiled, rich kids who have so much compared to Kazakhstan’s pensioner widows and orphans. Though there are many sad stories, Kazakhstan has so much more going for it than other Central Asian countries.  So, I disagree, I see amongst my teaching colleagues and students alike, hope for the future of Kazakhstan. If my students learn by the example that AIWC has set, to give to the poor instead of looking out for only number one, then things will hopefully improve. I have had students who see the need and are trying to help with orphans, they have a very high respect for older people.  However, there are so few of us volunteers and a world filled with so many needs.  We can only do the next thing and that will be the AIWC Spring Fair Day on May 16th at the Intercontinental Hotel, all proceeds will go to charity.

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