Posts tagged Moscow

What happened to Boris Nemtsov?

The news has been all abuzz about what happened to Boris Nemtsov when he was walking with his girlfriend near the Kremlin. I suppose after listening to his interviews that are on line, he kept saying that Putin and his thugs were robbers and thieves. I don’t expect you can believe you are protected by the laws of Moscow when the person in charge of ALL of Russia and beyond doesn’t like to have that repeated. There will be many more people who come in opposition to him as a result of this senseless murder.  Nemtsov was speaking the truth as he saw and understood it. He claimed that the last election was rigged and false numbers were used to show how much Putin was favored.  Not the case at all and yet Boris was NOT for revolutions like he witnessed of the Orange Revolution in Kyiv a decade ago.  No, he did not want to have anything bloody and crazy, he was all for a peaceful resistance.

People going to mourn his passing will go peacefully to the bridge he was on where he was gunned down. It is a busy street with the St. Basil’s cathedral in the background and the Kremlin nearby. I was able to see the video footage that was preserved from some building close by and see what apparently was a cleaning truck (what we would call a dump truck) pass Nemtsov and his partner and then you can see where there are not many cars behind after the shooter got a clear shot of Nemtsov from his vantage point of the truck.  If there were a way to show that on here, I would do it. I’m not so sure I can transfer that info.

Okay, now let’s see if this info will actually transfer: http://ukraineatwar.blogspot.com/2015/02/analyzing-cctv-footage-that-seemed-to.html

Anyway, enough of this about Nemtsov, he will be remembered…he felt sorry for Putin because he believes things will NOT go well with him once people find out that he is in it for life…12 years after the next election and then on and on.  The Russian people will wake up to this sooner, than later.  What does this have to do with Kazakhstan? I think the people are watching this very closely in Central Asia…if Putin had his way, he would have all of the countries back again under the umbrella of the former Soviet Union. Are we back to the Cold War again, maybe?

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Heart wrenching news about Ukraine

Difficult to passively sit back and watch the events unfold in Ukraine as they are moving forward. The Ukrainians have taken three steps forward with their newly elected president but several steps back with what is happening in eastern Ukraine. Possibly the separatists are employing terrifying tactics of their own volition but I think the guy in charge in Moscow is not only encouraging it but aiding them. How do you get sophisticated missiles into the country to take down a Ukrainian plane that is landing at the airport, 49 dead as a result? Where do the tanks come from that are infiltrating Ukraine? Why do they not have their insignias on the armored vehicles or why do the agitator men NOT wear symbols on their clothes to show who they represent? This is an undeclared war that is going on and yet supposedly it is NOT happening because they are simply Russians who are dissatisfied with the Ukrainian government and want Russia to take over.

Meanwhile, the tourist trade is not faring very well in Crimea and that is a beautiful place to be at this time. The Tatars were aggressively moved out when Stalin wanted it for his own Soviet headquarters and now people who are catching on are leaving…that is, if they are able to now. I don’t know if they have the electricity or fuel or food they need. I believe they are living on ration cards now. So sad.

What I know from one of my friends currently living in western Ukraine is that some of the far eastern cities in Ukraine are without food, electricity or a means of transportation. Some people are hiding out in basements of apartment complexes because it is not safe for them to be in their homes or apartments. This means dire straits for those who do NOT want to be in this chaos. However, there are heroes who are doing what they can to help these people who want OUT!

My heart goes out to those who ARE helping people who have no means, Ukrainian unfortunates who are caught in the cross fire. I also know of brave, young men who are involved in the fight to help Ukraine return to order and peace. That is all anyone wants who LOVES their own country.

This makes me think of what would happen in the U.S. if it were to happen like that. Would we have people who would cave in and do whatever they are told by the “government?” Probably so, those who watch tv and are passive because they believe everything they are told by the media. Would we have others though, who would fight for our country to become what it used to be? I would hope so…for our grandchildren’s sake.

Freedom is important and so many people do not have that in their lives. That is the heart wrenching news from around the world. I continue to think about Ukraine…and Kazakhstan.

