Posts tagged Almaty

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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Welcome to the GREAT new year of 2015!!!

I was too busy traveling yesterday to give out my new year’s greetings, so today will have to do.  On Facebook I have put up the obligatory photos from our two week trip to AZ to see the kids and grandkids.  Now it is back to the stark reality of living in the cold of Minnesota.  We are bracing ourselves for a bit of “weather” which is coming in later today, making travel near impossible if too much snow comes with it.  My task is to dismantle the Carnegie building of our latest traveling display exhibit called “Electrifying Minnesota.”  How about a new display titled “Heating Minnesota?”  We got back to the house and our temps outside were negative 4 and then 9 and then 10 and then back up to 7 and 8.  Inside, of course, we cranked up the heat to 68 and it started to warm up from the 54 that we had set the furnace at.

However, being in Arizona didn’t mean it was warm all the time. In fact, Prescott was cool and meant wearing jackets outside and Tucson was cool and meant wearing socks inside our RV trailer unit.  We felt blessed to be able to rent this unit for a week and have the pool and bubbling spa at 105 degrees just a half block away from our place.  There was a fitness center and also a library.  My friend Suzi helped us find out about this place because she and her husband have been staying at this RV park for many years.  They come from Oregon. What a great tourist way to bring in money for this area of Tucson.  There are MANY “snowbirds” from all over the US who come down to AZ in the winter, even those from Canada.  They stay for a few months and then go back to their homes when it becomes warmer.  My husband and I only can afford two weeks and then it is back to our reality or work in order to pay the bills.

I think Kazakhstan should try to have an industry like this. A good tourism industry is needed for those who are stuck in Astana or north of there to have places that people can go to for a few weeks or a month to get away from the brutality of the winter up north.  Almaty and along the border of Kyrgyzstan certainly have beautiful places for a vacation and it IS warmer, even in the winter.  I bet if Kazakhstan had enough people skilled or trained to facilitate that, then it could be a booming industy to bring in more international visitors as well.

Is it true that the winter Olympics might be in Kazakhstan and NOT Norway? I just heard that from a friend of ours who helped introduce my husband and me about 21 years ago.  He said that after Russia spent so much money on their winter Olympics, who wants to try to top that?  It might end up in Kazakhstan because they may want to host it for P.R. purposes. Then afterwards they could use those Olympic buildings for other purposes to make money.  I know that the Norwegians have a LONG memory about Medeo when there was some kind of international competition (not Olympics) that was held during the Soviet Union.  Seemingly the record times were changed and the Norwegians did not get their expected medals or awards. Perhaps the Soviet athletes won but on suspicious grounds.  I recall that some of the same things happened in Russia last year where top athletes spun out because the tracks were too treacherous or the snow quality not right.

Well, I’m not sure how I got into that but I have to steady my course here on the home front and get all the Christmas mail that has accumulated. AND to see how I can get the work done at the Carnegie before a big winter storm rages through these parts.  What a great culture shock for us, to have to be thinking about whether we will make it back home from town when we just flew three hours from AZ to MN and experienced about 60 degree temperature drop.

Happy New Years wherever you are, warm or cold!  Make 2015 a GREAT one!

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Today is everyone’s holiday, yesterday was our holiday too

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated our 20th anniversary, we met in Almaty, Kazakhstan on May 2, 1993 and were married the following year Dec. 24, 1994.  Seems like a LONG time ago but we made the 20 year mark after having lived in Kazakhstan, then Washington D.C. area, then Kyiv, Ukraine for about seven years.  Then in 2007 I started this “Kazakhnomad” blog in Almaty, Kazakhstan when we returned to live and teach in Kazakhstan again.  If you have never been to Kazakhstan, there are photos taken of this amazing country by a very professional photographer.  Check this URL out:  http://www.davidkoester.de/destination-bilder/kasachstan/

Today is everyone’s holiday for those who believe that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Israel. My husband and I went there 20 years ago on our honeymoon along with many other historic sites throughout Israel.  Yes, besides those who are Christian, many others celebrate this holy day of Christmas but they take the Christ out of OUR holiday by putting in Santa Claus and reindeer and jingle bells, etc.  It is as ludicrous as having chocolate bunnies and eggs for Easter but that is what people who are nonbelievers do.  They want to have a celebration about something so they chime right in with banal extras. They don’t REALLY believe they exist but they make up this fiction to feel good about something.

