Posts tagged Almaty

Twenty-seven Questions and First Impressions of Kyrgyzstan (Part III)

My last part of a letter I wrote to Tanya, dated May 8, 1994. She was a teaching colleague and friend at the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota where we taught ITAs (International Teaching Assistants) together.
20) How are you surviving in terms of food, heat, housing and friends?
The food has little fiber or what there is might be peeled off because of uncertainty in the pesticides used. I am back to eating the apple skins if they are good apples. Many people eat sunflower seeds everywhere. There is LOTS of meat here so for all vegetarians who plan to come to this part of the world, think again. Many of the Peace Corps volunteers that I trained last summer had to succumb to the lifestyle here or they were forever in a heat about all the meat that was served. It is simply part of this culture, the nomadic tribesmen herding their sheep around.
In fact, yesterday I was at the market wanting to buy some sheep for the manti [steamed meat dumpling] party I was to have with my Kyrgyz students that evening but there was only beef. On my way home I was walking on the sidewalk of the main drag when I saw a sheep running at full tilt down the main street in the oncoming traffic lane. He was being chased by three-four men. I thought to myself, “that was the sheep I need for my party.” The sheep kept getting away from the men and probably was hit by a car. It is unusual to see a live sheep in the middle of an urban setting, they are EVERYWHERE out in the country. Food is plentiful and the vegetables are seasonal. The winter months there were no cucumbers or tomatoes but now that is ALL that you will see for salads at restaurants for the next six months.
As far as heat, I had a cold apartment but that is because the windows are not insulated well. This is because of poor workmanship. However, the winter months here are mild compared to Minnesota winters. I didn’t suffer too badly from my cold apartment since I had an electric heater and blanket. I love the place where I live, seven stories up with a view of the mountains from the east AND west sides. I pay $130 a month for a four room “flat.”
You asked about friends…I have my teacher friends and I have friends that I made through Peace Corps, the sauna, and also the church that I attend. There are plenty of people here I can go to plus I have e-mail so that I can keep up with old friends back in the States!
21) Have you had to deal with any shortages?
No, not like when I lived in China (1986-88) where they didn’t have sugar for a time or butter at other times. But yes, because they don’t have peanut butter or brown sugar or Stateside items like that, I just bring it with me when I have a chance to go home. We do not have massive shortages that I am aware of like I experienced in China or that they have in Mongolia, for instance. Also, I have money that can buy me more things whereas the local people on their subsistence living could probably tell you about shortages.
22) Have you had many opportunities to get to know any of the faculty there?
Yes, my dean, of course we are becoming friends in a professional sense. Others that I teach pronunciation to, I have had them over for a manti party. I don’t feel particularly close to any of my Kyrgyz teaching colleagues since they often have more than one job to supplement their income. They are busy with family too.
23) Have you been able to make many friends with the locals? As I mentioned before, I have my sauna friends and my landlady is my friend, as is my Russian teacher. I have not invested a lot of time in getting to know their culture by going to their homes and participating in their traditions. It would be a Russified form and not a true picture of the real Kyrgyz.
24) How would you typify the culture? It is a sort of hybrid of Russian and Kyrgyz, more heavily influenced by the Russian communist way of thinking. Perhaps there is some Asian way of thinking but compared to the Chinese I know and living in China, the Kyrgyz are more westernized. By the way, they have a strong dislike for anything Chinese! Carryover of Russia’s prejudice against their formidable border foe.
25) Would you say that it is heavily influenced by Russian culture, Turkish culture, Mongolian or what?
As mentioned already, the Russians have heavily influenced the capital city and the Turkish language has had a heavy influence in the Kyrgyz language. Perhaps if you went out to the countryside, the Mongolian presence would be strong, but I don’t know.
26) Do you feel it is easy to get to know people or do you find the people to be somewhat reserved?
They are fairly easy to get to know and rather “too” straightforward about their opinion sometimes. (Russian influence) They are not reserved like the Chinese I know. In fact, most of the Kyrgyz students I have are quite extroverted and outgoing. Their speaking skills are very good for never having had a native speaker talk to them before this year.
27) How are you looked upon being a single woman?
It is much easier to be single here in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan than it was in China. There they thought something was wrong with you if you weren’t married by age 25. Here, for foreigners, they made allowances up to 30. But here in Bishkek they seem to have a more westernized view of life and again this is my views from the people in the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Perhaps in the countryside they would think that I should be married with seven kids by now.
Tanya, that is all for now. Hopefully I have shed some light on the little bit that I know about this Kyrgyz culture. I remember a year ago I had these same questions. So answering them now to the best of my abilities made me think that I have actually learned something about this culture and am happy to share it with you.
By the way, Tanya, your name is very popular here. One of my best friend’s name is Tatyana, she is living in Almaty, Kazakhstan and her friends call her Tanya for short. I hope this has helped you and that you apply for a Fulbright here because they would love to have your expertise…