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Watching the Situation in Crimea

So much has happened since the last time I posted. Maidan was a surprise and perhaps this ultimatum at 5:00 a.m. in Ukraine will be another upset for the evil side. Of course, all the propaganda that has been pumped into Russia about what has happened the last three months in Ukraine has been showing doctored up photos and changed scenarios. Interesting how the media is trying to make it look like extremists have taken over from the western part of Ukraine. I am finding out from my former students that people who live in Eastern Ukraine and are Russian ethnicity and Russian speakers do not feel compelled to be speaking the Ukrainian language. That is one of the major reasons for Russia to enter into this new set up government in Kyiv, they feel them must come in and “protect” their loyal subjects. The truth of the matter is that these people who have lived in Ukraine all their lives feel themselves to be Ukrainian even though they speak Russian. Interesting, huh?

Well, with enough countries dropping out of the G-8 meeting and the market going down for their investors in Russia, they will see that the lies they propagated are backfiring on them. Putin had his crowning success with the Sochi games, he should have been happy that they had the most medals at the Olympics. Instead, it looked like he was pre-occupied and scowling the whole time.

What is interesting is to see all the footage that has appeared of the former president Yanocovich’s (sp) palatial “dacha” just 12 miles north of Kiev. He had been given money to pave the pock marked roads in Ukraine instead he had a very nice asphalt road made to go to his dacha. That is now being called the “Museum of Corruption” and showed the opulence that he “enjoyed.” He managed to steal the people’s money in three years time and put it into this house and other toys that he collected. His wife or ex-wife lived in Donetsk and probably didn’t know anything about what lifestyle he got accustomed to. Now that has all vanished as he has sought cover from the Russian government and under Putler (Putin + Hitler).

I have read many reports on the social media about what is actually happening in the Crimea and in Ukraine along the eastern border. I have been to Sevastopol several times. I remember seeing some Crimean, Ukrainian and Russian flags flying. The city has a LOT of history and has museums about some of the great battles that have been fought on the Black Sea. It is a strategic place for Putin to secure. The Russian government was leasing it from Ukraine but now it wants it without paying anymore. It also probably wants the eastern half of Ukraine as well. Good luck with that.

What has happened, from what I can tell, is that this division created from the outside has only solidified the two parts of Ukraine because the east for sure doesn’t want to be controlled by Moscow. That smacks too much of what it used to be like under the Soviet Union.

Well, I wait and see if the 5:00 a.m. ultimatum has been met or if they are in the middle of a bloodbath as promised. I’ll find out tomorrow…stay tuned.

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My Fall of 1994 Reflections in Bishkek

I wrote this letter on October 12, 1994 to my loved ones back in the U.S.  I was writing from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and had my head full of wedding plans back in the Minneapolis area but also when I returned to Bishkek, I wanted to do the wedding all over again.  I forgot how provoked I was with Tatyana, my Kazakhstani friend, who didn’t believe I was willing to fly her and a Kyrgyz girl on my own expense. Back at that time it cost about $3,000 to fly both of them to Moscow, then New York and then Chicago where they took a bus from there to Minneapolis.  Once Ken and I went on our honeymoon, they stayed on for another week or so traveling back together to New York and then home to Central Asia.  As late as October, things were NOT moving on Tatyana’s end of things. Not due to her busy-ness but due to her doubt.

“…I want my Kazakhstani friend, Tatyana, who lives in Almaty, to be one of my bridesmaids.  She simply can’t believe that I would fly her to the States to be a part of our wedding.  It means getting a letter of invitation, a visa, her passport in order, plus the plane fare arranged.  I told her in June to make the necessary preparations by writing friends of hers in the States so she could stay with them after the wedding. I hasn’t happened because of her unbelief and the time for buying airfare tickets is NOW! Because she thinks something could go wrong with her Kazakhstan government not granting an exit visa, she doesn’t want to get her hopes up.  Inertia was winning!!!

