Posts tagged Asian Winter Games

Photos from Borovoye (Part III)

My body is finally back to normal after the 300 meter x-country race I “won” on Saturday in the pine forests of Borovoye.  I’ve never raced before, just always considered x-country skiing as a solitary sport out in our back woods in Minnesota.  Yes, I suppose the Asian Winter Games has inspired everyone to compete in winter sports. I think everyone at my university thought how could an “old lady” like me beat some other athletes?  Yeah, good question which my aching muscles the next few days were crying out for a reasonable answer.  Well, I could load my readers down with more amazing facts about Borovoye from travel brochures translated into English, but I think the photos will do for now.

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Potpourri of Astana Photos

Today, my PDP class is going to ALZHIR (Women’s gulag in the 1930s-1950s for wives of Enemies of the People). This museum is about 10 miles out of the city of Astana and so I’ll have photos to show from that field trip tomorrow.  For today I’ll show photos that I didn’t use before but will now, it is on my jump drive and I have too much to write so my fall back is to show photos.  What I REALLY regret is that I didn’t get the photos I should have of the Asian Winter games billboards.  I saw them every day when I would ride to work, I had NO idea that the people would pull them down so quickly.  If I don’t act quickly I won’t even get the photo billboard of Dennis Ten at one of the busstops.  I did get a small poster of the snow leopard poster at the Ramstore.  However, that is nothing compared to the colorful, abstract billboards of figure skaters, hockey players and speed skaters.  Rats!  I was too slow on the draw!

Below is the inside of the arena that looks like a bikers helmet on the outside.  What I really would like to write about but don’t feel I have enough information is about the polylingual issues that are taking up people’s attention, especially today.  I’ll miss most of a seminar that is about how to improve the problems of Kazakh language teaching methods, problems of teaching English to polylingual students, learning Russian as a mother tongue and as a second or third language and finally the vision of the Model and Concept of trilingual education.  All complex issues and there will be a brainstorming session about it at the end.  All this I’ll miss because we already scheduled this fieldtrip to ALZHIR about a month ago.  I hope the roads are safe from all ice and snow.  Note the books in Russian and Kazakh that I have on my bookshelves.

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What else I learn from my adult learner students

The other day was a potpourri of various talents who showed up for English practice that is meant for advanced speakers once a week.  Some of these university employees were more shy to speak up once the talkative ones found their stride.  Represented were those from Center for Energy Research, Economics, Admissions, Legal department, Strategic planning and the Library.  We got on the topic of occupations as a kind of carry-over from the week before when we discussed teachers and builders.

The conversation went all over the place from talking about Kazakhstan’s sports like boxing, football and hockey to the recent Asian Winter games to Tour de France, to Roza Bagnalova’s son to the profession of policemen to the upcoming presidential election.  Finally an hour was up and we were talking about Olympics and the Goodwill Ambassador Vladimir Smirnoff who represented Kazakhstan.

One of them asserted that the most popular professions in Kazakhstan are lawyers and economists, especially looking at what students are majoring in for their subjects at university.  Others didn’t agree so we quickly moved into sports.  Apparently the most famous footballer is Pele whose name means “useless” or perhaps “crafty.”  We talked a long time about his name and how his name means smart but doesn’t let on that he is, like in Russian (heat-tree.) I can’t tell from my notes because I had to write fast with six people all having an opinion about this athlete.  Supposedly he was quoted as saying that if Russia wins the World Cup, then Brazil will have a hockey team in hell.  Something like that, like I said, my notes after trying to decipher them 24 hours later leave much to guess work.

This I DO know they talked about and was new information for me, that the Klitschko brothers who are so famous in Ukraine for their boxing feats were actually born in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan. Their father was a military man and it is said as a kind of joke, I’m not sure if this actually happened.  One of the Klitschko brothers ran into Sasha Cohen in New York City, who made that despicable movie about Kazakhstan (which really wasn’t true to Kazakhstan and was filmed in Romania).  Anyway, since Klitschko is really a Kazakhstani, he had some strong words for Cohen and it put the fear into him.  You don’t want to mess with a boxer if you get him riled. Maybe this was just a joke but the point is, that the film has done little to bring good repute to Kazakhstan.

One thing that was supposed to bring Kazakhstan’s reputation up a notch or two was the Tour de France that was won by a Spaniard Cantador while he was biking for Team Astana last year.  We shall see who will rise from the Kazakh athletes to take over in cycling.  A nice stadium that was built just down the road from the university for the ice skating for the Asian games is really for cycle races.  It looks like a bike helmet from the outside.

