Posts tagged Almaty

All about the soil, gardening and shards

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Finished up on grades, was part of the graduation ceremony, planting vegetable gardens, mowed for first time last week (needs to be done again) and getting ready for our Syttenden Mai celebration on Saturday at the Carnegie.

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The latest find that makes me happy is going out to the nearby field and finding more glass shards from crocks and also fine dishes.  Last night I found an antique axehead, it was just laying right on the top of the ground.  Much other metal that I pick up.  Remnants of bricks where this farm used to be.  My Dad said that they would go by and pick up the neighbor kids to go to the country schoolhouse, so I KNEW there had been a place but now I know more where the location was. Their place was farther from the road and more into the field, like a football field away.

Anyway, I will start making some artsy things with the pretty glass I have uncovered, perhaps I have already maxed out on the other place I used to go to one mile from our house.  I should check for asparagus though.  The rhubarb is ready and I gave a whole bag to my Mom.  Life is good because I have good friends like Phyllis and a wonderful sister.  They listen to me when I am struggling and hurting.

The Chancellor the other day asked me about the reputations of universities in Almaty, Astana and Aktau, Kazakhstan.  I wrote a real quick, gut level reaction to her question about whether they were reputable.  I wonder what she thought of my analysis?  I mentioned what I knew while teaching at KIMEP in Almaty and NU in Astana. Reputation IS important.

 

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Update after this week

Ken at Koktobe

Not much going on that is unusual…I found a photo of my husband showing off an American hat from our US locality in Almaty, Kazakhstan. We were on Koktobe for a nice outing by using the cable car.  When I had first lived in Almaty, the cable car was not working in 1994 but by the time we went back to live and teach in 2007, it was working and bringing many people up to see the city of Almaty below.

Me in Almaty

During our time at KIMEP, as I wrote earlier, my husband and I went to an American football game where our students were playing against another team that had far better jerseys and equipment. I can’t remember what the score was or who won but it was inspiring to see that the Kazakh students who had lived in the US for a year or two under the FLEX program had been encouraged enough to replicate what they saw back in their own home country once back.  Even the girls got in the act with cheerleading.

NU Astana, Kazakhstan

After our 2-3 years of teaching at KIMEP, we ended up at NU in Astana when it first was getting started. That would almost be eight years ago now. You can see a model of what the whole campus is supposed to look like once all is finished.  The building itself where I taught is in the background.  What a HUGE undertaking this was to create this kind of “westernized” university in the capital city of Kazakhstan. I wish the students and teachers all well.

 

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More skating in Astana, Kazakhstan

four countriesI suppose many people are watching the Winter Olympics in Korea, some amazing talent there!  Not sure who took this photo of four nations represented but we were skating on a frozen solid river in Astana, Kazakhstan.  On the left is a former Kazakh student, then Wilma from Netherlands, a guy from U.K. who liked to travel everywhere and me.  Seven years ago I was teaching and living in Astana, the coldest capital in the world, second to Ulan Baatar in Mongolia.  Yes, when the winds swept through the northern plains to Kazakhstan you wondered what the weather was like north of us, in Russia.

Didn’t matter the temp or the wind chill, an expat friend of mine from U.K. would cross country ski every day along the river in Astana.  I thought she might have been crazy or part Norwegian but this was her usual thing to do while her husband had some kind of government job.  Wonderful couple, I wonder where they are or if Wilma is back in Holland.  I keep up with most of my former students from NAU through FB.

I’m amazed that I had so many visitors to this blog yesterday, must have been something I wrote or the pictures I put up.  I used to have over a 100 a day when I was actually living in Kazakhstan and talking about the culture and people.  Now I just put up occasional pictures of my life back in Minnesota.  The following is something I see a LOT of on our northern plains.

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Life may be cold here, as it is in Astana, but the hearts are warm and we have memories to go on.  I doubt that I’ll ever get back to Central Asia after having lived in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan for 1 1/2 years and Almaty and Astana, Kazakhstan for 2 1/2 years, over four years.

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Harvey has taken over global news

News for us is that the plum trees have taken over with their bounty…the harvest is plentiful.  The apples are done and my Mom has taken care of about two 5 gallon buckets full of apples.  I have maybe a gallon or so in the fridge and will make a few more apple pies.  Now, what to do with all these plums that Ken and I picked tonight?

