Posts tagged oral tradition

Taking credit for someone else’s work

Those who know me well, or even if they are only acquainted with me, know that I work hard.  I go after causes and find other people of like minds to join me.  That is true of battling the human trafficking issue as well as anything having to do with preserving history. I have pursued Ukraine’s sad stories of the Holodomor (forced famine of 1932-33 where millions died of starvation) or North Dakota history, my grandparents’ history, my students’ grandparents history, etc. Of course, I am also very interested in Kazakhstan’s history but I can only skim the surface of that now that I am far away from living there as I did for 3 1/2 years.  I did collect plenty of my composition students’ stories that are waiting to be put in book form.

Many others who currently live in Kazakhstan, especially those of you who are expats, hopefully will pay attention to the stories you hear from your neighbors, colleagues, students and anyone else who offers up what they know.  Kazakhstan has an oral tradition that is foreign to us westerners because if we were to compliment someone, we would say, “He is an excellent writer” or “She knows how to express herself beautifully.”  They would mean in the latter case in writing and not in speaking.  Strange to our American ears to hear someone being praised with, “She was a beautiful story teller.”  They meant that that person knew how to knit a tale together that kept the listener spellbound until the end. I heard this comment from a Ukrainian woman who was remembering her grandmother’s talent of storytelling.  We might say that someone knows how to tell a good joke and I truly believe that is a gift that no one in my family possesses.  My husband used to tell many jokes, more than he does now. He would give credit to the person he heard the joke from…as if re-living the moment he heard it and giving them due respect.

That gets me back to getting credit for the hard work that I do.  I have scanned 1,000s of photos in the last ten years.  I scanned many photos from Ukraine when I had my students tell their stories from their grandparents’ past.  We had two presentations where the expats were invited along with the old babushka women to our university’s auditorium. The second presentation we gave in the spring of 2007, the American ambassador and his wife came to listen to my students reveal their history.

I have scanned 1,000s of photos from our local museum and gathered up other photos from old postcards so that I could get two books published with Arcadia press out of South Carolina.  I enjoy sharing these pictures on Facebook with people from my hometown.  However, our museum needs money and now we have launched into using Internet with imagekind website out of Oregon to show off those photos of our town.  What I am dealing with is letting someone else get the credit for putting up the photos that took time to scan.  He put all the photos I scanned up on the website but it would seem to anyone else that he also did all the scanning.

At the same time, I and another volunteer have gone through about 700-800 pieces of vintage clothes that our museum was storing.  We took photos of every item and also wrote the tag number on each and described the item.  We have about 20 pages of the listings and I have the 700 photos of the clothes that we could potentially sell to vintage clothes people.  It is BIG out in the East and West coasts, not so much in our locale.  So, the other night at our board meeting, one of the members who wanted to take over to sell these items on her own terms said something incredible.  After my friend and I had spent many Saturday mornings over the course of about four months doing this mammoth job, she had a potential buyer in a town about 150 miles away.  This board member, who has done NOTHING of the work, said in front of everyone, “Have her come to me to ask about selling to this vintage clothes dealer.”  I was shocked that she had the audacity to claim something that she had not worked on yet and take it out of my friend’s hands who knows a LOT about clothes.  That is taking credit for something she didn’t work on.

What are my feelings when others want to take the glory for all the work that I do?  I have another example that recently happened.  One person at my university has wanted me to talk about our town’s illustrious past.  I have done many presentations on this topic and I have 100s of photos that I have scanned to show with stories to tell.  It didn’t work out last semester because she dropped the ball and didn’t have the advertising set to go.  I bowed out and said I would do it the following semester.  That semester is HERE!  She had been e-mailing me about doing this history presentation in March.  I thought, that is fine, I will do it but then she started sending three insistent google scheduled messages where I had to accept, maybe or deny her scheduling requests.  Even though she had said that we could meet when it was convenient for me, she pushed three times with setting a day and time.  I finally wrote to say I was not interested in doing a presentation for her AT ALL!  Why?  Because she has a reputation of having other people do all the work but she would get the credit.

