Posts tagged Minnesota

Twenty-seven questions and first impressions of Kyrgyzstan

I had written an update from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on May 8, 1994 to my colleagues and friends who were teachers back at the University of Minnesota English Center in Minneapolis. I will type out the questions asked by my American friend Tanya in bold and my answer follows:
1) Does virtually everyone speak Russian? Yes, everyone in the capital
2) Or do some people only speak Kyrgyz? People in the outlying areas perhaps ONLY speak Kyrgyz. We met a gentleman who spoke Russian poorly because of a strong Kyrgyz accent, this was only about a half hour outside of Bishkek [the capital of Kyrgyzstan]. My experience revolves around the capital so I may not be able to answer exactly.
3) What language do the people use in the markets, banks, schools, etc? They use Russian as the language of trade but the banks are trying to upgrade to English and the schools are teahcing both English and Kyrgyz. The markets is where you hear Russian and it is funny that some of the older vendors will sell things for “one rouble” they have not been able to change to mouthing the words for the new currency of “som.” There have been many changes and the issue of languages keeps the people in a constant staet of flux.
4) Does the younger generation speak any Kyrgyz? Yes, it is in vogue now to know Kyrgyz and very helpful if there is a grandmotehr at home who speaks it around the house. It is to these students’ advantage to be Kyrgyz in the first place and to have a working knowledge of it. The Russian students have a disadvantage now and have to work extra hard to learn it in order to be politically correct.

5) Or have they let go of past traditions?  If you mean other than language, then I think the “traditions” you mean is their faith, their dances, their songs, etc.  Many of the people in Bishkek who are ethnically Kyrgyz will say they are Muslim but do not practice any of the traditions known to be Muslim. They may have funerals or weddings in that tradition but a watered down version.

6) Do people listen to a lot of European and American music?  Yes, I have recognized quite a few American songs here.  Whitney Houston is a big name as are others but since I am not up on who is who in the music world, they seem to be better informed of the latest stars and hits.  As far as European music I know even less but my guess is that they like American music.

7) Or is the local ethnic folk music still appreciated?  I have a Canadian friend who has made it his life ambition to study the three strong instrument named Kosmus (?). He has been studying under ofe of Kyrgyzstan’s better known musicians, and his repertoire is up to three songs now.  He travels in the folk music circles and can tell you a lot more about how well it is appreciated.  I think it is by the older generation. As mentioned before the students I have, seem to liek English songs but then I work with some of the most privileged students in Krygyzstan who have money to buy the latest.

8 ) Can you still find folk dancing?  Yes, I have been to several concerts at their concert hall that shows very vibrant, colorful costumes and beautiful dancing.  A lot of what they show is the glamorized version of country life, riding horses, harvesting, courting practices, etc. One concert that I attended the dancers must have changed into 20 different costumes.  It was wonderful with the Kyrgyz instruments playing the background.  It is not an unpleasant sound like what you find in China with Peking Opera where the clanging and gonging is still ringing in your ears hours later.

(to be continued)

Comments (1) »

My hometown benefited a century ago from Andrew Carnegie as the philanthropic entrepreneur

If you haven’t seen much of my writing on this blog, it is because I have been busy working on the Carnegie library in my hometown. There are many people who are supporting this effort of restoring the grand old building. Thankfully it is on the National Historical Register. On July 12th was the deadline for when I wrote a grant for $10,000 just to have an architectural engineer come in to look at the 50 ‘ x 50’ structure. Hopefully that will happen in October and then our historical society can proceed with the $50,000 grant that will help get this place back to pristine shape.
This building was designed by Bert Keck and completed in 1908. They had their dedication for the building on November 27, 1908 where movers and shakers from the community gave their speeches. I think if the great philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, were alive today he would be proud of the fact that his legacy continues. That cannot be said of many of the other libraries that he donated money to throughout the U.S. Sadly, some have been torn down in the name of “progress.” In fact, Carnegie gave $38,256,864 to have 1,539 libraries built throughout the U.S. with his name on them. The other day, we visited one in Grafton, North Dakota built in 1904. But by far, ours is bigger and much more beautiful. But then, it shows that my hometown had a LOT of money rolling through it over 100 years ago.
Our place will be known as the “Archival Storage Facility” where historical records of the county and city will be stored downstairs for archivists and researchers to go through. Upstairs where it looks grand with pillars and archways, will be for art displays, wedding receptions, mini-concerts, lectures, Powerpoint presentations, etc. We have much work to do to restore the place to its original look. We need to take down the florescent lights and put in old time fans and domed light bulbs. We need to take up the linoleum flooring and have an expert come to refinish the hardwood floors. Already we took out all the books that had been stored on the main floor, but they all need to be cataloged and inputted on “Past Perfect” software. Oh, the dust! We have had new sheetrock put in and a fresh paint job on all the walls. We will open this to the public on August 15th so they can see our “work-in-progress.”
Not sure why the photos that were taken by a colleague, friend of mine cannot be uploaded. I’ll work on that problem. He is inspired to help on our “clean-up” day on August 10th. We will have a former resident of our community come to take photos of six of his siblings who were sitting around a table in 1962 downstairs in the children’s section. They are all still living fifty years later and he will re-enact the photo if they all make it to their reunion. The amazing thing is he also donated the very table they were sitting around. We went to North Dakota several days ago thinking we were going to pay him $400 but he said the golden oak table was priceless, no dollar amount could be assigned to it. He was giving it back to our historical society to be put back into use in the restored Carnegie library. From big gift of $17,500 from Carnegie over one hundred years ago, to this gift, we feel blessed beyond measure with all the other donations that are coming in.

