Posts tagged Missouri

Shadows of Winter Approaches Quietly and Softly

We are seeing the light snow on the ground disappear because of temps in the 30s and even 40 degrees a few days ago.  That is so unusual for our area of the country where others south of us had much snow dumped on them but we had a minimal amount.  I’m looking forward to my sister and her family coming up from the Cities to see us for Thanksgiving tomorrow.  Them rather than us making the hours of interstate and they will do it all in one day, turn around to go back the same day after being stuffed with turkey and dressing and all the other good stuff.

My composition students will be sparse in all my classes tomorrow, all five of the classes I teach on Mondays and Wednesdays.  That’s fine, I will bring pumpkin cookies, bread and one pie for the football and basketball players who miss having home cooked meals.  They are surviving on the school’s cafeteria food.  I asked some of my volleyball and soccer player girls what they planned to do for Thanksgiving.  One girl has 3-4 places to go to: her mother’s, then her father’s side of the family (I’m assuming they are divorced), then her grandparents and then her stepparent’s side of the family.  Complicated. Another talked about going home and inevitably being in the kitchen the whole time helping to prepare the meal. THEE meal!  That’s what Thanksgiving has become.  When I said good bye at the end of each class on Monday I reminded my students about being thankful. I didn’t say to Whom or for what.  I just said to remember what they are thankful for.  Most were too eager to get going to even respond to that.  Others gave me good wishes for Thanksgiving with the idea that I wouldn’t see them until next week AFTER Thanksgiving break.

Yes, it is a very big holiday for us as Americans. For some it is all about the food and then there is always “Black Friday” the next day.  I will avoid shopping at all costs on that day because I hate to shop on a regular day.  Give me the malls that are empty, or the stores that don’t have much business during the middle of the week, in the middle of the day.  I’m fine with that and perhaps I will go shopping tomorrow, the day before Thanksgiving just to get some presents for people.

Today as my husband and I drove into town it was remarkable to see the horizon and the landscape, it was very fresh, clean and close looking.  There are days like that where the distant trees and farmsteads miles away have a clarity that is refreshing.  However, there is currently sadness in our nation, especially in Missouri. I don’t even want to get into it but there is violence and there is injustice.  Unfortunately, for the people to create more violence and steal from the shopkeepers in the vicinity, that is sending a very WRONG message.  Perhaps it is really telling what the ilk of these people are who perpetuate the continued misunderstandings.  Lawlessness and the ignoring of rule of law seems to be escalating in our country.  We have freedoms and they have been abused, maybe quickly slipping away from us.

Well, looking at the purity of winter helps even though things are dormant or dead. It is like a covering that heals the hurt.  The shadow of winter is here, it is done approaching, it is all around us in the north. I am thankful for many things…even snow and cold.

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If only David McCullough could write about Kazakhstan

I have read several of David McCullough’s historical books. He seems to be fair and honest in his appraisals of past presidents and other relevant U.S. historical events.  An author of his stature has won many prizes for his thoroughness to detail. He culls through diaries, letters, newspaper clippings, anything that can shed light on his main character whom he writes about. Seems some of his books know no boundaries. The book on “Truman” is 992 pages long.  Since I’ve seen the movie titled “Truman” portrayed by Gary Sinise and have been to President Harry Truman’s library in Independence, Missouri, “Truman” would be a laudable read for me this summer. (what’s left of it)

I know when I read “John Adams” and later listened again to the book on tape, the many letters that were saved from his wife Abigail and Adam’s response to her were strongly edited I’m sure.  What I do recall while reading McCullough’s book is that our founding father, John Adams, had a deep and purposeful faith in God. That is very clear in his letters to Abigail when he was in England on important, diplomatic business. Meanwhile, she managed to struggle to maintain the house and farm back in Massachusetts in his absence.  Abigail no doubt had servants while raising a family. It came through while reading McCullough’s book that the Adams were both opposed to slavery.  It would be 100 years later that that issue, which could have been nipped in the bud earlier with the founding of our nation, was “settled” with the Civil War.

If a McCullough-type author would rise up in Kazakhstan, what would he have to do to write an accurate report about the last 100 years? Or, let’s go back 200 years when the tsars of Russia had dominance over the steppes of Central Asia?  Would the author find honest reports?  How would they test the accuracy of the information from the sources that would no doubt be in Russian?  Would there be deliberate distortion of facts once the Soviets took over in writing the history books of the great and powerful Soviet Union, thus obliterating Kazakhstan’s past?

Would there have been adventure seekers from Europe or specifically U.S. or England who would have written letters or accounts in English of what they saw while going along the old Silk Road to the south?  Those accounts would hardly cover the diversity of the land from the Tian Shan mountains to the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea in between with the vast steppes.

Was there a Max Penson type photographer who would have taken photos of the more recent past of Kazakhstan?  [Max Penson, at the bidding of the Soviets, went to Uzbekistan in the 1930s to take photos of the happy Uzbeks during forced industrialization.]  Penson got into trouble later by his authorities for exposing what was really happening to the land of Uzbekistan.

With oral history making a qualitative research comeback in ethnographic circles, are there stories that were courageously documented about what the Kazakh nomad went through when forced industrialization and collective farms replaced their livelihood of sheep and cattle herding?  My husband, back in the 1980s did what was called “The Soviet Interview Project” where he gathered info from former Soviets who had come to the U.S.  He was trying to find out more about Soviet agriculture.  All files have been lost from that project, were there any Kazakhs he interviewed in Russian during that time?

What can we learn about the Kazakh cultural values while we try to avoid imposing our western values on this group of people?  Sorry for all these questions that I bring up. What I try to do with my blog is to write in English the little bit that I learn about this fabulous country.  I am trying to give voice to the voiceless. Westerners are intrigued and some want to know more but others don’t even know what questions to ask to find out about this culture that has been tucked away and is perhaps the world’s best kept secret.

Let me put it another way.  What if I lived in a world that was reversed where everyone spoke Kazakh? It would be required that all people globally were to know how to speak in Kazakh, but our problem is that many of us only know English.  Perhaps we would not need a David McCullough type author after all because we would have stories handed down to us orally.  We would not need to go through the messiness of getting things written properly with good vocabulary and precise grammar.

As it is, westerners need something in writing about Kazakhstan that is true and accurate.  It would have to be written by a Kazakh who knows his/her own language and culture. McCullough writes superbly about U.S. history for his American audiences because he IS American.

Perhaps this is similar to when some people are gifted in doing music without reading the notes, it is just in them internally.  While others have been trained to read music so they can replicate what the composer intended.  If a musician has BOTH gifts of playing or singing by ear AND also reading the notes, now THAT is talent!!! Will the real Kazakh McCullough please stand up!!!

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