Posts tagged Great Wall

Kyrgyzstan terms from “Two Kyrgyz Women”

On Friday I had my composition students download the free version of the book titled “Two Kyrgyz Women” by Marinka Franulovic. About five years ago, I had had my ten Kazakh students read this book in hard copy that I had been gifted with from Marinka.  Now I am glad I can have my American students read the free e-book version. Here it is:

I think it is always a good idea for the teacher to read or do whatever assignment he or she is giving to their students.  I’ve read this book several times before but now I see it with fresh eyes after what I have learned much more about modern day slavery. Actually this book helped to jump start me on this path as an educator to inform others about this great evil. In any case, I will quiz my students on Wednesday whether or not they have read the first story about the first Kyrgyz woman who was in slavery in a tobacco plantation in Kazakhstan.

On p. 24, the first slave named Ainura revealed a little bit about her husband who had become an alcoholic and didn’t help support the family with their two children.  He would often tell Ainura, “Nobody is getting rich by working.”  This was according to the Kyrgyz Post-Soviet moral relativism that pervaded the country soon after the fall of the USSR.  When my American students read this part, it will go against everything they have been taught by their parents and grandparents who worked hard to own their farm or run their business.  My students have a high cultural value of believing in hard work or having a good work ethic. Most of my students value hard work and they had better because I am going to work them hard in the next ten weeks of this semester.

Interesting to read on p. 29 “Some of the world’s most spectacular architectural treasures were built by slaves, and no one is embarrassed to appreciate them.”  Immediately I think of the Great Wall in China and KNOW that there were thousands of slaves who died creating that monster structure which can be seen from outer space, maybe even from the moon.  Marinka, the author, further wrote: “Some of these new land owners in Kazakhstan may earn money by using foreign workers for free, and they do not seem embarrassed by this either.”

On p. 32 the slaves were reminded by their “owner” to NOT speak in Kyrgyz if they met anyone who was a stranger to the farm.  These Kyrgyz slaves who had been brought up to their northern neighboring country didn’t have the right documents. The manager put more fear into these “slaves” that they may be beaten or imprisoned if the Kazakh police found them without proper IDs on the farm.  Apparently on the next page, one girl who was from the Krygyz city Osh and not used to rural life spoke a different kind of Kyrgyz.  As it turns out, Altanay was much more educated than the other slaves and she just did not know how to work quickly like they did.  The masters dubbed her with the name “White Hand.”  She did NOT last long under their abusive jokes and shaming techniques. Actually she was only on the farm for two weeks before she disappeared.

I have seen the movie “Nefarious: Merchants of Souls” and will probably go again next month to another screening of this 1 1/2 hour documentary of slavery in our modern 21st century.  Nothing is new under the sun and the unfortunate like Altanay who was called “White Hand” probably ended up as a sex slave. Many young girls are picked off who do not come from a loving home where the father protects but rather assaults his own daughter. According to this documentary, some mothers in other lands sell their daughters off to be sex slaves.  The question was asked, how can a loving mother do this?  Some of their responses were that they love their daughters enough to sell them to local dealers and not to dealers in some place far off.

These two Kyrgyz women were mothers who happened to be married to selfish and uncaring husbands.  I found out from Marinka that the two women ended up going back to their family and their husbands because what they had been through as a slave did NOT compare to what they thought was a bad home life. They were desperate enough to believe a lie about getting a job in Kazakhstan to support their family.  Little did they know they could have died under the conditions they were subjected to.  In their shelters they were separately told to NOT tell anyone in their family what they had gone through with slavery, they would have been ostracized by the very people they needed to love them.

Anyway, I hope to have some spirited conversations with my students on Wednesday when they come back to our class after a LONG weekend. Today is President’s Day so we have the day off.  Good thing, I could use the break as I know my students can too.  However, reading this 150 page book will open their eyes to the depravity of man.  It is NOT just in Kazakhstan, it is all over the world and slavery is going on right at our doorstep.


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More Travel Memories of East Coast China

Continued from yesterday’s blog post:

One particular January in 1988, my American friend and I started our trip to Hong Kong by traveling the east coast of China.  Our first stop was Shan Hai Guan, the beginning of the Great Wall of China situated on the Bohai Sea.  Interesting to take pictures of the frozen swirls of the tide.  Looking at old pictures of this part of the amazing structure, you know why it is called the “Head of the Dragon.”