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Twenty-seven questions and first impressions of Kyrgyzstan (Part II)

This blog continues from the other day where I was asked 27 questions in May of 1994 and I only got up to eight questions with their subsequent answers. My Mom was going through old letters and she had printed out my e-mail that I had sent so it is fun to see what my first impressions were after having lived in Central Asia for almost a year. I had done a Peace Corps training stint in Almaty, Kazakhstan the summer before and was on a Fulbright grant the following academic year in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. I was teaching at KAF (Kyrgyzstan Academic Faculty) which turned into another name that exists today.

Here are the following questions in bold asked by my friend Tanya with answers that may still be relevant today:

9) What kind of folk arts can you find? There are LOTS of wall hangings with the peculiar traditional designs of nature woven into them. They are sometimes done on felt or other brightly colored cloth. The carpets are almost always red while the wall hangings will be green and red or gold. The designs of nature are a kind of abstract leaf or bulls horns, mountains, etc.

10) Is there any carpet making or weaving? Yes, I have a carpet that has ALL the colors you can imagine in it and it has the leaf and horns motif throughout. This may be done with weaving felt together. I have also seen other handmade wool carpets but I have not seen much weaving that would be done on looms. These are a nomadic people who worked on carpets or wallhangings for their yurts (collapsable tents).

11) Do you see much needlework in Bishkek? Not the kind of needlework you are probably thinking about that the Hmong do. It is a different kind of needlework which is obviously hand done but it is more like threads of gold brocade on top of different patterns or designs of felt material underneath.

12) Can you tell me more about the courses you’re teaching? Last semester I taught Phonetics which I enjoyed thoroughly and Business English which the students seemed to enjoy thoroughly. They liked what I had to say in phonetics since it was all new to them, old to me since I used a lot of stuff from teaching ITAs [International Teaching Assistants back at the U of M, Minneapolis campus]. The students seem to be geared on business since they know that is their ticket to getting to the States and ultimately helping their country get ahead. Right now I am teaching Reading Lab which is a LOT of work for me and the students seem to be working hard at it too. Reading my home assignments and then answering comprehension questions when they come to class. I also give them periodic vocabulary quizzes based on the vocabulary words I have pulled from their readings. They also are doing extra credit reading by reading Longman classics and then writing reports on that.

13) How much English background do your students have? Near zero to university level. That is what makes my reading lab so difficult is that I have four different levels that I’m preparing for with about two or three different levels in each of the four classes. Arghh! Their background is from the privileged class of Kyrgyzstan so many have been abroad before with exposure to different languages and have been taught at the specialized English schools. We have a wide range with the 38 students we are teaching.

14) How many hours a week do you teach? Ten hours but that means an hour and 20 minutes of contact time but it is counted as two “academic” hours. I have five lesson preps because I teach the secretaries and teachers pronunciation for two of the other that I teach besides the four Reading Lab classes.

