Posts tagged Aktobe

A Kazakh Woman must have 40 souls

That’s enough for now about “Two Kyrgyz Women” if you have been reading my blog for the last several days.  One of my more astute Kazakh students wrote  on an interesting article on women’s issues. This astute student had chosen this journal article titled “The Relationship of Women’s Role Strain to Social Support, Role Satisfaction and Self-Efficacy.”  She wrote about her own Kazakh culture and how this related to the article.  I learned something from my student, I hope to learn a LOT of things from my students who are really teachers.  Here’s what Ainagul wrote:

“In our country the situation is rather different, because 1) of our mentality.  Please here think that a woman must handle everything, she must have a baby, keep the house, have a job, serve the guests, etc.  Even we have a saying, “A woman has 40 souls.” which means that nothing can break down a woman, she has a power to cope with all the problems.  Furthermore, according to our mentality, a woman mustn’t share the household with her spouse.  In a family, the role of husband is a provider, he brings money to house while a wife makes everything prepared for him at home. And that’s normal.

2) We have very few centres which are concerned in women’s psychological state.  For example, in Aktobe we have only centre where married women can come and ask for help.  It’s call “Umit” (hope) and a year ago was lead by Jennifer (we called her Jenny), a volunteer from Peace Corps, but now I don’t know who is the head. They conducted seminars and gave opportunities to women to cope with their marital problems.  I think, that is a great work.  If we had more such centres all over the country, maybe the range of divorce would lessen.

3) mostly employers give vacancy for unmarried women, they think that married women have more problems (with family, babies, etc.) That’s why unmarried lady has more chance to get a job.  Anyway, the situation is changing and I hope, in the near future, there will be no discrimination and women have less role strains.

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Young Kazakh Teachers making a Difference!!!

I am very impressed with a Kazakh teacher not only because of her English writing skills but what she has set out to do to help her country of Kazakhstan.  This young woman has a mission to help special needs individuals.  A topic that more Kazakh and Kazakhstani people need to be made aware of, specifically the plight of people born with birth defects or deformities.  I would hope she could eventually meet Ryan, an American who understands people with disabilities and came to Kazakhstan this past summer.  He helped small children in orphanages and others with their parents to do their physical therapy so that some might eventually be able to walk.  I featured Ryan’s postings about his experience a month ago, check them out.  

However, you MUST read below what a Kazakh teacher wrote in 40 minutes 600 words, about what her passion is.  I will feature a few other Kazakh teachers in the next several days, they all answered the question: “In what way do you think you can make a difference for the future of this country of Kazakhstan?”

Teacher #1 – Kazakhstan right now is a land of new prosperity, changes and good opportunities.  We got our independence only 15 years ago, so we still are young and growing.  When I arrived in Astana, I started to believe for the brighter future, better changes and everything told annually, monthly and daily on TV about Astana and the newly developed Kazakhstan.  Huge amount of work is being done but we still have destinations to grow, countries to look up to and examples to learn from.  I was introduced to the problems of society, lack of protection almost 3 years ago as I started volunteering for the Organization of Disabled People of Aktobe City.  At the same time, I worked and helped the Women’s Centre “Umit” (hope) organizing projects on domestic violence.  While working, we had everything: daily complaints, holiday celebrations, problems with the wheel chair factory.  But mostly I was astonished and deeply frustrated to see the vulnerable points of government’s system, city’s consideration about protecting and providing with facilities for the disabled. 

Here is the list of the most important, to my mind, problems of all our society:

1)      people do not know a little, if at all about volunteer works.  We want better, more humane society. But how are we going to build it if the community is not willing to contribute or even has no idea how to do it?

2)      Disabled people or any other vulnerable people are detached.  We have very few schools for special needs kids, any good work or well serving medical and social systems.

3)      It is really difficult for them to get a good education, to visit any building because the ramps for wheelchairs (panduses) are not comfortable and sometimes there are no pandus at all.

I think all these problems are connected with each other and solving one we solve all three step by step.  Actually in my city, and I am very proud to be a part of it, we began finding solutions.  Realizing all the strengths I have, connections I found and hoping for my further personal growth in life and career, I think I can handle one more…my own volunteer club that will be an active one.  Having a club which will be a hand for needy people, place to learn life skills, having fun and doing something for the community I live in will help to realize my last, but not the least goal, to continue my work on youth initiative.  It means that I will try to educate youth on volunteering, social work, teach them skills they’ll need in life, help them grow and find their “thing,” stand open to the new things and the need of their society and country.

After having the club settled, I want to do much more fundraising, charity, events, trainings than I did this year and agitate healthy way of living by the project (a new one) that is international “I Hike for a Kaz” and trainings on HIV/AIDS sponsored by these fundraising.

