Posts tagged Canada

Canadian geese are back with spring

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe other day I was walking our gravel road and I could see in the distance some geese that had landed in a field puddle of water. I knew that they would fly away when I got closer so I zoomed in with my camera on them.   Indeed, they took flight against the cold north wind to some other place where there was icy water.

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This afternoon when I took my walk along the same gravel road, I could see the big fox or small coyote 1/4 of a mile away.  He bolted off over this same field and ran for all he was worth for about a half of a mile or more.  I was amazed at how fast it ran on the ice and snow.  I had seen him earlier in our woods the other morning, he has taken care of the rabbit population.  He doesn’t need to be afraid of me, I am happy we have less rabbits to eat our vegetable garden once that is planted and growing.

I saw my first robin the other day, so you KNOW it is spring but the temps have been only in the teens so not a good time for birds to be back yet.  The Canadian geese can handle it as they continue their travels to colder Canada…the woodpeckers and finches are waiting for more warmth. As are we…it doesn’t ever seem like we will EVER have summer. The forecast is for blizzard conditions on Easter Day.  My Mom refuses to believe it will happen. We will see what comes what may…perhaps it WILL be May when we have spring!

Happy Easter whether the SON shines or not!

 

 

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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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Biking around town with a 14 year old nephew

I needed the exercise yesterday. I wanted to make sure that my 14 year old nephew from the Cities experienced our small town from the outside and going in. We had our helmets on and I took the bypass highways at a pretty good clip. We were passed by big industrial trucks and semis and I was okay with that. My nephew, however, prefers mountain biking with his dad. Yes, he loves nature and is good help to his mom in their one acre spread with her wooded, shady garden.

However, I asked if he enjoyed Dairy Queens in the wooded areas of his mountain trails. No, probably not. He spotted the DQ and of course we had to cross over the four lane interstate highway to get his favorite blizzard which he couldn’t finish. Guess who had the honors in downing the rest of the $4.50 blizzard? Yes, you are right! I then knew we had to bike extra miles and extra hard because I had already downed a Buster Bar! Oh my!

So, we took in the thrift store after leaving the golf course area and then to the library to retrieve his earbuds that he forgot the day before. We had stocked up on plums that were out for FREE at the food shelf. I may go back for more so I can make plum jelly. We have plums but nothing as big as the ones we put in bags. They are tasty!

After that we went to a war memorial when we had seen the damage done in one of the additions from the tornado that passed through a week before. LOTS of trees down and people had mostly cleaned up and it had been taken away but it was easy to imagine all the chaos that was created with the tornado. Also, we went east of town to see the path of the tornado in the trees near homes that are out in the country. Along the way we met up with some Canadians who were passing through and had 450 miles left to go to get home.

That was our tour of the city which I kept saying it was about 8 miles that we biked. It was probably a lot more. My intention was to tire out my 14 year old nephew so he would sleep well for the night. Here I am up at a very early hour and he is sleeping after watching two DVD movies. Well, I will put him to work at hacking down noxious weeds like thistles and itch weed later this morning when he is up.

I have some writing to do so I should be doing that but I had to recount the day I spent yesterday during a beautiful high 70s day, slight breeze. We have to appreciate our very tolerable summer days while we have them. Soon enough it will be cold winter again. The green everywhere is healthy for us.

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Photos from early 20th century in Canada

Happy Canada Day today!!! I love looking at old black and white photos from yesteryear.  These photos were taken in the area of Swift Current, Saskatchewan in Canada where my two Great Uncles Richard and Stephen Aslakson used to farm.  They had caught the “Northwest Fever” after being born in North Dakota and wanting to prove up new land of their own. My great grandparents had come from Telemark, Norway and had five sons in the late 1800s.

My great uncles could have been using these harvest machinery below or people they knew in the area of Swift Current were using them.  How does this land compare to the Virgin Lands territory that was opened up by Krushchev in the 1960s in northern Kazakhstan?  Well, they didn’t have the steam threshers or swathers as the Canadian farmers used back in the early 1900s. A LOT of manpower was needed to bring in the harvest, when things got tough during the Depression, they moved on to greener pastures. My economist husband knows a LOT about this era of time. I just enjoy looking at the photos.

