Posts tagged Easter

Back to Life as Normal

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAReturned from Kyiv, Ukraine four days ago and am getting my sleeping schedule back to normal.  The first night I went to bed at 9:00 p.m. and got up at 4:00 a.m. the next morning, not bad. I did not sleep so well the 8-9 days I was in Kyiv, having jetlag is never easy. I also can’t sleep on planes…usually. However, the trip home proved different in that I slept half of the time and only because I was so tired from all the activities we did in Kyiv.

We went to a Chinese restaurant the first two nights, then another night we went to a Ukrainian opera which was very good.  The singing, orchestra and costumes were phenomenal.  On Saturday we went pysanki painting of real eggs under an instructor. Then Sunday I went to two church services which was at the same place just across the street from our hotel.  In between that I went on a four hour tour of the city with some of the university students and my traveling companions.

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It was a beautiful day in Kyiv and I took pictures of blossoming magnolia trees and blooming daffodils. We are about a month behind all of this but I came home to greened up grass in the lawns.  Kyiv was still ahead, they had longer grass and even dandelions. Soon enough we will be mowing our lawn here which I don’t want to push that. Last summer we went for a LONG fall and that meant more grass cutting.

Not much else to add except that I had a tea party with some of my friends and used cup holders that my friends in Kyiv gave to us.  It was fun to give some eggs away too in keeping with Easter that is coming up.

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Good day today, I’m thankful for my parents who are still able to do things.

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Good Friday, Good Day so Far

Thankfully I went through two classes of composition and none of my students pulled any tricks on me on April 1st, at least that I know of.  One student wanted his grade so far for the semester and we just finished week 12, but I don’t think that was an April Fools prank. He sincerely wanted to know his grades for each of his classes, mine included.  Seems strange because we still have four weeks left but I guess that is needed for this one class he is taking.  THAT’s what I should be doing right now in my quiet office today, while no one is around this day off, Good Friday is GOOD! Yes, I should be putting my students’ papers together in their respective folders and figuring out what the first 3/4s of the semester has been for each of my students, grade wise.

This particular student was very helpful and compliant at first and then he turned nasty and disrespectful about a month ago. Enough so that I talked to my supervisor about him…at length in my office.  Now he is all sweet and kind again, back to his old self from the beginning. It seems each student has been taking turns in their small fits of rebellion. Then next, over spring break, I had a very capable student argue with me by e-mail about using the research databases that our university provides. The main objective of this comp class is for students to discover the benefits of academic, peer reviewed journals and NOT to click the google button for everything.  They need to know there is a scholarly approach to some subjects…that is what the university prides itself in.  However, these young 19 year old students have grown up with the click of a mouse to find out info.  They don’t even know what it was like to look up things in stacks of libraries or to open up a 15 pound dictionary or encyclopedia. So, that spat was over but I had blind copied the head librarian to say that this student didn’t think there was anything up to date about precision agriculture.

Then, this past week, I had to write up an academic dishonesty report on one student who handed in his third required paper on human trafficking. It went to the Chancellor of Academic Affairs, to my supervisor, his advisor, etc. As Comp teachers, we have the “turnitin” feature with our Moodle assignments, the closer to 0% you have, the more likely it is the students’ own words.  However, we can allow for up to 10% on the Originality Assessment reports.  Sadly, my one student who I had in TWO classes last semester, who should have known better, came up with 81% of copying someone else’s paper.  He took from ONE paper and not patchwork from other papers all put together…flagrant copying on his part!  I told him he had to do this paper over or he would NOT get his potential 150 points.  THEN, I got an e-mail from his father who lives in southern U.S., copied to all his son’s other instructors, asking how his son was doing.  I didn’t tell him anything because legally, I am not supposed to unless a certain form has been filled out electronically and I’ve gotten the okay from the student.  Whew, I think I got cleared of that…again I notified my supervisor about that.

Well, that is three male students all taking their turns with not behaving right…who will be next in these last four weeks?  I have to be on my toes and make sure that I have all the assignments done right and turned back to them when they hand there next rough draft for Paper #4 to me next Monday.  For now, I am glad that we had Good Friday off today and I’m looking ahead to a good Easter service on Sunday. I’ll play my violin for the first time and hopefully that will go well.  I haven’t played publicly for about 35-40 years so this is a stretch for me…I bought a new violin to be in the university’s orchestra so I might as well use it.

Good Friday…good things are on the way!!!

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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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Photos of Kazakh babies and children (Part II)

We were sitting in the very back of the church so this cute little baby captured our attention and distracted us from listening to the sermon in Russian. (yeah right, I understand the meaning of every 8th word) Here’s his father, who looks so young, along with its beautiful mother. The adoring grandparents were also in attendance to dote on this cute little baby. Much easier to take photos of babes and children in a trusting environment rather than on the streets where you see many Kazakh parents pushing prams with their young, bundled up charges on the sidewalks of Astana, Kazakhstan.  Spring has finally arrived…I think.