People from the Soviet past are steeped in their old way of thinking.  They have been programmed to think negatively. Thinking it will not work…it will not happen.  This fall semester with 60 first year students while there were 40 new students last year, I still have hope for Kyrgyzstan!   I can say that because of reading my students’ journals and homework assignments.  I can look into their hearts and respond to each one with encouragement.  One of my students, named Marat, is proselytizing his Muslim faith to me. (;-)

The downside of being the only American English teacher after all the other ones left from the first year is that I have a very heavy teaching load.  It is like giving an essay test to 60 students and returning their results to them each week.  Each student’s assignment takes about 10-15 minutes to grade.  The decision was made by me to give up my Fulbright grant at the end of January instead of the end of May of 1995.  After returning from my Minneapolis wedding, I will get married again in Bishkek for the benefit of my expat, Kyrgyz and Russian friends.  I’m mostly doing the wedding again for my students.  I will move to Almaty where Ken’s job is and we are expecting great things together!!!

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Poems by Anna Ahmatova (Part I)

I found this Requiem translated from Anna Ahmatova’s writing and thought it appropriate to show the first part today. Tomorrow I will post the remainder.  Tough stuff, probably no different than what a trafficked victim experiences and feels like.

                        Not under foreign skies

                        Nor under foreign wings protected  –

                        I shared all this with my own people

                        There, where misfortune had abandoned us.

[1961]

INSTEAD OF A PREFACE

During the frightening years of the Yezhov terror, I

spent seventeen months waiting in prison queues in

Leningrad. One day, somehow, someone ‘picked me out’.

On that occasion there was a woman standing behind me,

her lips blue with cold, who, of course, had never in

her life heard my name. Jolted out of the torpor

characteristic of all of us, she said into my ear

(everyone whispered there) – ‘Could one ever describe

this?’ And I answered – ‘I can.’ It was then that

something like a smile slid across what had previously

been just a face.

[The 1st of April in the year 1957. Leningrad]

DEDICATION

Mountains fall before this grief,

A mighty river stops its flow,

But prison doors stay firmly bolted

Shutting off the convict burrows

And an anguish close to death.

Fresh winds softly blow for someone,

Gentle sunsets warm them through; we don’t know this,

We are everywhere the same, listening

To the scrape and turn of hateful keys

And the heavy tread of marching soldiers.

Waking early, as if for early mass,

Walking through the capital run wild, gone to seed,

We’d meet – the dead, lifeless; the sun,

Lower every day; the Neva, mistier:

But hope still sings forever in the distance.

The verdict. Immediately a flood of tears,

Followed by a total isolation,

As if a beating heart is painfully ripped out, or,

Thumped, she lies there brutally laid out,

But she still manages to walk, hesitantly, alone.

Where are you, my unwilling friends,

Captives of my two satanic years?

What miracle do you see in a Siberian blizzard?

What shimmering mirage around the circle of the moon?

I send each one of you my salutation, and farewell.

[March 1940]

INTRODUCTION

[PRELUDE]

It happened like this when only the dead

Were smiling, glad of their release,

That Leningrad hung around its prisons

Like a worthless emblem, flapping its piece.

Shrill and sharp, the steam-whistles sang

Short songs of farewell

To the ranks of convicted, demented by suffering,

As they, in regiments, walked along –

Stars of death stood over us

As innocent Russia squirmed

Under the blood-spattered boots and tyres

Of the black marias.

I

You were taken away at dawn. I followed you

As one does when a corpse is being removed.

Children were crying in the darkened house.

A candle flared, illuminating the Mother of God. . .

The cold of an icon was on your lips, a death-cold sweat

On your brow – I will never forget this; I will gather

 

To wail with the wives of the murdered streltsy

Inconsolably, beneath the Kremlin towers.

[1935. Autumn. Moscow]

II

Silent flows the river Don

A yellow moon looks quietly on

Swanking about, with cap askew

It sees through the window a shadow of you

Gravely ill, all alone

The moon sees a woman lying at home

Her son is in jail, her husband is dead

Say a prayer for her instead.

III

It isn’t me, someone else is suffering. I couldn’t.

