Archive for October, 2010

Life is Catching up with me (Part III)

Today was action packed while it was a beautiful fall day. I mostly spent it inside but it is always nice to have the OPTION of going outdoors for a walk…if you have the time.  I didn’t. We went to campus in the afternoon to show the movie we had shown a week earlier at American Corner “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”  Those who attended today for the movie got some GREAT doorprizes.  One guy got a Bruce Willis “Die Hard” series of three DVDs.  Someone else got some ground coffee and I forget who got the third prize, maybe a snazzy water bottle.

The discussion was good yet I know many of these students are under a LOT of pressure to do well in their classes.  Some maybe are struggling.  The library is soooo busy with students using the computers.  The movie we showed was 90 minutes of levity. The students had a very fun Halloween party the night before so our numbers were down for the movie.  We like showing movies because it is fun to hear the students laugh at the funny parts.

Well, because this was such a busy weekend, consequently, I don’t have the children’s tests graded from yesterday. Also, I need to be ready for my lessons this upcoming week.  I WANT to find out how to effectively use Moodle, hopefully tomorrow.  I have some journal articles up for my students to read but I still need to input them. So this is your proverbial cart before the horse.

Tomorrow night, we have been invited to the Pakistani embassy to meet the ambassador along with all the others who have been invited.  Don’t know how formal this affair will be, but Ken and I will try to dress up for the occasion.  There are many other diplomat types I continue to meet who are part of the embassy crowd, representing their different countries.

Speaking of which, the O.S.C.E. will be held in Astana and they will have to host delegations from 55 countries.  The hotels will all be packed and even some complexes that have been unoccupied will be used for this very big deal.  The new part of the city will be closed down a week in advance in anticipation of problems with security.  I think we will have to cancel our classes and the university as we know it to operate.  Businesses and other universities are calling it a holiday on Dec. 1 and 2.  I will write more later about what I learned from the O.S.C.E. ambassador.

So, knowing this ahead of time almost helps but once we are in the middle of it, what will we do for fun? We can’t leave the city.  We have to stay put.  But if people who work at the new part of town, like waitresses and waiters and cabbies and bus drivers, they can’t pass into the new from the old, crossing the river.  We shall how they handle this, there are several major bridges that connect the old part with the new part.  It should be very interesting indeed.

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Life is Catching up with me (Part II)

Today didn’t turn out like I thought it would.  Good in many ways but different.  I worked at the university all day to test young children on their English proficiency.  I’m used to older university students and I was glad to have four of my current, older Kazakh students help with the young squirts.  Oh, some are just adorable, the 6 and 7 year olds who want to learn English.  One little guy, at first, was crying. I think he was nervous being around the older 12 through 15 year olds. We had about 20 children all together with their parents who showed up.  The kids were tested (the parents stayed outside the classroom) and we will have to sort all that out eventually about levels and who will teach what to whom!!!  Lots of different lesson preps for so many ages from 6 to 15!!!

Ken had carved a miniature pumpkin and had brought that along and explained in Russian and English what it was.  Blank looks.  Okay, it is Halloween tomorrow and this is a very big deal for American children their ages.  These western children are ready to scoop up lots of candy on their adventures in their costumes in their respective neighborhoods on October 31st.

Later, we got in the car (with Yerik our taxi driver) to leave campus with my Canadian friend, Michel and we went to American Corner for the last part of a Halloween party.  Yerik informed Ken that “American Corner” when translated into Russian isn’t such a good word.  Oops!  Think anyone at the U.S. embassy will pay attention to that?  Probably not.

Well, it was fun to see some of the Kazakh students in their very convincing Halloween costumes. A Queen of Hearts, a very witchy witch, a pumpkin,  several pirates and others I couldn’t tell what they were.  A few students also had carved three pumpkins.  Where did they know how to do that? None of these college and secondary school kids have been to the U.S. Apparently they had looked it up on the Internet.  There were snacks and candy and drinks, a nice party hosted by an American named Emily.  Then at 5:00 p.m. we showed the American classic movie “Wizard of Oz.”

Amazing that this movie has had such enduring power for over 70 years, it was released in 1939. However, it didn’t endure long because we had some technical difficulties at first.  After we wished the tech goblins to leave posthaste and after the DVD was cleaned, the movie played just fine.  Afterwards, I led the discussion with about 10 students and it was interesting to hear their thoughts about what they thought the movie was about.  I never expected to hear one girl say it was about “FREEDOM.”  Of course, I asked her to expand on that.  Another guy said it was about respect of older people.  Okay, please elaborate.

Also, friendship, work, belief and hope were other things that this classic movie was about.  Somehow, because of the tech problems we missed Judy Garland singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  Still, they got the gist of the movie.  When the technical problems arose, I would get up  in front of the 40 students and chatter away to fill the blank time.  I talked about the background of the movie by saying, “watch for the ‘horse of a different color” or “check out the munchkins, they really didn’t like Judy Garland, the child actress,” etc.