Both being single at the time, we sat on a famous rock with Chinese characters engraved into it reading: “Woman Waiting for Her Husband.”  We learned of past horrors visited upon the Chinese people while men were building the Great Wall.  Perhaps this rendition is more legend than true story, but just the same, I’m sure many men did die as they built this edifice that can be seen from the moon.  Here is the summary:

Some newlyweds were about to enjoy their wedding night together when came a rude interruption.  The groom was seized and ordered by the emperor to put in hard labor at the Great Wall.  After his wife had waited for his return, she remembered that he did not have enough clothes to keep him warm in the colder weather.  When she arrived with an extra bundle to where he was working on the Wall, his co-workers told her that her husband had already died.  He had been buried alive under the rubble of the Great Wall.  When hearing this tragic news, the young wife began to cry and the heavens opened up and it began to rain.  It rained so hard that part of the Wall broke loose to reveal his remains.

Sad story yes, so my friend and I kept traveling south convinced that singleness might be better for us after all.  We next traveled to the seaport city of Shanghai.  We could hear a lot of the boat traffic on the river especially along the famous boulevard, the Bund.  We were told that during Chairman Mao’s tyrannical reign, his wife was even obsessed with the power he had.  Whenever she visited Shanghai, she would order that all river traffic stop so that she could sleep at night.  Each boat gave its own toot, bellow, horn or whistle. What a welcome relief for the Chinese when Mao’s wife was sentenced to imprisonment for her many crimes against the people.

I always liked to listen to the music of the people who knew how to play their traditional Chinese instruments. The haunting, lilting sounds of the peepaw (my spelling) and the erho (er=two and ho= strings) instruments were so unusual to my western ears.  We left Shanghai for Hengzhou, said to be one of the most beautiful cities in China.  I was also informed that the most beautiful women were found in Hengzhou.  Or was it Suzhou, obviously I wasn’t looking at women and I was still waiting for my husband…

I digress; we enjoyed seeing West Lake and also going high atop North Peak.  At that time there was a cable car to give us an overlook of the sites of Hengzhou.  My friend and I went to the famous Linyin temple where many brightly colored and freshly painted Buddhas were worshipped.  Fortunately, from a tourist’s perspective, this temple was NOT destroyed because of all the history behind it.  The Cultural Revolution found many Red Guards tearing down building structures and these vandals destroyed much other of their own Hengzhou history.

We were not allowed to take photos of the 50-foot statues of the Buddhas. Also, there was no way of capturing and bottling the smell of burning incense at the altars.  The whole place was filled with an overpowering, thick smell of incense from years and years of worshipping the big guy sitting on his haunches.

We were fortunate to take a tour of the largest silk factory in Asia when we visited Hengzhou.  At that time this factory employed 6,000 workers, using three shifts that worked around the clock.  We were shown the cocoon that the silk worm uses. I still have the ones I bought as decorative pieces which were cut into small tulips on a stem.  Our tour guide told us that the cocoons were boiled for 12 minutes before the girls gather eight together to spin into a single thread.  They make sure that the single thread does not break before it gets on to the big spindles that kept rotating.

Trivia we learned: Did you know that it takes 700 cocoons to make one skein of silk?  The thread is silky soft and pure white.  This pure silk thread is dyed in different colors and put on smaller spools.  What we observed was that a pattern like a computer punch out card was used with the appropriate color punched through the hole on the bolt of the red fabric. Whew, I wonder how many modern-day slaves are actually being used to do this manual labor or maybe it has all been mechanized by now.

We left Hengzhou to take a train to Xiamen or what had been formerly known as Amoy.  We stayed on the island of Gulangyu, which is adjacent to Xiamen. Cars and motorcycles were prohibited on this place, not even bicycles were allowed. How nice to not have to worry about being run down by anyone while walking on this island. We were told that on the peak, you could see Taiwan on a clear day.

I felt like I could really relax at this place which used to be a resort island for the Europeans.  One particular guesthouse on this tranquil island was a beautiful mansion in its day.  It looked like it had earlier served as a private dwelling judging by the gate on the outside. It may have been owned by a British family with their family crest at the top of the gate, but you could only see the traces left that it had been built in 1935.

Naturally any other reminders of European habitation had been scratched out.  We understood from the locals that the Red Guard had defaced many stately buildings and this particular mansion was no exception.  The Cultural Revolution during 1966-76 was a dangerous time for any foreigner who remained in China.  The buildings the Europeans left behind took quite a beating, I’m wondering how the former foreign owners of this building fared.

By the end of our trip with our destination as Hong Kong, we took another overnight 17 hours on an ocean liner from Xiamen. We had already logged in 70 hours by train from Harbin with all our other touristy stops along the East Coast of China. I can’t remember much about our return trip to Harbin but I’m sure it didn’t take as long if we took the direct train route from Guangzhou to Beijing and then from Beijing to Harbin.  I DO remember that taking this trip one January was like doing a 100-degree drop in temperature almost from Harbin to Hong Kong.

(to be continued with my trip to China in 2000 and 2001 – what a change!)

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