Posts tagged England

Ryan’s First Impressions of Kazakhstan (Part IV)

Read past posts to know who Ryan is and what impressed him about Kazakshtan:

July 5, 2010

Hey everybody,

I’m hanging out in an internet cafe in a mall listening to country tunes from home to drown out the ear splitting Russian Techno they play here. The fact that it’s Russian I love but man…why the techno? I have so much that I could tell you guys which is why I need to catch up on my journaling because I’m so afraid I’m going to forget some before I write it down. Travelers out there…can I get a witness?! I’ll do my best to give you guys a synopsis of what’s been going on the last few days.

Let’s start with last Thursday. I came to Mega with a friend of Cindy’s and we hung out and I had a local hamburger. We got a chance to talk and practice our English and Russian respectively and play some computer games before we had to go back. It was a lot of fun to just hang out and I found an internet cafe which is always good. Then I went back to work and worked with an English conversation club.

We listened to a Beatles song called Blackbird to help their English. The song was slow and relatively simple. I was just amazed at the symbolism in the song. It’s about a blackbird finally having the chance to fly…pretty cool when you considered that it was written as a response to Civil Rights Movement. I’d never heard it and was really impressed with it. Youtube it! Then we played a game called “What’s that word?” where we wrote down a person place and a thing and had to describe the word to get people to guess it. It was fun!

There was one girl that wrote down “Stevenage” which is a city in England. I had to confirm it with Cindy but it does exist. After that I took the bus to another English conversation I was to be a part of. They were beginners which made me really pay attention to my word choice and speed of talking. I worked with an intermediate group the night before and it was a blast as well. They’re really interested in learning about life in America.

Side note: livestreaming a hometown radio station makes me very happy and less homesick. One of the great things about being so busy that you’re just exhausted is that it leaves very little time for homesickness. I also have made some great friends here that whether they know it or not get me through the hard times. He knows exactly what we need when we need it, yeah? Friday I slept in for a little bit and woke up some time after nine. I read and relaxed for a bit before meeting some friends. It was nice to hang out and talk.

After that I went home and relaxed for a bit before Sergei made shaslik (meat kebobs) that were amazing. Then I went for a really cold swim before calling it a night. The next day I got up and everyone else left so I watched a movie called “The Hairy Father” in Russian. It stars Tim Allen and was a hilarious movie. I went for a swim later in the day before meeting up with some of the people that I taught English to. Again, I had shaslik…can we say a lot of meat! I loved hanging out with them.

Yesterday, I relaxed before going to meet with friends because that was all in Russian. That’s hard to not be able to understand much and have to really work to understand what you do. I waited for my bus after getting done on the internet only to realize that mine had stopped running. So, I grabbed a taxi and had to wait for the driver to get ready to go. Then when we got to my house he had no change so after getting some he gave me a partial refund. I was getting a little annoyed but I’m glad it all worked out.

Today, I had a really good lunch with Cindy and Elizabeth and then we went and bought tickets for the next leg of the journey which will start on Saturday the 17th. Now, I’m chilling (not really it’s pretty hot in here actually) and saying hi to you guys. I can’t wait to really explain

Backing up a bit, I am REALLY glad I got my visa for Kazakshtan. It took thirty hours from their receipt of my paperwork to it being back in the mail. It could have taken 5 days. I got it and I’m here now in Kazakhstan. The flights were interesting because I’ve never spent that much time on planes before. I enjoyed it but I’m certainly glad that’s over. I got to spend some time in Amsterdam. I had lunch and randomly met an Austrailian nurse while eating. I had a quick lunch of french fries and mayonnaise. The Dutch are deep in the Midst of World Cup fever. Orange(their royal color) and Dutch flags are everywhere. Everyone’s talking about soccer…it’s great!

