Quotes and a Joke from an American Optimistic Realist

I love a quote used by John Piper which I found on his Facebook status. Back in the mid-1980s I first heard about Kazakhstan when he talked about this Central Asian land.  Perhaps he knew about it from his German connection. Back then, nobody really knew this country existed during the Soviet Union’s Cold War period.  Many in the western world still do not know this land of about 16 million people live in a country the size of three Texas states put together. 

So I have to give credit to Dr. Piper for getting me here to Almaty indirectly when I first arrived in the summer of 1993.  Piper wrote,“If we are not hated by someone, we don’t know enough people, or we don’t speak enough truth.”  I KNOW I fall into the latter category, I’ve been speaking the truth as a realist during my time at this Western university in Almaty.  Another quote I like is: A pessimist sees the dark tunnel, an optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel and a realist sees the train coming down the tracks.”  I also love Winston Churchill and what he stood for, here’s a quote attributed to him about optimism: “I am an optimist and it doesn’t seem hard to be anything else.”

Yes, I am optimistic about Kazakhstan’s future because I have been working with their youth for the past 2 ½ years.  I did not get re-hired by the hiring committee because I fell into the third category of this joke which my husband loves to tell.  Apparently I know too much, especially about Soviet teaching pedagogy. But I’ve been accused of being culturally insensitive. I’m sorry that my words have been misconstrued and twisted by the very people I came to help.  I know I am needed for what I know, but I am not wanted.  Common malady among many of us Westerners, “needed but not wanted.” Read several blogs back.

 The Communist Party (CPSU) membership committee was interviewing candidates.

 The first candidate arrives, sits in front of the commission, and is asked:

“How much is 2 + 2?”

The candidate hesitates and replies, “6”?

“Are you sure?”

“7?”

He is dismissed and discussed.  They vote him in after one of the committee says,

“I like him.  He is flexible.”

The second candidate arrives, sits in front of the commission and is asked:

“How much is 2+2?”

The candidate does not hesitate and immediately replies, “6!”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure, 2 + 2 is 6!”

The second candidate is dismissed and discussed.  The commission votes him in as a new member of the Party, after one of the commission members says,

“I like him, he has the courage of his convictions!”

The the third candidate arrives, sits in front of the commission and is asked:

“How much is 2+2?”

The candidate does not hesitate and immediately replies, “4!”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course. What kind of stupid question is that.  2 + 2 is 4!”

The third candidate is dismissed and discussed.  The commission votes NOT to admit him in as a new member of the Party, after one of the commission members says,

“He knows too much!”

Pres. Kennedy is quoted as saying, “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education.”  Finally, one more quote by John Maxwell: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.”  I’ve tried to do that with my fellow teachers and I’ve tried to be a leader in the classroom full of students, whether they are Kazakh or Kazakhstani (Russian, Korean, Uighur, Tatar, German, or  mix of whatever else).  I have made enemies amongst some who do not want to see reality for what it is.  I still chuckle to myself for coming up with the quote that my Yale law school trained, work mate loved: “The truth will prevail, it may just take a little longer in Kazakhstan.”

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