Posts tagged Korea

Talented group of international students


My husband and I witnessed many different cultures tonight at the international dinner we attended.  What was fun to see was the talent that many of my former students displayed in song and dance.

Fun to see Indian dance and another student doing his dance from Nigeria. Also, percussion players did a great job.  Little did I know that my former student from Korea was a part of the puppet show, she was an ox and her boyfriend was the monkey.  Didn’t take too much practice to explain the origin of the Chinese 12 animals designated for each year.


The above picture shows the animals and the story explained why the cat was not included in the group of 12 animals. The following is from the percussion people.



Finally, here is the last picture of a fun evening.  The best was left until last.


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Kazakh “Marry” Christmas!

Who knew that 20 years ago I would meet the love of my life in Almaty, Kazakhstan!?  I had become at that point in my life decidedly single. I had trained to run the annual Twin Cities marathon, the fall of 1992 in Minneapolis to St. Paul as a kind of goodbye to my beloved Twin Cities.  I was in top physical shape and felt good.  Then I arrived to hot Almaty May 1st of 1993 and the next day I met my future husband. I didn’t know it at the time but HE did. He knew he was going to marry me and I put up quite a wall of resistance for about 8-9 months.  He kept asking me to marry him.  I’m glad Ken prevailed, he is stubborn in things like that.

We had a Christmas Eve wedding at my home church in Minneapolis and I brought over as guests a woman from Almaty, Tatyana Kazanina and a 16 year old Kyrgyz girl named Jyldyz.  Tanya was one of my bridesmaids and Jyldyz played piano and violin at our wedding ceremony and reception at Jax Café in north Minneapolis. It was a lovely day, I believe up in the 40s which is unusual for Minnesota in December.

I just wrote something on my Facebook about celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary and it was fun to get all the well wishes from friends from all over the world.  I especially liked what Nura wrote which I thought was so original, “Have a Marry Christmas!”  No one has ever used that play on words before with us.  I think it is brilliant and I told her so.  Leave it to a smart Kazakh to see that over native speakers of English!

Anyway, we are having guests over for Christmas day meal.  A Chinese guy with the Confucius Institute and his friend along with another family friend of ours.  I meant to have some of my former Korean students over along with my Japanese student.  She is already with her family in Japan and I didn’t get my act together to invite the Korean students. I suppose there is still time, I have five hours before the company arrives along with my folks.  I feel so blessed to have parents still they are very active in the community, my dad is 83 and my mom is 79.

Ken and I intended to watch our wedding video but I guess we deem it so valuable that we had forgotten that we had put it in our safety deposit box.  We will watch it on New Year’s Eve then.  Right now I have to keep working on my second book to satisfy the publishers by Jan. 2nd. So I can’t do too much holiday festivities.  I have the same word counts (350, 140 and 70 word captions) that are beastly, worse than deadlines.  When you combine the two, it means that I don’t have much of a vacation.  It also means I can’t go out x-country skiing in this beautiful snow.  Fortunately, it has been too cold so I haven’t missed out too much on that count.

In any case, I feel very blessed in our cozy home that my grandpa and great uncle built almost 100 years ago. I keep looking up all the facts about my hometown’s history that goes back about 130 years.  The turkey is baking in the oven, I need to make a pumpkin pie after I clean the floors and vacuum.  Yes, life is good on the Minnesota farm with cherished memories of Kazakhstan.  Right now that country, that is the 9th largest in the world, seems so far away.

Marry Christmas everyone!!!

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Students’ Perspectives on Human Trafficking

SunriseI realize I haven’t written much lately on this blog.  Gardening, spring cleaning, writing newspaper articles, the list is endless concerning what has distracted me from blogging more. Clearly I am not living in Kazakhstan anymore so I can’t write too much about Kazakh students. However, I am still working with Asian students so I feel right at home in my own hometown in Minnesota.  I will get more on track with writing during this summer in anticipation of next fall and teaching incoming freshmen students.

For now, here are the perspectives from my last class on an assignment I gave them about human trafficking. Most of these are Korean students from my Comp I class, some have English names which helps me as their teacher to call on them in class.

Perspectives on Human trafficking Assignment

Marcus – The thing I liked most about writing this paper was learning a completely new topic that I did not know before. I was never fully aware of the conflicts of human trafficking until I researched my topic of human sex trafficking.  The thing I liked most about this paper was that it built my perspective on life and how we should appreciate the things we take for granted. There are many people in this world that deal with daily struggles that we cannot even fathom. From this I am motivated to better myself so I can in return help others in the future.

