Posts tagged Lufthansa

Photos of my friends left behind (Part II)

My long flight(s) home with three pieces of luggage and one carryon was meant to carry back three and a half years worth of accumulation for both my husband and me. I paid Lufthansa $170 for the third piece and was happy that I did not have to pay Delta airlines again in Chicago another $180 for penalty of three suitcases.  I was happy that there were people who helped me all along the way. I felt like they were angels on a mission. I was especially glad my husband was there at the Minneapolis airport to carry my heavy carryon and take me to our car where it was filled with precious things from Kazakhstan. We still had a five hour trip of driving ahead of us so I didn’t get home until 2 1/2 days later. (stayed overnight with friends about an hour out of the Cities)  The past week was less torturous because of amazing friends all along the way. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I’ve said goodbye to some very precious friends in Astana, Kazakhstan so for now less words and MORE photos of those I left behind.

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Photos of my friends left behind

Last post for a while as I sit waiting in the Astana airport ready to board my Lufthansa flight. Thankful for free wifi!  I have been in Kazakhstan since fall of 2007.  My husband and I accumulated lots of things in those three and a half years so it is amazing that I was able to get it down to three suitcases and one carryon.  I sold stuff to pay for my airfare, I gave many more things away.  I will have tons of fond memories of what I experienced in this amazing country of Kazakhstan.  For now, I’ll just end with photos of my friends who I left behind in Astana.

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Seventeen Questions about Astana from a Well-Seasoned Westerner

I’ve been very distracted by events in our neighboring country, my former home in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. I have friends there who are reporting they are okay, waiting on one other couple to give me a thumbs up.  Sorry, I have no photos, pictures, poems or pithy sayings for today’s blog. I almost didn’t get it done today, so much else to do.  I did answer 17 questions from someone who has applied to our new university.  This person has lived in many different countries so he knows the right questions to ask.  I’ll give you all the questions but will be very discrete with the answers I gave him.  On top of writing about what is going on in northern Kazakhstan I’m thinking about what is happening south of us, it still feels too close for comfort.

1.  Do they hire teachers who are married, or do they prefer only single teachers?

3.  Is there a British high school for the children of expatriate workers such as us?

4.  How is the housing for a family of three?  Do you live in a compound, or are you assigned rentals?

5.  Is there high-speed WiFi Internet connection at the University, and can you access it in your apartment?
The common Internet connection is Megaline, which we used in Almaty but there are some other providers as well such as KazTelecom.  We have to pay on our own for the Internet at our flat.

6.  How do you get around? bus, train, taxi, hired driver, or do you have to buy a vehicle?
We get around the city of Astana by either “gypsy” cab or by bus.  A car is easy enough to flag down and if you negotiate with the driver before you enter the car, the standard fare starts at 200 tenge but to cross town could be as much as 500 tenge.  One bus that goes from the airport (close to the campus) and all the way to the train station is Bus #10.  It is 60 tenge to take a bus but a micro bus is 65 tenge.  When the weather is warmer, I think it would be easy enough to walk around or to use a bike. My husband often comments that he would like to buy a car like he used to drive when we were both in Almaty in 1993-1995.

7.  Is the salary paid in British pounds, Euro, or Kazakstan currency?

8.  How expensive is fresh fruit, vegetables, canned foods, milk, etc.? We buy our groceries either at Ramstor (Turkish run) or at Kerun (sp) shopping center.  The Gros store just went out of business which is close to the Baiterek monument.  Food can be a bit more pricey but you pay for quality at these food stores that have the modern check out system.  The best place to get ground beef is at Ramstor.  In Almaty we would go to the Green Bazaar to buy in bulk but I’ve only been to the bazaar once in Astana since I arrived two and half months ago. There are also little mini-markets to buy a quick loaf of bread or milk, kind of like a 7-11 store.  I am sorry I don’t pay much attention to food prices, my husband does most of the shopping.

9.  How are the physical facilities where you teach?

10. How is the technology? At the western university in Almaty where I taught, it proved that we
could not use YouTube on campus but of course you could at home yet it was slow.  It would chunk up and you would get the clips in segments with long pauses in between.  The restrictions on Internet were
imposed by the university in Almaty otherwise the students would be downloading music and videos slowing down the campus wide connection for everyone, so those were the only restrictions I encountered.  We had full use of Ebscohost on campus and from home, we also had subscribed at our library ProQuest, SAGE, J-Stor etc.  I would think that our British university will have all those electronic databases and more.  That should not be a problem as China experiences with their censorship.  I’ve not followed very well the latest tussle with Google and China, sorry.