We moved on to what all Kazakh people know internally but is little known in the western world about Roza Baglanova who died just last week.  She was a much loved singer and represented Kazakhstan in the former Soviet Union.  Apparently one of my adult learner “students” went to school with her son Tarzhen.  When he was born his grandparents went to register him with a good Kazakh name but when the father found out about it, he was furious and had it changed to a good communist name, Tarzhen. I’m unsure of the meaning but it sounds like Tarzan to me.  Apparently Tarzhen didn’t follow in his mother’s footsteps in music but his father’s as a businessman.  He is entrepreneur and his quiet and keeps to himself, a good father of 3-4 children.

Then we got into the subject of names of Kazakh children and what it was like in the past if you wanted to appear politically correct.  I mentioned that during the Cultural Revolution in China in the 1960s many young girls were called “Hong” for Red.  Someone said it was true in the USSR’s past that many had the names related to Lenin or Marx.  One poor lad was named after Albert Gore after he visited Kazakhstan.  With the Asian games now over, some girls are called Aizada (Asia) or boys might be called “Summit” after the OSCE summit last December. Or parents might use the word “Khan” or “Bai” or Abai going back to ancient times.  Some babies are given the name of the day of the week that they were born.  This has deep Kazakh roots to give names that honor an event.  Being BORN is an event here in Kazakhstan!

Somehow our conversation was directed back to occupations and several of these Kazakh people drive cars, so we talked about policemen.  After a Kazakh driver is stopped by a man with a white and black baton, the requisite forms are filled out. Some said they never pay a fine and talk their way out off whatever ticket.  Others who are in a hurry will pay the bribe just to get back on the road again.  You see, if you don’t want to go through all the steps of going to the bank and the police office to get the necessary paperwork down, you can give 1,000 or 2,000 tenge to the officer. However, this is NOT usually done directly, it might be slipped into a book or it might be left in the back seat of the squad car.

If you were to pay directly and officially with all the extra time spent to do it, it would cost about 6,500 tenge.  In the capital city of Astana it is not as bad to pay bribes to police officers as down in the south of Kazakhstan, like in Almaty. Perhaps this doesn’t happen in Astana because the police are more tightly controlled or they have other more important functions to deal with such as security for the president and other VIPs.  Maybe they are better paid than those officers to the south.

We talked of other things of course, such as the football match with Tartastan where the Dutch played in Moscow and the temps were -20 C and they played in the cold and mud with a score of 2-0.  Better than the score during the Asian games where a hockey match was 30-0. That would have been no fun to watch but one of my “students” witnessed that lopsided game.  Others saw the same ice skaters I did and we all talked about the opening ceremony.  I was surprised that one Kazakh woman didn’t even watch the Asian Games Opening ceremony on her t.v. I think she is too busy with her job and raising a family.

That’s it, from Lake Kaz-be-gone.

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Asian Winter Games photos (Part II)

This decision, as I alluded to in yesterday’s blog, for speeding up the Kazakhstan elections came on Feb. 3rd, just last week so that is probably why I didn’t know about it. We were all caught up in the Asian Winter Games.  Here are more photos from this past weekend.  The security was not as tight to get into the skating arena as they had been for the Opening Ceremony.  What was interesting was that I had to take a photo of a Kazakh volunteer to prove that my little digital camera was just that and not something else.  What else, I don’t know.  Once the guard saw her colleague’s photo, then I was waved through the x-ray thing like all airports use.  The volunteers were very helpful for helping us find our seats and it was GREAT to be in an ice arena that doubles for a bike racing arena as well.  The outside of this structure looks like a biker’s helmet.  Inside we had a wonderful view of the women’s figure skaters and the men’s free skating events. I think everyone has been inspired to pick up skiing or skating now after all this energy was expended in the competitions.  I know we all felt inspired to go out to skate on the river this past Sunday morning.

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Photos from the Asian Winter Games

This photo shows the stadium that held 30,000 spectators for the opening event on Sunday, January 30.  I see this complex going to work every day. Like I blogged about yesterday, we almost have nothing to look forward to after the OSCE conference last December  and the Asian Winter games that just finished this past Sunday.  Except now Kazakhstan will have the national elections coming up this April, which is earlier than normal. I think it has been bumped up a year and half ahead of schedule!!!  That should be interesting but this blog is about all the GREAT photos from the amazing event.  So no more commentary on the latest development here in Astana, not until I know more!!!  

