Posts tagged International Women’s Day

Happy Intl. Women’s Day

Or…what is left of this day that is so faithfully celebrated in all other countries of the globe. I told my students today that we as Americans celebrate many privileges that other women in other communist or former communist countries do not enjoy.  Every day is a holiday for most of us…while women who lived during the Soviet era needed a break like International Women’s Day.

I showed my students today a photo of many women at a Women’s Camp from 1950 and in this group of many ladies would be my Grandma Ellen.  I haven’t figured out which one she is but I have several guesses.

Woman's camp at NWSA around 1950

Last night we had howling winds that were raging almost to 50-60 mph. I woke up in the morning and I was happy to NOT hear that kind of wrathful wind.  This was basically the last class until after Spring break so that put me in a good mood too. I did not receive any candy, flowers or cards but on Facebook many of my former students or colleagues from other countries greeted me.

Indeed, happy international womens day!

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Postmodern “Thinking” in a Post-Soviet Country

Because it is International Women’s day I feel that I have a “right” to write what I want to today.  How’s THAT for a “postmodern” sentence!? I’m returning to the subject of postmodernism. By definition it is probably a term that is most misunderstood as it is bandied about by academicians in the West.  However, it affects me as a western educator in a post-Soviet country such as Kazakhstan. If you go back to an earlier blog that I did on Feb. 13th, almost a month ago, you will see what a Kazakh person who knows many languages and has been exposed to much western thinking, what he wrote.

I will try to make clear in this blog posting what postmodernism is and isn’t and how such should not be promulgated to unsuspecting Kazakhs who want to be educated by western standards. Do we really have the best education to deliver to a country that is Asian AND Muslim while still coming out from under the dominance of Russia and Soviet communism?  You have one complicated mass of ideologies, cultures, rituals, languages and thinking.

So, the following is what *I* think and it could change a bit tomorrow (due to reader feedback) but my main intent is to show how tragic the consequences are when western educators neglect certain things in education by rushing to the latest fad or theory.  First I must establish what “postmodernism” is, if I understand it correctly.  The best that I can explain is that whatever I write next will not matter to you the reader.  Even if I have a perfect thesis statement and even if I make my points crystal clear, it is no longer what *I* set out to do with writing in this blog, as I have done since the fall of 2007.  No, from a postmodern way of thinking, it is all about YOU the reader and how YOU interpret these words of what I write.  It is no longer about the writer’s purpose or what they are trying to persuade or convince their reader to know or think.

Therefore, no matter what “truth” I may write about what I have observed in this country of Kazakhstan, it doesn’t matter because, according to postmodernists, it is all relative.  Another way to define is that there are NO absolutes or anything goes, if it is right for one person, it might not be right for the next person after that.

We used to take Civics courses back when I was going to school, I’m not sure what they teach young people in American high schools anymore.  We were taught to be a patriotic, loyal American, and we put our hand to our heart and sang the National Anthem. We knew all the words and sang with gusto.  Now, I’m not so sure kindergarten children know how to say the Pledge of Allegiance.  For one thing, there are many cultures mixed in to the classroom, so there is already a clash of which language should be spoken, Spanish or English. Has anyone heard the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish? Don’t answer that!

I’m not opposed to having all the mix of cultures in the U.S. classrooms. I’m an ESL/EFL teacher and this is my bread and butter to teach English.  My great grandparents sailed from Norway and many of my peers ancestors when they moved to the U.S. made sure they dumped their own language from the Old Country because they wanted to fit in to get a better job by learning English.  We used to have a classical curriculum where you were required to study other languages, know your country’s history, even appreciating what the Greeks and Romans experienced…

Now, in our university classrooms we have classes on Women’s studies, Indian studies, Black studies, GLTB studies, etc.  All those people who came from the Old Country to settle the great lands of the U.S. are made out to be criminals, especially in the Midwest. (Why don’t they pick on those who rushed to California for the better weather and gold? Hmmm…that is where Hollywood is located, question answered)  In order to salve the conscience of the postmodernists, it is fine to denigrate the hardworking settlers of the fly-over country and exalt all other minorities.

