Sugar beet harvesting is over in the Red River Valley. We live in a very shallow and flat valley to be sure. Where I grew up in Minnesota and live currently we are oriented to very distinct seasons. Now we are fully into the fall season where the temperature doesn’t know whether to be cold, cool or warm. The trees have resignedly given up their leaves. We, as apprehensive northerners, are resolutely waiting for the 200 inches of snow that is promised by the seasoned weathermen. Oh my, will it be too much to enjoy creating good x-country ski paths?
Sometimes I wonder why we live in this extreme climate, but then Astana, Kazakhstan by comparison seems even more hazardous to one’s health. I know this statement is not a good advertisement for a place so young on the map, such as Kazakhstan. Astana means “capital” in Kazakh but perhaps it will eventually be changed to the president of the country’s name…just like the new university’s name where I used to teach six months ago.
Lately I’ve written a lot about human trafficking and there is much to learn about this terrible topic. It affects many people’s lives and disrupts families that normally should be together. Today I gave a talk about this subject to a group of people who already know much about what is going on, it was like “preaching to the choir.” Tomorrow I’ll give the same talk to university students about human trafficking. What will their responses be?
I tried to encourage my former Kazakh students to be “change agents” when I was teaching back in Kazakhstan. One out of ten of my students is actually doing something about helping victims of human trafficking in Kazakhstan. I’m very proud of Aigerim. Who will respond to my message where we need to bring hope and shelter to the victims of this terrible crime? Human trafficking goes on unabated in Kazakhstan, while sex trafficking seemingly is prevalent in the oil cities of Williston and Dickinson in western North Dakota. “Men camps” have popped up all over with few women around except for the young Sioux Indian girls who are trafficked off the native American Indian reservations.
I took solace in what I read today, some promises that will keep me going. At times I DO feel overwhelmed with the evil that is out to defeat and discourage us.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
We are in a season of life where we would like to know what is the next step to take. What seems more predictable than our future is getting back to weather [always a safe subject to talk about in MN]. Yes, I found comfort in this newspaper clipping that I ran across, printed on April 23, 1967. Titled “The Belief.”
“By late April the countryman is thinking of June and haying, of summer and the growing season, even of September and golden October. The hillside birches still show only a gauzy green haze of leaftips, the swamp mables blush with half-opened blossoms and mornings are still frosty; but he can see corn knee-high in his newly plowed fields, oats ripening on the lower forty, strawberries ripening in the kitchen garden. Today’s weather, good or bad, can’t greatly change this view of the world the countryman knows. Whether he is optimist or not, he has confidence in the soil and the seasons.
The closer one lives to the land, the less one distrusts time. It is only when one is alienated from the earth and its eternal sequences that doubt takes root. Few of the pat answers and instant solutions have validity when you are dealing with the soil. You see the slow but certain growth of trees, the persistence of grass, and you are aware of the tenacity of life. The earth’s urgency is toward growth and renewal, and one season follows another despite man’s diversions and interruptions. You can’t hurry spring, and you can’t interdict summer.
The countryman lives with these truths, no matter how they are phrased. He lives by them. They shape his life. So he looks about him now with confidence and with hope. Another growing season is at hand, deliberate as always, and he lays his plans, not for tomorrow, but for June and July and next September.”
My two grandfathers were farmers, my Dad used to be a farmer yet even now his business cycles with the change of seasons. I’m wondering about the Kazakh from the past, who also watched the seasons closely as nomad shepherds? How far away the “modern, 21st century” Kazakhs have been removed by living in the glitzy cities of Astana or Almaty. Both give off a false impression that all is well with their wealth from oil revenues in the western part of Kazakhstan.
Is it really? (to be continued)