After what I had just gone through with scanning 1,000s of pictures and going through 700 pieces of vintage clothes, I have HAD it with people stealing the show.  Others want to get the glory for things they haven’t done. I am not a volunteer who wants to be walked all over.  I am a volunteer who wants to help others and promote causes.  So, what do people in Kazakhstan do about those who “steal” stories and tell them as if they are their own?  What would be considered “plagiarism” from an oral tradition point of view?  Just wondering?  The concept of taking from others, even ideas should have a penalty of shame attached to it, right?

Well, I will have to figure out how to work with the person on the photos, he is my friend.  The other person who wants to do all the clothes selling with the data that we collected, she will probably fail because noone will be wanting to work with her.  It will probably end up back in our laps.  In any case, I am venting right now about how I feel.  Has this ever happened to you where others claim the glory for things that YOU have done?

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Deceit or Conceit in Kazakhstan?

What is going on at our institution of “higher learning” is also happening in the real world of Kazakhstan.  The only difference is that we don’t have dead bodies for Exhibit A or B, western teachers and professors just leave.  Read the following of what Doug Landro, someone I know from Ukraine, writes in his blog “The Big Orange.”

         It did not take long for the [Kazakhstan] government to move against freedom.  It is no coincidence that the first independent newspaper to be closed in over a year was closed after Kazakhstan won the chair of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe).  On February 14, “Law and Justice” was closed down by the government for alleged registration problems.  As it turns out, the company with errors in its registration document is another firm with the same name.  It is hard to believe that the court could accidentally make such a mistake, especially when the newspaper brought it to their attention.  The newspaper is known for its coverage of corrupt activity by judges, about illegal rulings, and violations of human rights.


     Employees of another independent newspaper “Stonebreaker” arrived at work on April 1 to find bullet holes through the windows of their office.  “This is a warning for us,” said Ermurat Bapi, the newspaper’s founder, adding, “We often deal with corruption and sensitive cases within the government.”


     The day before, journalist Bakhytzhan Mukushev died after being in a coma for seven months.  He joins another half dozen journalists who have been “mysteriously” killed or injured in car accidents.


A disgruntled faculty member from our institution of higher learning wrote the following in an open letter to all faculty and administration.  Being a LONG letter, I’m sure some people missed what he wrote and parts were very entertaining, other parts were way too close to the truth.  I’ll let you decide what you think of the following:


CEIB (China-Europe Institute of Business) in Beijing started up at about the same time as our university did.  According to the author, “CEIB is run by a German with unlimited funding, I would believe, located in the capital of the economic super tiger, China. Kazakhstan is a dwarf by comparison, relatively speaking. And still our light already shines. a couple of thousand miles from the middle of nowhere.

The AACSB, the former American Association of Collegiate Schools of Business, now going by the name Association for the Advancement., judges accreditation candidates by the fulfillment of their mission.  If that is to train nomads to spend a couple of hours every day away from wild horses and learn the ways of business, and succeed in that training to where the nomads can read and write, manipulate computers, explain their business plans for staging rodeos, oil and gas companies, new airlines, and pass CMA and CPA exams. Accreditation does not look at who is the best.

The standards of fulfilling the mission accredits, not the level of academic complexity, so that Bunker Hill College is accredited based on the same criteria as Harvard or MIT, said Dr. Louise Zak from NEASC when she met our faculty on 4th April 2008.”


So, what has happened according to Doug Landro on a national level, could happen or IS happening at our university.  Also, the “powers that be” are exploring the idea of awarding Ph.D. degrees to aspiring Kazakhs, they just have to get that program up and running to make that a reality.  However, what I see of the M.A. programs that exist on our campus deeply saddens me.  Graduate students who are Kazakh or Kazakhstani are following a pattern of an American style degree program where they are expected to read much literature in English, their second or third language.  However, I don’t see much reading going on and certainly even less writing. 

I think once the Kazakhs get their coveted western degrees (without leaving Kazakhstan), they will expect the same salary level that westerners get.  The one beef that the aforementioned disgruntled professor has is that we as foreigners have high rents to pay and expensive airfares to absorb in order to have the privilege of teaching Kazakh students who don’t really want to read or write.  Gets back to orality vs. literacy, the Kazakhs want to stay with their oral traditions while having the appearance of being literate.

The challenge to turn the other cheek against such deceit or conceit gets tiring.


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