15) How much time do you need to prepare your classes? If I told you the number of hours that it took to read the different books, photocopy the ones that are appropriate for the different levels, cut out the extra to consolidate on less paper, photocopy for each class, come up with comprehension qustions, read through again for vocabulary words that might trip up the students, think of vocabulary quizzes, grade the comprehension questions, read the extra credit reading reports…it would prove that I didn’t love my job.  I have NO idea how many hours I spend in front of my computer thinking up exercises but since I enjoy stimulating the students to work, I count it as a joy.

16) Is the level of the university there comparable to an American university?  It is supposed to be, because at the end of their four years they are supposed to get a diploma from the University of Nebraska. However, about half of our students are not cutting it and it is more like teaching at the Minnesota English Center.  It is pre-university and maybe only about 15 of our students would be able to handle the course load of a real university in the States.

17) Do any of the faculty there have a background in EFL or Linguistics? Yes, one of the American teachers has an MA from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. The other American teacher is from Brattleboro with an MA from there. The other American teachers have undergraduate degrees with some experience in ESL. No, noone here has a strong background in linguistics which is sorely needed and wanted.  We can always rely on our Kyrgyz teaching counterparts to teach grammar which all of us Americans have a general dispassion for where they have a certain euphoria in drilling the students in grammar. Must be because Russian is so grammar-bound that they have such a zeal.

18) Or do they come from a literature background?  Not sure how to answer that. The Russian influence has brought a certain highbrow attitutde toward scholarly works especially by great Russians. Our school’s approach to learning has been of the humanities where our students are learning Latin their first year. Strange for a business school but we have a real mixed bag of things going on at our school which is a result of changing administrations, etc.

19) Is there any sort of speciality they might be looking for in future Fulbright candidates?  YES, EMPHASIS IN EFL/ESL WITH LINGUISTICS!!!

(to be continued)

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Chapters in the new book “Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt”

Drinking Camel's Milk coverI finished reading the new book “Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt.” I found it fascinating that this little book has so many good themes to keep it together, but that is what Kazakhstan is all about. A huge, expansive country with intricately woven topics of human drama throughout, from Almaty to Astana to Atyrau.

One of my favorites to read was the very first chapter titled “First Snow” by Jacyntha England, it was the only one that made me cry. The generosity of the Kazakhs and their kindnesses that are so unexpected at times is what makes this huge country so enigmatic. There were a few other Kazakhs that were too shrewd for their own good, in other words, they were NOT kind.

Yes, I also liked the chapter titled “Dromophobia” about the gypsy cabs. I took this form of transportation all the time when I lived in not only Kazakhstan but also in Kyiv, Ukraine. It was like sneaking in hitchhiking which we would NEVER do these days in the U.S. Taking cab rides from total strangers was the natural way to go, very efficient rather than using the city bus system. Admittedly, I had seen noticeable improvements in bus transport over the years in Kazakhstan since when I first arrived in 1993 compared to 2010. Still, either walking or hailing cabs was the way to navigate in the big cities of Almaty and Astana.

The one final chapter titled “The Long Horse Ride” by two people was also a favorite for me and I read a part of it to two of my classes today. The reason was I have many equine science students and they could easily relate to how these two horse riders traversed the Kazakhstan deserts to reach a goal, a personal goal. During their long ride, they went to Aralsk and saw the dried up Aral sea. Also, they came close to Baikonur, the space station where Uri Gagarin had shot up as a cosmonaut 50 years before their arrival. They experienced the kindnesses of the Kazakh nomad and the loneliness of the open spaces, being protected from howling wolves and offered camel’s milk for nourishment.

I don’t have the book in front of me because I lent it to my mom to read. In any case, I liked the chapter about the American woman who went to Kazakhstan to adopt children or at least helped with those children who were in orphanages. That was touching also.

I sent an extra copy of the new book about Kazakhstan to my Minnesota friend Kim living out in California. She enjoyed reading the chapter about our conversation on the top of Kok Tobe. She claimed I wrote down accurately what we had discussed those several hours spent up on the “Blue Ceiling” of Almaty back in June of 2008. Of course, it helped that I went directly home and blogged about our talk soon afterwards. Actually, I wished I had taken more notes while up on Kok Tobe during our picnic lunch because we talked a LOT more about different things concerning Kazakhstan and their illustrious people than what I actually documented.

