Archive for February, 2011

Photos from Borovoye outing (Part II)

Saturday was a refreshing day for many of us from the university in Astana as we traveled north to Borovoye. We each paid 2,500 tenge to travel by bus to the area close to the small city of Kokshetau. This tourist attraction is known as the little Switzerland of Kazakhstan.  Emphasis on the word “little.” Sadly, there are many brightly lit up, small casinos here that are outlawed everywhere else in Kazakhstan. But seeing forests and small mountains is most welcome to the eyes if you live in Astana for any length of time.  Flat, flat, flat and cold!  Temperatures have been unmerciful in Astana this past week and last Wednesday there was a brutal wind that reminded some of us how tough life must have been for the early Kazakh nomads who travelled these parts.  But going to Borovoye, our spirits seemed to lift with seeing a different kind of geography, seeing beautiful pine and birch trees and drinking in the pure mountain air once we got out of the bus.  Here are more photos of the activities we enjoyed.

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Photos from Borovoye outing with work colleagues

Yesterday was taken up with over eight hours on the bus and eight hours seeing the sites of Borovoye.  Words to describe all our activities (besides 35-40 of my work colleagues from our university sitting on the bus) are the following:  eating, drinking, sliding on ice, climbing rocks, skiing, skating, playing games, buying souvenirs, breathing fresh air, singing, laughing, sleeping (on the bus), watching old Russian movies (on the bus), talking, meeting new friends…enjoying life in Kazakhstan.

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Double Punishment for being a Captive Soldier in WWII

I continue to learn new things from my advanced Speaking class, sad things about death and repressions. What irony there is in life but it often happened in the former Soviet union, double punishment for fighting as a soldier in a war and being caught as a prisoner. One of my student’s grandfather on her mother’s side was arrested by a German officer and put in a German concentration camp.  After the war, the Kazakh soldier was released and he returned to Kazakhstan only to be put in a Soviet gulag camp according to Stalin’s orders.  After Stalin died in 1953, he was released and lived only another 8-10 years, he died in the early 1960s.

Another student said that his grandfather on his mother’s side wasn’t imprisoned, he somehow avoided prison.  But he did not avoid the police station every night for several years.  He was asked over and over again the same questions and by 1953, he was convinced he hated communists.  I asked if he was beaten or tortured.  No, he just had to answer the questions correctly otherwise he would have ended up in a Siberian concentration camp.

Another instance in the same family was the grandfather was an officer for the NKVD.  After the Great Patriotic War there were a lot of gangs with guns in the Pavlodar region and he had to interrogate those who were causing much unrest in the area.  He would have been on the opposite side of the table as the other grandfather as he was the head of this police station.

Another Kazakh student of mine is from the Karaganda area and she doesn’t know much about her own grandparents.  [this is typical because there was a strict code of silence for all those in Karaganda and especially those who were finally released from the KARLAG once Stalin died]  She said that many intellectual people were sent to Kazakhstan from all over the USSR to the Karaganda region and they helped develop and build the architecture of that city.  Many Japanese, Russians and other nationalities brought enrichment to this area because of their expertise. The very skills that had drawn attention to themselves in a favorable climate, won them disfavor in the eyes of the ruling Moscow elite.

She did remember that her mother’s older brother had driven a tank during WWII and when he returned from the war he worked in a mechanical factory or plant.  When he was alive still she was very small.  She did say that what was a prison for political prisoners in Karabass is now a prison for hardened criminals.

Another interesting story came from a woman whose mother’s uncle was a tall Kazakh man with BLUE eyes.  He was somehow so unusual in his appearance that a German officer didn’t put him in prison but rather he stayed in his big house and helped built things around the house.  He was good with wood and made things for three years while living in Germany.  This Kazakh man spoke German very well but upon his return to Kazakhstan he was directly sent to Magadan in Siberia.  He stayed there ten years and when he returned to his native town he built a beautiful home.  He died at the age of 95-96. This student remembers that he was a vigorous, proud man who didn’t stoop but had good posture the last time she saw him at age 92.  He walked with a cane but had the regal look of a decorated officer, perhaps like the German officer who had spared him from prison camp while in Germany.