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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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“A Cruel Wind Blows” (Part II)

Yesterday’s blog was about my impressions of a movie, produced in Canada, that I watched Wednesday morning with the international women’s group in Astana. Today’s photo was taken off the web from the URL below. It is of the nuclear bombed lake created in the Semipalatinsk area.   I would like to visit this northeastern area of Kazakhstan later some time. I know someone from the ladies group who HAS been to this radioactive place.  Wow!

Today I’ll not continue with my impressions of the film we watched but rather show some facts that I picked up off the web (along with the above photo) about the research done concerning this very sad era of communist rule over Kazakhstan. How many times in the 80 minutes that I watched did I shake my head in disbelief listening to interview after interview from the survivors from the Polygon area?  Too many. These Russian and Kazakh people would reveal truths from their perspective one after another. If enough westerners paid attention to this movie subtitled in English, they would know that communism was not about caring for the common man.  No, certainly not the common Kazakh in an out of the way place such as the Semipalatinsk area, not these Kazakhs didn’t count with the bigwigs in Moscow during the 70 year Soviet regime.

This documentary movie has a good title that should maybe instead read “A Cruel Wind Continues to Blow” because the radioactivity in this godforsaken area will harm generations to come.  Read on from this website:  http://new.csc.ca/news/default.asp?aID=1416

“To the unsuspecting eye, an endless landscape of beauty unfolds in all directions. The Steppe – as it’s known by the locals – is an 18,000 km prairie-like flatland, dotted with randomly occurring mountain ranges. Its history has been scarred by the detonations of 456 atomic bombs – 340 underground (borehole and tunnel shots) and 116 atmospheric (either air drop or tower shots) tests. The former Soviet Semipalatinsk Test Site, in northeast Kazakhstan, was the primary nuclear test site during the Cold War from 1949 through to 1989. (Kazakhstan is a country of 16 million, which borders on the Caspian Sea to the west, Russia to the north and China to the east, and gained its independence from Soviet rule in 1991.)

In 1947, the head of the U.S.S.R. atomic bomb project, Commissariat for Internal Affairs chief Lavrentiy Beria, falsely claimed that the area was “uninhabited.” Today the site – also known as the Semipalatinsk Polygon and latterly the National Nuclear Center of Kazakhstan – is under study by various scientific groups who all agree that there are many areas that are not only contaminated but are still radioactive. The question is, how “hot” is it, and is the test site still a toxic source that is strong enough to be harmful to the residents who both live on or near it?

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Although testing ended almost 20 years ago, there are many areas that remain “hot.” Such hot spots were craters created by the underground explosions just 18km northwest of the village of Sarjal. In the Degelen Mountain range, mountain tops destroyed by bombs that were placed deep inside them by way of tunnels that have since been backfilled. We also shot at ground zero, just 50 km west of Kurchatov where the first atomic bomb (Operation First Lightning) was exploded in 1949. This was an atmospheric explosion test site where more than 100 above-ground weapons tests took place. The site currently exhibits measurably high levels of radiation. Surprisingly there are no warning signs or fences to stop people or livestock from getting too close. In fact, sheep, cattle and horses can be found scattered around the Polygon grazing on the grasslands and drinking the water from the craters.

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Hungry Buddy Bears Visualize “Whirled Peas”

Fun to show off what Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, has for its tourists this summer until the end of July.  At least 125 Buddy Bears are standing with arms up in the air close to the Baiterek tower, from as many different nations painted brightly with motifs or themes that typify that country.  I can’t understand the cubism of blue and beige squares for Canada’s bear I blogged about yesterday.  The U.S. bear shows the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty, which I featured several days ago on this blog.  Japan has the one red dot against a pure white bear and some other Japanese calligraphy.  China has a bear wearing a silk jacket with dragons on it.  I don’t understand why the Kazakh artist chose the blue colors to represent Kazakhstan but to each artist, his own. I was wrong about the one I have today that looks Uzbek, it is really from Tajikistan.

I am showing off more of these bears today, see if you can guess what country they represent.  Our bumper sticker of “Visualize Whirled Peas” got a lot of mileage where we used to live in Washington D.C. area when Ken and I were first married.  I could see people in my rearview mirror pointing their finger up and whirling it around and smiling as they imagined whirled peas or “world peace.”  Let’s visualize along with the Buddy Bears world peace with all nations.

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