Posts tagged Georgia

Blog Tired and Wish Bone Tired

Were you surprised by the link at the end of yesterday’s blog? I think I have created a monster with asking my students to write blogs, that means I, as their diligent teacher, must read what they write.  They only have to read mine but I WANT to read their 10, each day. That is, if they write that often, most do not.  I’m not tired of blogs….ooooohhhh nnoooooo!  When I stop writing every day, then you will know I’m fed up with keeping this daily diary online for others to read.  Today was about as action packed as yesterday, I’m bone tired.

I went to hear a speaker at the international women’s club, she is connected to the United Nations and has special projects throughout the country of Kazakhstan.  It was helpful to hear all the programs that are meant to help the Kazakhs.  Then I got more books for the upcoming book fair and got a ride back to campus with a woman from Georgia. (the country and not the state). Then, I showed her around after she helped me to bring books to store in my office.

On the ride out to campus she told me an amazing thing. Her husband’s grandmother had been at ALZHIR for 8 years.  She was arrested in Georgia and brought up to Kazakhstan to work in this concentration camp that is about 10 miles away from Astana.  What is incredible is that she was in the middle of teaching her class when they came in to arrest her in front of her students and all.  She had four children and the youngest baby died in her absence.  Tamara’s husband was the youngest of the four then and they were brought up by relatives.  Ironic that they have a posting here in Kazakhstan where his grandmother had broken health and yet she did survive and was rehabilitated.  She had come from a wealthy family and her husband had been beaten and murdered for being a so-called “Enemy of the People.”  This was back in 1937 when purges were routine and Stalin seemed to pick on his own country of Georgia a little more rigorously.

Then I taught a one hour lesson to the employees and we talked about different professions. After that I was ready to do “battle” with the security guards anticipating a hold up with my six students from the outside and our guests from the U.S. embassy.  That went without a hitch and my students enjoyed finding out more about the different exchange programs and other English programs throughout Kazakhstan.  Great opportunities.

Finally, someone called about bringing more books to me for the charity bazaar sale.  I’m sure I’ll be getting more but today was the deadline because next week will begin the lock down of transportation of the big summit meeting where Kazakhstan will be hosting 55 different countries.  Oh, what will we do?

I’m hearing different stories that in order to cover for the Dec. 1 and 2 summit meeting when things will be closed down, we will get the days off.  However, I’m told also that we have to make it up this Sat. and Sun.  That means we would not have American corner movie because the Sat. would be a Wed. and I wouldn’t show the last movie on campus on Sunday because that would be the Thursday.

I don’t think it will happen that way because I’m also told that “the show must go on…” that we will be the only university functioning.  The rest of the universities throughout the city of Astana will close and students will go home for a week.  Okay, which is it?  In any case, I need a rest from this very busy but productive semester.  I’m bone tired but looking forward to tomorrow when we will celebrate Thanksgiving day at two different places for me.  I should enjoy turkey at both places but right now I’m wish-bone tired.

Comments (2) »

Dana’s Victory Day story and more Astana billboards

The following is a shorter story from a Kazakh woman in Almaty who wrote about her family’s involvement with WWII or Great Patriotic War as it was called here in the former Soviet Union.

The Great Patriotic War affected every family in our Kazakhstan.  My father and four of his brothers were at war from the very beginning. My father and three of his brothers came home wounded at the end of the war. One of my uncles  – Baizildayev Duisen went missing. My dad was searching for his brother all his life without success.

My mother’s uncles also were at war.  I know that fathers and uncles of my colleagues were at war. Therefore, I think we all who are living now must remember the heroism of World War II soldiers.

Yesterday I watched almost three hours of “Andersonville” the Rebels prison camp near Atlanta, Georgia where the Yankee soldiers were detained while the Civil War raged on.  A place meant to house only 8,000 POWs, had over 33,000 men in the camp, a miserable place.  In the span of less than two years, there were over 45,000 men who were thrown in this hell hole.  About a 1/4 of them died due to starvation, dysentery, scurvy and other sad conditions due to little medical treatment for the war wounded.  Others were murdered by the Raiders who were in the camp but were not disciplined military but rather hoodlums.