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Haunted by ALZHIR Stories (Part III)

Incredible things an American teacher can learn from her Kazakh students if asking the right questions.  Today was no exception as a continuation of what I learned about ALZHIR, but this time it was from my advanced learners. The photo shows the artwork on the ceiling of the lobby area of the ALZHIR museum which is titled “Freedom and Captivity.” This shows 15 different birds in various stages of getting free from their cage of captivity.   This symbolizes the 15 republics whose women from the era of the former Soviet Union who were trapped in this far away place close to Astana, Kazakhstan.

Apparently two years ago there was a big conference in Poland where three or four Kazakh professors attended because they were vice presidents of universities here in Kazakhstan.  Such an important event attracted many different people from many nations.  During one of the meetings, a Polish man stood up and said the following to these Kazakh representatives:  “I want to pay my respect to your country and thank the Kazakh people because my grandmother stayed in ALZHIR.  When everyone was very hungry, every day the Kazakh children would give them cheese and bread. Even when the guards thought the children were throwing stones at the poor women, they said, “see even the small children hate you.” So that is why we need to make education a top priority for the Kazakh children because of this situation where Kazakh children saved my grandmother from certain starvation.”

I had asked my students today about the following women: Lubov Babitskiy,  Lubov Vasilevna Ivanova, Ruslanova, Galina Serrebryakova, Bulbairam Kozhakhmetova, Natalya Satc, Katya Olaveynikova, Zagfi Sadvokasovna Tnalina, Raissa Moisseyerna Mamayeva.  These names were in the brochure that I got at the ALZHIR museum the other day and very little is known about them.  However, everyone seemed to know about Ruslanova who was a famous Russian singer. There’s a story about when the prison guards asked this talented singer to sing a song for them, she declined and said “A nightingale doesn’t sing in a cage.”  After she was released, she went to sing for the troops during the Great Patriotic War.

I questioned them about Galina Serrebryakova and all my students could say was that her husband was a poet so that is why she ended up at ALZHIR.  See some of the poetry that is displayed on the first floor which gives a background of the husbands who were labeled “enemies of the people” and why the women became victims in ALZHIR.

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Haunted by ALZHIR Stories (Part II)

The “Arch of Sorrow” is quite a monument in front of the ALZHIR museum in tribute to those terrified voices and plaintive cries of desperate women that have long since been silenced due to forgetfulness by design or sheer neglect.  However, the President of this fine country of Kazakhstan strongly believes  it was NOT Kazakhstan’s fault that so many women were brought by train from all over the U.S.S.R. to this barren wilderness near Astana to work hard or to die due to the deprivation.  Many of these women, who came were from the elite of the Soviet elite, their only problem was that they were married to Soviet men who were considered traitors to the communist cause.

One of my students commented that the train car in front of the “Arch of Sorrow” shows that the war against “Enemies of the People” did not play favorites even with the Soviet upper crust.  The symbolism shows  inside of the train car when you see two kinds of individuals. One that is clearly aristocratic in her bearing and clothes, another who is huddled in a weak mass in thin clothes and barely clad.  [Actually both are not dressed appropriately for the sub zero weather we have been experiencing in Astana this past week.  It will not let up until first of March.]  For the women who survived ALZHIR prison life, it was one cold day after another especially without their loved ones to care for.

One of my former students from Almaty wrote about her grandmother living through this dreaded experience at ALZHIR.  Please see her research paper from December of 2008 where she used different sources and also an interview of her grandma to reveal just how very difficult life was living in ALZHIR.  Looking at all the displays inside the museum and hearing the stories behind the pictures from our guide, after an hour we were all weighted down with just how very desperate and dismal these women’s lives were.