I loved European trains…so nice and fast…furthering my belief that America should invest in such things. I got here about 4.15a and went through passport control. It was really simple and my bags made it here with me so all was well. I must have been asked if I wanted a taxi about 50 times while waiting for my ride. He got there and we set out to find where I was supposed to stay. We found it, finally, and I met one of my contacts, Vicky. She’s house sitting for some Americans so the house I’m staying in is really Western. I love it because I needed a hot shower and a bed and I got them both. It took me about 20 mins to fall asleep but once I did I was out until about 2p. Now, I’m just adjusting and relaxing. So..I’m here…I’m safe and sound…Peace, Ryan

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Quotes on Education and University Branding

It takes courage and an unselfish love for the future welfare of the people of this country of Kazakhstan to start a new university.  Two hundred years ago the U.S. had to start somewhere with their institutions of higher learning when they severed ties (Revolutionary War) with the England.  Fortunately, our American founding fathers had proud traditions and blueprints to follow as good examples from the Old Country.  We are ALL starting on a new adventure with this new university in Kazakhstan.

I can’t take credit for any of the following, but they relate to my thoughts on forming a new institution of higher learning.  I like the quotes and thoughts which are from Penn Graduate School of Education:

Education should foster in students an “Inclination join’d with an Ability to serve mankind, one’s country, Friends and Family.” Ben Franklin “Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensylvania [sic] 1749

“The president is a bit like the driver of a skidding automobile. The marginal judgments he makes, his skill, and his luck may possibly make some difference to the survival prospects for his riders.  As a result, his skill, and his luck may possibly make some difference to the survival prospects for his riders.  As a result, his responsibilities are heavy.  But whether he is convicted of manslaughter or receives a medal of heroism is largely out of his control.” Michael D. Cohen and James G. March from “Leadership and Ambiguity” Harvard Business School Press 1974

A brand of a university communicates to multiple audiences.  What is the way to communicate that brand?

1)   What you are à research university or a professional school OR regional or global university?

2)   WHO you are à premier university in nation OR highly selective and elite OR depending on who you serve?

3)    WHAT you stand for à excellence vs. access

Which type of brand will our new university have?

1)   Corporate – single institutional identity with uniform delivery

2)   Product brand – school, program or degree specific

3)   Niche markets

There needs to be considerations of governances and academic culture, what is the academic diversity and governance structure that the new university will have?  Many questions and issues to resolve, bottomline, we want to produce good results with graduates who have a good education.

Right now there is MUCH curiosity about this new university, great enthusiasm and it will take a lot of hard work by many people cooperating together to get this institution of higher learning off the ground.  Much progress has been made, I’m excited to be a part of this energetic movement to educate the youth of Kazakhstan to prepare them to be young professionals striving towards the goal of 2030.  This goal is on everyone’s minds.  I remember back in China when I taught in the mid 1980s in Harbin, China that the Chinese students were working and studying hard to help their “Motherland” to progress.  Their earnestness has paid off, look where China is now.  However, watch Kazakhstan, it is an amazing country with incredible potential!!!

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Jisum Kim’s Grandmother has to stay healthy for Jisum’s future great grandchild

My grandparents of my mother’s side are very special to me. When I was young, I lived in England for 8 years. At that time, my father was in the doctor’s course and my mother had a job, so my grandparents came to England and lived with my family for 3 years. In fact, I spent more time with my grandparents during my childhood rather than my parents. After school, the ones who were waiting in front of my school were my grandparents.

When I went back to Korea, I lived near them so that I had dinner almost every day together. My grandparents never missed my entrance and graduation ceremony. They always said that they couldn’t believe their little girl is growing up like this.

Then one day when I was in the second grade of high school, my grandfather passed away. He was carried off by liver cancer. When I first saw him at the hospital, I couldn’t recognize the weak man who was lying down on the bed in front of me. My grandfather participated in the Korean War in 1950, and he worked as a policeman for his entire life. He always looked sturdy and strong, but I couldn’t find those aspects at that moment. He left us without any word because his condition had grown worse.

After he passed away, my grandmother became weak. My mother is the youngest daughter and she was the only person that my grandmother could depend on. So my family decided to live with my grandmother. We made a trip to many places to make my grandmother feel better and comfortable. Fortunately, she became healthier. I always tell her that she has to stay healthy so that she can come to my wedding and later see her great-grandchild. Also, I always pray for her health and happiness, and I sincerely hope that my earnest wish will come true.

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Finished Reading “A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian”

What a poignant story written by Marina Lewycka, where to begin?  This book “A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian” depicts a dysfunctional family in the many layers she produces in this quick read of 324 pages.  For those who know their Soviet history in Ukraine, there will be nothing new about the different locations mentioned and what the Ukrainians underwent during the famine of 1932-33, Great Patriotic War and post war year repressions. 

