Posts tagged El-Farabi

So What? Sewing in Kazakhstan

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

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

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

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


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Energy, Renewal, Refreshment = Vacation

My Kazakh students are why I LOVE teaching here in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  A real teacher worth their salt would understand that first sentence. However, there are some of my students who are very, very lazy and yet expect to get a good grade.  I’m flabbergasted.  I gave a questionnaire today to my two listening classes, some of whom I am very proud of.  Others who should not be in this particular academic class at all!!!  The problem is, they don’t know they are of such low skill level. 

Another problem is that these immature, undisciplined students make fun of the diligent, good students who are in the same class.  Some of these yahoos have missed so many classes, for no good reason, or for very lame excuses.  They didn’t think to come to talk to me during office hours or ask their classmates what they missed.  NOW, they come snivelling into my office hoping for a break, a chance to do their final project by powerpoint.  Sorry, if they have already proven to me by their tardiness, absenteeism and deliquency, they will not have the privilege to present for my foreigner friends whom I’ve invited to come and listen and help evaluate their projects. 

I guess these poor students wrongly thought that this student-centered, American teacher was too easy going and lax to pay attention to attendance.  Wrong, I have to be both in this setting!  I have to be who I am as a student-centered teacher in a very rugged, teacher-oriented environment.  I need a vacation!!!

My academic writing classes are performing much better. I was very, very proud of their presentations yesterday and wished there had been foreigners to witness what they had learned from their final papers. 

I took these photos about a month ago, it is a significant monument close to Miras School off of El-Farabi.  I wish I knew more about it, I’ve been told different stories but I’d like to have the definitive answer to it.  For now, I need a vacation where I can regroup, energize, renew and refresh myself.  Going into the mountains seems as good as any plan so far.

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Tensions Riding High on El-Farabi

Last night I was swapping teacher stories with some friends of mine, it was like “can you top this one?”  The husband is teaching business management courses at a Kazakh, supposedly “international” university where there are only two foreign faculty, everyone else speaks Russian.  His classroom anecdotes and scenarios make where I teach seem like a dream.  

My friend HAS to maintain his sense of humor because of what he witnesses at his university on a daily basis while comparing it to his London university where he just recently received his Ph.D. in political science.  The following story was without a doubt the funniest, though it shows that tensions are riding high besides at our university where cutbacks and slashing of programs are supposed to be happening in an effort to salvage money from somewhere besides milking it from the students’ tuition.


My friend has to ride the bus every morning, early in the morning to get to his university which is off El-Farabi Avenue.  He teaches two different courses back to back to 15 students, they are third year students.  Four hours of their sitting and his lecturing is already a recipe for disaster for students and teacher alike.  Anyway, last Wednesday morning he got on the bus as usual and the bus was packed with its regular, weary customers.  All of a sudden in the early morning 7:00 a.m. traffic they are in a race with another bus loaded with passengers down El-Farabi (the beltway to the south of downtown proper of Almaty).  When the one bus pulled over to the busstop to pick up new passengers, the second bus parked in front of it so as to block its forward movement.  The driver got out and started duking it out with the other bus driver.


By this time you have two busloads of wide awake people as witnesses to the drivers punching each other out in the early pre-dawn hour.  The bus conductors from each bus were egging the drivers on. The fighting continued with people wondering if they were going to get to their jobs on time.  Somehow whatever problem needed resolving with this display of violence (who needs tv when you can get it live?!) the drivers got back to their duties. My friend said that he got to his busstop 15 minutes earlier than usual. All passengers were “shattered” but thankfully still alive even with this slight altercation between drivers.  My friend doesn’t know much Russian but he could tell that the other passengers who got off the bus were telling those waiting to NOT get on the next bus because of what had just happened.  Tensions were riding high on the road along El-Farabi last week.  Angst is everywhere since the decline of the tenge a month ago which is sure to drop again in the next month or so.


More funny and not so funny stories in tomorrow’s blog.

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