One story still haunts me.  Some of the Kazakh people in the nearby area of the ALZHIR camp knew that these women from all over the U.S.S.R. were innocent of any crimes or at least they knew they were not well fed and many were dying.  In front of the guards, while the women were cutting reeds from the lake, there were Kazakh children holding bags of stones and throwing at the poor women.  The guards laughed and taunted the women saying that even the young Kazakh children despised these prisoners.  When one woman fell down she smelled the stone as if it were cheese.  Yes, in fact, the neighboring Kazakh village had made balls of hardened, dried curd which was meant to feed the starving women.  Many other acts of kindness were shown to these innocent women by the neighboring Kazakhs even at risk of being caught and killed.

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Haunted by ALZHIR Stories of Brave USSR Women

The wind is howling wickedly outside today worse than it was yesterday.  Yet with this fierce, cold weather we are enduring in Astana, Kazakhstan, we have so much to be thankful for compared to the Soviet women from all over the USSR who were cruelly deemed as cast offs, spurned to this desolate area of Central Asia.  All 15 countries or former republics of the USSR were represented.  Very few intelligensia were spared during the Stalin purges.  My students marveled that so many of the creative, smart ones were destroyed in the past while our university is currently trying to create an intelligensia to move this country forward.

As a class field trip, we went out to see this ALZHIR museum that was built in 2007.  We picked up taxis across from Mega Mall by the sauna and with four of us riding in each taxi, it cost 1,000 tenge one way.  The road is narrow and sitting in the front, I had to trust the skill of our driver to get us to our destination in one piece.  These drivers have no idea how unnerving it is to narrowly miss a hair’s breadth away from hitting the oncoming cars and trucks.  The bumps, crevices and potholes gave an extra thrill for those three riding in the back seat. Fortunately, we were able to get taxis going back into Astana (25-30 kilometers away) after not too much standing in the wind and cold.

How sad to hear all these women’s stories from our Kazakh guide. The cost was 100 tenge for student rate and 150 for me as their teacher.  It would probably take a week, 8 hours a day to really know and understand each sad saga that is represented behind the faces of these ladies whose pictures were on display.  I am eager to find out what my PDP students’ reactions were to all this.  One from the south of Kazakhstan didn’t even know this gulag existed so close to the capital city.  Another student showed me the name on a list of his grand, grandfather who was considered an enemy of the people.

These 18,000 women were considered political prisoners and first they had their husbands taken from them and then they were yanked away from their children.  Some women came pregnant and after their children were 3-4 years old, they were taken away to be put in an orphanage.  Sometimes the women were lied to and tricked into being interrogated to their own demise.  Initially they were told they were to meet up with their missing husbands again. In some cases, they would put on their finest clothes only to be placed on a train going south to Kazakhstan.  Another instance I read in the English brochure produced by the British Council is that a husband and wife met in the hallway where they were being interrogated.  They were in a mad embrace and would not let each other go until their arms were brutally hit with the butt ends of rifles.  Oh…the sadness!

Today I’ll show the photos from inside the main lobby area but we could only take photos on the outside.  Too cold to go to the back wall where ALL the women’s names were engraved into a stone slab similar to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.

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Potpourri of Astana Photos

Today, my PDP class is going to ALZHIR (Women’s gulag in the 1930s-1950s for wives of Enemies of the People). This museum is about 10 miles out of the city of Astana and so I’ll have photos to show from that field trip tomorrow.  For today I’ll show photos that I didn’t use before but will now, it is on my jump drive and I have too much to write so my fall back is to show photos.  What I REALLY regret is that I didn’t get the photos I should have of the Asian Winter games billboards.  I saw them every day when I would ride to work, I had NO idea that the people would pull them down so quickly.  If I don’t act quickly I won’t even get the photo billboard of Dennis Ten at one of the busstops.  I did get a small poster of the snow leopard poster at the Ramstore.  However, that is nothing compared to the colorful, abstract billboards of figure skaters, hockey players and speed skaters.  Rats!  I was too slow on the draw!

