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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