These two things are not the only things I want to do.  Because there are also a lot of orphanages and poor families and bright students, I want to help to get all they can get from the future, go abroad, grow and get educated.

We need to develop and help non-governmental organizations as well.  So I want to be either the organizer of such organizations or their supporter and which is important I want to develop the youth, younger people, because their potential is amazing.  I hope my work will help to change our community and system for the better.  Word Count: 603

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Photos from Kostanay, Kazakhstan

Always good to see a new city in Kazakhstan outside of the two that start with the letter “A” Almaty and Astana.  We almost got to see the very western city of Aktobe when Irina I flew to Kostanay on Thursday morning because we overshot (due to some mechanical problems). We sat as transit passengers in the Aktobe airport for 50 minutes.  Once back on the Air Astana plane again we finally arrived to the Kostanay airport, very windy.

Later we found out we were NOT supposed to take photos of the airport, even the outside of it.  I had wanted one photo that was on the side of a building that was very Soviet looking. It had metalic, giant sheaves of grain as an emblem depicting the wheat production known to the area of Kazakhstan.  I would have liked to have taken photos in one of the libraries I stopped in looking for the Internet cafe in Kostanay but thought better of it.  The librarians were so helpful and acted as if they had never talked to a foreigner before.  Sadly the rooms and shelves of books were outdated, it was like stepping back into a time machine to the 1970s.  I thought it NOT appropriate to take photos of that because the people who worked there might have felt ashamed.

Kostanay is close to the Russian border and walking around the city on our way to the Tsum department store could have been anywhere in Ukraine.  The streets had trees that were fully grown (not to be seen in the new city of Astana), the buildings had the same architecture as anywhere in the former Soviet Union. I saw more Nivas, Ladas and other poor man’s vehicles in this town than the Mercedes, BMWs, Audis and Hummers you often see in Almaty. I bought three little plants I put in my carryon luggage that were much cheaper at the Tsum department store than any prices I had seen back in Astana, where things seem greenless, barren, and cold.  Good memories of the agricultural area of Kostanay whenever I will look at my little plants growing and flourishing in our Astana flat.  Check out the funny dress on the mannequin that probably sold for a LOT of money that no one could afford.  Cell phones? They were “celling” them everywhere on the first floor of Tsum!  I’ll stick with my old clunky Nokia phone that is about five years old.

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Kostanay Events thus far

Yesterday we awoke to continued wicked winds, cold blasts from the west. The flags everywhere were in full salute mode. These fierce winds had not let up from the night before where you could barely stand still at the stoplight, the strong wind pushed you in places you didn’t want to go. Especially tricky if there was ice and a slight slope to the tundra below one’s boots. In this case, I didn’t know if the Air Astana aircraft would be able to push hard enough against the wind to reach our western destination of Kostanay.

When Irina and I arrived to the airport with our luggage full of our university’s posters and brochures, we found out that we were re-routed to go to Aktobe first. This city is about the farthest west you can go in Kazakhstan and they are an hour behind in time. Once in the Aktobe airport, we waited as transit passengers for 50 minutes, we got back on the same aircraft with our American sounding pilot who had a Korean last name of Kim.

In the captain of our ship’s words as we were about to land in Kostanay, he said that the visibility was so low that we might have to circle a bit until conditions improved. Irina turned to me and matter of factly said that it might be possible that we would head back to Aktobe. Gulp. However, that wasn’t as bad as our traveling companions who had gone to the Astana airport with us. Iznaur and Gulmira had their flight cancelled and tried to get on the train to their second destination but that had been cancelled three times as well. Their travel plans were scrapped until a later date and with about 70 kilos worth of suitcase full of brochures they returned to work.

At least Irina and I finally landed in Kostanay and had only a half hour before we were in front of about 200 Kazakh and Kazakhstani students. We pulled out the university information from our luggage to distribute to the eager, but very young students. They ALL wanted a colorful brochure but we tried to give to every other student so they could share. We realized that not all students are interested in our university especially this younger crowd, some were only 9th or 10th graders gathered for an Olympiad. These were students from all over the Kostanay region and not from the top schools like we were used to seeing in Taras.

Irina and I quickly went through our powerpoint presentation of 23 slides explaining the program and procedure of registering for the English entrance test off our university website. I then asked for questions in English, of course. The students were a bit hesitant to ask, finally I heard a weak “How are you?” I smiled and said, “I am fine and you?” I could see their English abilities were on the shy side. Another used a different ploy, “Tell us about yourself.” I disregarded that textbook sentence because I had already given them a quick summary of who I was and why I loved Kazakhstan, a country of romance for me.