Below is the inside of the arena that looks like a bikers helmet on the outside.  What I really would like to write about but don’t feel I have enough information is about the polylingual issues that are taking up people’s attention, especially today.  I’ll miss most of a seminar that is about how to improve the problems of Kazakh language teaching methods, problems of teaching English to polylingual students, learning Russian as a mother tongue and as a second or third language and finally the vision of the Model and Concept of trilingual education.  All complex issues and there will be a brainstorming session about it at the end.  All this I’ll miss because we already scheduled this fieldtrip to ALZHIR about a month ago.  I hope the roads are safe from all ice and snow.  Note the books in Russian and Kazakh that I have on my bookshelves.

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Insights about Multiple Intelligences in KZ (Part II)

More insights from my students after listening to a guest lecturer talk about something that is close to my heart.  I remember having a student in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan while I was teaching at the very first year of AUCA.  His name was Stas and he was NOT a very good student, but he WAS a very good classical piano player.  Once I found out that he had other strengths in other intelligences, I had grace towards Stas.  The same could be said of some of my slouchy footballers, who weren’t good students in my classroom but they were stars on the soccer field.  As a teacher, I like multiple intelligences because it embraces the students as a whole person and not just testing them on their reading, writing and math scores.  Here are three more insights from my adult learner students about Josh’s talk:

Student #4 – Okay, so we had Josh to talk to us and I actually made a long and thorough and good comment on it, but Moodle decided it was wrong and even did not do me favor to save a draft!
He talked a lot. And he talked long. Much information was given, but still I think he tried to express two main opinions about MI.
First, I took intelligences wrong. For example, If it says you are musical intelligent it doesn’t necessarily you have to like music. And if you like music very much it doesn’t mean you are musical smart.
Second, multiple intelligence is not learning style. If you have 5 minutes test and you have totally different result from what you expected, well it yet is not the end of world and you are not sentenced to live along only with your good intelligences. I like what he said: “Multiple intelligence is the beginning of learning, not the end.
From his words I was impressed when he said “This is not what we are doing at schools. This is not what we do in general. Even at UCL at NU. We do not work on students’ strengths, but on weaknesses.” Indeed, I also accentuate ss’ weak sides and I am much worried about that and work much on that rather than strengths. So I think this is a part of discussion I have to get back as I want to be a perfect teacher.
As for Josh’s talk. I had a bad headache afterward, because I was trying hard to follow him. I felt myself as a student at a very difficult lecture as he was talking about something I am not really good at. But anyway, I think he did great job with MI. Thing I liked most is his smile. He was smiling and this was special. His smile was “a process, rather than an event.”
As for using the MI at my teaching, I think the books he left could be of great help to me [hint ] in shaping something out.

 

Student #5 I was convinced one more time that I’m a very privileged student to have such a wonderful teacher who invites ex-pat guests as often as it is possible. And we learn a lot from these speakers. Today we had one UCL teacher speaking on Multiple Intelligences. The time went so fast, I really liked the class. While listening to him I realized that I had an unclear, or let me say incorrect idea about this conception. A few days ago I wrote about the results of my MI (Multiple Intelligence) test and made an incorrect decision. As far as I learned today a man can’t be perfect in every intelligence, or judge like: “If I can move my body quickly or very often I should have high scores in Bodily/Kinesthetic intelligence”. Or “If I can’t sing or play musical instruments I’m not musical”. That’s not right. Intelligence is not a skill or ability. And I should advise the teachers not to confuse the intelligences with learning style. Learning style is passive, as our guest said, and the intelligence – active. What I liked the most is that the teachers should pay attention on the strength of the students and work on in it, but not at the weaknesses, as we do. The weakness of a student must be improved using his strength. That’s the point of MI! That’s the answer of many of my questions. And I think our new skill, like Nazarbayev Intellectual School, are relying on this theory. The students there do a lot of project works, design some things like bridges, machines. And the teachers there really appreciate the interest of a student and try to improve. At least some teachers that I know act like this. And this makes me happy. Wew! So many ideas! So many interesting things that I can use while teaching! I really grateful to my teacher. No one is lucky in the world as I am and my group mates are!

