Archive for June 24, 2010

“Karate Kid” movie and Kazakh art

Yesterday I watched “Karate Kid” and came away with different impressions on many levels.  First, I have never watched a Jackie Chan movie before but this one was good because it shows a man who is a master at his craft teaching a young, impressionable, black kid from Detroit how to defend himself.  Whoever the 12 year old actor was who played the part of the newly transplanted American in Beijing with his mother, did a GREAT job. [found out it was Jaden Smith, son of Will Smith] Jackie Chan didn’t do too badly either especially when this legendary he-man type is crying for his family that was killed in a car accident.  It evoked strong emotions in me, I started to cry too. Jackie appears quirky and is mis-read by many people because he is a simple maintenance man in the center of Beijing, but of course he comes out the winner in the end.  The 12 year old named Dre Parker in the movie is the little squirt that is bullied by about six Chinese boys who know kung fu but they have been trained to hurt and maim without mercy.

I liked what Jackie told the Karate kid, “there is no such thing as a bad student, only a bad teacher.” No different in Kazakhstan, the Chinese teachers are trained to be teacher-centered. Whereas the westerner teachers use a different kind of methodology that is learner centered.  Dre first went to Beijing and was disrespectful towards his mother because he HATED China.  He missed his friends and school back in the U.S. that had revolved around him. But he started to learn discipline and hard work under Jackie. You did not see Gameboy or Wii or whatever that stuff is about that distract the younger generation these days.  I’m sorry I’m not a “digital native” so I don’t know what 12 year old boys are into but it seems they are starting to notice girls.  At least this Dre had a cute little Chinese girl he was interested in, she played classical Bach on her violin and was also very disciplined.  She practiced hard every day under very stern Chinese parents.

The moral of the story that I carried away after watching Karate Kid was, “NEVER give up” and of course the old “the Good guy always wins.” Others might be, “Respect your elders” and “Practice Pays off.” But at the beginning when the Karate Kid was about to be beaten to a pulp by six Chinese boys, that’s when I made an exit to buy popcorn and pop.  Too bad because I missed the part where Jackie Chan comes to the rescue and just ducks out of the way and the bad boys do each other in.  I’ll have to watch the movie again just to see that highly choreographed violence.  I prefer the usual chick flicks and the bad boys in this movie are REALLY evil. (kind of like the Toy Story evil boy)  The one Chinese bully had menacing, opaque eyes like one of a killer.  I didn’t think 12 year olds in real life could look so hateful but this kid pulled it off making you root for the little guy, Karate Kid all the more.

I don’t have any photos of the Karate Kid, you’ll have to see the movie yourself.  But I’ll show photos I took at a friend’s place here in Astana where she has five boys, they all grew up in Kazakhstan.  They no doubt will go see Karate Kid because this movie is about disciplined self-defense and not about aggression and violence.  This isn’t about “boys will be boys” but more about not being scared of the big guys and knowing who you are as a person.  Dre did not want to be scared anymore so he stood up to evil and ultimately won the hearts of the audience in the theater.  I won’t tell you the end, but I think it’s going to be an Oscar winner for sure.

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Bitterly Cold Astana, Kazakhstan…but it’s hospitable weather now…

Astana, Kazakhstan is beautiful now in the summer months so it is easy to forget just how very bitterly cold it can become in the dead of winter. (that’s not an overstatement!!!)  The same can be said of northwestern Minnesota, it is currently full of green but just wait until November or December when “the winds howl down from the northern plain, the frost is white on the window pane…” [favorite high school song “Sand in my Shoes”, hat tip to you Janis]

So it has been VERY hot and without rain in Astana for the last several weeks, some would say it is a drought.  What is this talk about temps being so cold out in February or March that you can barely walk the two blocks to work?  If the cold doesn’t get you, the blasted winds do. Not too long ago, a short three months ago, I was standing at the stoplight and I have enough substance that not much can move me.  However, I do recall being blown in the wrong direction over the tundra into what could have been an oncoming car or truck.  Not good.  I hung on to the stoplight for dear life, until the light turned green for me and then I minced as quickly as I could across the street to the other side against the onslaught of the driving wind.

I don’t think a demonstration could ever happen in the coldest part of the year in Astana (that would be about six months perhaps). Those who would choose to make their voice be heard in numbers would do so in the other six months of the year.  I don’t think that is going to happen.  Anyway, Astana is not an inviting place to live or work but since that is where all the money is being poured and where the jobs are, the buildings continue to go up.  “Build it and they will come” as the famous line in the baseball movie “Field of Dreams.”

If you think you are hot right now, look at these cool photos taken in Astana of artwork from years gone by.  They didn’t have air conditioners or electric fans in the summer nor did they have heaters in the winter.  Living in Kazakhstan in the 21st century is a good thing.

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