Lesson I learned from that experience is to carry a notepad with you at ALL times. You never know when a well-informed interview might take place that will eventually find its way into a print edition of a future book. I had no idea that THAT particular noon day picnic what we talked on would become a chapter with other informative chapters in the book “Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt.” Check it out on Amazon.com yourself, especially if you are interested in other cultures, especially this little known, tucked away one in the middle of Central Asia. May there be many more books such as these for future inquisitive souls.

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“Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt” – newly released book

I’m extremely excited about this recently released book by Summertime Publishing for expat readers to learn more about Kazakshtan. I contributed a story in the second chapter of six chapters for this book. I’m awaiting my copy to come in the mail from the Italian editor, Monica Neboli. You can check it out for yourself by going to Amazon.com. In the 196 pages, there are over 20 authors who have also added their experiences to this book. The chapters are the following: 1) The Arrival 2) Kazakhstan’s History and Traditions 3) Contemporary Living in Kazakhstan 4) Cross-Cultural Exchanges 5) Travelling in Kazakshtan 6) The Silent Steppe.

After reading the first chapter’s entry by Jacyntha England about “First Snow,” I was brought to tears. Ms. England does a good job of showing how the Kazakh people are kind and giving. That’s what I want to remember about the many Kazakhs I met in Almaty and Astana the three and a half years I lived in Kazakhstan. In this case, they welcome the vulnerable visitor who doesn’t know how tough the country can be especially with the first snow of the season. The empathy shown by an old man acting as a taxi driver to a woman who has just arrived from a two week vacation in Thailand is endearing. The warming blanket is the key ingredient in this story. Please check this book out for yourself if you want to learn how other authors portray this well kept secret of a country…Kazakhstan.

Drinking Camel's Milk cover

The following is a summary about this book:
The Republic of Kazakhstan emerged from the former USSR as an independent nation in 1991. It is one of the largest countries in the world and Astana, its capital, is one of the youngest (and coldest) capital cities. In this anthology of expatriate experiences in Kazakhstan, 24 authors from 11 countries show us this Central Asian country as they know it.

In Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt, we travel to the country’s bustling, multicultural cities, to its rural homesteads steeped in rich traditions, and to the Kazakh Steppe, the vast open plain that has for centuries been home to a nomadic way of life. During the journey, we come to understand the importance of the yurt, or nomad’s tent, we are privy to a powerful reflection on Soviet-era labour camps, and we witness the build-up to a traditional Kazakh wedding.

In a variety of cross-cultural exchanges – some bewildering, some funny – we meet locals, try new cuisines, discover the work of a talented local artist, join one man’s quest for a unique piece of Kazakh furniture for his wife, and explore the steppe as it deserves to be explored – on horseback. More importantly, we are introduced to the warmth of Kazakh hospitality and we learn it is possible to survive the extreme temperatures of a Kazakh winter.

Whether you are an expat, a traveller or just curious about other cultures, Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt: Expat Stories from Kazakhstan will introduce you to the Kazakh landscape, people and cultures as experienced by its expatriates – both those who are passing through and those who have decided to stay.

‘A unique exploration of Kazakhstan through the eyes of foreigners, Drinking
Camel’s Milk in the Yurt touches upon cross-cultural exchanges, city living, history, traditions, unexpected friendships, adventure and more. With a generous mix of light-hearted expat tales and reflective stories of adaptation and discovery, this anthology enthrals the reader from beginning to end. Neboli has perfectly assembled captivating stories of uncovering a land largely unknown and often misunderstood, while simultaneously exposing a beautiful destination where selfless hospitality, overt kindness and longstanding traditions are common threads that weave this vast nation together.’
– Alison Cavatore, Founder, CEO & Editor-in-Chief of Global Living
Magazine, http://www.GlobalLivingMagazine.com