I didn’t go into detail about why I thought Kazakhstan was a place of romance and how I had met my husband in 1993 in Almaty. I told them instead that I had lived and taught in China, Philippines, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and finally Kazakhstan. I asked them a rhetorical question about which county I liked the best. I answered my own question with, “Kazakhstan, of course.” Those who were following my American English, smiled, they were pleased that I loved their country.

Actually, it was my husband who had wanted to come to Kostanay because of his interest in the grain production that this area of Kazakhstan is known for. However, just before landing, I could see that there was open pit mining, two huge craters of different levels continued to drop deep into the earth. I could see shelter belts but the rest of the land was under the snow, no way of knowing how successful their farming was. Everything looked pure but cold.

I asked for a show of hands of how many were interested in the different programs and about 10% were interested in engineering, I would guess about 20. About 5-6 each indicated an interest in economics, international relations, chemistry, physics, math. I had forgotten biology as someone shouted that out, oh yes, biology? Another five or so raised their hands. When it was obvious that we had answered their questions in the overly warm auditorium we let them go. Some stayed huddled in their groups while another 20 or so swarmed around Irina to ask her questions in Russian.

Other questions asked of Irina were “Do we need the ENT test?” “How many years for medical school?” “Will there be sports or gym facilities or teams to belong to in sports?” One parent asked, “If my child got 113 on the ENT, does she have special privileges?”

The best part of my day was to meet three young Kazakh girls named Adila, Medina and Aida from Kostanay. The first two were twin sisters and all three had wanted to go to the U.S. on the FLEX program but didn’t make the cut. However, they had friends who were in the US now on that program. These girls also had parents who wanted them to be in a particular discipline different from what they wanted. Aida wants to be a doctor but her economist mother is strongly opposed to that, she wants Aida to be an economist. The other two sisters have a mother who is a pharmacist but they are being strongly advised to pursue economics as well.

Something to consider is that these young people sometimes don’t know what they want to do yet, it is too early to tell at the tender age of 17 years. Also, these young people may have gifts and talents in one direction but due to societal or parental pressure will be forced into a discipline that is not their interest. I asked for a show of hands of how many considered themselves sportsman, about 25 raised their hands. I asked how many thought of themselves as musicians, good with the dombra, piano, violin, singing, another 25 raised their hands. So, those who have gifts in these areas might pursue that route and not be ready to be fitted into a rigid discipline yet. We shall see who signs up, who passes the test and who finally shows up next fall. I told them that I hope to see many of them at our university in September.

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Cogent Thoughts on Education from a Kazakh-Korean Friend

The following thoughts are from a Kazakh-Korean friend of mine who already has a law degree.  Aliya is currently studying in the U.S. at the School of Education at Vanderbilt College in Tennessee.  I’m eager to get more of her cogent thoughts on how she would compare her experience of post-Soviet system of learning to that of the American style.  We had a delightful chat over Skype the other day, when it was about 2:00 a.m. for her while it was 2:00 in the afternoon for me.  She shared with me what she was learning about cultural diversity concerning autonomy and the collective group think.  I queried her more between Kazakh and American cultural differences.  She is a wealth of information, a valuable resource in the up and coming generation who will change Kazakhstan for the better. She is one of the best of the best, and she counts me as her friend.

“I still remember the time when I was in secondary school in Aktobe city, all my thirty classmates including myself had exactly the same subjects to study.  Everyone struggled.  Some couldn’t understand literature, some—math.  I personally had difficulty to study chemistry as my strengths were in history, languages, grammar, literature, painting and music.  Even in my young age, I didn’t like the fact that everyone was taught in the same way by the same methods in spite of our talents and interests.  Ever since I was a schoolgirl, I cherished a strong desire to change existing school system.  I knew education should help a person to develop his potential and talents, but not to make him feel as “another regular pupil” with identical personality and strengths.

I enjoy being part of transformation process and relationships with different persons.  The backward teaching methodology and prevailing Soviet pedagogical ideology have stopped Kazakh education from the modern international development.  I, as a cell of new developing State structure, can make a difference. Young generation defines the future of economical, cultural, scientific and political growth of Kazakhstan.  In my personal experience, despite the fact that some of the issues I face in my educational career can be resolved by consulting relevant information through literature, I found that more serious flaws inherent in Kazakh current educational system that can’t be worked out easily.

A saying: “Some people dream of accomplishments while others stay awake and do them.” I truly believe that we need to stand for doing accomplishments to make changes in our society.

