Posts tagged Abai

Leadership and Education…after a month long hiatus

I didn’t expect I would write on this blog again once home in the U.S. However, I have great quotes that Kazakh students have written saved up on my computer that I just could not ignore.  As an educator for over 30 years, I think it is absolutely important to keep writing on these issues about education that concern Kazakhstan deeply.  Education, according to Sir William Halley, British newspaper editor and broadcasting administrator should reflect this: “Education would be so much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school, every boy and girl should know how much they do not know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it.”

While I taught in Kazakhstan in the last three and a half years, both in Almaty and Astana, I not only filled my students minds with facts but also hopefully moved their hearts.  I hope that the leaders of the westernized universities in Kazakhstan would understand the following quote attributed to an unknown author: “Outstanding leaders appeal to the hearts of their followers, not their minds.”  However, those administrators in universities throughout Kazakhstan are driven by Soviet practices which they learned in pedagogical institutes many years ago.  Sadly, they are teacher-centered in their approach as administrators and many are sorely outdated to keep up with the speed of the 21st century. I would like to remind them and my former students what Socrates knew:  “In every person there is a sun.  Just let them shine.”  Today’s Kazakh and Kazakhstani students are told over and over again they are the future of Kazakhstan but their own educators are not about letting them shine as individuals with their God-given strengths and talents.

The following is what one Kazakh student wrote, which encouraged me:  “I like reading.  One of my favorite books is “Abai” by Muhtar Auezov.  Abai was a great Kazakh poet, he lived in 1845-1904.  He exposed human vices, such as greediness, covetousness, duplicity, laziness, etc. in his works.  He did a lot for the enlightenment of Kazakh people. In his book Auezov describes Abai’s life, his experiences and difficulties he faced.” I need to find and read this book by Auezov in the U.S. if it has been translated into English, I doubt it though.

Finally, a British parliamentarian, Benjamin Disraeli is quoted as saying the following:  “I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?”  I think the following piece written by an informed Kazakh student about leadership is on the same, right track when she wrote about Olzhas Suleimenov.  If only there would be some champions to push to the public awareness about human trafficking.  That is today’s “nuclear sites” in rural Kazakhstan and other poorer countries in Central Asia:

“I would like to refer to one of the bright examples of leadership from Kazakh history, Olzhas Suleimenov.  He is known in Kazakhstan and other countries for his political activity, poetic works and anti-nuclear activity.  His name became known worldwide in 1989, when he led the movement called Nevada-Semipalatinsk.  It was aimed on closing nuclear sites in the Semipalatinsk area of Kazakhstan. He showed outstanding leadership skills during this movement.  It is really difficult and dangerous to rise against governmental machine of power and defend rights of people, who became victims because of nuclear testings in the region.  People were talking about closing nuclear test sites, but only to each other. 

And only Olzhas Suleimenov called people to fight for their rights.  Olzhas Suleimenov is a person who ideally suits the word “effective leader.”  First of all, he knew what he was going for.  He knew the risks, aims and he know that people would follow him.  At the same time, he worried for the future of his nation, he believed that people should fight for their rights.  He showed responsibility towards people and was brave enough to fight for their rights.  These qualities deserve admiring of this person and striving to follow suit.”



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“Opposition to fur drops with the temperature” and other quotes

What does the above quote have to do with anything in Astana, Kazakhstan?  A LOT!!! We are experiencing very cold temps and lately I have seen some very lovely furs worn by women.  We had a somewhat mild fall leading up to the Christmas and New Year holidays and now THIS.  My husband and I arrived to Astana about a year ago at this time.  It was insufferably cold but those of us who survived, have something in common in our survivor society.  “We prevailed” despite the cold weather and we will do so again.  That’s what keeps us going when the temps plummet.

That’s also the way Minnesotans think and that is an eternally safe subject to talk about because there is so much material to discuss.  Therefore, I love wearing my fur coat in Astana when it gets cold and I need to find a proper fur hat like all the other Kazakh ladies in Astana wear.  I want to go “native” so to speak and that would do it.  So those people out there who oppose fur don’t live in a place that drops to 20 or 30 below zero.  These same people and I know among my readership there are many, will wear leather coats or shoes or carry leather bags but for some reason disdain fur!  Let them live in a climate where the temperature continues to drop!!!  I’d like to know what they would do then.