 

Student #6 – I got to know that there are several intelligences. I tried to pass the IQ test on line, but it was so nervous (because of timing) and so long (perhaps it checked my patience J ) But I did not remember my result, only that it was not high or low. But when I answered the Multiple Intelligence test I did not notice how much time it took. It was quick and easy to answer. But I was not sure which variant was better and suitable for me. They could be differently interpreted. I tried to answer honestly and I agree with the result. I have known my strengths and weaknesses. It did not surprise me strongly. I wanted to read more practical ideas how to use these results and how to improve some intelligences (if I really need it). I suppose that such test can be very useful for senior students to choose what profession is better to choose. Because there is a list of occupations which are more suitable.

Josh’s talk was really interesting and important for us, teachers. The most I like was a thought that we should not panic or worry if we had a low score in any intelligence. It can be considered as a normal phenomenon. We are people, NOT robots.

Before using this MI info with my own students, I must make them have this test. But I am not sure that they can do it by themselves. And so it is great to have a little interview and do the test together with a child explaining every question at the beginning. After four month’s teaching I can say about my students with the help of trial-and-error technique. I wasted time to get to know them better. This test should be conducted while entering school. Sometimes I communicate with students’ curators to know more information about them. It is more effective to teach if you know whoa re your students, what they like doing, what they prefer doing in spare time

 

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Insights about Multiple Intelligences in Kazakhstan

I’ve been interested in this theory by Howard Gardner for some time.  I gave this inventory to Ukrainian teachers at the Linguistics University in Kyiv, Ukraine about ten years ago and thought they would all be high in linguistic intelligences.  Turns out they were high in music instead.  Typically students who take this Muliple Intelligence inventory come out high in InTERpersonal whereas teachers usually are high in inTRApersonal, as I am.  Of course, those good in sports will be high in kinesthetic and others who prefer numbers over words will be high in logic and math.  A new one that I haven’t paid to much attention to is Naturalist.  I’ll let my adult learner students share their insights about themselves after a fellow American talked about Multiple Intelligences in our classroom the other day.

Student #1 – Josh Lange is one of the teachers at our university, who came to our class today to represent us his presentation on Multiple Intelligence. Most of his talk is written in the 21 page reading we have read before he came. Even though we have read the 21 page reading there were still a lot to learn from him and understand MI better. I really liked the way Josh spoke because of his positive reaction and atmosphere he created in the classroom was very good, and the speech itself was clear enough to understand him, and his words of praise towards our teacher Kristina. However, the best that I liked about MI is that its purpose is not to define your weaknesses, but to define strengths. And then to make those strengths work for the benefits of the world. Unfortunately, now it is hard for me to think of the ways to use MI with my own students, but I think I will work on it as it is very essential especially when they are still very young

Student #2 – There were so much information given by Josh, which were useful and interesting to use. The most important thing for me was the assessment criteria, which is really show our students’ multiple intelligence. Sometimes it is very difficult to assess the students’ MI. And I think this assessment criteria will give me an idea how to assess my students.
I liked his speech, it was fantastic. For a short time he could introduce his work informatively. Also, he could work with us, no one was apart. I especially liked when we worked in pairs describing who my pair is. Everything was understandable and clear for me. May be because he was speaking about teaching and learning processes.
I’ m sure using MI will encourage all students to know themselves, who really they are. Moreover, adults could do it themselves and it would be a good topic for discussion, as Josh did with us.
So, I would like to say that any new things should be used with good preparation, not like if we don’t know MI ourselves and make our students do this. It requires analysis to do first by ourselves, then to experiment it with students.