Not like this. Everything that has happened,

Cover it with a black cloth,

Then let the torches be removed. . .

Night.

IV

Giggling, poking fun, everyone’s darling,

The carefree sinner of Tsarskoye Selo

If only you could have foreseen

What life would do with you –

That you would stand, parcel in hand,

Beneath the Crosses, three hundredth in line,

Burning the new year’s ice

With your hot tears.

Back and forth the prison poplar sways

With not a sound – how many innocent

Blameless lives are being taken away. . .

[1938]

V

For seventeen months I have been screaming,

Calling you home.

I’ve thrown myself at the feet of butchers

For you, my son and my horror.

Everything has become muddled forever –

I can no longer distinguish

Who is an animal, who a person, and how long

The wait can be for an execution.

There are now only dusty flowers,

The chinking of the thurible,

Tracks from somewhere into nowhere

And, staring me in the face

And threatening me with swift annihilation,

An enormous star.

[1939]

VI

Weeks fly lightly by. Even so,

I cannot understand what has arisen,

How, my son, into your prison

White nights stare so brilliantly.

Now once more they burn,

Eyes that focus like a hawk,

And, upon your cross, the talk

Is again of death.

[1939. Spring]

(to be continued)

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Answers to Questions about Kazakhstan (Part II)

Yesterday I wrote about Kazakhstan’s education, as *I* know it. Today I will continue to answer the BIG question about education which I feel I know something about but from a westerner’s perspective.  In upcoming days I will answer more questions of the 12 that were sent to me by someone who is curious about Kazakhstan.  More than a comment on education, I wrote three pages in answering his first question. 8)

“Currently the reports I heard was that Kazakh teachers were hardly paid anything (about $100 a month in the elementary rural schools) At the western university in Almaty where I taught, some were paid $1,000 a month which was very competitive and very much the exception to the rule in the other national universities in the city.  No wonder bribery and corruption exists among teachers and administrators alike. Sadly, these teachers had very little in terms of resources to teach with as well.

As of only two-three years ago, according to Kazakh laws, it is mandatory for all children in Kazakhstan to know THREE languages (Russian, Kazakh and English) and unfortunately the teachers hired are hardly qualified to know all three languages proficiently.  Especially this is true of the Kazakhstanis (ethnic Russians, Ukrainians, Germans) and even of those Kazakhs who were forced to not learn their own language if they wanted to get ahead as a Soviet.

Picture this, if you have unhappy, underpaid teachers who are forced to teach a curriculum they don’t want to teach, then you have very unhappy children who are locked into a kind of prison to master so much material. The schools are filled to capacity and the way to work around that is to have morning sessions and then afternoon sessions. One family with two children might have to escort their one child to the first session in the morning while the second child might be scheduled for the second half of the day in the same school.  Who can have a full time, demanding job with having to pick up your youngsters at varying times of day?  That’s how they work around the scarcity of school buildings.

The school children I would see with their uniforms and who attended the Orken [Kazakh word for “intellectual”] schools looked so tired and worn out. They would have big backpacks on their back and all they did was study and study or play chess in their free time.  I thought they looked like they were pressured in the intellectual schools because they had high stakes from their parents to perform and do well. Needless to say, the suicide rate in Kazakhstan among young people has surpassed that of Russia according to an international survey that was taken.

In the rural schools, which I did not have the pleasure to visit except for one visit an hour outside of Astana, the school looked clean and immaculate.  There were huge plants in every window which was common to see in any old style Soviet school. However, there was no indoor plumbing, the children had to go outside to an outhouse to go to the bathroom. In the dead of winter, that would prove a challenge when temps drop to 20 below zero F.  The library had old, yellowed books that were from vintage Moscow publishing houses.  The money that should have been funneled to the rural areas was being pumped into the fancy new schools in the big cities.  Regrettably the money went to the Orken schools and to Nazarbayev University in Astana.

My question of why more money from the centralized educational system in Astana was not going to where it was needed most was answered with one word: corruption.  The money allocated to administrators in the “sticks” would not get to the teachers or to improve the schools.  Lack of trust went against those in the far reaches of the country by those administrators in the Department of Education housed in Astana.  That’s not to say that administrators in schools in the big cities can be trusted, some were probably lining their pockets and taking bribes as well.

