Posts tagged Lithuania

Good news/Bad news on mortality issues in Kazakhstan

Today was that kind of a day where I had one thing after another after another and there is more to come as I write this.   The tempo is picking up with our PDP classes and I am very proud of my students for listening very attentively to our guest speaker, Hanaa Singer from UNICEF.  My students asked excellent questions from their Kazakh educators point of view and I just watched it all happen.  Of course, Hanaa, is a remarkable speaker and she knew how to draw out a good discussion and relevant comments from her audience.

So much information that Hanaa gave us starting with a five minute movie that shows photos of beautiful children, the most vulnerable part of any population the world over.  Then she gave information that is close to her heart regarding Kazakhstan’s issues and then a slide show that showed more statistics to make her points.  This proved a good example for my PDP students who will have a chance to share their findings and readings from their final research paper in their 15 minute ppt presentations which they will give in about a month.

For now, let me just write down just a few things that struck me about what Hanaa shared with us.  There were many more things but this is the good news/bad news concerning Kazakhstan.

The good news:

Infant mortality rate decreased since 2008 from 21% to 17%

Under age 5 the mortality rate dropped from 23% to 19%

Maternal mortality rate dropped from 37 in 2009 to 23 in 2010 per 100,000.

Bad news:

When I heard Hanaa speak last spring, she spoke of Kazakhstan being second to Russia concerning suicide rate among 15-19 year old Kazakhs.  That has changed now according to her statistics.  Kazakhstan has moved ahead of Russia and this is not something to be proud of.  Suicide deaths and large numbers of them that are avoidable deaths are never something that is healthy for a nation. Especially a young developing nation like Kazakhstan.

According to her graphs, she showed that Kazakhstan had over 30 suicide deaths per 100,000 of males and almost 20 suicides for females, almost 50 of 100,000.  Whereas Russian had 40 with 30 males/100,000 and 9/100,000 females.  Lithuania had 30 suicides out of 100,000 and Estonia with 27 and Turkmenistan with 25 next.  About 20 countries were represented in this graph.  What’s interesting is that there were less male suicide in Turkmenistan than in the other higher countries.

We discussed this as a group and it was thought that suicides are happening in Kazakhstan among rich families where the child gets everything materially but they are not shown love by their parents.  Also, Hanaa suggested that there have been many cases of bullying amongst this age group of 15-19 year olds.

Very sobering subject.  I think I’ll try to find more baby photos tomorrow that I meant to post earlier.  Over and out.

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Last of the Buddy Bear photos

These will be the last of my favorite Buddy Bears and in a few cases I’m not sure what country they represent.  A couple of Buddy Bears I don’t like, such as the one for Mongolia. (sorry Mongolia) What is THAT about?  It looked like the artist did a cover-up job from what was originally intended, or someone else painted over what the artist from Mongolia had designed. (I won’t show it) In any case, there are some great artists that I want to focus your attention on. Better yet, come up to Astana and see them for yourself!!!  Tomorrow’s blog will feature some Russian poetry that a former student from Almaty clued me in on.  Fortunately, it has the English translation and the theme is “gulag life.” Quite a contrast from these bright, upbeat bears!

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Marina’s Grandmother and Lingering Regret

I would like to tell about my Grandmother, because she was really a great person. She died this year, but she is alive in my heart and hearts of her other relatives. She was born in 1932 in Russia. So her childhood and youth was difficult and hard because of the War in 1941-1945. She was the eldest sister and she had two brothers and two sisters. So she needed to care for them from the earliest childhood. And she did that. She helped her parents to bring up her brothers and sisters and to provide them with the necessary food and clothing. During the war my Granny had been working as a nurse. So she saw a lot of terrible injures, but also she helped a lot of injured people to survive.

After the War she met my grandfather and they got married. He was a military officer, so they traveled a lot. My uncle was born in Germany, and my mother was born in Lithuania. In 1960-1970s they left for Kazakhstan, Almaty. Granny told me that it had been very difficult to live in Almaty in that period of time, because Almaty had been only a little city after War and it had been very difficult to get food, clothes and other necessary things. My Granny had graduated university and became a teacher of Russian language and literature. So she always tried to help people.

I loved my Granny very much. I could say that me, my elder brother and cousins grew up with my grandparents, about whom I’m telling now. They brought up us, played with us, took us in the kindergarten and school, because our parents were very busy at their work. So I think that my Granny did everything that she could for us. And I hope that she would be proud of us.

About three years ago, my grandmother got sick. We thought that she was going to get better, but medical treatment didn’t help her. I lost someone who was literally one of the most important people in my life, and it happened in an instant. Now I really regret about my behavior in her last years. She always kept asking me to come to meet her. But I always had meetings, exams, classes… Now I really regret about it. But I think that she loved me and forgave me for my mistake. I really loved her.

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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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