Student #3 – Today we had a quest speaker from UCL to talk about multiple intelligences. As usual we were glad to see him in our classroom. Multiple intelligences was a new thing I learnt from our PDP teacher. When I studied at the institute I read something about it, but I didn’t pay so much attention to it, because it was not emphasized so much to use it with my future students. Actually, if I wasn’t introduced to it by Kristina and Josh, I wouldn’t come to it myself. Now I am glad to know more about MI than my teachers at the institute and at school as well.

I learned many new tings from Josh’s talk, but the most interesting info for me was implication of multiple intelligences to practice. It is good if you have an idea of students’ intelligences, it is better to put what you know into practice. A few days before Josh gave us URL to define our MI and 21 page reading to get deeper understanding of MI basics. In addition, we had him to speak in front of us and ask our questions. In what Josh gave us to read I read MI theory, IQ and eight intelligences, but today we found out one more intelligence, that is called existential – existence intelligence. In the beginning of his presentation Josh pointed out to three intelligences out of nine, that can be tested at school: verbal, logical and numerical reasoning. As a matter of fact, Gradner, a scientist, who investigated intelligences so much says that there are eight and a half intelligences.

During our conversation, I noticed that we called intelligences ‘skills’, ‘interests’, and even ‘abilities’. However, Josh explained that the word ‘ability’ cannot replace “intelligence’, because we have capabilies IN intelligences.
Further, Josh assured us that we shouldn’t take our results in MI test seriously and definitive for as Gardner said “No definite intelligence profile exist. And ther is no need for them.”

Once you know the intelligences your students possess you can easily use the results to organize your lesson plans. It helps to find appropriate activity for your students. And one more thing that Josh told us about is that your lowest score in a definite intelligence. If you are weak in musical intelligences, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t study music. MI test is only a tool that helps to define your intelligences.
Once you give MI test to the students, you can find out their weaknesses and strengths. And here is an interesting moment: what do teachers usually do? If they know that a students is good at Maths, they give them more and more mathematical tasks to further develop their ability. However, once you have your student’s intelligences in your hands, you should focus your attention on thei weaknesses. That is what Westerners do with their students. They focus on weaknesses to turn them into strengths. It is a very good approach to cope with weak poins of the students. In this way a teacher is capable of balancing their multiple intelligences.

Concerning the implication of MI to practice, every teacher should know that MI can be used in any context. MI cannot be used in isolation from each other.
That is what i got from Josh’s 1 hour speech. His speech is very understandable and his language is clear. He is young and lively, and he has a good sense of humor. His body language is very “sociable”, what he did and didn’t say he showed it with gestures. After Josh’s talk, I think we found out answer how to use it in the classroom. For me I am for trying it with NIS students and try to put into as soon as possible.

(to be continued)

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What else I learn from my adult learner students

The other day was a potpourri of various talents who showed up for English practice that is meant for advanced speakers once a week.  Some of these university employees were more shy to speak up once the talkative ones found their stride.  Represented were those from Center for Energy Research, Economics, Admissions, Legal department, Strategic planning and the Library.  We got on the topic of occupations as a kind of carry-over from the week before when we discussed teachers and builders.

The conversation went all over the place from talking about Kazakhstan’s sports like boxing, football and hockey to the recent Asian Winter games to Tour de France, to Roza Bagnalova’s son to the profession of policemen to the upcoming presidential election.  Finally an hour was up and we were talking about Olympics and the Goodwill Ambassador Vladimir Smirnoff who represented Kazakhstan.

One of them asserted that the most popular professions in Kazakhstan are lawyers and economists, especially looking at what students are majoring in for their subjects at university.  Others didn’t agree so we quickly moved into sports.  Apparently the most famous footballer is Pele whose name means “useless” or perhaps “crafty.”  We talked a long time about his name and how his name means smart but doesn’t let on that he is, like in Russian (heat-tree.) I can’t tell from my notes because I had to write fast with six people all having an opinion about this athlete.  Supposedly he was quoted as saying that if Russia wins the World Cup, then Brazil will have a hockey team in hell.  Something like that, like I said, my notes after trying to decipher them 24 hours later leave much to guess work.