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Photos of Kazakh babies and children

Easter has come and gone for us in Kazakhstan and the Astana weather was ideally springish.  We went with some American friends of ours to an Easter celebration where there were lots of cute babies and children.  The church wasn’t even finished yet but it was packed with very active, talented people.  After the Russian service with a sermon and then a program, there was the traditional plov and other good food with the customary tea afterwards. Note the paska (Easter) bread and the colored eggs that were in the front of the church. Did you know that the Russian word for Sunday has the concept of resurrection embedded in its meaning?

See what you think of the future of this country when you look at the parents with their children.  Note the one child that is layered up so much in a warm suit that he looks like a cardboard baby doll.  Mothers tend to overdress their kids against the cold of Astana. But then again, after experiencing the warmer temps of the day, it is easy to forget just how very cold Astana can get.

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“It’s a Dog’s Life” – Easter Weekend Recap

p41101981Khristos vos Kres!” Good Friday was a BEAUTIFUL spring day!!! So different from what transpired 2,000 years ago, a dismal day Christians choose to remember and I decided to fast to be reminded of the cross. (Horrid flashbacks of Mel Gibson’s horribly bloody movie “The Passion” reappear in my mind) After a morning class with my students and being interviewed by a former student in journalism with a big camera taping it, time for a much needed walk down hill to the Green Bazaar. My favorite places to shop (by necessity because of my meager budget) are the Second Hand stores just north of the Green Bazaar and I discovered there is a new one that just sprouted up. I bought several tablecloths, one is a perfect linen one for only $6. I found a dress my color and then as I was checking out the fourth store, my friend Brenda called. She wanted me to join her for pizza at Ramstor. I declined but once I finished shopping I hopped on a bus and told her I’d be there in 15 minutes to meet up with her after all. Once we met, we went shopping for foodstuffs at Ramstor and then parted ways. Good to catch up even if for just 20 minutes.

Walked up my five flights of stairs to dump off my loot from shopping and walk downhill to our university where the KELT play was about to begin at 7:00. “David and Lisa” had been much advertised. With a busy week, I hadn’t figured out who would go with me, so I went solo figuring I’d meet up with someone I’d know. I was pleasantly surprised to see the heavy marketing paid off, the Great Hall was almost full and I seated myself in the fourth row in order to hear the actors’ lines better. A cast of 20, mostly Kazakh university students or other nonnative speakers necessitates being close to stage in order to not miss any words. I’ve learned this from past experience of attending other KELT productions.

Other native speakers of English who are professionals in the city of Almaty and who enjoy community theater were also in the cast of characters for “David and Lisa.” However, the articulation and volume of most all actors was very good. I thought the best job was done by an Australian lady who sounded VERY American in her role as a doting, overbearing mother. Also, Elina who played the lead role of Lisa did a superb job, she was supposed to sound nonsensical in her rhyming sentences and her boundless energy was phenomenal. She had split personalities, one that was hyperactive Lisa, the other was morose Muriel who was gloomy, almost scary. The other lead who played David did a great job too, I think he had the most lines to memorize.

What was funny about the start of the evening was as I was shutting off my cellphone before the performance I noticed I had missed one call. It was my French friend Benedicte who lives near me. She too had decided to go to the play on her own at the last minute but I didn’t know that so when I returned her call I told her where I was. She said, “turn around.” I did and then five rows back she waved. After intermission we sat together and watched the second half of the intense play. The play ended well and so Benedicte and I walked up the hill together talking about the amazingly complicated play we had just witnessed. She had been fasting too, so we both ended our Good Friday on a good note.

Saturday I had invited the opthamologist’s daughter over to find out about her Kazakh family background. (tomorrow I’ll share what I learned from Leila) Before that I had bought an Easter lily for Brenda whom I’d see the next day for our Easter meal at her home. I then prepared Mexican tacos for my students who were coming for my final “make-up” class Saturday evening and we watched “Emperor’s Club” with English subtitles. We had a lot to discuss afterwards because it was about teacher-students relationships and integrity, character and honor codes. This movie deals with cheating and dishonesty which we unfortunately have to deal with all the time at our university.

Sunday morning was a very special Easter service where we sang all the usual Wesley hymns starting with “Up from the Grave He Arose!” An extra treat was having an African American woman, who is a professional jazz singer, do a rendition of “How Great Thou Art.” The worship team had some added brass, a sax and drums along with the guitar. Peyton’s sermon was wonderful and I’ll long remember the story about his wife’s Uncle Billy. At the beginning he told of Uncle Billy’s part of the D-Day operation in WWII where he was the pilot of one of the many American boats that brought Americans to French soil to fight and die for freedom. However, Uncle Billy’s boat was bombed even before they got to shore and recovering all the dead bodies, they were all put in a morgue. By the end of the sermon, Peyton finished the story about Uncle Billy waking up in the midst of all these dead bodies, having only been knocked unconscious. He was spared, he revived to live his life. Jesus whose death we honor and memorialize on Good Friday was dead, dead, dead. What we celebrate on Easter Sunday is that He is alive! It’s not a dog’s life after all but God’s LIFE!p4120213

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What fun to go with my two university friends to finish off my Easter weekend at Brenda and Thom’s place. I played her piano, ate good food and mingled with new people and “old” friends over a ham, an actual sit down meal with carrot cake made by Julia to top it off. Thanks Molly and Zoey (dog’s names) for having us. It’s a dog’s life.