Ju Young – Actually I like the most about Human Trafficking issue. I have heard about it before but I didn’t know exactly what the Human Trafficking is and how it is severe recent days. After I finished my Paper#3, I had a lots of chance to think about human trafficking and I tried to help them by UNICEF by monthly donation for an Indian girl ( I can’t remember her name..). Above all now I have lots of thinking about human trafficking and maybe in the future, I will help them and I would say that my helping is from the writing of this assignment.

I think I have learned about this paper is how humans are worthy. Sometimes I thought that my life is sad and why I am in the hard society? Such as hard to entering school in Korea, I have to go to military. But after I did my paper on human trafficking, my thinking was totally changing. I was surprised at too much people are struggling with their tough life and they need a lot of help from me and us. From the doing this paper,  Not only for changing my life and thinking, but I have a broaden sight for looking around me and helping them.

Hayden – Human trafficking is rather quite disturbing topic. Child soliders was my topic and through my research, I found out there are so many children who are in need of help. What I liked about this assignment is that I was glad to see that, around the world, there are people who are trying to reach out their hands to those forsaken children and strive to aid them. Basically, what I learned from writing this paper is that there are children who need help so much and the dark side of the world is just abhorring.

Janet – In this paper, I really like researching about the topic. Since I have been interested in human issues such as human trafficking. So, I really enjoyed researching about this topic. For me, I love the topic- online child pornography-in this paper. During the last topic of human trafficking issue, I really have interested in this issue. So, I choose this topic.

Calvin – Researching and finding information on the topic was not so much fun but informative and I enjoyed that part of the paper.  The troubles of others are unimaginable to those who don’t seek the truth.

Joe – Actually, this topic about human trafficking was too difficult for me to write. The topic was touchy one. However I learned about prostitution especially Asian prostitution more.

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Students’ Reactions to “The City Bleeds Red” blog

bloodAn American girl wrote on her blog about her travels around the world for almost one year.  I had my composition students read her blog if they wanted to write their reaction to it for extra credit. Only three guys from Korea chose to do so. Otherwise, there were books to read on line, articles to look at or my own blogs to reflect on in preparation for their third paper on human trafficking. They looked at this link, I invite you to do the same and then react by adding a comment of your own at the end of this blog entry.

Reactions to “The City Bleeds Red”

Student #1 – This blog entry is by far the most convincing and heart-breaking story I have ever read. Because of this essay I have to reconsider whether the color red is really representing the word ‘passion’ , not, as the article said, “young children having to sit under a bed while their mother is doing “business”. Red is the color of innocence being taken by force, trafficked into new lands and robbed of all hope and future. Red – the color of parentless children being raised by pimps just waiting for them to get to the proper age so they can be put into business. Red – the color of corruption; police being paid every week by pimps so they don’t take action. Red is the color of deception, mistrust and injustice”. This was very touching and really moving paragraph. The whole essay tells what is going on within India. And I feel such pity for those young girls as their freedom, wills, visions, and dreams are shattered by the pimps or other disgusting people. I had no idea that India was in this much trouble with CSWs (Commercial Sex Workers) and other sex traffics. This article really awakened me and bought my attention to India. I think people in India really need help and I am eager to do something about it.

Student #2 – “This city bleeds red.” This sentence is very striking expression that depicts the sad reality of the city. Most of CSW have to have body relationship with 13-15 customers a day, and they get paid $2 per customer. As a result, their appearance looks older than their age and they get a disease. What the horrible reality! Their life and human rights is brutally being trampled underfoot by the minority wicked people. These facts always make me upset, however, there is no apparent solution. So, Katy Westrom and her co-workers always pray for improving poor people and children’s life. The victims of human trafficking need to real love and pray, not crude helps. Therefore, I really respect Katy and her people.

Student #3 – In this writing, the writer describes the Mumbai’s situation a red color that is negative part. In Mumbai, really a lot of commercial sex workers (15000~20000). And they even do their sex work about 13-15 customers a day and only got the $ 2 USD. I am really glad how I am one of the luckiest guys in the world. During the blog review, I realized really a lot of people are suffering from human trafficking especially prostitution. When they as victims suffer from the human trafficking, their life is completely ruined. For example, in this writing, there is a woman who is 35 years old but has both HIV and Tuberculosis. However, she looked like she was 75 years old…and she is not the only one woman who suffered from severe human trafficking. In Mumbai, more than 200,000 women are CSW’s. I felt how their life is so difficult as well. However, when there is a negative part, there also a positive part exists. Now the house where the writer was working used to be a brothel, but now today it is a safe place for children. Also like the writer of this blog, we don’t have a lot of work but love. Pray for them, Pray for their life is a one way to reduce their difficult life.

