Posts tagged Akmola

The Future of “World Class” Slave Mentality

Having lived in Astana, Kazakhstan for one year almost a year ago, I was in the very  bowels of the new university’s glorious start. The university once opened fall of 2010 has since been named after the current president of Kazakhstan.  I witnessed first hand how much was/is being invested into the higher education of young Kazakh students. I had many Bolashak [means “future” in Kazakh] scholars who were my working colleagues and friends. After they had lived in the U.S. or U.K. one or two years, they seemed to empathize with me as the westerner trying to wade my way through the murky politics of the new university.

However, I also saw that for their own protection they had to watch out for themselves while working unswervingly for the concept of the greater good, the future of Kazakhstan.  When I was no longer a part of the game of striving and finding my place, they struggled on without me in their own energy.  I believe the “slave mentality” existed for these young people on the lower end of the pole. Many Bolashak scholars were not paid much. Some of these highly trained individuals fared far worse if they could only secure jobs in the national universities in the old part of Astana or Almaty (former capital in southern Kazakhstan).  Supposedly obedience and slavery to the old order would help them rise to the top.

Astana means “capital” in Kazakh.  It was also known as Akmola and Akmolinsk [white grave] after it had been named during the Soviet era Tselinograd. Watch, there will be a name change soon to reflect the vision of the current president, it will undoubtedly be named after him.  “Astana” is just a place holder name.

This new city on the flat steppe may seem artificial with its strange architecture but it certainly gets your attention since most of the time there is extreme wind and cold to hamper its reputation as a capital city to be admired.  Perhaps the president has done much good in moving the capital from the south of Kazakhstan to the middle of nowhere in the north, but at what cost? Think slavery with the internal migrants (sex slaves from the rural areas of Kazakhstan in the brothels of Almaty and Astana) and the labor force who have been brought in from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to build these elaborate buildings.

I know for a fact the new university in Astana wants to be considered “world-class” but that can hardly be a reality if most of the people in the western world don’t even know about Kazakhstan.  That has to be infuriating and humbling for those Bolashak scholars who travel to U.K. Canada or U.S.  Yes, to discover people don’t even know their dear country, which they represent and is the ninth largest in the world, actually exists.

I think there is something very artificial about living in such a climate, no different from existing in the summer heat of Arizona where temperatures soar to 100 degrees F or more days on end. You can’t help but admire those who have lived in Astana for over 20-30 years.  The pecking order begins there whether you have any expertise in your field or not, if you have survived this city of wind and cold, you are to be reckoned with.  Note that those who are in the different ministries are the older generation who call the shots. They are to be respected and obeyed. The country will continue to lumber and lurch forward, all the while I wish the best for the Bolashak generation.  Please read this blog that shows photos of Astana and deals with his insights on Bolashak and Astana. “Molapse” was a fellow teaching colleague of mine when we taught at another “world class university” in Almaty. ‘Nuff said.

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Could write in LOTS of directions

Today is the day after Korban Ait (not sure of spelling since I’ve seen about ten different variants of it). We will celebrate this grand holiday tomorrow in unison as employees at the university cafeteria.  As a friend of mine wrote on Facebook, “Korban Ait is not a good holiday for sheep.”  The same could be said for our upcoming American holiday next Thursday, “Thanksgiving is not a good holiday for a turkey.” I plan to celebrate Thanksgiving with some other Americans and French people late in the evening next Thursday.  Nice but not the same as being with family and I know there were Kazakh students at the university that missed being with their family. They live far away and could not afford the long train ride home.  In any case, next week I hope to do some singing to ward off all the extra calories of good home cooking from both these events of sheep and turkey.

Yesterday was a legal day off for ALL of us at the university. Therefore, it was my husband and my chance to go out on a date after we did some work at home.  I baked pumpkin cookies and finished up on reading apps so it was time to celebrate with a nice meal at the fish restaurant at Khan Shatyr, the tipped tent.  We walked to work up an appetite against the cold west wind.  Then after our meal we decided whimsically to take the splish splash roller coaster ride. Things didn’t look good when they could only provide us with WET towels to sit on.  In the middle of our ride I knew something wasn’t quite right when Ken and I couldn’t get up the steep hill and then our water car finally jerked forward and up.  What goes up, MUST come down.  Down we splashed into the water that sprayed all over us. This particular ride cost 400 tenge each.  I ask you, would you knowingly pay about $3 to get your clothes wet?  That’s what this thrill ride is about.

