Astana All A-Buzz After the Summit

One of my regular taxi drivers this morning was in earnest to talk to me about the GREAT summit which finished yesterday in Astana. Over fifty-five countries were represented with some of their top leaders.   EVERYONE in Astana is still talking about it and even with my limited Russian listening comprehension and the driver’s German-Russian-English-Kazakh combinations of speech, Yaheya got some of his points across.  As we drove the short distance from my flat (worth 500 tenge to him) this morning to the university, we saw policemen in their blue camo uniforms still standing at every bus stop and police cars everywhere.  I can only imagine that it was even more heavily secure during the two days of the summit.  I wouldn’t know, I was cooped up for those days in my flat. Yaheya explained there were police who were brought in from neighboring cities. We were ALL made to feel secure, that’s for sure.  Those poor policemen standing outside for hours on end would have been cold too because it was a very harsh, strong wind from the west.  How did they cope those two LONG days during the summit?

How did the people who attended the LONG summit, cope? My loquacious driver wanted to talk about Hillary Clinton. Yes, I’m sure she made quite a hit and now she is in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Brave woman. The name Monica came up and so I knew where our conversation was heading. I insisted I didn’t understand what he was saying. I actually feel sorry for Hillary, she has had the equivalent of wikileaks 100 times over throughout her very public life, so she must have a very thick skin by now. Enough about Hillary, or is it?

Had fun in my Friday class of English for some of the university librarians who need to brush up on their speaking skills.  On one of the handouts I used today with a few of my remedial learners, the questions were such 1) what is your name? 2) How old are you? 3) Where do you live? 4) Do you have a car? 5) What languages do you speak? 6) Do you smoke? 7) What music do you like 8 ) What TV programmes do you like? 9) What food do you like? 10) What newspaper do you read? 11) What sports do you play?  With four women, some older and others younger, I was able to give them different identities based on the latest Summit.  The first was to answer all 11 questions as if she were Hillary, next we had Sarkozy represented, then Medvedev and finally Yanokovich from Ukraine.  We were laughing at the creativeness of the answers, thinking how absurd some of the questions were posed to these very important people.  When asked about which cars they drove, the one person answered, Zaparocha, Lada and Niva.  When asked about food, the person in French character said escargot and then the Russian word for frogs.  What we really laughed about was one of the characters when asked about what newspaper he read – “nothing.”  Oy, one of these politicians is known to my adult learner students as a non-reader.  Anathema to librarians!!!

If you really want to know more about why the banners, displays and billboards all over Astana, go to the following website.  http://www.osce.org/ Alexandre Keltchewsky, the Ambassador of this organization in Kazakhstan came and talked to our international women’s group in October.  I have my notes about what he talked about somewhere, I may retrieve them and blog about it tomorrow. To sum up, this was the seventh such Summit in this organization’s history. Previous summits were held 1975 in Helsinki, 1990 in Paris, 1992 in Helsinki, 1994 in Budapest, 1996 in Lisbon and 1999 in Istanbul.

Then for my last class of the day today, I had my PDP students look at the results of my survey in ppt format on Web Survey Master.  I got 26 responses so far from my expat friends in Astana and Almaty about “expat’s impressions of Kazakhstan.” Some of the answers were hilarious, others candid and sincere.  One of my students said this wasn’t PDP class anymore but “laughing class.”  We had a good time talking about the results while I was trying to stress true and accurate statistics.  We ended on an even higher note with watching Sir Ken Robinson giving a talk on Ted.com about “Education Kills Creativity.”  Quite a funny speech with very good examples.  We clapped at the end just like the audience did.  So ended our day, a post-summit kind of day with more excitement to come next week…stay tuned!!!

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