I also explained Frank Baum, who was the real author of this children’s story (not Volkov and his version of “Wizard of Emerald City”) had an analogy to the gold standard (yellow brick road), the Wizard of Oz, was really about the ounce.  The ruby red slippers was really silver in the book, tied in again to the monetary system in the U.S.  The Scarecrow who wanted a brain, analogy the farmer who didn’t know how to farm well, he needed an education.  The Tinman, really the industrialist who didn’t care about people, had no heart. I am not sure about the cowardly lion, maybe about the lack of brave leadership during the Great Depression.  I don’t know, people from Kansas, like my husband, know the intricate history of what Frank Baum meant with all the characters in the Wizard of Oz.

Dorothy (not sure who she represents) said over and over again that “there is no place like home.”  Well, as an American teaching in Kazakhstan, I can say I DO miss my family and friends back home, but right now I feel distracted by the American politics going on with our mid-term elections.  Perhaps that is why my husband and I like showing movies, we don’t have to think about the threats to our own security back home but we think of all that is happening. Can it get any worse? (Don’t answer that!)

Finally, one of my bright, Kazakh students, who is currently reading Frank Baum’s classic book (in three parts) told our discussion group there were a lot of things left out of the movie.  She admitted the movie was good, just the same.   Isn’t that always the case, the book is better than the movie. (sigh)  Not sure if “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is based on a book but it probably represents a true story about the Greek culture. We are showing that movie to our university students and then getting together with other Americans afterwards.  So the socializing and networking continues.  I need a hibernation break soon!

For today’s blog,  I could have written from my notes about the author who came to visit our class yesterday.  I have many notes about what I learned about the O.S.C.E. summit meeting being held a month from now.  I just thought I’d ramble about the everyday things I am doing.  The weather has been really nice and warm and I miss being outside. But such is life.

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Life is catching up with me

Tonight I watched a funny movie with my hubby roommate.  It will not be one we would show to the Kazakh students.  We just needed something to laugh at. Sometimes Steve Martin is too wildly funny for his own good.  This week was another roller coaster week but I’m to write that it ended well.  I could say “T.G.I.F.” with great enthusiasm.  So much happened this past week that I could easily put up a photo or two and write a few lines and call it a night.  Instead I’ll give the highlights.

I went  to the international women’s meeting to hear the ambassador of O.S.C.E. give a talk and I took copious notes.  I also got my students to start their own blogs on and I could not be prouder of some.  A few need some coaxing and prodding but for the most part they were soooooo excited about “getting published” for the rest of the world to see their words!  The names they picked are interesting such as: Wizard of KZ, Weak Student, Kipchak Princess, Listen and Speak, Imaginative woman and other original sounding ones.  Check some of their blogs out. I guess I should have a widget with links to their names.  I did that when I had my Ukrainian students write blogs back in 2006.  Some are still writing on their blogs.  I hope my Kazakh students keep this discipline up after our classes are over with.

Finally, today we had the author of “Two Kyrgyz Women” come and talk to the class for the 50 minutes allotted, I knew it would go over to an hour.  but some of my students had to get back to their teacher duties.  Well, I’ll write more about Marinka’s talk.  We took a photo with her and I hope to get that from one of my students.  For now, over and out.  I’m tired after a long but fruitful week!


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Astana’s Lighter Building

Astana continues to amaze with its architecture.  I found out today about a building that looks like a lighter or lipstick.  The irony of this building was soon after it was completed, it started on fire.  TWICE!!!  Someone thought it really looked like a lighter ready to light a cigarette.  What do you think?

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Proposed architectural plan in Astana for National Library

See what you think of these plans for a new national library in Astana, Kazakhstan.  I’m not sure where this will be located.  Maybe closer to the new university, it has to be in the new part of town.  I ask future readers in this library, will you be able to concentrate on reading in an environment like this?  I think it is more of an architectural wonder, another one in Astana.

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Correct Answer: Khan Shatyr

Please look back at yesterday’s blog question of “Where was this photo taken?”  You almost have to live in Astana, Kazakhstan to fully appreciate where this new structure that opened up this past summer is located.  Being in the new part of town, it is the latest of architectural wonders.  But just wait until you see the latest national Kazakh library that will be going up soon.  I’ve seen photos of the blueprint, it is really something to behold!!! It will certainly rival the shape of the tipped tent of Khan Shatyr.  Maybe tomorrow I will show that which I’ll find off of google images.

Just for fun I thought I’d add this photo of the ride Ken and I took over a month ago.  It looked like fun but once we were on it, I questioned our sanity.  We were sitting in this car that was going on a very thin piece of metal 100s of feet above all the rest of the shopping centers below.  We made it okay though. The other entertainment choice is the roller coaster ride that goes through water, that’s what I showed yesterday.  I think I’ll try for the white sand beach next time we go to Khan Shatyr.

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Where was this photo taken?

What to write tonight before I trundle off to bed?  I suppose a guessing game is as good as anything.  Winning bids get to come to Astana, Kazakhstan to find out where this roller coaster is really located.  At work, I’ve been on a similar ride for the last several months, things are getting better.  They HAD to get better!!! I’m sure this is true for everyone involved in this great new project of starting a brand new university.  Feels like a free fall sometimes, sometimes a fast downward push and other times it is just plain drudgery going uphill with no sign of relief.  Happy roller coaster!

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