Sadness, Much Sadness (Part II)

This photo is of a salon in my neighborhood. I’ve not seen Barot’s movie but I understand that his impersonation of a Kazakh character would find him saying “Very Nice!” a lot.  I don’t intend to watch this movie but know of people who have seen it.  It’s sad really that Kazakhstan, the great country that it is, has been so maligned and misunderstood.  I know the feeling…

This blog has been an important function for me every day for the past two years to vent my feelings and frustrations.  Let’s just say it is cathartic. I have some idea who reads my blog.  My students might especially when I have their pictures showing, but their traffic has trickled down at semester’s end as they have returned to their homes and are catching up with family and not using the computer as much.  Some of my Kazakh and Kazakhstani colleagues admit to reading it occasionally.  Unfortunately, my administrators have read my blog and that is where they get the notion that I hate the country of Kazakhstan and said terrible things about the Kazakh people.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Many things to LOVE about this great land of Kazakhstan!!!  I can give an example from last night after attending a party and waiting for a bus at 8:30 p.m.  Surely, I thought the busses would STILL be running on this main thoroughfare, but not to be.  Though the day started out very warm it was getting colder by the minute. By the time it was 8:55 and still no bus, it was time to shell out money for a taxi.  You see, I’m used to having an empty bus go by every five minutes to get me to my place of employment, it is usually full as it goes uphill back to my home, but young people usually give up their seat for me.  I graciously accept.

Last night, Sultan, a young Kazakh man was also waiting for the bus and we got to talking in English.  Actually, it was more practice of his English skills and my fishing around for good questions to ask that would not be stumpers to him.  He needed to end up in the same area as me so we decided that he would flag down a “gypsy” cab.  That’s a GREAT thing about here and Ukraine and perhaps everywhere in the former Soviet Union.  People are willing to give others a lift, for a price agreed upon before getting into the car.  Sultan finally convinced one man to take us in our general area along Dostyk for 300 tenge ($2).  This was after about five cars had refused him, they weren’t going in our “Very Nice” neighborhood.  Sultan and I talked in the back seat together and I found out more about his job and his family.

Sultan is the youngest of eight children, his father is a pensioner, his mother has since died.  He is recently married as of this past summer and is part of the organizing committee for the Asian Games in 2011.  He met his wife at a university and she is studying to be a doctor which gets me back to my first point of the blog I entered yesterday.  How well trained are the doctors and nurses of Kazakhstan?  A woman died in childbirth yesterday, what were the complications, could it have been avoided?

We, as teachers in a Western university in Kazakhstan, must feel the heavy responsibility to not only curb cheating but to eradicate the notion that the short term profit of a good grade by cutting corners will have detrimental long term effects for this nation of Kazakhstan.  In other words, teachers should want to teach students who WANT to learn for the sake of learning and not for the highest GPA possible.  Medical students who study to be doctors should by all means learn as much as they can to save lives.  But if teachers and doctors are not paid salaries in accordance to the work they do or the knowledge they have accrued or if their employers promote those who are better apple polishers and sycophants, then the Soviet mentality is still very much in place in Kazakhstan.

We still don’t know all the details of what happened to the Kazakh woman’s only daughter when she died delivering her baby boy.  But I DO know that in the party yesterday one of the teachers said that she fears for her daughter who is expecting a baby in April.  Where is there a good doctor or midwife in Almaty to deliver her first grandchild?  Someone else commented that recently they knew of a baby who died while the mother survived the delivery.  Health care in Kazakhstan is a HUGE issue, education is another issue.  Fortunately, Kazakshtan’s economy seems to be stabilized after what all would term as a “financial crisis” from a year ago.

Those who attended my little going away party yesterday have been through much worse.  Their parents and grandparents went through terrible purges, deportations, separations during the Stalin era from the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and into the 1950s.  I was surrounded by sturdy stock, I certainly appreciate their caring for me and my future.  I will not long forget the lessons I have learned as a teacher in this Western university in Kazakhstan.

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