On to other quotes I picked up along the way, this one by Nelson Mandela “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

Here’s a Latin proverb: Errarum humanum est = “He who makes no mistakes, makes nothing.”

A Kazakh proverb: “A friend says the truth even if it breaks your heart, but an enemy says what you want to hear even if it is a lie.”

Henry Ford supposedly said: “Don’t find a fault, find a remedy.”

Napolean said “Ability is nothing without opportunity”

Charles Marice was quoted as saying: “I am more afraid of an army of 100 sheep led by a lion than an army of one hundred lions led by a sheep.”

F. Dostoevskyi wrote: “The main distinction between a human being and the person, is the ability to have one’s own opinion.”

Abai, the noted Kazakh philosopher and poet said: “You are one brick in creations of our world, so find that place on the wall intended for you.”

What do any of these quotes have to do with the title? Nothing, I just like them and wanted to share with my reading audience.  Maybe we can all agree on the truth of these quotes? Yes?

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Emily Dickinson’s “The Sky is Low, the Clouds are Mean”

The last several days I have put up some poems from my favorite American poets.  I am convinced that there is very good poetry from Kazakh poets (Abai being the most famous to quote). Unfortunately, poems lose something in translation, so I’ll be satisfied with using poetry I’m familiar with along with pictures I have taken of the desolate landscape around me.  I’m looking forward to returning to teaching and reading more material from my eager Kazakh students. Vacation breaks are lovely but there is much to do and I have promises to keep. (thanks to Robert Frost) I think what my Kazakh students write is profound, because it is a view into the soul of Kazakhstan.  For now, here is what Emily Dickinson wrote:

(1) The sky is low, the clouds are mean,
A travelling flake of snow
(2) Across a barn or through a rut
Debates if it will go.

(3) A narrow wind complains all day
How some one treated him;
(4) Nature, like us, is sometimes caught
Without her diadem.

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Abai’s Vocab Words and Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan

Two unrelated topics but both are in Central Asia.  Yesterday I showed Kazakh proverbs I pulled out from the Words of Wisdom by Abai, translated works of his that are up on the Web for your own perusal.  Just to give you an idea of some of the concepts Abai wrote about, read the following list of Kazakh words with their English meanings:

aga: an elder
arshin: an old measuring rod equivalent to 28 inches
aul: village, nomadic community
ay at: quoatation from the Qur’an, verse of a surah
batyr: brave warrior, hero
bey (bai): in Central Asia, a wealthy owner of land and livestock
biy: local judge among the Kazakhs
chapan: horseman’s cloak or mantle
dombra: stringed musical instrument
dzhigit: expert horseman in the Caucasus and Central Asia
dzhut: mass starvation of cattle in winter resulting in famine Fatihab al-kitab. the frst surah of the Qur’an
Hadith: account of the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions, second only to the Qur’an
hazret: Muslim priest
iman: faith
ishan: lowest rank of clergy
jomart: generous man who does charitable deeds
khadi (cadi): Muslim judge
kobyz: stringed musical instrument
koumiss: mare’s milk
myrza: nobleman vested with power, philanthropist
Nogai: Kazakh name for Tatars
nokai: dull, stupid
qibla: orientation towards Mecca and the Black Stone of the sacred Kabah building in that city, to which Muslims turn when praying
surah: chapter of the Qur’an
Surt-Sart: rattle, overtalkative person
tarikat: here, a religious doctrine preaching spiritual self-perception through strict abstinence and complete humility
top-basy: tribal elder
uyezd: larger administrative district
volost: small rural district
yel-basy: tribal chief

If you have looked at the list of vocabulary words and their definitions in English, then you have a sense of how different this land of Kazakhstan is.  It’s southern neighbor Kyrgyzstan, which shares a lot of the same nomadic tribal characteristics, has been in the news a lot lately, since April 7th.  I just heard from an American friend who lives in Bishkek that they had a Kyrgyz friend who was beaten up.  She turned to her friends for help and these Americans automatically called the Kyrgyz police to make a report.  What is eerie is that the police were more interested in the American’s documents than in taking care of the victim.  She was later housed in what they thought was a safe place to rest and hide from her attackers.  However, that evening four men broke into the “safe” place and tried to steal money from the safe, took a computer and some other things.  They had tied up this poor Kyrgyz woman and beaten her a second time.  Needless to say, she is traumatized and in the hospital for about a week.