For those people from the West who know little to nothing about the Soviet period of collectivization, industrialization, famine, purges, repressions, the reader is compelled forward, the author deftly records historical fact.  The reason you read on through the somber details is really the underlying fabric with the bright ornamentation of the character development of the 46 year old daughter Nadia who writes in first person about her Big Sis Vera.  The two sisters team up to help their 84 year old father struggle against the demon 36 year old hussy from Ukraine, Valentina who marries him to improve her lot in life in England.

Meanwhile, the engineer father who is probably certifiably crazy is paranoid and love starved, writes a short history that is woven throughout about tractors.  The eccentric father was the Big Idea guy who was married to the two sisters mother for 60 years, she was the one who had the Ukrainian friends in their community in England. Masterfully composed from beginning to end, this book reminded me once again that I had just finished reading another book (The Help) that was layered with family stories tied up in political big picture drama in the U.S. in the 1960s. 

Not sure I can read too many more of these emotional books about families being so far away from my own family during this Thanksgiving season.  I just learned that a colleague lost a one year old niece to swine flu. The one fear we as foreigners have is losing a loved one while living so far away.  It happens. Family is very valuable and blood does run thicker than water.

Here is one painting at the TENGRI-UMAI art gallery, here in Almaty, Kazakhstan that I enjoyed looking at. It reminds me of my Mom and three sisters, our sitting around the piano making music with singing and stringed instruments.  Looking back, I came from a fairly normal family.  For that I am thankful.

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“Crowds of Cheering Fans” by Kazakh Students

My Listening and Notetaking students answers a second question related to watching the movie “Rudy” who had always dreamed of playing football at Notre Dame.  “Have you ever been in a stadium cheering for your favorite team or have you been a player on a team being cheered?  Describe your feelings in that particular sporting event.”

Crowds of Fans

Soccer

Gaukhar N. – My favorite soccer team is Aktobe, because I’m from Aktobe and it is the best soccer team in Kazakhstan.  And my feelings were great when you feel like you are a part of the team cheering.

Diana – I like football, especially the team of MU (Manchester United) and the best team of our country – Aktobe, because it is my native town and good players are there.  So, I always went to the football games to the stadium and I want to say that it is really exciting feelings.

Serikzhan – When I was in Aktobe (my birthtown) I used to go to the Central Stadium and support our team.  I really adore this feeling, because you feel yourself as if you’re part of a team.

Aizhan – Once my sister and me stayed at home together and we had nothing to do that evening.  We decided to watch TV.  I had never been interested in watching or playing football before, but my sister persuaded me to watch it.  And surprisingly, I found it quite interesting.  Brazilia and Japan were playing.  My sister and me were for Brazilia, but our team lost first part of the game and we got so sad.  Fortunately, at the end of the match, at the very last five minutes, Ronaldo goaled.  We even started to cry (say loudly “Aaaaa! IGA!” I’ll never forget that feeling.  Afterwards, I adore football!!!

Karashash – Two years ago I went to the football game “Portugal vs. Kazakhstan.”  Actually, I went there only for C. Ronaldo – the best player in Portugal team.  But when I came and saw so many people cheering for favorite team I felt excited!  That was great! From that time, I like football a lot!

Almas – Once I had cheered at the football stadium – Kazakhstan vs. Portuguese.  Of course, I was cheering for the KZ team, however, in my opinion half of the stadium came there just to look at Christian Ronaldo.

Galimzhan – I had been in a stadium of Almaty in 2007 when Kazakhstan national team of soccer was playing with Portugal for a chance to go to the World Cup of soccer.  After those matches, I lost my voice for a few days.

Aslan – When I played for my class football team in school’s championship, we began as the most unpopular team.  Then we became the most cheered team.  I noticed such kind of things during breaks in the game, because when I’m playing football, I see only the field, ball, opponents and teammates, and I do not pay attention to the other things as the crowd and so on.  But I’ve been to Olympic stadium in Beijing.  It was at New Year and that big stadium is really impressive to stay on it’s ground [?]

