Archive for January 11, 2015

One Day Left Before Semester Begins

Well, it is not ALL bad, I do have a job but I crave more vacation time because I feel like I didn’t get enough. After being away to Arizona for two weeks to see kids and grandkids, we have been back for over a week and have experienced two blizzard or white out storms.  That is quite a record.  Why didn’t it do anything while we were away so we could feel even better about our investment of time and money?  Yes, my folks had a “brown Christmas” because there was no snow. I felt badly that we weren’t home with them to celebrate.  I’m glad my brother came up to surprise them for the day, all my other siblings had their own family commitments and live too far away to come here to icebox conditions.

About the terror that still exists in France, particularly Paris, I wonder what my sister-in-law is going through. She is a French teacher and regularly each summer she takes her French students to France so they can practice their language skills but also appreciate the culture.  I haven’t seen anything on FB about what she is doing, she is probably busy enough with her many activities and her kids’ activities.  At least the people in France feel numb that this happened and are rallying around those people’s families who were murdered so savagely. At least the killers were found and killed which is what they had wanted, the killers wanted to die as martyrs. How sick is that? Then there was another outbreak of violence where hostages were taken at a kosher deli in Paris.  I’m sure that people are still on edge over this but there is no doubt more to come.  These people who do such brutal acts of beheadings and butchering of people are not following a faith or religion they are following a dogma of HATE.  There is no peace for them and they want to have people convert to their way of thinking by using force? Never will work.  Especially with French people who are ALL about freedom and in this case freedom of expression.

When you have a government or some ruling party that dictates what you say or think, then there is tyranny and people will not go for it.  I’m thinking of the former Soviet Union where people were sent off to Siberia because their thoughts or actions varied too much from the head governments restrictions. I experienced that when I was teaching English in Almaty. I was in a department with about 40 Kazakh teachers who had to follow the edicts of those on top.  Those who were in the leadership roles didn’t have a good grasp of English but they had gained power in some way that had worked under the Soviet system. I was teaching writing to 100 Kazakh students the last year I was at this “university” and those other writing teachers could not even write in English for one paragraph.  Yet, they were teaching this and passing off their hate of writing to the students. It was a sad situation to be in for me.  I have taught writing in many different scenarios but I had to follow their illogical ways of teaching certain concepts and I would catch it from those above me for not teaching it according to their rigid way.

I know that is difficult for us as freedom loving Americans to believe. I’m teaching writing in a university setting now and I still marvel that we are given so much flexibility to teach the way that works for us.  Of course, we have to follow a strict, top down version of a syllabus with many links about this or that. I know in those 11 pages that the students only care about what is the scoring guideline and what is the schedule of assignments.  No one is going to read all that fine print of dos and don’ts, not until it would work to their advantage, of course.  I like teaching here and getting ideas from fellow teachers about how they go about teaching different things.  I remember we would have staff meetings back in Almaty with our 25 or so teachers who could show up and there would be shouting matches between certain teachers. Some of the better teachers were canned with no explanation. But they knew it was because they had not followed the clueless leaders.  Favoritism abounded and I attribute that to be a carry-over from the Soviet times.

Not much has changed in Kazakhstan and perhaps some of the people continued to embrace the communist way of thinking because it aligned with what they were used to from their own Kazakh cultural norms. I don’t know. I can only think that every ONE loves freedom and freedom of expression. There was a time in the 1960s where women who worked on their dowry carpets, putting in a story to fit all the different things put into the carpet were not allowed to continue that old practice.  I am glad I bought one of those small, hand made carpets which I bought for $80 in 1993. I didn’t like the color of red necessarily but I liked the fact that it was a very Kazakh looking carpet. So, whatever woman worked on the one I brought back to Minnesota was expressing herself but then all that kind of artwork had to stop.

I don’t know where all this will lead for the French people but other countries in Europe are going to feel this ripple effect from what transpired about four days ago in France.  It will eventually come to the U.S., that feeling of not feeling safe or secure, especially being out in a public place.  That is what the enemy wants, for people to feel no freedom in movement or in expression.  What kind of a “faith” is that to follow?  These individuals who perpetrate that kind of thinking are very unhappy people, they want to die for their cause.  These 30 year old brothers DID die but what they did has created the opposite effect in that people who are of this persuasion will have to be more careful.  The French will not put up with this barbarism even though 8% of their population is purportedly of this Muslim faith.  I’ve read that if you thoroughly study their Koran, it is all about violence and getting even or killing off the infidel.  My guess is that most people in Kazakhstan have never read the Koran because it is an oral culture.  So, they do not even know that what they follow is really a perversion of violence. Nothing peaceful about it.

One day left of my freedom before I start in again as a writing teacher. Thankfully I only have about 35 students instead of the 85 I ended the semester with about a month ago.  The difference of 50 students!  The difference of my work load!  I’ll notice that significant difference in my paycheck as well. But I’ll enjoy having my house back (I cleaned it for two days straight) and having more time to do other things.

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