Also, I had heard reported that if computer centers were set up in the rural areas, there were not enough skilled people with know-how on how to run them or to fix whatever problems there might be.  Maybe in some places there was no electricity, maybe in other places no Internet connection.  The teachers suffered for lack of knowledge and as a result the students suffered.  A typical vicious circle downward in any developing nation when trying to keep pace with twenty-first century technology.  Kazakhstan is no exception.”

(To be continued)

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Answers to Questions about Kazakhstan

Today I will take a departure from my usual writing about human trafficking issues. Recently I was asked to answer some questions about Kazakhstan and I felt ill equipped to do so.  I made sure that those who were asking the questions knew that I was an outsider to this complex country and that they would only get answers from my American perspective.  That didn’t seem to dissuade them to ask 11 questions of me despite my disclaimer.  I will parse out my thoughts for my reading audience over the next week so you have something to read over Christmas break if you are fortunate to have a few days off.

The following are my answers off the top of my head, obviously I had MORE than a “comment” about the educational system in Kazakhstan. I have blog material which covers every day I taught in Almaty and Astana from fall of 2007 to March of 2011:

1.      Can you comment on the education system in Kazakhstan?

This question is my favorite and what I mostly blogged about the 3 ½ years I lived in Almaty and Astana. Essentially, if you could put everything I wrote into a bite-sized capsule it would be this:  Kazakhstan, after the fall of the former Soviet Union, inherited a very broken system of education.

However, I am quick to add that the standards the Soviet Union initially had in place were competitive because they did have intellectual integrity yet by the time it trickled down from the centralized system of governance from Moscow to the far reaches of Central Asia, there were different permutations of what “education” looked like. I would also add that what was very broken as of 20 years ago has become even worse under the current system of education in Kazakhstan.  I will elaborate on that later but first I will explain how I define “broken” in terms of what the Soviet Union handed to the Kazakhs.

It did not matter what former republic you looked at whether it was, for example, Estonia, Georgia or Ukraine, all the schools had the same textbooks, curriculum and style of teaching from the top down, from Moscow’s department of education. One size fits all.  How quickly each former republic of the USSR embraced the Soviet style of education depended on how closely they were aligned to a teacher-centered type of classroom and Soviet principles.

But take, for example, what the Kazakh nomads historically had to know about cattle and sheep raising and transform that kind of knowledge to a collective farm where they were supposed to change to become farmers? Well, they were doomed to failure from the beginning because herdsmen and shepherds are not the same as farmers.  In Ukraine, when collectivization happened in the 1930s, it was easier for a peasant Ukrainian farmer to think in terms of farming on a collective.  But for a Kazakh who only knew the freedom of the steppes as grazing lands for sheep, horses and cattle to change over to farming, that was a significantly different story. A very sad story indeed.  Millions of Kazakhs died of starvation when collectivization was enforced.

Therefore, you had Kazakhs who were historically nomadic and who knew where their property lines were for the different seasons to move their livestock but then the Soviet Union came along and prohibited their language and their cultural traditions. As late as the 1970s, the weaving of the dowry carpet of a young Kazakh bride which told her own story was prohibited.  It was considered too cultural and everyone was to think Soviet and not one’s own ethnic heritage.

The Kazakhs learned very quickly after being forced into a starvation period (1930s) that the only way to survive as a people, they needed to learn Russian and NOT speak Kazakh anymore. Those Kazakhs who went through the educational system in the bigger cities forsook their own culture and language but now are called “pretend” Kazakhs.  They are called shala Kazakhs, since they are only Kazakh skin deep and no further. But I get ahead of myself in answering this question since it is a large and comprehensive one to try to answer.