‘Twenty-four stories of impressions, memories, thoughts and emotions by expatriates in Kazakhstan – all topped with descriptions of aromas, flavours, colours and landscapes that trigger the imagination and carry one into this country straddling Europe and Asia…’
– M. Elena Spikermann, Literary Scout & Agent

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My “Kazakhstan” book will be out soon, check Amazon for details

9781909193239-Perfect V4s.inddI’m excited to announce that “Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt” will be out soon, a gem of a book all about Kazakhstan. There are 22 co-authors and it was compiled by Monica Neboli, the Editor. Summertime Publisher takes the credit for publishing this little volume, the publisher is Jo Parfitt out of the U.K.  I can’t wait to read the other chapters in this book written by ex-pat authors from all over the world who “experienced” Kazakhstan.  Of course, I know what I wrote which seems over a year ago or more but happened even earlier while I was living in Almaty, Kazakhstan. That seems light years ago.

When I know more details about this book, I’ll let my blog readers know.  Much of the traffick that comes on this blog are here for different reasons, following different tags.  Hopefully many people will want to order this book from Amazon or get it electronically for Kindle or Nook once it is off the presses. So few books have been written about this enigmatic country.

I’m happy to also announce that I actually have a second new book coming out.  The other one is about the history of my hometown in Minnesota and is published by Arcadia Publishing out of South Carolina. I was the sole author of this book which is 128 pages and showing off 215 vintage photos with captions. I just did the finishing touches with the proofreader today and so that will roll off the presses by August 5th. Good publishing news!

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Finishing up the semester, enjoying spring

IMG_0484Tomorrow I will have international students out for lunch, one is from Japan, another from China and the other from Taiwan.  I will also have an American with an Italian last name come for lunch along with my folks and the American’s parents.  They are camping out in our yard with their trailer because all the parks are still too wet to have overnight campers.  It will be fun to host them over the next week. Graduation exercises are next Saturday so I’ll wear my cap, gown and hood again.  Two weeks ago we had the inauguration for our new chancellor so we just kept everything for this big event. I hope it is sunny because right now it is gloomy and rainy.  The farmers could use the rain but I think we are all relieved that we didn’t have a flood with all the snow we had this winter.

For now I will put up some more photos because I don’t have too much to write about trafficking or about Kazakhstan. Of course, I am watching with interest the two friends of the bombing suspect from the Boston Marathon.  I had students’ names like theirs when I taught in Almaty and in Astana.  I should look back at a post I did about 4-5 years ago how the Muslim inside every Kazakh will rise up and help a fellow Muslim no matter what the nationality is.  Yep, that is what is going on with this 19 year old who is still recovering from his narrow escape from the law.  They would have eventually found him had he slipped away.  In any case, the search would have been easier had the friends of the 19 year old ‘fessed up about what they knew.

The above photo is our Central Park under water a week ago. This is showing my Mom’s tulips popping up, a sure sign of spring. IMG_0482

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Lapse of Posting My Blog Entries

I never thought it would come to this, my not posting in my blog as frequently as once a day, now it has been almost once a month.  I have been busy writing about local history and that has NOTHING to do with Kazakhstan.  None whatsoever.  Where I come from and my hometown in northwestern Minnesota are about as far apart from Astana or Almaty as can be.  So I thought I might put up a  sunrise or sunset shot and let you guess which it is.  I hope that once I am done teaching my composition students in May that I will write more that is pertinent to Kazakhstan.  I need to clean through my files to find more material that I collected about Central Asia. I owe my faithful followers and readers that much!

For now, please read the following blog about Alma Ata written by a former colleague of mine when I taught at KIMEP in Almaty.  Cheers! Molapse!

Sunrise

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So What? Sewing in Kazakhstan

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy Mom is pretty amazing with her sewing capabilities.  She asked for the measurements of our little two year old grandson on Facebook and got the response from the mother almost instantaneously. She finished her “assignment” in a matter of hours.  By the time we left for Arizona to visit all three grandsons, she had it ready to put in our suitcase.  Wow, that is efficient!