So, once through that, the drama wasn’t over, we had five cars ahead of us that were stuck. There were worried attendants that thought we were the suing type because our car was starting to fill with water.  We were like sitting and very lame ducks. Ken quickly jumped out and that brought the car up a bit.  I followed his lead on the narrow track to get back to where we had started.  The attendants were helpful by carrying our backpacks and wet towels. They were very apologetic.  So much so that they had us go for FREE in front of the line for the other electric car ride that goes around 5-6 stories above ground.  By this time I knew I didn’t want to look down and I wanted to make sure that Ken didn’t rock the boat.  I could just see us catapult to the crowds below. I had had enough adventure already with the top of the water ride.  We made it back okay to the start and then walked home after buying some groceries at the supermarket below.

With the wind on our backs, we were able to get our clothes dried out and came home to a hot tea and watched “Hoosiers.” That was our date night on an unconventional Tuesday night. I had to prepare for my lessons on Wednesday which is the OTHER direction I could go in writing today’s blog.  On Monday I had prepared my class to do “SurveyMonkey” and to come up with 10 questions related to their research project that they could query their classmates and other colleagues from work about online.  I showed a survey I had made up as an example, one they had answered. We created another survey in class after looking over three students 10 questions. This way they could see how they would input all their questions tomorrow at the computer lab.

Another direction is that we got into a discussion about morals. I asked what is taught in school to girls and boys about abstinence or purity in sexual relationships. Surely I know from reading the book “Two Kyrgyz Women” and talking with the author that these issues about sex are taboo, a very private matter.  One teacher said that she was yelled at by her mother every time she had questions about sexual relationships.  Another student knew that she could NEVER talk to her mother about this topic.  I just wondered what is done in the school system or if there is anything in the Muslim faith that exhorts a woman to remain pure before marriage.  If it is not talked about or discussed, how do kids know what is inappropriate in the lyrics they hear from rockers or rappers from the West?  Much of the garbage called “music” is really a hatred of women and debasing them as sex objects. Oh, what a critical problem this is when Western “mores” meet eastern private sensibilities.

Today we also got on the subject of teachers salaries. I found out that Kazakh teachers, even though they are paid a low salary, at least they are always paid.  Well, that is not true of some teachers as near to Astana as Akmola.  Since September they have not been paid and this little village is where the prison camp ALZHIR was back in the Stalin years for women who had the misfortune of being married to “Enemies of the People.”  If this is true about a city close to Astana, what of the other villages and towns throughout Kazakhstan, are teachers being paid or not? I remember this happened in Ukraine that the teachers were a dedicated lot, they were like mothers who would not give up on their own children no matter how difficult living was.  Teachers in Kazakhstan are just as dedicated to their profession, they have to be because they are not paid much. The show must go on, they will teach despite not being paid.  No such thing as teachers’ unions here in Kazakhstan.

So, that reminds me of an American I know who has worked terribly long hours this semester and has not been paid. This person has been spitefully used like a slave to the Kazakh students. The students are the delight, it is the administrators who are the culprits!  Who is reaping the benefits of this arrangement with misusing an expat? Perhaps the rector of the university, perhaps someone else in administration but apparently oral and written contracts between two parties mean nothing.  So goes what I wrote about in yesterday’s blog concerning transparency and trust.

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Third year anniversary blogging about Kazakhstan

Hard to believe I started this kazakhnomad blog in the fall of 2007 when we lived in Almaty.  Indeed, my husband and I have come a long way from our Almaty courtship in 1993, the former capital of Kazakhstan once known as Alma Ata.  That’s what we called it back then.

To keep up with the steady changes in Kazakhstan, now the current capital city is in the north,  Astana.  It’s original name was Akmola which means “White Tomb.”  (There has to be a good story behind THAT name!) Around 1954 it was changed to the Russian sounding name of Tselinagrad (means Virgin Lands during the campaign to put all turf under the plow and farm on this boggy soil). Then the name of this fair city was changed back to Akmola again 20 years ago when Kazakhstan became its own country.  Now to be even more precise the Kazakh name for “capital” is Astana, thus the current name.  If there is another name change they should have a moratorium of at least 10 more years because it takes a lot to change signs and maps and people’s mentality.

So, name changes happen everywhere throughout the former Soviet Union. Perhaps that is why street names are a bit perplexing for people, the names could change again.  Thus, the intriguing architecture of the buildings in Astana serve as landmarks.

Today I had an interesting discussion with a recently returned Bolashak scholar (Bolashak means “future” in Kazakh).  He had studied in Indiana and as I was looking out my window I asked him which direction I was facing in my new, temporary office.  He immediately said east because his office down the long corridor faces the same direction.