Therefore, according to postmodernists, the dead white males (and females) who made all the discoveries to make life easier out on the frontier of our new land, THEY are the despicable ones.  Yet, these same postmodern people will be opposed to meat and against fur which is what not only the new frontiersmen did in order to survive, but the Indians lived off the land killing animals.  Seems that is the livelihood of the Kazakhs as well, they lived off the killing of their sheep and cattle.  Are they better off now after Stalin forced collectivization and industrialization?  Is there any postmodernist in the U.S. ready to read and study about this marginalized people group in Central Asia?

Postmodernism gets really confusing because if students major in Women’s Studies for instance, what kind of a job will they get afterwards? Seems instead they have a warped view of men and society and come out more angry and bitter.  Is this the kind of education we want to promote among the Kazakhs who go to the West to get their education?  Do they need to know how to become more greedy and selfish?  Unfortunately, during communism days that was what was pounded into their parents minds about the evils of capitalism.  Yet, if that is true, there is no concept of servanthood and giving service to the customer which came along with running a good business.  I’m glad to say Kazakh people in the “service” industry are catching on.  You get repeat customers if they are treated well.

That leads me to my next point of what we, as Americans, know as “public servants.”  This used to be a term where we understood that politicians SERVED the people but now I’m not so sure if we are resigned to the fact that it is about maintaining power and control.  So, with the elections coming up in Kazakhstan on April 3rd, do the Kazakhs really believe that the best candidate will win because he will continue to serve the people?  Will that always be true or will there come a time that the leaders of western countries will provide poor examples of public servants.  I think that is true already but I don’t want this to be about politics.

For now, I want to conclude that I see the products of our American educational system where they believe that everything revolves around them. If they think a certain way, then everyone else will (or should) think that way as well.  There is not even an attempt to find out what another side of a problem or argument might be or that they might even disagree about their perspective.  Only because a postmodernist who is schooled to be “tolerant” to all other faiths and religions will believe what another thinks and believes is fine for that person.

(to be continued)

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Celebrated International Women’s Day Early

Last year we celebrated with about 30 women and we each got plants from the men at our university.  This year about 50-55 of us got funky bars of soap, different flavors like passion fruit, peppermint, vanilla, etc.  I joked with some of the guys after the perfunctory speeches as we were feasting over cakes and juice, “Did you guys think the women needed to become clean, thus the soap?”  I LOVED my plant as a gift from last year because plants are so expensive to buy in Astana. Apparently other ladies objected to the plants, I guess they would prefer something like fresh cut roses.

I got three red roses also from two guys who walked into my office.  They were representing another school I work with.  I quickly put these roses in water and there they sit in my office because I didn’t want to take them out in the cold.  You don’t see as many bouquets of flowers up in cold Astana, it is not practical and they would freeze even before you would get to your host’s place.  Although I DID get a lovely salmon colored rose from some dinner guests last week. It still looks nice.

Anyway, we will NOT go to work tomorrow, March 8th.  Today, the first year students have tests and exams so they are all at the university along with all their British teachers.  Everything definitely stops on Tuesday where the men are supposed to shop, cook, fix the meal, clean, do all the chores.  I think it is a chance for the men to see what it is like to be a woman for the day, honoring their hard work.  I like this day, I first learned about International Women’s Day when I lived in China back in 1986-88. Otherwise, Americans are unaware that this is an “international” holiday.  Enjoy the photos of our 60-70 people and other friends who were a part of this celebration the other day in the Senate room.

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“Malakhai” hat and more photos of expat guests

As promised yesterday, I have a photo of Yaheya’s fur hat.  I looked for more information about this, I found:  “Pelts are used to make “malakhai”. Malakhai is a very warm winter hat made out of fox fur, covering head, neck and part of shoulder.”