What about sewing in Kazakhstan? Do many people have this skill? I found this sign (see below) along Furmanova, just down from el Farabi street in Almaty several years ago.  I thought it was a clever sign incorporating the mountains that are in the backdrop with the look of stitches for sewing.  Uniquely Kazakh with the Cyrillic letters describing more about it in Russian.  I wonder if the shopkeeper has ever been bothered by the mafia elements. I remember when I first lived in Almaty back in 1993 (almost 20 years ago) that there had been a highly reputable cabinet and furniture maker.  Reportedly he was so good that he caught the attention of the bad characters who took over soon after the downfall of communism in 1991.

From what I understand he was “ordered” to make the specified furniture for these bad guys in a very short amount of time.  When they came back for it at their designated day, the craftsman had not completed the job.  They said, “I don’t think you understand, we need that furniture NOW!  Get it done or it will not go well with members in your family.”  I don’t remember whether the task was accomplished or if he went against his own creed of good craftsmanship to get the furniture done quickly. It seems he was left with no choice but to comply to their wishes and forced to do shoddy work in order to save the lives of his family members.  That would be a kind of slavery and for doing good work, this furniture maker had been penalized.

Sad that this kind of thing goes on in Kazakhstan. I know that many Germans and Russians left soon after the fall, they knew that they were no longer “welcome” in a land that was originally the Kazakhs.  I wonder how Almaty shop keepers who are trying to do a good business are doing in this kind of business climate.  I suppose those who have never learned a craft of which they can be proud of would just say “So what.” Clueless thugs.

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British Teacher Combats H.T. in Kazakhstan

I haven’t written for a while in my blog and apologize for that to my avid readers. Instead of my stats diminishing, they have increased.  I guess I have ample material with enough keyword searches on the subject on Kazakhstan that I will continue to get “hits” whether I write much or not.

As an earlier blog indicated, I thought I was finally returning to Astana but it didn’t work out.  Hurricane Sandy had something to do with my passport being delayed so that I missed my first flight. My passport was stuck or held up for over a week in New York.  When I was ready to take my second, rescheduled flight once I DID get my passport back, the visa read: “NO RIGHT TO WORK.”  So, the whole point of my going to Astana was to teach English and I would have had to do it for FREE with that kind of bureaucratic stamp in my passport. Truth be told, I have felt like a “slave” in the past when I taught at a “westernized” university in Almaty.  Well, it wasn’t that bad, but as a professional I was not paid well and treated disrespectfully.  But I know I wasn’t singled out as an American, those  in “control” of teachers did the same to my colleagues, their own Kazakh teachers.

I am glad to read what a British teaching colleague is doing about human trafficking in Astana.  He has become very active in the movement and I KNOW he will leave a lasting impression on many he leaves behind.  The following is how David sees himself fighting the good fight against human trafficking in Kazakhstan. May his tribe increase so once he does leave Kazakhstan, there will be many more who follow in his footsteps combating human trafficking.

“It has long been my custom to give away clothes, etc when leaving any country I have been working in (Kz is the 10th I lived & worked in) to this end on my arrival in Astana, I searched for & found a charitable organization here in Astana and organized a clothes collection to pass on to them. The end of winter gave me the opportunity to de-clutter my colleagues’ wardrobe (ok, closet for Americans) and help those in need!

I have been involved in volunteering over many years both when I was younger in the UK with social causes (Adult Literacy, Youth work among other areas) and in more recent years in sport as a coach/referee (especially in fencing). I had never been involved in the area of trafficking & in all honesty knew little about it when I first became involved as I have begun to learn much more about the area I realize what a horrific crime against humanity it is & I should do what little I can.