11. How would you characterize the local Muslim population’s support of terrorism?

The Kazakh people are nominally Muslim and I had a conversation several years ago with a Kazakh man using my bad Russian and his equally poor English but we were able to communicate about the ongoing
war in Iraq.  Some Kazakhs see this as something to side with their Muslim brothers on but for the most part they do NOT support terrorism, the Kazakhs are a peaceable kind of people.  With the current events going on in Kyrgyzstan, the Kyrgyz people have been pushed to the limit and have not had the success as Kazakhstan has had to improve their lot since the fall of the former Soviet Union.  What you might read in the news about the events in Bishkek has been a slow burn from over 10-15 years of corrupt government.  The Kyrgyz people are smart enough to know there is a better life besides what they are enduring but they would not align themselves with Muslim terrorists, they are just wanting to survive in a true democracy.

12.  How do you like your students?  Are they teachable, how prepared are they when they enter your classroom? I LOVED my Kazakh students, they are very teachable and malleable…Through no fault of their own, many of the Kazakh students are not ready to enter the classroom as if it were a western classroom in either the U.S. or U.K. because there has not been support to adequately train the Kazakh teachers. Besides, the Ministry of Education has mandated that all learning must be tri-lingual (Russian, Kazakh and English) Those that are prepared to learn are students who are curious and are good with computers, they have learned by doing.  They know more than their teachers in some cases so the digital divide is ever widening in Kazakhstan.

13.  Training:  The job description said there would be a training period in London prior to departure, any information on that?

14.  Curriculum: How is this set up and are the teacher procedures, sequences, strategies dictated, or is there some teacher choice?

15.  What kind of family activities are there when you are not working?  Or on the weekends? I know someone who cross-country skied everyday (even when it was very cold).  I think there are some health clubs (but they are quite expensive).  I know that there are things to explore like the National library and its
archives. Or for a family event go to ALZHIR museum that is about 15 kms outside of Astana, there is about a 2 hour drive away Karaganda and Dolinka and the KARLAG to explore if you are into finding out more
about the penal history of the former Soviet Union.

It really is what YOU make it because this is such a new city there is not as much going on here than at Almaty, the cultural center. However, there are concerts and other Kazakh cultural events at the
Pyramid.  Also, sporting events to attend like hockey games and figure skating.  But you would have to be the one to initiate finding out about it.  I have joined the Astana International Women’s club and it
has frequent updates on what is happening in the city.

16.  What does it cost to fly from the U.S. or from London to Astana? I just came back from the international TESOL conference in Boston and it was about $1,600 for a round trip with Lufthansa from Astana to Frankfurt to Boston.  When living in Almaty we were used to taking the KLM connection to Amsterdam and then to Minneapolis.  Again, non-peak it is usually around $1,500 but during peak season in the summer it can be as much as $2,000 for RT.  You want to avoid flying through Moscow, Russia.  Stick with KLM or Lufthansa, is my recommendation.

17.  Do you have to pay for re-entry visas/permits when you take off in the Summer, or do most of the teachers stay in Astana?
I think most teachers want to go home for the summer, be it the U.K. or U.S. just to be with family again.  However, the temps in Astana will have vastly improved in the summer time and there are places to
explore here in Kazakhstan if you want to find out more about this great country.  Astana and Almaty are NOT Kazakhstan and there is much to discover of its beauty and history in the other cities.
If you were to get the job at our university, it costs $200 one year, multiple entry visa and I believe there would be support to pay for that for your family members as well.

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Fourth Movie and Howard Gardner’s “Five Minds”

I’m up early with my jetlag here in Boston. I forgot to mention in yesterday’s blog that I watched a fourth movie starring Matt Damon in “The Informant.” Must have been a sleeper movie for me since I didn’t even remember to add it to the list of movies I watched on my Lufthansa flight coming to Boston.  The theme of this satirical comedy based on a real life story has something to do with ethics and respect, something that Howard Gardner talked about last night.

Backing up a bit, I am really enjoying this TESOL conference in Boston thus far. I have a mile and half walk from my hotel to the big conference center and met some nice people in the research session I attended all day yesterday. I also won a book in a raffle, added bonus! Unfortunately, I haven’t hooked up with my friends I want to see yet who have come to Boston from parts scattered throughout the U.S.  I have to make a concerted effort to do so.  One must use great strategy to find people in the mass of 8,000 gathered ESL/EFL teachers.  Last night I saw the biggest crowd ever for the first plenary session with Harvard’s own Howard Gardner.  He is a TESOL favorite because he wrote a book years ago that many educators have read about “multiple intelligences.”  Funny, erudite and self-deprecating.

The following is what Howard Gardner said about “Five Minds for the Future” he is famous for coming up with multiple intelligences (logic/math, music, spatial, emotional, interpersonal, intrapersonal, bodily/kinesthetic, naturalist).

Here’s Gardner’s latest titled “The Five Minds”

1)   Disciplined mind – working steadily to improve oneself, becoming an expert, learn major ways of thinking (historic, artistic, scientific, mathematic)

2)   Synthesizer mind – Early philosophers such as Aristotle, Aquinas or Augustine.  One has to decide what to pay attention to.  Need to have criteria, how does all the information make sense to me.  We need to develop a course called “Synthesis 101” for teachers and students, so much information in our digital age that is largely undigested and unevaluated, we must teach students to synthesize.