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That is OUR news on the homefront but things are not good for my friends down in the Houston, TX area.  The following are pictures of the couples home that I know from Almaty, Kazakhstan.  The devastation that so many families are going through is very sad. But these people are working together to help each other because that is all they have left.

I’m grateful for our fruit and vegetable harvest even though it means a LOT of work to make them into something.  I just give most of it away like the turnips and the basil.  Next will be the red beets.  Oy my!

Thom Orr

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Happy Mother’s Day

Okay, ONE hour left in Central time in the U.S. to wish mothers a very special day today. We went to church, I played two violin duets with a former Korean student and then to pick up my folks.  I had to give my Mom our lilac and plum blossom bouquet first.  Then I also had along a Campfire coleus that requires full sun. That’s unusual for coleus which requires little to NO sun.  Then I also gave her a Ukrainian beaded necklace I bought for her a month ago in Kyiv.  Hard to believe I was there for ten days just a month ago.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Glad I’m back to our beautiful spring and how everything is greening out so nicely in the tree lines.  Our plums have been wonderful, next up will be our crabapple tree out front.  We are starting to get lilacs and then the chokecherry blossoms should be out as well.  Ken hosted my folks and me to a nice buffet this afternoon after church and then we went for a drive to a very famous nursery, it was bustling with activity, lots of flowers, plants, bare root trees were going out the door.  The grounds itself will be planted with whatever is left over from what people don’t buy.

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Ken and I planted our garden that I had in our bay window for several weeks.  We put out brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, peppers and 24 different tomatoes.  Some insect was already eating up the leaves of the cauliflower and cabbage so I put SEVIN on it.  Now tonight I discovered that our ever so industrious gopher took out one of our peppers because he is setting up his mounded home in OUR garden. Ken put out some “bait” for that critter.  I DO NOT LIKE gophers!!!

Tonight Ken and I went for a drive in the countryside to our favorite asparagus patches and found some surprises and other places that are late bloomers.  I will bring some of that to work to share with others and also some lilac bouquets.  We are blessed to be living out in the countryside although right now it is VERY dusty.  We could use some rain soon.

For this month of May, I thought I better get this post done so I have at least two postings for my blog this month. I was advertising this to a genealogy group I spoke to last week.  I used to post every day while I lived in Kazakhstan.  Now being away from it for so long, I only keep up with what I am doing while living back in the U.S.  I am glad I still have visitors that come to this site…many are from either the US and Canada or Kazakhstan. I’m surprised how many other countries are represented in looking up about what I experienced while I lived and taught in both Almaty and Astana for about four years.  Great country. I wonder if I will ever get back to Kazakhstan again?

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Acronym “TWWHADI” with board meetings

I heard this acronym of “TWWHADI” when we left for Almaty, Kazakhstan in 2008 to teach at a western university.  It meant that the person who shared it with us felt hand-tied in trying to get anything done because of the objection of: “The Way We Have Always Done It.”  There are people who do NOT like change and believe that they have a defense in saying that this is the way it is, DON’T change it!  This has recently come to my attention by talking with two board members who think I am going too fast with getting things done around the museum and the Carnegie building.   The one thing I heard several times as a kind of excuse was that with boards, things go slower.  I said that things were NOT changing fast enough because everyone was used to sitting on their hands and not getting anything accomplished. Perhaps it was the person’s way of getting off the hook or feeling less guilt about NOT doing anything more constructive.

I was also reminded of a Kazakh proverb that relates to this kind of inactivity. As a result, we are hurting financially at the museum. We do not have BIG donors because people don’t think we have a problem. We do!   Some may not be interested in history, rather some are all about sports or music. They find history boring. Anyway, the proverb goes something like this: “A place with noise, laughter and chaos is a home but a quiet, inactive place is a cemetery.”  To that effect we have people who are happy with leaving things just the way they found it.  There had been VERY active people who set up the museum about 30 years ago but it has stayed the same since then. Sadly, they have died and taken their good stories of our illustrious past with them to the grave. Also, these contrary people don’t want to hurt the feelings of those who have donated things to the museum.  As a result, we have 20 irons, 6 treadle sewing machines, about 5-6 pump organs and the list goes on and on.