(to be continued)

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Reading “The Long Walk” by Slavomir Rawicz

My husband read this book titled “The Long Walk” written by Slavomir Rawicz when he was in 6th grade, it was published in 1956. It’s about a Polish army officer who was “sized up” as a spy for the Germans by the Soviets. The recent movie starring Ed Harris “The Way Back” is based on this book but leaves out all the torture and hardship Rawicz lived through as a 25 year old privileged army officer first in Kharkiv (Ukraine) and then in the terrible prison in Moscow.  That was almost two years worth before the agonizing one month train trip (3,000 miles) on the trans-Siberian. Prisoners were treated like cattle and then these “Unfortunates” were forced to walk in the deep snow with chains north to Camp 303 in the northern part of Siberia close to Yakutsk.  The film makers leave out many things but they DO portray other things quite accurately about the 4,000 mile walk.  I recommend seeing the movie if you don’t want to bother with the book.

The following is the description of what the inmates looked like based on their ages, according to 25 year old author Rawicz:

“And all the time my mind juggling with pictures of the stockaded camp…and always the men about me, the young ones like me who were resilient and quick to recover, the forty-year-olds who surprisingly (to me, then) moved slowly but with great reserves of courage and strength and the over fifties who fought to stay young, to work, to live, the men who had lived leisured lives and now, marvelously, displayed the guts to face a cruel new life very bravely. They should have been telling tales to their devoted grandchildren, these oldsters.  Instead they spent their days straining and lifting at the great fallen trees, working alongside men who were often half their age.  There is a courage which flourishes in the worst kind of adversity and it is quite unspectacular. These men had it in full.”

The same could be said of the “Enemies of the People” women who were depicted in what I have blogged about the last several days in “Till My Tale is Told.” Many women in ALZHIR prison camp should have been with their grandchildren instead of felling trees and being used as slave labor.

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What I Learn from My Kazakh Students

My adult learner students inform me of many things about life in Kazakhstan.  Here’s what I learned today in class. Keep in mind that I am a student-centered teacher, teaching university employees how to improve their English speaking skills.  I get them to answer questions, my questions.

First of all, we talked about singers and musicians.  This brought up Roza Baglanova who died several days ago, she was a very well known Kazakh singer.  She was born in 1922 and died on Feb. 8th at the age of 89.  After graduating from Kyzylorda Pedagogical Institute, she went to Moscow to study at the music conservatory as a teenager but her studies were cut short because of the interruption of the Great Patriotic War.

She would go to the battle front to sing for the Red Army troops.  She was famous for saying in her own effervescent way that she loves men.  They loved her.  She was an energetic, positive bright light for many of the beleaguered soldiers but for many people after the war years of rebuilding.  She was awarded the Hero’s medal of Honor and many other awards  for her singing as well.

The other day when I first heard about Roza’s death, I kept hearing my teacher/students say that she was the “visa card” of the country.  I didn’t know what that meant so I asked my other students today for clarification.  I was told Roza was the face of the Kazakh nation, so popular was she among all the former Soviet Union.  From what I was told, she only had one son and she was buried just yesterday in Almaty.

Well, I learned also that the soccer players in Kazakhstan are not very good, like I was familiar hearing about the famous Dynamo team in Ukraine.  However, the hockey team is good for some reason.  As are the Kazakh boxers, they are good also, like the Klushko brothers in Ukraine.  What is wrong with their soccer or football team?  They had a German coach but now maybe they will have a new one. Hopefully things will improve in that sport but it has to start from the early ages to encourage good sportsmen.

Another thing I learned was there is only one Kazakh female pilot who flies for Air Astana and she has been doing this for at least 10 years.  She has a name I didn’t write down but it is Ak- something which means “White Bird.”  Seems strange to me that there would only be one female pilot and that she would be famous amongst people in Kazakhstan.  Would a plane full of people think it great to have the female captain talk to the passengers before take-off and marvel at hearing a woman’s voice at the controls?

I told my students that I knew of Shannon Lucid, a NASA astronaut. I had gotten an e-mail from her recently because I had heard that she was going to be in Kazakhstan again and I wanted to meet up with her if she were anywhere near Astana. Not to be this time. She has a love for this area of the world.