This I DO know they talked about and was new information for me, that the Klitschko brothers who are so famous in Ukraine for their boxing feats were actually born in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan. Their father was a military man and it is said as a kind of joke, I’m not sure if this actually happened.  One of the Klitschko brothers ran into Sasha Cohen in New York City, who made that despicable movie about Kazakhstan (which really wasn’t true to Kazakhstan and was filmed in Romania).  Anyway, since Klitschko is really a Kazakhstani, he had some strong words for Cohen and it put the fear into him.  You don’t want to mess with a boxer if you get him riled. Maybe this was just a joke but the point is, that the film has done little to bring good repute to Kazakhstan.

One thing that was supposed to bring Kazakhstan’s reputation up a notch or two was the Tour de France that was won by a Spaniard Cantador while he was biking for Team Astana last year.  We shall see who will rise from the Kazakh athletes to take over in cycling.  A nice stadium that was built just down the road from the university for the ice skating for the Asian games is really for cycle races.  It looks like a bike helmet from the outside.

We moved on to what all Kazakh people know internally but is little known in the western world about Roza Baglanova who died just last week.  She was a much loved singer and represented Kazakhstan in the former Soviet Union.  Apparently one of my adult learner “students” went to school with her son Tarzhen.  When he was born his grandparents went to register him with a good Kazakh name but when the father found out about it, he was furious and had it changed to a good communist name, Tarzhen. I’m unsure of the meaning but it sounds like Tarzan to me.  Apparently Tarzhen didn’t follow in his mother’s footsteps in music but his father’s as a businessman.  He is entrepreneur and his quiet and keeps to himself, a good father of 3-4 children.

Then we got into the subject of names of Kazakh children and what it was like in the past if you wanted to appear politically correct.  I mentioned that during the Cultural Revolution in China in the 1960s many young girls were called “Hong” for Red.  Someone said it was true in the USSR’s past that many had the names related to Lenin or Marx.  One poor lad was named after Albert Gore after he visited Kazakhstan.  With the Asian games now over, some girls are called Aizada (Asia) or boys might be called “Summit” after the OSCE summit last December. Or parents might use the word “Khan” or “Bai” or Abai going back to ancient times.  Some babies are given the name of the day of the week that they were born.  This has deep Kazakh roots to give names that honor an event.  Being BORN is an event here in Kazakhstan!

Somehow our conversation was directed back to occupations and several of these Kazakh people drive cars, so we talked about policemen.  After a Kazakh driver is stopped by a man with a white and black baton, the requisite forms are filled out. Some said they never pay a fine and talk their way out off whatever ticket.  Others who are in a hurry will pay the bribe just to get back on the road again.  You see, if you don’t want to go through all the steps of going to the bank and the police office to get the necessary paperwork down, you can give 1,000 or 2,000 tenge to the officer. However, this is NOT usually done directly, it might be slipped into a book or it might be left in the back seat of the squad car.

If you were to pay directly and officially with all the extra time spent to do it, it would cost about 6,500 tenge.  In the capital city of Astana it is not as bad to pay bribes to police officers as down in the south of Kazakhstan, like in Almaty. Perhaps this doesn’t happen in Astana because the police are more tightly controlled or they have other more important functions to deal with such as security for the president and other VIPs.  Maybe they are better paid than those officers to the south.

We talked of other things of course, such as the football match with Tartastan where the Dutch played in Moscow and the temps were -20 C and they played in the cold and mud with a score of 2-0.  Better than the score during the Asian games where a hockey match was 30-0. That would have been no fun to watch but one of my “students” witnessed that lopsided game.  Others saw the same ice skaters I did and we all talked about the opening ceremony.  I was surprised that one Kazakh woman didn’t even watch the Asian Games Opening ceremony on her t.v. I think she is too busy with her job and raising a family.

That’s it, from Lake Kaz-be-gone.

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