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Waxing Philosophical about the Asian Winter Games Opening Ceremony

When my husband and I first moved to Astana a year ago, we were watching the Winter Olympics broadcasting out of Vancouver, Canada on our t.v. in all its richness, color and Russian commentary.  This year we were in our living room with friends, our tv long since banished to a corner in our bedroom and our cable connection cut off.  Who needs tv when you have Internet?  Well after discussing with many people yesterday about the Opening Ceremony, I wish I had our t.v.  back up and working.  I guess I missed something REALLY spectacular by all accounts from my Facebook friends, my students and people who actually attended this grand event.  However, as much as the Asian Games organizers put into the well choreographed production, the logistics of security and transportation left much to be desired.

From what I gathered the president of Kazakhstan was in attendance, the first and foremost VIP plus the new president of Kyrgyzstan along with a sheik from Emirat and of course the President of the Asian Games along with China and Korean representatives from their respective countries.  The arena holds 30,000 people and there were 6,000 participants.  Apparently a famous Russian composer, Igor Krutoy used poems by Fabian and other old stories from Kazakhstan’s history to weave together a fantastic program.  A singer from Korea, a Kazakh opera singer who studied in Italy and many other musicians and dancers were part of the glamorous performance.

Different numbers of how many countries who are actually represented at these winter games range from 15 to 27 countries.  Some come from the most unlikely places where they have never seen ice or snow like India, Pakistan and Iran from what I was told by my “informants.”  Whenever anything related to Kazakhstan was announced the crowd chanted “Go Forward Kazakhstan” in either Russian or Kazakh.  Since I wasn’t there I don’t know for sure which language, but I can be certain that it was not in English.  My students told me that there was an Olympic like flame that went through many cities throughout Kazakhstan. Even a Kazakh athlete in a wheelchair had carried the burning torch through Timertau. I guess that is a fairly obscure city in Kazakhstan where one of my PDP students is from.

The Opening Ceremony production, which ironically was produced by this Russian composer, looked back to the history of the Kazakh nomads up to present day. It showed about Oguz from the ancient Turkish tribes and many other famous Kazakh warriors and leaders. The show began at 6:45 and officially ended at 10:30 p.m.  After that was the grand fireworks display witnessed throughout the city of Astana, it beamed brightly into everyone’s living room as well.

Meanwhile those attendees who had seen such a fantastic display of Kazakh patriotism and pride inside the arena had a difficult time getting home in the frosty, cold air and winds of Astana.  If it were me, I would have just walked home since I only live about two miles from where this extravaganza took place.  Apparently the busses were so packed with people leaving (remember there were over 30,000 people in the stadium) now they were all ready to go home to get ready for their work week.  Many people waited over an hour to get on the busses.  Several smart Kazakhs had either left early or went out another entrance.  One of my PDP students remembered that she and her husband had gone to the 10 year birthday of Astana and there had been such chaos getting home that they were convinced to give this event a pass and watch it on t.v.

Functionality and logistics had gone out the window when it came to letting people into the stadium as well.  According to my students security was so tight that they checked through everyone’s bags to make sure no alcohol was allowed in.  If anyone was caught with alcohol on their person or on their breath, they were summarily thrown out of the arena.  Yes, security was tight, so much so that one of the bridges was closed crossing from the old part of the city going into the new part.  That made it difficult for my dinner guests to arrive on time because traffic was all snarled up as a result.  They finally showed an hour late but I thought this did not bode well for the Asian Games organization to have people arriving late to the ceremony.

From other accounts, people were held back from their seats and there was the frightening experience for some of witnessing a near stampede mentality just to get in.  One American woman was elbowed in her face and she is still hurting.  What a miserable way to “enjoy” the ceremony when there is little decorum in the hallways just outside the event.