Julia – I’ve been in a stadium cheering the Kazakhstan soccer team.  They played against Turkey.  Our team lost with the score “6 – 0”  I was very disappointed and discouraged.  Although I knew that, our team would lose, I didn’t expect such a result.

Ruslan – Yes, I’m a soccer fan, so that I’ve been to stadiums a lot.  I can say, that these feelings cannot be forgotten, you’re encouraged with them.  All fans are cheering for their team and it is fantastic!!!

Gaukhar D. – I was at the stadium cheering for our football team.  I love this atmosphere when everybody around you is excited.  I mean it’s a wonderful feeling when you are just like a part of a big family and for some time you can share joy with them.

 Tolegen – It was actually recently with the match of Kazakhstan vs. England.  I was really excited and thrilling and evening though our team lost, I was glad to be there.

Elbar – Once when I had been in England, I visited “Fly Emirates” Stadium.  There was a match between Arsenal vs. Real Madrid (Real, the team which I support for six years). It was exciting to see our team, my favorite team in REAL life.  I felt so cool, that I could see all players, that I had seen on TV before.

 Olzhas – I have been in a stadium. There was a football match, not American football.  It was very interesting match because I had never been at a football match before.  Maybe that’s why it was great.

 Sergei – I have been in our Almaty stadium with my friends.  We watched how our football players played with players from Ukraine.  It was a bad game, we lost to them.  But we screamed a lot at the stadium, like “Come on! Come on!” or “We need to beat them up!” and some other things like this.

 American sports

Abylaikhan – I went to a Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins game.  My family’s “fav” team was Bills.  When we got to the stadium I felt excited.  The stadium was full of Bills fafns, and they were cheering all the time and singing: “Let’s go Buffalo (;-) That’s unexpressive feeling.  I loved it!  (;-) Buffalo won that day.

Nurlan A. When I was in the States, my host family took me to the Red Sox game.  Even if I didn’t know the rules of the baseball game, the crazy atmosphere at the Red Sox stadium took me away.

Indira – yes, last years I was cheering for our football team the Titans, it was really cool.  I liked it very much.

 Other Sporting events and Concerts

Amina B. – Okay, it wasn’t a sports event, I don’t like looking at such thing.  But I’ve been in the concert of my favorite group.  That was the BEST DAY!  I still remember the date, October 5, 2007.  My emotions, I can’t describe it!  I WAS CRAZY, HAPPY, CHEERING.  And I was under the impression for 2-4 months. And I still can talk a LOT about this concert.

 Yesmurat – Once I participated in a tournament of table tennis and I reached the final.  My rival was very good player.  When the game was started, my friends were cheering for me.  It gave me strength and I won him.

Rustem – I have a little brother who is 16, he’s a wrestler and a year ago he had a competition.  All our family went to cheer him.  At that moment I was very proud of him when he won the third place.

 Valerie – I have never been in a stadium cheering for a favorite team, I’m not interested in it.  Possibly, I will do this later, if I have a passion or someone invites me.  I heard from my friends that it is so great.  Maybe it is.

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Thankful for George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”

George Orwell wrote in a preface to his book Animal Farm in the Ukrainian translation the following quote.  His Ukrainian readers, who were trapped after WWII in Displaced Persons camps in Germany under the British and American administration, needed to know his background and why he wrote about Marxist theories from animals’ point of view.  These Ukrainians resisted returning to the USSR, knowing they would be killed back in their supposed “Motherland.”  The Ukrainians and others termed as “kulaks” had gone through so much BEFORE the war. (Think Holodomor of 1932-33).

 

November is the time of year when people in Ukraine honor those who died in this famine called a “genocide” perpetrated by Soviet policies as of 75 years ago. Many understand that other nationalities suffered as well, not just Ukrainians.  Unfortunately, not everyone will agree with the extent of how many people actually died and whether it was genocide or not.  For now it is interesting to read what George Orwell knew and when he knew it. (think sixty years ago).

 

Even if I had the power, I would not wish to interfere in Soviet domestic affairs: I would not condemn Stalin and his associates merely for their barbaric and undemocratic methods.  It is quite possible that, even with the best intentions, they could not have acted otherwise under the conditions prevailing there.