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End of Asian Winter Games and More Positive Quotes (Part III)

The Asian Winter games are over in Kazakhstan and it is starting to feel like spring is in the air.  But as a seasoned Minnesotan who has experienced winters only too well (or not too well), we could still get another blizzard and still have temperatures take a nosedive in the double digits well below zero in Astana.  I enjoyed watching the women’s figure skating on Friday when I went with my friend to the stadium that looks like a bike helmet for racers like Lance Armstrong. Of course the Kazakh crowd went crazy over their own skater named Abzal in the men’s free skating.  He did an act to the sound of “Circus” and wore an outfit that Michael Jackson would have been proud to wear, colorful and showman-like.  He won with all his spins and jumps and despite one fall got the highest score.  I was surprised that he did so many jumps during his warm-ups but he had a Kazakh crowd to please and they LOVED him!

First impressions are not always right, there was one Japanese girl who looked really choppy and NOT graceful in her warmups along with the other 4-5 skaters on the ice.  She skated more like a guy but it paid off in her performance.  In any case, she was fast and she put on quite a show and she won me and the crowd over.  What a remarkable performance by many of the athletes from the Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, China to name just the ones I can remember.  The scoreboard showed the name of the skater, their best score of the season, who their coach was, the musical number used as the background music.  I really enjoyed watching this event.  I saw so many people I knew during the intermission and talked to others that enjoyed it as much as my friend and I did.  Hopefully, a good time was had by ALL sports participants in Astana and Almaty.  I haven’t heard what the final tally of medals were but I’m sure with “home court advantage,” Kazakhstan probably won.

Japanese proverb – “One kind word can warm three winter months.”

Charles F. Kettering – “The opportunities will go to the men and women who have enthusiasm.”

Thomas Edison – “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

Margaret Hulsey – “Some people talk simply because they think sound is more manageable than silence.”

“The only dumb question is the one that isn’t asked.”

William James – “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”

Henry Brooks Adams – “They know enough who know how to learn.”

Joseph Joubert – “To teach is to learn twice.”

Peter Ustinov – “What is education but a process by which a person begins to learn how to learn.”

Sophocles – “The reasonable thing is to learn from those who can teach.”

Anna Freud – “Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training.”

Margery Wilson – “It has been proved that the deepest yearning of the human heart is for recognition, for honor.”

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Critical Comment on my Blog and Positive Quotes

No one likes to get criticism unless it is meant to be constructive and said in love.  I got a vaguely caustic comment from some Aliya in the U.S. who has a Russian “ru” e-mail address.  Presumably she is Kazakh and maybe on a Bolashak scholarship or on some other scholarship at some American university.  In any case, she felt entitled to call herself “Anti” and give me some negative feedback.  Fine, I just deleted her comment because I didn’t know what she was referring to and what she was so “ANTI” about.  I used to get critical comments on my blog in Russian but now my dissenters are becoming more bold in English.  That’s fine, bring it on.

Today I am thinking ahead to a month from now when I will have expatriates of the international community come out to our university to listen to my ten students give their ppt presentations on their research topics.  This will raise the bar to have native speakers of English and other ambassador’s wives from various countries come and listen and give their critiques and evaluations of each speech.  I believe they are in for a treat because my students are up to the task, their English is VERY good and their research topics are compelling!

I thought the following were appropriate for my Professional Development students to think about as they gear up for their speeches:

Andrew Carnegie – “As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say.  I just watch what they do.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson – “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.”

Henri Fauconnier – “In the last resort, nothing is ridiculous except the fear of being so.”

Mark Twain – “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”

Dale Carnegie – “Remember, fear does not exist anywhere except in the mind.”

Winston Churchill– “Courage…is the quality which guarantees all others.”

Marcus Aurelius – “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson – “A man is what he thinks about all day long.”

Samuel Johnson – “Self confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings.”

John G. Shedd – “I like a man who bubbles over with enthusiasm.  Better be a geyser than a mud puddle.”

Mary, Queen of Scots – “We are not who we are but what is said of us and what we read in others’ eyes.”

I feel sorry for Aliya, the Sourpuss, who must be miserable where she is studying.  She probably wants to be back with her family and friends in Kazakhstan and is having difficulty adjusting to life in the U.S.  She is missing a wonderful time here in Astana and Almaty with the Asian Winter Games going on.  Be positive Aliya, think positive!!!

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Waxing x-country skis at the Asian Winter Games

Two of my Professional Development students do a much better job with their blogs than I ever could by showing the splendor of the Opening Ceremony that happened last Sunday night.  These are photos from Future Abroad from what she witnessed in the arena, she is one of 1,000s of volunteers during this week of competitions.  Yesterday I featured photos from New Challenge who also has been blogging about this amazing sporting event.