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Bleak Realities of Hurramabad (Part II)

My favorite short story from Hurramabad was the third one, “Sammy.” An old Russian woman has a garden snake live with her that slithered up from her basement. She domesticated it with milk and benign kindness only to find out later that it is a poisonous viper. Interesting ending which I thought must have a lot of symbolic meaning to it. If only the author would unwrap some of the mystery to this simple story. The others like “A Local Man,” “First on the List,” “The House by the River,” and “A Foreigner” are about men trying to fit into the society but because of war, prejudice and general chaos, the stories either have ambivalent or dismal endings.

Some quotes I found interesting from “Hurramabad:”

p. 20 – “The ills to which all flesh is heir.” [I wonder where that quote is from?]

p. 28 ‘ “Bud-nabud, iak kase bud…” Maybe it happened, and maybe it didn’t, but once upon a time…” Traditional beginning of Tajik fairtytales [Volos perhaps used much truth from his living in Tajikistan to build his fictional short stories]

p. 35 “Apparently, there is in this world a sophisticated pleasure to be derived from making a fool of a man, and knowing that not only is he unaware of what you are up to, but is actually under the impression that your derision is the height of hospitality. If Makushin had not later stayed in Tajikistan, if he had not insisted on squeezing himself into a foreign skin which rankled to this day, he would have remained in blissful ignorance of who they had crucified him, their drunk and happy guest, at the table of hospitality. He was a foreigner, an outsider, he didn’t belong. He failed to register even ten percent of the overtones with which their words resonated; he saw only what was on the surface. They played their game with him as if he were an insect blindly crawling over a puzzling glass surface which others could see through.”

p. 37 “In olden times, they say, at the feasts of the beks, there was one special little sheep’s bone they put in here for guests they did not approve of…Clever people say God created it specially for such a purpose…Do you see how? Yes, they would place a little, tiny bone so that the guest would surely choke and die…Oh, things like that the beks would surely do!

p. 49 “Then he heard the shrill voices of two old traders at neighboring counters and, coming closer, halted in amazement. To his ear it seemed that, however improbably, they were furiously reciting poetry, trading menacing, singsong lines from some infinite epic. Listening as carefully as he could, Makushin finally made out that this verse dialogue revolved around something called piez. He decided, upon reflection, that this must be the dawn, the beloved, a nightingale or some such entity. He had heard a lot about the beauty of oriental poetry. On the other hand, given the way those present periodically burst out laughing and slapped their knees, the poem might be of a humorous nature. When the recital finally began to pall, he sought clarification from a stocky greengrocer who, smiling courteously, explained that Shavkat and Fotekh were simply swearing at each other, piez being an onion. Fotekh was railing at Shavkat for selling his pathetic Reghar onions at the same price Fotekh was charging for his fine Danghara onions.

“But why are they arguing in rhyme?” Makushin asked in perplexity. Judging from the greengrocer’s expression he had no idea what rhyme was, but was not about to admit that to a stranger.

p. 66 “Farukh sits high on the back of a sheep. Bright shine the stars in the dark sky so deep.” [a kind of shibboleth/sibboleth test] So that was their game. They were making him recite this nursery rhyme in order to test his pronunciation. A Kulyab from the countryside would invariably come to grief on the sibilants in “sheep” and “shine.”

p. 218 “Muslim [that’s the character’s name] had called him brother since fate had set the two of them side by side in the ranks of one of the vigilante units, handfuls of frightened and unfortunate people who had joined together at the crossroads in tight little groups on a February night of pogroms. The crucified city was howling in fear and pain; the air itself seemed full of violence, rape and robbery.”

p. 228 “What kind of life are we living now? We’re like troglodytes!”

p. 232 “The past was open and comprehensible, but for some reason there was no future. In place of lively pictures of his aspirations he was seeing only a grey shroud in which there seemed to be no place for him at all.”

p. 237 “Beat your own people to scare the foreigners”

As we celebrate this Good Friday another “stranger” who came to earth and was beaten and brutally killed for our sins [just watch Mel Gibson’s “Passion” to know what bloody violence is], I pause to reflect on the hope that we have come Easter Sunday. Hurramabad has no hope though it is supposedly “the mythical city of joy and happiness where there is always an abundance of fresh water and shade.”

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