This young Kazakh man commented that his impression of Americans was that they ALL knew their directions. I said that that might be a Midwest trait stemming from our agrarian background.  Out East with winding roads and the Appalachian mountains, people might not have such a good sense of direction.  Back at the farm, you always had to know where you are in order to tell people where things were located.  I told him that back at our farm place in Minnesota, we often say things like “west of the shop,” or “south of the granary” or “on the east side of the house.”  In a planned city such as Astana, it is easy to give those kind of directions to people, we are south of town and the airport is south of our university.

At least some things remain constant, the welcome morning orb will always climb out of the eastern horizon and this same sun, which we see out of our west window will always set in the west.  If you really wanted to get turned around just be in charge of changing the direction of sunrises and sunsets.  However, I’m glad our Creator is constant. They can do what they want with street and city names according to the whims of whomever is in control of certain land at a given time.

I took a photo the other night from our west window (the screen window shows through a bit).  Ken called this blaze of glory to my attention and I’m glad he did though it took me some time to find my camera and by then it was not as brilliant as when I first saw it. I’ll keep blogging until the sun starts setting in the north.

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Assel B’s Grandfather was a veterinary surgeon

First and foremost it has to be said, that I’m convinced in one view: for each person his grandparents will stay the greatest and most respected people. Especially for me, as I was brought up by my grandparents, so let me tell a life story of one of them, my Grandpa. My grandfather’s name is Satybaldy, born in 1938, in Kazakhstan, in a place called Merke. From his birth, my grandfather differed from others: he had a brilliant mind and unique character, was best at school, after school and all throughout his life.

After school my grandpa was sent to Temirtau for four years. From 1956 to 1960 he was working there in a factory. Then he came to Almaty and entered a veterinary institution. After graduating, my grandfather was sent to province called “Knizh”, where he worked as a veterinary surgeon at a farm. His work was very successful. In one year grandpa became the main veterinary surgeon of Mynbayev sovkhoz (State farm).

In 1972 my grandpa was elected as a director of, first Mynbayev sovkhoz, then other State farms which were situated nearby. This work lasted before the perestroika. After the perestroika he was working as a collaborator in a Ministry of Agriculture in Almaty and Akmola till the year 2000. After that, reaching a retirement age, my grandfather became a pensioner.

Slowly coming to conclusion I’d like to add few personal thoughts. I certainly believe, that many people would agree with the view, that every person we meet in our life has his deep impact on us and our coming into being. Such a person in my separate life – is my lovely Grandpa. I always will be thankful for him, for everything he has done for me. I will carry my heartfelt feelings to him through all my life.

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Kazakh Grandparents are Greatly Admired


My grandparents died when I was 4 years old girl. But my father told me the history of our family. My grandparents  were born in  Kostanay oblast of our country. They had three daughters and one son.

During 1930 there was a famine on the territory of Kazakhstan. My grandfather had organized the migration of his family from Kazakhstan to Russia, where the neighboring cities had sufficient amount of food, even in excess. It was a genocide against Kazakhs, because at this period of time the Kazakhs were a majority on their own territory. Later after this famine and other actions of the Government the Kazakhs became a minority.  After several years my grandfather with his family had returned to Kazakhstan in Akmola oblast. My father was born there.

During  World War  II my grandfather participated in operations against Military Germany on the territory of Russia. He was a machine gunner.  He had an injury during one battle, near  Stalingrad. After this, he spent several months in hospital, and then he was demobilized and returned to home. He had received Government Awards for actions during  World War II.  But his younger brother was missing in 1943. My relatives had received a letter of notification.

After war my grandfather continued his work in forestry. He was a director of a forest reserve in Kurgaldjino. My father continued the traditions and he worked in forestry. In 1960 our family moved to Almaty city, former capital of the Kazakh Republic. After retirement he continued his work in the forest reserve near  Almaty. During his life he fully provided for his family. After his death my father was provided  a house in the city, the house outside the city and car. My grandfather was an example of an excellent manager at home and at his work.

My grandmother was older than my grandfather, she didn’t work but supported my grandfather by doing all work at home. She had a big vegetable garden near the house, where she cultivated all vegetables necessary for the family. There was a small farm, near the house. There were cows, sheep and horses.  She cooked homemade sour cream and butter, bread.

My grandparents from my mother’s side were from Akmola oblast. My grandfather also participated in  World War II. He had Government Awards for  the battles in  Stalingrad city, and in Berlin. He was on operations of war from 1941 till 1946. He reached Berlin. We don’t have a family, where relatives didn’t participate in II World War. My grandmother from my mother’s side was a seamstress. She sewed different clothes, she embroidered different patterns. She had a small vegetable garden near the house, where she cultivated some vegetables.

I admire my grandparents. They lived in very difficult periods in the history of our country, but nevertheless they achieved successes and excellent results.   


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