The only reason I watched this movie was out of curiosity because many Norwegians who had just arrived to Minnesota and Wisconsin signed up to be a part of the North’s effort to liberate the blacks from slavery.  One of my distant relatives, Bjorn Aslakson, from Telemark kept his wits about him and wrote in a small diary the atrocities he saw.  He was able to survive and eventually got back to his family in Minnesota but this place had broken his health, he didn’t live long once he returned home.

This sad plight was true of many of the Kazakh war veterans, if they survived the POW camps or fighting, they may have returned home wounded and were haunted with the memories of what they witnessed during war.  Dana is right, we MUST remember the heroism of WWII soldiers.  That is why I am showing more of the Astana billboards I saw along the highway to the airport.

Leave a comment »

More Work Party Photos and Soviet Pedagogy

My first exposure to Soviet pedagogy was in a somewhat unlikely place when I taught English for two years in Harbin, China from 1986-1988.  As teachers and foreign experts, we all lived in a foreign guest compound far removed from the Chinese masses with about five or six other Soviet experts. Add to the mix a few Japanese guys learning how to be chefs, a woman from Ireland, a British man and some other Americans and we had a mini-United Nations. We all had more in common than not, living in the strange but mysterious land of China.

I forget a few of the Soviet peoples’ names but I DO remember there was Nick from Latvia, Isa from Azerbaijan, Larissa from Minsk, Belarus, a quiet guy (because he didn’t know much English) from Georgia, another physicist who didn’t believe in dreams, maybe one or two others.  Every day for noon lunch, my American teammates and I would sit together in the big dining room as foreign experts and talk about different things related to China, teaching and life outside of China.  That was the first time I realized there was an undercurrent of nationalism going on with each country represented from the U.S.S.R. Each Russian speaker was very proud of his own nation before the U.S.S.R. took over only sharing in Russian and the same educational background. Of course they were all Soviet citizens and even though we were still in the middle of the Cold War, we all got along.  Joking and eating together, going to banquets, dances and fashion shows when our university dictated when and where we were supposed to go.  I have fond memories of our foreign guest quarters with the mix of cultures.

Two events alerted me to the difference in teaching methodology of the Soviets compared to what I was trained in as an American teacher.  First, some friends of mine in the compound wanted to learn ballroom dancing from Nick, the physicist from Latvia. Nick was an excellent dancer and swept us all off our feet.  However, it was reported back to me that he was an absolute tyrant and drill master when the girls took lessons from him.  Sort of like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, they would say, “What’s with Nick?”  I put that together with Larissa, the Russian teacher who also got very uppity about the peculiarities of her language.  Not sure if Belarussian was her first language, if that even exists. I’m guessing it does but that never came up.  They were Soviet citizens, their lingua franca was Russian.  In any case, Larrisa would take on this same persona of joyless, drill master when we asked her about some Russian phrases.

This made me realize almost twenty-five years ago that our western system of teaching was vastly different from that of the Soviets.  Teaching in China I was reacquainted with what I already knew from working as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines about teacher-centered vs. student-centered. That’s a huge given that the Chinese approach to teaching is teacher-centered but I witnessed the Soviet system was the same, teacher-centered driven. 

What have I learned these past two years since teaching in Kazakhstan about the Soviet pedagogy? The following is what I picked up off of Johnson’s Russia List, a highly subscribed blog.  The following are paraphrased observations made by a Ukrainian, Vladimir Sirotin from the Johnson’s Russia List JRL 2009 – 219. from November 30, 2009.

The founding father of Soviet pedagogy in the Stalin and post-Stalin era was Anton Makarenko (1888-1939) a Ukrainian.  He had tried to eradicate a problem that had started in Ukraine a decade before with forced collectivization that separated families.  Many Ukrainian children lost their parents due to their refusal to comply with the dictates coming from Moscow. As a result, the parents often were either killed or sent off to Siberia.  Thus, children ran in packs like wild dogs without adult supervision and were known for crimes of theft and other misdemeanors in order to survive. Once caught, there was heavy handed discipline in orphanages and schools were a result to tame these wild urchins found in Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere. 

Before Makarenko’s seven volumes on how to discipline, there existed Domostroi, (means “Domestic Order) an old Russian book, dating back over 500 years, which served as a handbook on how to run a patriarchal household.  It emphasized strict hierarchy and laying down punishments for disobedience, including corporal punishment. 

(To be continued tomorrow)

Leave a comment »