3)   Creative mind – Einstein and Virginia Wolff, these two synthesized what is known in the box itself, but they went beyond that.  They thought of good questions and new questions.  Mastering one or more disciplines using the 10 year rule

Begin being a master at something when you are young.  Ultimate judgment of the field.  Take on new things and be willing to fail, but one must have a robust and iconoclastic temperament thinking “I regard every defeat as an opportunity.” One can say, “It didn’t work out, now what?”  Back in our formative days, failure was tolerated.  One Chinese student asked Gardner “give me the 23 steps in order on how to be creative.”  Creativity is messy and not orderly!

Gardner wrote “To Open Minds” in mid-1980s.  IN China discipline is very good but not creative.  Whereas now in the U.S. we have a desire to be creative but don’t have the discipline or mastery of the discipline.

Depth = Discipline

Breadth = Synthesize

Stretch = Creativity

The next two minds are how we deal with fellow human beings

4)   Respectful minds – diversity is a fact of life, at home and abroad that goes beyond mere tolerance.  We need to understand others’ perspectives.  The motivation is emotional and interpersonal intelligence.  There is an inappropriateness of “corporate, top-down model” for schools and even corporations

5)   Ethical minds – Higher level of abstraction than respectful mind

Conceptualizing oneself as a (good) worker

Conceptualizing oneself as a (good) citizen

Acting appropriately in both roles

How things play out in the community (like school)

The Three “E”s of a Good worker

1)   excellent, expert

2)   Ethical, socially responsible, moral

3)   Engaging, meaningful, intrinsically motivated

Instead of DNA he showed a triple helix model with the three “E”s Excellence, Ethics and Engagement

“We respect those persons who behave ethically.”

Last response we have is shame (wish I had written more on this because it relates to Kazakhstan but Gardner was running out of time)

Howard Gardner had much more to say and went through his slides so quickly that I was doing like many in the audience around me, I was taking photos of his slides for later review.  Here’s an example.  I now wish I had taken a photo of Gardner on the stage and showing the size of the audience behind me.

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Watched Three and a Half Movies Enroute to Boston

What else is there to do when one is cooped up for a very long time, in a VERY full plane but to watch the latest that Lufthansa has to offer?  I watched three 2009 releases and only one I would recommend for our young audiences in Astana.  That would be the British film titled “An Education” about a young 16 year old girl named Jenny who studies hard to enter Oxford, her dad pushes her to those ends until she meets David.  David is a slick, older man, almost twice Jenny’s age and he shows her a different, exciting side to life from her playing cello, memorizing boring Latin and speaking French.  Jenny’s parents are as taken in by David as she is, until… You will have to watch what kind of “an education” Jenny receives on your own, I won’t spoil it for you.

The second movie that is rather slow moving but it fits the part of a recent widower played by DeNiro is titled “Everybody’s Fine.” He has four children who don’t show up for a reunion at his home so he sets out to surprise them in New York, Chicago, Denver and Las Vegas.  (BTW, against doctor’s orders because the dad has a heart condition.)  This movie pulls at the heart strings because he too pushes his kids to succeed like Jenny’s father in “An Education” but somehow his drive backfires on him.  His adult children turn out to not communicate with him truthfully and there are some painful truths we find out by the end of the movie.

The third and bottom of the barrel of a movie is “Pope Joan” or also known as “Die Papstin” which is about a woman who supposedly became pope in the 8-9th century A.D.  It shows the primitiveness of the Middle Ages but also the political correctness of our current age of feminism.  This movie is a pile of horse manure which is right along the same genre of “The Red Tent.”  I won’t even tag that book that I was required to read in graduate school five years ago because it was so awful to read.  “Pope Joan” is impure, adulterated fiction, created in fantasy land to be sacrilegious against the Catholic faith.  I’m sure it must have created quite a stir at the Vatican. But then again, it is a picture so unworthy to be watched that giving it attention is just what the filmmakers wanted, kind of like the “Da Vinci Code.”  Two thumbs down on “Pope Joan.”

Oh, I did watch but did not hear a fourth and very funny movie off of someone’s screen in front of me, “All About Steve” starring Sandra Bullock.  I had seen it before and thought it good for laughs to guess what was being said, her acting is silly and superb.  Now I want to buy the movie “Blind Side” where Bullock won an Academy award for Best Actress, so I can see that movie on my own time.

So, here I am in historic Boston and must discover the town while going to the international TESOL conference.  Many sessions to attend, people to meet and generally taking in the latest in political events in the capital of our great country.  I’m glad I live in Kazakhstan so I don’t have to deal with all the backlash of this latest legislation they pushed through.  I grieve for my country’s Constitution that our great forefathers diligently created to have a balance of powers so that no despot would rule the masses.  It’s only a matter of time…

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