Fortunately, I had Shannon Lucid give a talk to my Ukrainian students when I was living in Kyiv, Ukraine about 10 years ago. She was a friend with a very good friend of mine from Houston.  I admire Shannon who lived on the space station for six months as a NASA astronaut with two Yuris who were cosmonauts. I think they had been sent out from Baikonur space station here in Kazakhstan.  Shannon is also a pilot so I guess she is famous in her own right.  I remember when she landed back on earth after those six months in space, she was greeted by President Clinton. I pay attention to things related to space travel.

[Total side note regarding space travel, I started watching Men in Black II last night which features Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. I had forgotten that Michael Jackson had a cameo role in that movie and he wanted to be Agent M and work along side Will Smith solving mysteries about aliens.]

Back to different occupations in Kazakhstan that I learned about. One of the students talked about teachers and the difference between village teachers and those in the city.  Of course, there is a vast contrast that can be made.  NO ONE wants to go back to the village to teach because there is nothing going on there, no museums, no theaters, no sporting events, nothing is set up in the infrastructure to support what could produce better singers or sportsmen in Kazakhstan.  The concentration of wealth goes to the cities and that is where teachers want to be, where the money is, where the interesting things to learn are.  Who can blame them?

Can you FORCE people to go in the farthest reaches of a country where nothing is happening?  How do you make people go work where nobody wants to go?  We have the same problem in the rural areas of the U.S. and particularly where I’m from in northwestern Minnesota.  There has always been a mass migration away from the small towns and to the big cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Something good should be said of the quiet, pastoral life of the countryside.  Isn’t that what was happening here on this land of Kazakhstan over 100 years ago?  People moved from place to place and they had a wide open territory to do that.  Now we have urbanization with Almaty and Astana getting the most attention.  The English teachers who study hard and know English very well do not want to waste their talents in a small town where they are poorly paid.  What a conundrum we have that the Kazakh nomads could hardly have envisioned 100 or 200 years ago.  How to solve it?

We started to talk about journalists and the dangers they incur, especially those who know the truth and want to get the word out.  We lost track of time and didn’t get too far on that topic.

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Sobering News from my taxi driver

Another day like yesterday but not as bad, I’m ready to go home and just “vedge” out with a DVD after eating wild rice, vegetable soup.  Not as cold in Astana today which makes everyone seem friendlier.  My faithful taxi driver Yaheya took me to work today and he never fails to bring up world news.  This morning he talked about the tragedy in Moscow where there were 35 dead and about 180 wounded after an explosion in the airport.  I think I got the numbers right. This conversation with Yaheya was all in Russian and sobering for my early morning going to work thoughts.  I pity the Russian families who are dealing with this latest sad tragedy.

Here are some other thoughts that are a bit more uplifting, if they are true:

Apparently Albert Einstein once said if he had one hour to save the world, he would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.  I do believe we need a solution to this terrorism that stalks many airports and also our schools and universities.  Our world has been turned upside down by hate-crazed people who want to plague others with terrorist tactics.  I wonder how Einstein would have solved this problem of terrorism?

Did Napolean really say this about what he does about problems?  “My genius is that with a quick glance, I cover all the difficulties of a situation, but at the same time all resources to overcome these difficulties and that is the reason why I have superiority over others.”  I think this little man was an egoist, as my students like to write.  I’d say ego-maniac would be more descriptive of Napolean.

“Reading a book means gaining an author’s lifetime experience.” I would agree with that and I have also heard it said that usually a person who writes has only two books to write. One on his particular topic and another on himself (autobiography) when he becomes famous with his first topic.  All other books that follow are the same theme and formula.  I suppose there are those authors that try different genres but that is what I read somewhere.

I like the following quote of what Prophet Mohammed said:

“If you are concerned about next year, plant rice.

If you care about 10 years, plant a tree,

If you worry about centuries, raise educated children.”

I’m glad I have my PDP students, they are working hard on their final project.  I worked out a tentative schedule for the rest of the time we have together this year.  I will miss these dear students but I feel that I am planting a harvest of good seed with these very active teachers who will sow more seeds with their pupils.

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