Future Abroad initially signed up for this because she wanted to practice her English with hosting a foreign guest, being a translator for them .  She had no idea that she would get a wonderful wardrobe and free tickets to ALL events.  The Opening Night must have been spectacular to see.  Look at some of her photos for yourself here and here.

Asian Winter Games 2011 – Participating Countries

1.Afghanistan; 2.Bahrain; 3.China; 4.Hong Kong; 5.India; 6.Iran; 7.Japan; 8.Kazakhstan; 9.Kuwait; 10.Kyrgyzstan; 11.Jordan; 12.Lebanon; 13.Malaysia; 14.Mongolia; 15.Nepal; 16.North Korea; 17.Palestine; 18.Pakistan; 19.Philippines; 20.Qatar; 21.Singapore; 22.South Korea; 23.Chinese Taipei; 24.Tajikistan; 25.Thailand; 26.United Arab Emirates; 27.Uzbekistan.

The above list and following table is something I got off the U.S. embassy circular that is sent around every week.  Good information about PAST Winter Games.

List of Asian Winter Games
1st place
2nd place
3rd place
Japan (29)
China (4)
South Korea (1)
Japan (18)
China (9)
South Korea (6)
China (15)
Kazakhstan (14)
Japan (8)
China (15)
South Korea (11)
Kazakhstan (10)
Japan (27)
South Korea (10)
China (9)
China (19)
Japan (13)
South Korea (9)

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Waxing philosophical and not my x-country skis

I have had some very interesting conversations with my PDP students about what they hope will be achieved with first having the OSCE Summit conference in Astana, Kazakhstan last December of 2010 and now in February of 2011 there is the Asian Winter games.  The Opening Ceremony will be talked about for a long time by a lot by people all over Central Asia but especially in Kazakhstan where it was hosted.

It’s not over yet.  I have American friends that seem to be going to a lot of sporting events in Almaty.  If only we could take time off in Astana to see these competitions, but there is MUCH work to be done at our new university.  Apparently, the Kazakh organizers hope to snag the Olympic Winter Games for 2018.  We shall see if that will happen or not.

I was told yesterday by a few people that some foreigners did not arrive for several reasons.  First, some had their flights re-routed because of the bombing incident at the Moscow airport several weeks ago.  Maybe others were afraid of something like that happening here in peaceful Kazakhstan.  Another reason more foreign guests didn’t arrive is because supposedly the tickets were not printed up in time to be sold to foreign guests who were coming in from the outside.  I’m glad I have my ticket for Friday’s women’s ice skating event because that sporting event has been sold out.

Figure skating is a sport I will never tire of watching either live or on t.v. because I know just how hard it is to skate fast on ice and do all the amazing jumps and moves.  I also know from experience just how hard the ice is if you fall.  I will go skating again on the river this Sunday but I miss our skating rinks and arenas back in Minnesota.  When my siblings and I were growing up, we have our Dad to thank for flooding a patch of land at our farm where we would go out to skate in the winter time.  He would re-flood the top of the ice so it was nice and smooth.

Also, I had a great-grandpa from Norway who homesteaded in North Dakota in the late 1880s who was a highly medalled champion in ski jumps but he was also a good skater.  He was like a legend where he came from in Telemark, Norway.  I come from a rich heritage of skiing and skating since my Mom would ski to school from her farmhouse down to the town below.  Ah, those were the good old days.

But these days are good too, for Kazakhstan, they are in the glory with the big show that happened this past Sunday.  Please look at New Challenge’s blog because what she shows in pictures is worth MORE than 1,000 words.  Look at her photos here and here.

Happy Groundhog Day!

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Waxing Philosophical about the Asian Winter Games Opening Ceremony

When my husband and I first moved to Astana a year ago, we were watching the Winter Olympics broadcasting out of Vancouver, Canada on our t.v. in all its richness, color and Russian commentary.  This year we were in our living room with friends, our tv long since banished to a corner in our bedroom and our cable connection cut off.  Who needs tv when you have Internet?  Well after discussing with many people yesterday about the Opening Ceremony, I wish I had our t.v.  back up and working.  I guess I missed something REALLY spectacular by all accounts from my Facebook friends, my students and people who actually attended this grand event.  However, as much as the Asian Games organizers put into the well choreographed production, the logistics of security and transportation left much to be desired.

