Archive for May 27, 2010

Astana Buildings, Kazakh style and IWC talk about Grandparents

My latest theme is to capture the buildings that exist or others I see going up around me everywhere in Astana, Kazakhstan.  Some have functional or comical names attached to them to help identify according to their shapes.  See what you think of these buildings while some are under construction, 24/7!!!

Yesterday’s talk to the International Women’s group in Astana went very well.  I re-used the powerpoints that my former students Aida, Aray and Laura had done at the Almaty Intl. Women’s club on March 11, 2009.  The women listened carefully the whole 30 minutes I talked and asked some very good questions.  The comments I received when I mingled with them were instructive as well.  One woman was from Tashkent, Uzbekistan and she said that there was a monument in the center of Tashkent where people were trained in from different parts of the USSR and once they deboarded were shot.  Thousands of people from all over the Soviet Union died at this place, kind of like Kyiv Ukraine’s Babi Yar.  I’ll have to look up more information about that.

Another Kazakh woman confided that her grandfather and his brothers had been killed because they were considered kulaks.  This was an emotional presentation for her to watch, it was close to home for her. Her older relatives were just normal, garden-variety Kazakhs who had sheep and cattle.  Also, she said that a Russian woman with a cow and other material possessions wandered into their Kazakh community.  So the woman I was talking to yesterday has a bit of Russian in her because the Russian woman became the wife to one of her great grandfathers, someone else got her cow.

One other international woman, I’m not sure which country she is from, who has the same name as me had asked a good question about cheating and plagiarism in schools but commented later that she has a daughter going to a Kazakh international school in Astana.  She was dumbfounded when her daughter’s report card came back with the Kazakh teacher’s comment, “Your daughter is honest.” This could only mean that her daughter as a foreigner didn’t go along with the rest of her Kazakh classmates, maybe a remark “Your daughter doesn’t cheat” would have been more accurate.

I told the group yesterday that THAT is the reason I dig back into the stories about my students’ grandparents, it helps me to understand the present realities in a classroom full of Kazakh and Kazakhstani students where I have taught the last two years.  Somehow the theme from the grandparents’ era is not as sad as it could be because the information I get has been filtered through, the tears are dried as the next generation looks forward to the future.  I can remain bouyant and hopeful because these young people have come from a strong line of survivors through the most awful of stories.

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