Last night I was talking, over leftovers at my flat, to one volunteer who got to the stadium early and another VIP friend who was whisked through to their seats, they did not encounter any of these problems.  The former has a badge to get into ALL events.  She is all suited up in red, whereas there are other volunteers in blue and white uniforms.  The expense of the “volunteers” uniforms must have been immense for both cities where there were supposedly 3,000 volunteers in Almaty and 1,500 in Astana.  One Kazakh woman in my noon English class said that the athletes uniforms cost 380,000 tenge (about $2,500) each.  That must be for the hockey players, I can’t imagine that all the Kazakh athletes would have a kit that expensive.

Here is where I get philosophical.  My VIP friend said that she was recognized by security guards because she has a high profile here in Astana, she encountered no pushing or shoving.  That would be true of all the other dignitaries as well.  However, what about my American friends who were part of the near stampede or those other American friends who were wanting to get on every packed bus for one hour before they got on one to take them home?  There are the elites and then there are the common people in this fine country of Kazakhstan.  In every country you have your garden variety types who become hurt or desperate or cold because the logic of something so massive has not been thought through in every detail.

Tomorrow I will pick up on that theme.  But from where I work, you can see that the “presentation” is more important than the actual execution or implementation of the theme.  Not to say that the Opening Ceremony performance inside the arena was not perfectly done, I’m sure it was.  I am just saying that there are so many other details outside of that, that can and should not be ignored.  People of Kazakhstan, outside of Astana and Almaty are hurting, cold and desperate.  Patriotism with all the glitz can only last so long before hopelessness and despair enter…

(to be continued)

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“Bearly” Recognizable Buddy Bears Promote Peace

These colorful bears that are congregated close to Astana’s Baiterek are “bearly” recognizable as to their origin of country.  The name plates below help reveal the artist and country with their respective flag. Other bears are easy to figure out, together they make for a brilliant display of diversity in unity with the United Nations thrust of countries working together.  Art is able to pull this off where politics normally collide. Maybe when we see the contrasts and differences in art, we can come to an understanding of our cultural differences.  Perhaps that is the main idea behind this exhibit.  The quote made by the great German born scientist Einstein that I spotted at the Buddy Bear exhibit said the following: “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”

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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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Yangjoo Chun’s Korean Grandmother did needlework and sang sad melodies

I want to write about my grandmother who had lived an exacting life and was esteemed by our family. Her life was filled with many vicissitudes that started by the unexpected death of her husband. After her husband’s death, the things that were left on her were seven children, some farmland, fields and her husband’s father who was very old and needed assistance. Since then, she worked very hard every day for a living. She worked and worked whether for day or for night. When most people slept, she did needlework and went to bed. Before the sun rose up, she woke up and went to the farmland or fields to work. Although her family lived in the countryside, all of her children graduated from school and some of them even graduated from university because of their mother’s effort.

My mother often says me with a smile that I always cried when I was a baby when I met my grandmother. Actually, her appearance was dramatically changed for several years. Hard work made her skin black with many scars, her hands became so rough. She looked very short and small because her back was rather stooped. And she didn’t have one finger on her left hand. She lost it while she was making cattle feed. My mother said my grandmother never cried despite her severe situation. But, when my mother was in childhood, she heard sad songs while she was down sleeping. Grandmother was singing while doing her needlework. The melody of the song was very sorrowful and sad as if her life was like that melody. My mother was rather young for understanding her mother’s life. However, she wept because she felt her mother’s melody was so sad.

I wonder how my grandmother could have lived such a life. It just can say she had a strong mind and will. Now, my grandmother is about 90 years old and healthy without any serious sickness. The secret of her long life is light eating and vegetarian diet. The videos were sent to my family recently that shows us our grandmother’s birthday party. Unfortunately, my family isn’t in Korea, so we couldn’t join in the party. In the videos, she looks very happy. Finally, we think she is a great mother and respect her. We wish that she is always healthful and blissful during her remaining life.

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Youngsu’s Korean Grandparents Believed in Daughter’s Education

My parents always talk to me that they want a person who is like grandparents of my father’s side. I heard so much about this story, so I feel very familiar with my grandparents even if I have never seen them. My grandparents passed away before I was born, but I respect and love them.

My grandparents on my father’s side were very open-minded with different points of view with others. In Korea, over 70 years ago, most Koreans thought that women do not need to study, read a book and write any letters. Most parents only offered education to their sons. Daughters could not get any education. My Grandparents did not think like other parents at that time. They helped my aunts to have an education. At the time when my parents were young, there were a few schools for girls, my grandparents brought my aunts to the school. My aunts could take a high quality education.