 

But on the other hand it was of the utmost importance to me that people in western Europe should see the Soviet regime for what it really was.  Since 1930 I had seen little evidence that the USSR was progressing towards anything that one could truly call Socialism.  On the contrary, I was struck by clear signs of its transformation into a hierarchical society, in which the rulers have no more reason to give up their power than any other ruling class.  Moreover, the workers and intelligentsia in a country like England cannot understand that the USSR of today is altogether different from what it was in 1917.  It is partly that they do not want to understand (i.e. they want to believe that, somewhere, a really Socialist country does actually exist), and partly that, being accustomed to comparative freedom and moderation in public life, totalitarianism is completely incomprehensible to them.

 

Yet one must remember that England is not completely democratic.  It is also a capitalist country with great class privileges and (even now, after a war that has tended to equalize everybody) with great differences in wealth.  But nevertheless it is a country in which people have lived together for several hundred years without major conflict, in which the laws are relatively just and official news and statistics can almost invariably be believed, and last but not least, in which to hold and to voice minority views does not involve any mortal danger.  In such an atmosphere the man in the street has no real understanding of things like concentration camps, mass deportations, arrests without trial, press censorship, etc.  Everything he reads about a country like the USSR is automatically translated into English terms, and he quite innocently accepts the lies of totalitarian propaganda.  Up to 1939, and even later, the majority of English people were incapable of assessing the true nature of the Nazi regime in Germany, and now, with the Soviet regime, they are still to a large extent under the same sort of illusion.

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“Procrustes Bed” and Other Almaty Encounters

Yesterday was a good day of talking to people at my institution of higher learning in Almaty but encountering others outside of it.  I was talking to a Kazakh colleague earlier in the day when I encouraged her to “think outside the box.”  At which point she asked if I meant “Procrustes Bed?”  I did not know what she meant or know anything about this mythical giant from Greek mythology.  However, the more I looked into it, the more I saw the negative connotations of people who use the “procrustean” method.  It means “one that relentlessly tries to shape a person, an argument or an idea to a predetermined pattern.”  We as westerners pride ourselves in creatively thinking OUTSIDE the box and not conforming to a set pattern of “one size fits all.”

It would seem that there are characters on our campus who play the host, as Procrustes (means “the stretcher”) did, to entice foreigners to his iron bed that he adjusts so they are either too large for the bed or too short.  The offered hospitality of a pleasant meal and night’s rest seems kind at first but Procrustes has already sized up his unsuspecting visitor and adjusted the bed to NOT fit.  Once the stranger lays down Procrustes goes to work at chopping off limbs that are too long or stretching the person if too short.  What we need on our campus is someone like the hero Theseus who put Procrustes in his own cruel bed and cut off his head and feet.  Supposedly that would be the end of the horrible story where the “procrustean bed” still holds sway over trusting visitors from the West who just come to do their job of teaching Kazakh students and to do their research.

My other encounters “outside the box” yesterday were delightful.  I ran into a new friend from England with her son at a bookstore when I was searching and asking about more copies of “The Silent Steppe.”  I went to the biggest bookstore in my area and my British friend just so happened to be there at the same time.  I don’t know that many people in Almaty (I think two million people) but it was fun to meet her son from England who is leaving today to return to England.

Then my other pleasant encounter was with two Kazakh students who have been practicing their English speaking skills before leaving for the U.S. in a couple of weeks.  They hosted me to a dinner at an Italian restaurant and I continued to answer their questions about where they will be working for the summer, one in Santa Barbara, the other in Arlington, Virginia.  What was so funny was that Yegor told me after discussing the possibility of his getting a driver’s license in California, was that he had just successfully spoken to an American on his cellphone.  I asked who that might have been?  He said that *I* was the first American when we were arranging a meeting place. 

That meant the world to me that this young man will have MANY firsts when he goes to the U.S. for three months.  He will come back speaking fluent English since he has all the grammar packed in his head.  He just needs to let himself be immersed in it and he will do just fine.  Just the same, I feel like a mother hen with her fledgling chicks that go beeping off in all directions.  I trust these Kazakh students will not fall into a “Procrustes Bed” in America where they are harmed in some way.  I will be eager for their return from America this fall when we all return to our little boxes in Almaty.

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