Archive for November 14, 2009

Icy Cold, Resolute Pine Trees and Kazakh Apples

PB100114Reading “Apples are from Kazakhstan” for the third time brings new insights into old thoughts and vice versa.  I liked the part that I read to my listening students today about the President of this great country of Kazakhstan, in his own words spoken to the author, Christopher Robbins.

The Communist Party was like an army in those days.  It was simply not done to disagree even slightly with your superiors.  We were all meant to be “soldiers of the Party” and soldiers had to obey orders. (p. 261)

The leader of this great land continued to reveal what it was like for him under the Communist Party system:

Years of exhausting hard work, with no solution at hand, build a slow-burning anger.  I saw all the flaws in the system.  Every year the numbers were faked, and every year everybody worked flat out to show 101 per cent. You dared not show only 99 per cent. That would have meant everybody would be kicked out of their positions. (p. 263)

Somehow I can relate to these two above quotes as an English teacher at a westernized university in Almaty but maybe my problem is that I have put in 110 percent.  Maybe I’m feeling the icy, cold reception to my ideas, my student-centered ideas. I’m misunderstood by my “superiors”  in a land that is supposedly hospitable and friendly to foreigners. 

I’m caught in a wedge now because I also have Kazakh students who are lazy and are turning in their final papers and wanting all sorts of breaks.  My response, “Sorry, this paper looks like a blah, blah paper,” or I’ll say, “sorry this is NOT your own words” or “This paper used personal pronouns, OR you are to use the other authors words but give them PROPER attribution!!!”

A lot of fakery going on, I’m afraid.  I’ll end with one last quote from “The Howling of Wolves” chapter from Apples are from Kazakhstan.

“The Soviet system was trapped in an enormous vicious circle.  Bureaucratic legerdemain made it appear that plans were fulfilled when the reality was the opposite.  Projects known to be doomed to failure were approved for political reasons, and when they inevitably collapsed the plans were quietly revised…in other words, the more inefficiently it worked, the better it seemed to be doing.” (p. 264)

Oh, just ONE more last quote which seems appropo, again the KZ president speaking of Soviet years gone by,

Whether you liked it or not, you had to follow the unwritten rules – you had to fawn on your superiors and offer hospitality…the only way to get investment was to be clever and resourceful, and in our system this led to degradation, crime and corruption. The system virtually demanded it. (p. 266)

How do you like THEM apples?

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