Unfortunately, our museum is NOT kid-friendly…or adult friendly for that matter. We have a plethora of material objects that has been given to the museum from grandma’s attic, simultaneously we are living in an area that has depopulated.  These days we don’t have as many children in our town.  Sadly, there is more activity in the cemeteries for the older generation than at the playgrounds for the very young people. This fits with the Kazakh proverb. Noisy Activity =  Life while Indecisive Inactivity = Death. We need to have a paradigm shift in the minds of those who are older and think that things should remain the same as they were 25-30 years ago.  They are NOT!    We live in the 21st century with new technology that helps with preserving the old, tried and true ways from yesteryear.

I liken this fosslized thinking with the bonanza farms that were in this area in the 1870s. There were many big investors from the East Coast and the bigger cities in those days grinding out a profit with the grain fields up and down our farming valley.  These bonanza farmers soon found out that you could not hold on to qualified workers for such tough seasonal work. People from my state acknowledged you were better off with the shift to diversified, family farms in order to make the soil remain tilled and cultivated.  The shift happened and now from smaller, diversified farms we have another shift to huge, family farms that are getting crops out of their 10,000-15,000 acres instead of a half a section or under 300 acres.

Some people on our board are admitting finally that we have a financial problem where our County Commissioners are only giving us $10,000 a year whereas they gave us twice that amount many years ago.  What has changed? Why do we not have the backing of the commissioners?  We are a big county and there are separate heritage centers in other smaller towns.  We do not actually represent ALL of our county even though that is our name of our historical society. Yet that should be our bottom-line when accepting items from donors.  Does this article of clothing, toy, household good, farm machinery tell the County story?  Otherwise, we are going to look like a hardware store full of the same items or appear like a antique dealership showing off how many of the same things available for sell. Although, in our case as a museum, we are NOT selling, we are just wanting to make sure we don’t hurt anyone’s feelings by NOT displaying it. You never know, you may have a relative that will come asking if grandma’s wedding dress is still on display or if the tractor grandpa donated is still working…

I realize that things take longer if you go through a committee but I have also found that you also get many good ideas and also cooperation to get the work done in less time. I have been on many committees and several boards.  It is wonderful to see how board’s missions which are articulated and followed can accomplish great things.  As a writing teacher, I see my students’ essays as either being clunky and not getting their message across or those students who know how to streamline their thoughts in writing and get the basic, simple story told.

Instead what we have is a LOT of redundancy (which is never fun to read if you want to see creativity in your students’ writing) and we have a resulting storage issue at the museum.  We need to be either displaying things that are vital to the mission of telling the County story OR store things in acid free boxes which costs money and takes up valuable space.  What we ALSO need to do is sell those things in a live auction so that other interested people can have some of the extra things that are clutter and not needed in our museum.  So, the very people who are concerned about spending too much money on wifi at the Carnegie or other necessary things for proper security or storage are also the ones who DO NOT want to sell things in an auction.

Another problem is that we are short staffed with willing and capable volunteers and we have no museum director because at this point we can’t afford one.  The roadblocks and obstacles that seem to be standing in the way seem insurmountable but I think I have been placed in this job for a reason…I will NOT give up. Hopefully those who are saying negative things about me will step down from their positions of “authority” and be replaced by those who have good ideas and are active enough to see them through.  I don’t see how you can be a “director” on a board if you are NOT directing anything.  Unless, of course, your direction is to be negative and be a naysayer about the person who is trying to get things done.

Okay, I think I will see what can be accomplished with grading my students’ papers.

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What is going on in Kazakhstan?

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Today I saw there were severe mudslides in Almaty. I have a suspicion I know where this might have happened.  When we went up to the mountains towards the end of our stay in Almaty, we traversed some rugged roads where a LOT of the Kazakhs liked to go for a weekend out of town.  I had heard something of a dam and some disaster that had happened many years ago.

Then I also saw something about a sleeping sickness that leaves a mystery about why people are taken down and sleep. Different theories about that illness. The place where it is happening is north and northwest of Astana, the current capital.  I can’t recall the small village’s name where people have suffered from this sleeping sickness.  It was a long article about how one woman named Lubya had been stricken down about five years ago.

On another note, we had our 75-80 year old box elder tree come down. It just tipped over from its roots. We had to have three guys who are professional tree removers come and move it out of the back yard.  Now I put up some yard art to make it look more decorative.  Thus the photos. I have been busy with other things going on as well. I’m glad that I have two composition classes for next fall…at least that much, maybe there will be another class.

We are enjoying the GREEN of summer.

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