My grandparents also were famous for being diligent persons. They did farming on very big farm in their home town. They got up early in the morning, worked hard during day time and took care of their children in the evening. They offered some food for the poor and treated them kindly. When there were some matters in the town, they would try to solve the problems. People who lived in the town liked them very much.

I did not meet and talk to my grandparents on my father’s side because they passed away. Whenever I go to my father’s home town, people who remember my grandparents tell me that my grandparents were nice persons, and miss them a lot. When I heard my grandparent’s story from my parents and other people who knew them, I am proud of them. If they were alive, I would hug them and say I love you.

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Debunking Myths about me (Part II)

Myth#5 – The most painful lie used against me was when I was betrayed by someone I thought of and trusted as a friend.  She twisted a sentence that I wrote in a handout for an international TESOL conference paper that I delivered last March in Denver, Colorado.  She immediately flew into a rage that she did not agree with the term “dumping ground.” Here’s the errant sentence I wrote: “The Soviet Union from the North made Kazakhstan a “dumping ground” of other nationalities, making Kazakhs a minority in their own land.”  Why had I put “dumping ground” in quotations? Because there are plenty of journal articles, while doing a literature review, that use this phrase when referring to the number of nationalities (Korean, Ukrainian, Russian, etc.) who were thrown off the train in the middle of the steppes of Kazakhstan.  Thankfully, many Kazakh sympathized and helped those people who were dumped onto Kazakh soil to find food and shelter.  I believe the spirit of generosity and hospitality extended to strangers thrown off of trains during the perilous times of Stalin’s purges says something noble about the Kazakh people, doesn’t it?

In fact, when I went to ALZHIR, the memorial built by the president of this fine country, he was quoted as saying, “It is not Kazakhstan’s fault that it’s land was used as a “dumping ground” of many nationalities.”  Why can the president use this disputable phrase but I can’t? (ALZHIR is just outside of Astana, the new capital for Kazakhstan.  This place was where the wives whose husbands were considered “Enemies of the people” from all over the Soviet Union were sent as punishment. They were separated from their children and forced to do labor, some for 10 years if they lasted that long.) 

Logic went out the window in our heated discussion when my “friend” said that I thought her mother was garbage if I wrote that Kazakhstan was the Soviet Union’s “dumping ground” much the same as Siberia was used with its penal system. I never mentioned her mother, I was puzzled how that came up in our conversation when I thought we had been talking about Kazakhstan. But my supposed “friend” loves her mother and didn’t want her to be thought of as an imperialist Russian who came down from Moscow to Kazakhstan to tame the wild Kazakhs into submission.

I have much sympathy and compassion for this former teaching colleague woman who only has an older mother and one daughter.  We shared some very good times together but this is a very complex country to live in. Unfortunately she was born in Kazakhstan but she is not Kazakh herself, she is what is known as Kazakhstani.  Perhaps her main fear is that the nationalistic Kazakhs will rise up against the Kazakhstani who are of Russian ethnicity and kick them out as has been done in more nationalistic countries such as Estonia, Lithuania and other former Soviet countries. In actual truth, her mother was a history teacher and that is where the political rub comes in.  Even the president of this country found that the Moscow elites were changing Kazakhstan’s history in the history textbooks to fit the Soviet ideology and would obliterate any truth to what the Kazakhs had handed down orally for generations.

So from that little incident last spring, it was noised around with a change of wording that I thought Kazakhstan was a “garbage dump.”  Nothing could be further from the truth!!!  I see Kazakhstan as a very beautiful country with very beautiful people.  What saddens me is that there are Kazakh and Kazakhstani alike who are still so twisted up in their old communist dogma. They are NOT beautiful people but are soulless and still very much misled by untruths. In some cases, the older teachers and administrators have been communist party members longer than they have known the liberating air of democracy.  I have learned from this experience that the old habits of intimidation, fear and bullying die hard. 

What I found so perplexing was why would I, as an American citizen, prefer to stay and teach longer in Kazakhstan if I thought this country was a “garbage dump?” I certainly was not teaching at this institution of higher learning for the pay as many other foreigners are who draw large professor salaries.  Compared to other universities in Almaty, our institution is also the best paying job for any Kazakh or Kazakhstani teacher. There’s the irony because it would be much easier for me to go home and live in a culture that I know as my own and be paid twice as much as I was paid in Almaty.

8) to be continued 8)

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