The organization I became involved in is the International Organisation for Migration which deals with migration & human trafficking around the world. I visited the offices here in Astana & they are in need of clothes and/or domestic equipment. The majority of cases in Central Asia are concerned with labour trafficking & the majority of victims are men which is very different from the overall global picture! When someone is rescued from conditions of servitude/slavery they usually have nothing but the clothes they are wearing. IOM operates hostels for escaped/rescued victims around the country (Astana, Kokshetau, Petropavlosk & Almaty) which I have visited and can tell you, at first hand, how welcome our donations have been.

You should not compare the donation of clothes to victims here in Kz with giving clothes to a high street charity shop in the UK. All donations go directly to help victims (i.e. are NOT sold through a shop) so help to change lives & ‘re-humanise’ victims recovering from a traumatic situation. Even the donation of an old handbag will help give a victim some sense of self-worth as they have something that is ‘theirs’.The other area I have focused on is awareness raising at Nazarbayev University where I work as an English teacher. The students at NU are frequently told they are ‘the future leaders’ of the country and thus are the sort of people one needs to educate!

A series of film shows, seminars, lectures & other activities such as card making/bake sales have taken place over the last 18 months which has helped to make the students (& staff!) of NU much more aware of this issue than they were. NU has donated domestic equipment which had been written off (eg mattresses, towels, etc). Some of the students have responded magnificently as you can see from this video made after a student-organised run in aid of victims earlier in 2012.It is difficult to have more direct involvement as there is an obvious language barrier as well as the need for security in the healing process which is part of the 3 Rs approach (Rescue, Rehabilitation & Re-intgration).

I have to confess that the work has grown out of all proportion to what I had originally envisaged (there is a permanent large box in the student residence for donations that I clear very regularly) but awareness is growing (several students did research projects on aspects of trafficking year compared with none the previous year!  I suppose that when I finally leave Kz I will look back on this work with most pride & satisfaction.”

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My Fall of 1994 Reflections in Bishkek

I wrote this letter on October 12, 1994 to my loved ones back in the U.S.  I was writing from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and had my head full of wedding plans back in the Minneapolis area but also when I returned to Bishkek, I wanted to do the wedding all over again.  I forgot how provoked I was with Tatyana, my Kazakhstani friend, who didn’t believe I was willing to fly her and a Kyrgyz girl on my own expense. Back at that time it cost about $3,000 to fly both of them to Moscow, then New York and then Chicago where they took a bus from there to Minneapolis.  Once Ken and I went on our honeymoon, they stayed on for another week or so traveling back together to New York and then home to Central Asia.  As late as October, things were NOT moving on Tatyana’s end of things. Not due to her busy-ness but due to her doubt.

“…I want my Kazakhstani friend, Tatyana, who lives in Almaty, to be one of my bridesmaids.  She simply can’t believe that I would fly her to the States to be a part of our wedding.  It means getting a letter of invitation, a visa, her passport in order, plus the plane fare arranged.  I told her in June to make the necessary preparations by writing friends of hers in the States so she could stay with them after the wedding. I hasn’t happened because of her unbelief and the time for buying airfare tickets is NOW! Because she thinks something could go wrong with her Kazakhstan government not granting an exit visa, she doesn’t want to get her hopes up.  Inertia was winning!!!

People from the Soviet past are steeped in their old way of thinking.  They have been programmed to think negatively. Thinking it will not work…it will not happen.  This fall semester with 60 first year students while there were 40 new students last year, I still have hope for Kyrgyzstan!   I can say that because of reading my students’ journals and homework assignments.  I can look into their hearts and respond to each one with encouragement.  One of my students, named Marat, is proselytizing his Muslim faith to me. (;-)

The downside of being the only American English teacher after all the other ones left from the first year is that I have a very heavy teaching load.  It is like giving an essay test to 60 students and returning their results to them each week.  Each student’s assignment takes about 10-15 minutes to grade.  The decision was made by me to give up my Fulbright grant at the end of January instead of the end of May of 1995.  After returning from my Minneapolis wedding, I will get married again in Bishkek for the benefit of my expat, Kyrgyz and Russian friends.  I’m mostly doing the wedding again for my students.  I will move to Almaty where Ken’s job is and we are expecting great things together!!!

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