As if I needed more bad news, I looked at a YouTube clip of bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan which was produced by Al Jazeera English titled “Witness.” Check out this link to see for yourself.  I had never heard about this “traditional” practice before until I taught in Bishkek back in 1993.  I had been assured by my Kyrgyz students that this practice was prohibited and that their aunts and moms had been kidnapped as young women but it was against the law back in the early 1990s.  Well, it seems that the lawlessness continues unabated today!  I could not sleep after watching the two parts of what a young Kyrgyz woman went through. It shows like reality t.v. but it does not have a happy ending and is full of shame for the girl who was kidnapped to essentially be a slave girl to the mother-in-law.  What would Abai say about bride kidnapping I wonder?

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Sholpan’s Father (Part III)

sholpans-fatherIn yesterday’s blog I wrote that I would include my officemate Sholpan’s father’s picture when he was a young man. Apparently he was quite talented as a poet, journalist and writer. In this photo which Sholpan proudly has on her desk, he is reading a book by Abai, a wise Kazakh sage and poet. Unfortunately, I found out from Sholpan that he died of some illness in Moscow at the young age of 44 in 1966 when she was only about 5-6 years old. She has no other photo of her father. Then she told me, through another Sholpan in our office who has better English, how she came by this one and only cherished photo.

I think her sister was riding a trolleybus in Almaty and was recognized by a former family friend. She used to take care of Sholpan’s father when he was a boy and she had this photo of him as a young man. Probably a LOT more to this story that I’d like to find out. Sholpan keeps asking her older sister for specific information about him so I may need to interview Sholpan’s older sister. I’ll keep my readers posted when I find out more about this very illustrious man named Izbergen who travelled widely during the Soviet Union’s chaotic years of the 1940s and 1950s. From what I gathered he was in Ukraine and Russia on assignment as a journalist. (to be continued)

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Sholpan’s Soviet Postcards (Part II)

chinese-children1Yesterday I blogged about an officemate named Sholpan showing her family postcards that are over 50 years old. They have stories to tell with each one, of course written in Russian on the back. I just like seeing the colorful greeting cards on the front. Sholpan told me the one sent to her with the playful Chinese children was sent from her father when she was only one or two years old. (Actually the babies don’t look too Chinese to me, probably painted by a Russian artist) He suggested at that time that her title would be “Dr.” Sholpan and later she did want to become a medical doctor, instead she is a Russian teacher. The other card from yesterday that I showed about International Woman’s day was written by her sister but as if Sholpan as a baby were writing to their mother. I found out more about the folktale showing the Mama goat and her seven kids while the wolf prowls around the corner of the house. My students told me the Mama warns her children to NOT open the door to strangers, but once she has left, the wolf uses a falsetto voice to trick them. (see yesterday’s blog)

happy-new-yearred-rose2Today I am showing a Happy New Year greeting card that was sent by her father’s journalist friend, Yuri Ozerov from Smolensk, Russia to Almaty, Kazakhstan. Another card with red roses was sent to Sholpan from her father again both published in the 1950s. Sholpan’s father, ever the romantic, sent a Congratuations card with Lilies of the Valley flowers on the front to Sholpan’s mother, Rahat. He was at Yalta, Crimea in Ukraine at the time when he sent it with his poem of love and admiration for his wife. He sent it December 1960 and claimed there were many beautiful women in Crimea but his wife, Rahat, surpassed them all. If I am able to, I want to scan a photo of Shopan’s father reading a book written by Abai. Maybe tomorrow.


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