Leave a comment »

“The Belief” about the Growing Seasons and Life

I’m not sure where this was printed but on the front of this greeting card was the title “The Belief” stating that it was from a yellowed news clipping dated April 23, 1967.  I am in the middle of growing my vegetable and flower gardens…it is a LOT of work.  However, what a joy it is to have lilacs, plums, crabapple, apple, apricot, pear trees blooming right now.  Seems I missed a few but spring has finally arrived in northwestern Minnesota.  Not all are privileged to experience this, especially those living in the city far away from the soil.

“By late April the countryman is thinking of June and haying, of summer and the growing season, even of September and golden October. The hillside birches still show only a gauzy green haze of leaftips, the swamp maples blush with half-opened blossoms and mornings are still frosty; but he can see corn knee-high in his newly plowed fields, oats ripening on the lower forty, strawberries ripening in the kitchen garden. Today’s weather, good or bad, can’t greatly change this view of the world the countryman knows.  Whether he is an optimist or not, he has confidence in the soil and the seasons.

The closer one lives to the land, the less one distrusts time. It is only when one is alienated from the earth and its eternal sequences that doubt takes root.  Few of the pat answers and instant solutions have validity when you are dealing with the soil. You see the slow but certain growth of trees, the persistence of grass, and you are aware of the tenacity of life.  The earth’s urgency is toward growth and renewal, and one season follows another despite man’s diversions and interruptions.  You can’t hurry spring, and you can’t interdict summer.

The countryman lives with these truths, no matter how they are phrased. He lives by them.  They shape his life.  So he looks about him now with confidence and with hope. Another growing season is at hand, deliberate as always, and he lays his plans, not for tomorrow, but for June and July and next September.”

Comments (2) »

Finishing up the semester, enjoying spring

IMG_0484Tomorrow I will have international students out for lunch, one is from Japan, another from China and the other from Taiwan.  I will also have an American with an Italian last name come for lunch along with my folks and the American’s parents.  They are camping out in our yard with their trailer because all the parks are still too wet to have overnight campers.  It will be fun to host them over the next week. Graduation exercises are next Saturday so I’ll wear my cap, gown and hood again.  Two weeks ago we had the inauguration for our new chancellor so we just kept everything for this big event. I hope it is sunny because right now it is gloomy and rainy.  The farmers could use the rain but I think we are all relieved that we didn’t have a flood with all the snow we had this winter.

For now I will put up some more photos because I don’t have too much to write about trafficking or about Kazakhstan. Of course, I am watching with interest the two friends of the bombing suspect from the Boston Marathon.  I had students’ names like theirs when I taught in Almaty and in Astana.  I should look back at a post I did about 4-5 years ago how the Muslim inside every Kazakh will rise up and help a fellow Muslim no matter what the nationality is.  Yep, that is what is going on with this 19 year old who is still recovering from his narrow escape from the law.  They would have eventually found him had he slipped away.  In any case, the search would have been easier had the friends of the 19 year old ‘fessed up about what they knew.

The above photo is our Central Park under water a week ago. This is showing my Mom’s tulips popping up, a sure sign of spring. IMG_0482

Leave a comment »

Lapse of Posting My Blog Entries

I never thought it would come to this, my not posting in my blog as frequently as once a day, now it has been almost once a month.  I have been busy writing about local history and that has NOTHING to do with Kazakhstan.  None whatsoever.  Where I come from and my hometown in northwestern Minnesota are about as far apart from Astana or Almaty as can be.  So I thought I might put up a  sunrise or sunset shot and let you guess which it is.  I hope that once I am done teaching my composition students in May that I will write more that is pertinent to Kazakhstan.  I need to clean through my files to find more material that I collected about Central Asia. I owe my faithful followers and readers that much!

For now, please read the following blog about Alma Ata written by a former colleague of mine when I taught at KIMEP in Almaty.  Cheers! Molapse!


Comments (1) »

Been Awhile, Will Post More Soon

IMG_0415I have been busy teaching composition I and writing IMG_0436and that is my only excuse for not posting more lately. I have photos to show of our Minnesota sunsets and that will have to do for now. I might as well be in Kazakhstan on the open steppes. We still have snow and promise of more! Enjoy your spring, we are still in winter mode. I have a feeling that if I were back in Astana, Kazakhstan, they would be experiencing the same thing. White snow and no green yet!