From what I gathered the president of Kazakhstan was in attendance, the first and foremost VIP plus the new president of Kyrgyzstan along with a sheik from Emirat and of course the President of the Asian Games along with China and Korean representatives from their respective countries.  The arena holds 30,000 people and there were 6,000 participants.  Apparently a famous Russian composer, Igor Krutoy used poems by Fabian and other old stories from Kazakhstan’s history to weave together a fantastic program.  A singer from Korea, a Kazakh opera singer who studied in Italy and many other musicians and dancers were part of the glamorous performance.

Different numbers of how many countries who are actually represented at these winter games range from 15 to 27 countries.  Some come from the most unlikely places where they have never seen ice or snow like India, Pakistan and Iran from what I was told by my “informants.”  Whenever anything related to Kazakhstan was announced the crowd chanted “Go Forward Kazakhstan” in either Russian or Kazakh.  Since I wasn’t there I don’t know for sure which language, but I can be certain that it was not in English.  My students told me that there was an Olympic like flame that went through many cities throughout Kazakhstan. Even a Kazakh athlete in a wheelchair had carried the burning torch through Timertau. I guess that is a fairly obscure city in Kazakhstan where one of my PDP students is from.

The Opening Ceremony production, which ironically was produced by this Russian composer, looked back to the history of the Kazakh nomads up to present day. It showed about Oguz from the ancient Turkish tribes and many other famous Kazakh warriors and leaders. The show began at 6:45 and officially ended at 10:30 p.m.  After that was the grand fireworks display witnessed throughout the city of Astana, it beamed brightly into everyone’s living room as well.

Meanwhile those attendees who had seen such a fantastic display of Kazakh patriotism and pride inside the arena had a difficult time getting home in the frosty, cold air and winds of Astana.  If it were me, I would have just walked home since I only live about two miles from where this extravaganza took place.  Apparently the busses were so packed with people leaving (remember there were over 30,000 people in the stadium) now they were all ready to go home to get ready for their work week.  Many people waited over an hour to get on the busses.  Several smart Kazakhs had either left early or went out another entrance.  One of my PDP students remembered that she and her husband had gone to the 10 year birthday of Astana and there had been such chaos getting home that they were convinced to give this event a pass and watch it on t.v.

Functionality and logistics had gone out the window when it came to letting people into the stadium as well.  According to my students security was so tight that they checked through everyone’s bags to make sure no alcohol was allowed in.  If anyone was caught with alcohol on their person or on their breath, they were summarily thrown out of the arena.  Yes, security was tight, so much so that one of the bridges was closed crossing from the old part of the city going into the new part.  That made it difficult for my dinner guests to arrive on time because traffic was all snarled up as a result.  They finally showed an hour late but I thought this did not bode well for the Asian Games organization to have people arriving late to the ceremony.

From other accounts, people were held back from their seats and there was the frightening experience for some of witnessing a near stampede mentality just to get in.  One American woman was elbowed in her face and she is still hurting.  What a miserable way to “enjoy” the ceremony when there is little decorum in the hallways just outside the event.

Last night I was talking, over leftovers at my flat, to one volunteer who got to the stadium early and another VIP friend who was whisked through to their seats, they did not encounter any of these problems.  The former has a badge to get into ALL events.  She is all suited up in red, whereas there are other volunteers in blue and white uniforms.  The expense of the “volunteers” uniforms must have been immense for both cities where there were supposedly 3,000 volunteers in Almaty and 1,500 in Astana.  One Kazakh woman in my noon English class said that the athletes uniforms cost 380,000 tenge (about $2,500) each.  That must be for the hockey players, I can’t imagine that all the Kazakh athletes would have a kit that expensive.

Here is where I get philosophical.  My VIP friend said that she was recognized by security guards because she has a high profile here in Astana, she encountered no pushing or shoving.  That would be true of all the other dignitaries as well.  However, what about my American friends who were part of the near stampede or those other American friends who were wanting to get on every packed bus for one hour before they got on one to take them home?  There are the elites and then there are the common people in this fine country of Kazakhstan.  In every country you have your garden variety types who become hurt or desperate or cold because the logic of something so massive has not been thought through in every detail.

Tomorrow I will pick up on that theme.  But from where I work, you can see that the “presentation” is more important than the actual execution or implementation of the theme.  Not to say that the Opening Ceremony performance inside the arena was not perfectly done, I’m sure it was.  I am just saying that there are so many other details outside of that, that can and should not be ignored.  People of Kazakhstan, outside of Astana and Almaty are hurting, cold and desperate.  Patriotism with all the glitz can only last so long before hopelessness and despair enter…

(to be continued)

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