The sad part about what Christmas has become is that people give each other gifts and some of them are way too expensive and probably not even wanted by the receiver of the gift.  I suppose they are trying to replicate what God did in giving us His Son to die on the cross for our sins.  Jesus was born to die on the cross as a punishment.  We deserved what happened to Jesus because of our sin. Yes, I guess that is difficult for some people to absorb, they think the kids won’t understand it either or that it is too gory.  The truth of the matter is that many people throughout the world live in poverty and can fully relate to the story of Jesus’ parents being too poor to have a proper place to have a delivery of a child. Indeed, Jesus was born in a barn with animals in it.

The nonbelievers also think that the crucifying of Jesus is too horrible to tell young children so they bring in fluffy, white bunnies and color eggs instead.  When kids who are living in abject poverty learn about an innocent person being punished, they can probably relate…many kids are sold into slavery or treated terribly because of their living conditions and lack of education.  Therefore, it is deemed good news for these children to know about a Savior who loves them…loves them enough to die on the cross for them.

Well, I am about ready to wrap up another year regarding what I see, observe, know about Kazakhstan.  It isn’t so much these days after living away from this great country.  However, I have many people who still hit on this blog so I will keep it up.  You never know, I may be writing my book about Kazakhstan soon.  I may have some free time in the future that I will use to reveal in English about a little known country.  Almost as little known or maligned as the true Christmas story of Jesus birth which we celebrate today.

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1,500 posts and last day of busy teaching

Two facts of posting 1,500 times in the last seven years and my last day of my busy teaching load  of 2014 go together.  I have had a whole semester of teaching five classes on Mondays and Wednesdays.  My Wednesdays are not as bad as having to wake up after a weekend of rest and teaching straight through on Mondays.  I’ve been more relaxed about posting on this blog since I don’t live in Kazakhstan any more but would like to just to visit some of the other amazing places that are in this BIG country.  I used to post every day and if I had nothing to write, I would put up photos of every day things that I saw in Almaty and Astana. It has been nice to have a following of faithful readers, people who still come back to my blog to see what life was like in Kazakhstan.

So, what am I doing in class today, all FIVE of them?  I am taking it easy there where it is my students’ responsibility to do their powerpoints based on their research paper they did this last month.  I have learned a LOT about different topics like swimming, hockey, horse therapy, horse slaughter houses, American Indian peaceful march, ACL prevention programs, artificial turf vs. grass turfs, aspartame, dance, sprinting, social media, Florida violence, war on terror, bond of brotherhood in military…the list goes on.  I have at least forty students who are showing off what they know from what they have researched.  I asked them to do a persuasive paper so they were required to show both sides of the issue they were presenting. Some are doing a better job than others.  Yesterday we learned about coyote hunting which was more of an informational talk than one that was well researched and persuasive.  Another talk yesterday was about child marriages where poor countries allow an older, rich man to marry child brides between the ages of 9 – 17.  Many of these girls have VVF as a result after having difficulty bearing their first child.  This was a good talk, the one about coyotes needed work.

Next semester, I wonder if I should have my students investigate Kazakhstan and I’m wondering what they would find.  It seems that there is so little good information out about this great land.  I know that there are photo journalists who regularly come to this blog, maybe some have used my photos though I don’t have a good quality camera so I doubt that.  My photos of Kazakhstan does give an idea about what to expect on the streets of Almaty or Astana. I took of the mountains in Almaty because that city was on a significant slant. I captured photos of the strange buildings in Astana because there was nothing very scenic to photograph in the capital.

I better get to my lesson planning for my other two composition labs.  I have had an annoying student who keeps insisting on her final grade of the semester for a one credit class.  I had to show her and her advisor that I have to work with percentages for self evaluations and 35% for grammar quizzes and finally 30% for the final self evaluation.  I had just given that last week and this irksome student asked if she could have an office visit with me to find out what her final grade is.  I told her I have 85 students, I have three comp classes that are 3 credits each and that I would not get to it until the end of the semester.  She is a weak student so I think she is hoping to get a good grade to buttress her GPA in her other classes.  She kept insisting and so I sent her and her advisor an e-mail saying that I would NOT have it done…just for her…until I have done all the classes at the END of the semester.

Most all of my other students are gems, I have really grown to love them.  Even the few other irksome ones.  They are freshmen and they want to do well.  Everything is new and exciting to them…except for those who are homesick and miss their families from far away. I had a student from Florida in my office yesterday working on his powerpoint.  He is going home for GOOD even though his presentation is about the violence there that is NOT talked about because that would hurt their tourism trade.  He is a good kid and I asked him if he would rather be where there is violence than our extreme cold weather in Minnesota.  Yep, he missed his family.  Sometimes we question why we put up with the “violence” of fighting the cold weather when it gets to be the middle of winter in January and February.

Happy 1,500 posts!  May there be many more to come…I don’t predict 1,500 more posts…unless I return to Kazakhstan to finish my story about it.

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