There are a lot of facts that cause poor quality of education such as: lack of sufficient finances form the government (it doesn’t allow universities to have necessary equipment and materials.  For example, USA funds 5-6% of its GDP to education, when Kazakhstan funds only 2-3% of GDP), lack of experienced professors staff (many of them still hold to old Soviet methods), lack of information materials, literature, Internet development, electronic databases, lack of students’ responsibility towards their society and future.  Kazakh education is waiting for progressive modification.  The first and most important change comes from mentality of human beings. In order to make significant changes, we need to change ourselves.

The current situation and business world reality dictates to the graduated students: “When you start working, forget what you studied! Let’s start over!”  It is affected by the strong gap between academic university knowledge and practical skills required by public and business institutions.  Out-of-date Soviet educational methods are practiced even after 17 years of independence of Kazakhstan.

I am also concerned about wide habit of “cheating” among Kazakh students at the exams and tests.  Their mentality doesn’t allow them to see the importance of gaining knowledge.  Students use this practice in 80% cases without realizing they are cheating on themselves and their future.  I truly believe – education defines who we are and who we become.

Russian proverb:  “One person is not a warrior in the battle field.” But I believe every single person matters.  I think step by step progressive people of Kazakhstan can change the nation to the better, including education.  My deep-longing dream is to change the world to the better.  Education is one of the tools to fulfill it.”

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Diana D’s Grandmother Believed in Music and Education

I think I have an amazing grandmother. She is my dad’s mother, and she always lived in our neighborhood, so we are very close with her. In her spare time she likes to tell us her stories, so I know a lot about her and my grandfather’s life. Her stories are always very interesting and I like to talk with her.  She is a strong woman, politically active, intelligent and a leader in her community.

About 50 years ago, when she was 23 years old she graduated from the state university, and worked as a teacher in a small school in a small town of Aktobe region, but she had great plans for her future. She was very ambitious, at first she founded a music band among small students and organized their concerts. At that time, most of the people were illiterate, and she wanted more people to be educated. For this purpose she wanted to open a new school in that town, so she went to Almaty to find people who could help her. Two years later finally a new school was opened, and till this day, the citizens of that town still remember her. After that, she met my grandfather and fell in love with him, but he was very modest, so my granny made a proposal of marriage to grandfather herself. They had 5 children, and now 11 grandchildren, last year we all celebrated their 50 years wedding anniversary.

Even though she had 5 small children, her social and political life was very rich, it was the Soviet Union time, and she received a Medal of Honor for her achievements in the social sphere. When she was 44 years old she became a Chief Magistrate of city called Kandyagash, and made a lot of good and useful things to citizens, opened new schools, hospitals, and organized concerts. Nowadays that city has a kindergarten named in honour of her.

I admire her, because I think she lived very balanced life, she had a happy family and she fulfilled herself in a successful career. She had a huge influence (in a good way) on all of us, she taught me the importance of helping others and of fighting injustice. She told me to be myself at any time. I hope when I’ll be at her age, I’ll be as respected as she is.

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Serikzhan’s Grandfather Hides his rewards and honors

My grandfather’s name is Taskaly. He was born in 1928 in the town called Furmanov. His childhood was gloomed by the Second World War. His two brothers died during it. This period was very hard for a young boy. However, he knew that he must work in order to help his family. He started working early, actually when he was 13 years old he worked as an accountant in his town. Later in 1944 he was promoted and worked as the main bookkeeper of Furmanov. Not bad for a 16 year old boy, but he didn’t stop improving himself, due to the fact that he was the bread-winner in his family.

Therefore, in 1946 he worked in the Ministry of Finance; in 1953 he was the deputy of his region. But he managed to work and study simultaneously, so in 1953 he graduated from Semipalatinsk Finance School by distance learning. He continued his study in 1956, when he was sent to Leningrad private finance school by the Ministry of Finance. Later, unfortunately the school was closed by Khrushev. At that time all students studied in KazGu, so did my grandfather. He graduated from that university in 1961.

In 1958, he was elected as a chairman of Uralsk’s RaiPotrepsouz and worked there for 5 years. In 1962 he moved from Uralsk to Aktobe, because he had a new job. He worked as the director of Aktobe’s KRAI for a long time. This was a very difficult time, not because his salary was low, but because of the fact that he had a family consisting of 10 people: 3 daughters, 3 sons, his parents and a wife. Although he had a good position he had never tried to take bribes, to steal anything whatsoever. This helped him to gain respect and he benefited from it later.

In 1983 he became a chairman of OblPotrepsouz. It was one of the highest positions in the town that is why he became famous. He retired in 1988 and nowadays he’s enjoying his rest. He has a lot of friends and they invite him to their houses, where they talk about their reminiscences. Our government doesn’t forget his contributions. He has been given many rewards since 1988 but he always hides them from me just because he doesn’t want to look like a conceited person.

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