As you can see, this fur hat would keep any Kazakh nomad warm in the winter, especially here in the Astana area where the cruel winds blow.

However, I think we are into spring and the sidewalks are melting down so it is not tundra ice to navigate over but rather the real brick or stone to walk on.

Enjoy the other photos of our expat guests on Thursday who came to listen to my students’ talks.  One friend of mine as she was leaving said, “Oh, I can see why you love your students so much, they are so dear.”  Yes, they are and once they graduate with their “Certificate of Completion,” they will move on to further vistas in academia, I’m sure.  For now, they are teaching at the intellectual schools which are feeder schools to our university in Astana.

Today we are back at work as if it is a Monday while it really is a Saturday because of the “International Women’s Day” holiday on Tuesday.  Did you follow all that?  Last year for this annual celebration, we got plants from the men, I wonder what the men at our university will give all of us ladies THIS year?  I LIKE this holiday that is not celebrated in the U.S.  I tell my students that it is “intl. women’s day” every day in the U.S. with a knowing smile on my face! They believe me.

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Last Day Flowers

last-day-bouquetMy wonderful MBA students gave me flowers last night and most all of us agreed that we want to keep the class going. So hard to believe we will no longer be meeting every Tuesday and Thursday evening. Some say they want to take another class from me next fall since I’m not teaching summer session. Both classes seemed to like each other as classmates and were constructive while being supportive in their comments when evaluating each others’ speeches. We had six nights in the whole semester that were devoted to informative and persuasive speeches. We were fortunate to have foreign guests come observe, comment and question on all these nights except for one of last night’s classes. Most of my students had ambivalent feelings about having outsiders come in to view and hear their speeches. For me, it helped because it is difficult to be objective as their teacher and getting outside opinions about the delivery of their speeches put things in perspective when I have to give the final grade. For the students, to prepare a speech for a real audience of native speakers of English puts an added pressure to perform well with passion, to get their point across, to speak to the back of the room with good eye contact and to handle questions that inevitably come up afterwards. For our guests, they were jazzed about hearing non-native speakers accomplish giving a speech with interesting content in this academic setting.

Yes indeed, I will miss these bright, young graduate students. Some will be walking across the stage on May 23rd for the commencement exercise. I will be so proud of them as I sit in the audience of the big auditorium. One gal last night, as she was helping me clean up the drinks and snacks that I had for our foreign guests because our classes met during the dinner hour, said that my class was her very last class. She seemed a bit melancholy about it. Another male student told me last night that he has been working hard on the planning committee for this great occasion of leaving our university with his newly minted masters degree. I wish them all well, I am thinking of the quote from Jeremiah 29:11:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”march-8-sprouts

I told my first class last night that the flowers they had given me on International Women’s Day almost two months ago had sprouted green leaves in their stalks. For some reason, these cut flowers were extra fresh and lasted well beyond two weeks. What was amazing was they started sprouting in the water. I have kept them to see if they will grow into a plant eventually. If so, there is life after being cut as fresh flowers. My students are my fresh cut, “Last Day Flowers!” Thank you dear students!!!

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Sholpan’s 50 year old Soviet Postcards

intl-womens-day-card1Sholpan trusted me with her family’s old Soviet postcards to have them scanned. The first shows International Women’s Day from 1959. The next is from China showing happy Chinese children harvesting the bounty from the same year, 1959. Two young Pioneers titled “What is the Mistake?” was published in 1957 but sent from Sholpan’s father to her mother in 1964. Finally the last shows a Russian folktale about a wolf and seven kids. (to be continued)


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Happy International Women’s Day in Kazakhstan

Nice to receive small gifts from my teaching colleagues and get e-card greetings and real flower bouquets from my students in anticipation of this GREAT holiday that glorify women every March 8. These photos I took on the corner of Setpayeva and Furmanova in Almaty when they were putting up the billboards to celebrate International Women’s Day.


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