Leave a comment »

Part II – Minnesota girl’s plight about being trafficked

The following is a continuation of what I posted yesterday.  More awareness needs to be raised about this problem of human trafficking…

Missing child

At age 11, Kayla began attending her old school again. One day she didn’t come home.

“I went through the streets looking for her,” Lauren said. “I just went through hell.”

Six days later, police officers found her at a community center.

Kayla said a classmate had beaten her up, and then taken her home, where the girl’s mother forced her to sell drugs and have sex with strangers.

Other young girls were being prostituted there too, Kayla said.

After police, acting on a tip, questioned the woman, she arranged for her daughter to leave Kayla at the community center.

Movies and television tend to portray pimps as black men sporting flashy jewelry, driving fancy cars and hanging out on street corners. But in reality anyone can be a pimp. Often they’re women.

“Times have changed,” said Sgt. John Bandemer of the St. Paul Police Depart­ment. “There are way more female pimps right now than male pimps.”

Another time, Kayla took her dog for a walk and didn’t come home for five days.

Again, Lauren reported to police that she was missing. Eventually, Kayla called to ask Lauren to pick her up on a street corner several miles from their home.

Kayla had been with a girl she met when she had been kidnapped before. The girl’s mother, another trafficker, drove Kayla around to several houses, where she was repeatedly raped. One of the men who raped Kayla during that time is the father of her baby, Lauren said.

“[Kayla] was so violent after that,” Lauren added. “She had been totally reprogrammed. She was talking to police officers about the ‘great family’ she was with.”

Traumatic bonding

Traffickers apply a potent mix of loving care alternated with violence, threats and dehumanizing behavior to control victims like Kayla.

They offer a false sense of security and love to establish a “trauma bond” with victims, according to Shared Hope International, a nonprofit organization in Washington state that works to prevent sex trafficking.

Trauma bonds are similar to Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological response where hostages become attached to the perpetrators and later defend them, a report from the organization explains.

One expert declared traffickers “the most brilliant child psychologists on the planet.”

When Kayla was seven months pregnant, she disappeared again. “I just had this horrible feeling,” Lauren said.

The next day, Kayla asked Lauren to pick her up at an apartment building. During the drive home, Kayla told Lauren she had been with “a bunch of pimps.” One of them wanted to be her boyfriend, she added. She said he had taken her shopping and bought her lingerie from Victoria’s Secret.

Then Kayla told Lauren she was going to move in with him.

At home, when Lauren blocked the door to prevent Kayla from leaving, she yanked Lauren’s hair, hurling her to the floor. Lauren raced to a neighbor’s house to call the police, who arrested Kayla for assault. “It might have saved her life,” Lauren said.

Later, Lauren learned that the pimp who wanted to be Kayla’s “boyfriend” controlled a massive interstate trafficking network.

Pimps often pose as a child’s “boy­friend,” building a romantic relationship to secure the child’s trust and allegiance, even after the relationship changes into one of violence, torture and abuse, according to Shared Hope International.

All children are at risk

To many, Kayla’s story might seem extraordinary. But it’s a story that plays out day after day in cities and suburbs throughout the United States. And it can happen to any child, regardless of socio-economic background or ethnicity, said Linda Miller, executive director of Civil Society. The St. Paul organization provides legal and other assistance to sex trafficking victims, including Kay­la.

“I’ve read a lot that these girls come from bad homes and they’re runaways,” Lauren said. “This isn’t a bad home. [Kayla] has had some issues in her life, her mother was a drug addict, but she’s been given nothing but love from me. I wasn’t a bad parent.”

Despite the trauma and abuse Kayla has experienced, Miller said she holds hope for Kayla’s future. Since October, Kayla has been receiving treatment at a residential center for girls with emotional and behavioral problems.

Parents need to educate children about the dangers of sex trafficking before it’s too late, Joy Friedman of the St. Paul organization Breaking Free said at a June forum on human trafficking. Friedman herself was a sex trafficking victim.

“We need parents to get involved,” Friedman said. “We need you to speak up and say you want [sex trafficking education] in your school so your kids can learn the facts that suburban life is not this shelter box. You do not get exempt because you live out in the suburbs and your mom drives a Mercedes and you have a wealthy background and you were raised right and you went to church. . . .

“Traffickers don’t care who you are,” she added. “Like they say: ‘8 to 80, blind, crippled or crazy, you’re still sellable. Because all we need are your parts.’”

Warning signs of child sex trafficking
» Truancy
» Declining grades
» Delinquency
» Curfew violations
» Running away from home
» Signs of violence and/or psychological trauma
» Underage drinking or drug use
» Unaccounted for time
» Unusual or secretive cell phone or computer usage

Comments (1) »