Posts tagged Roza Baglanova

What else I learn from my adult learner students

The other day was a potpourri of various talents who showed up for English practice that is meant for advanced speakers once a week.  Some of these university employees were more shy to speak up once the talkative ones found their stride.  Represented were those from Center for Energy Research, Economics, Admissions, Legal department, Strategic planning and the Library.  We got on the topic of occupations as a kind of carry-over from the week before when we discussed teachers and builders.

The conversation went all over the place from talking about Kazakhstan’s sports like boxing, football and hockey to the recent Asian Winter games to Tour de France, to Roza Bagnalova’s son to the profession of policemen to the upcoming presidential election.  Finally an hour was up and we were talking about Olympics and the Goodwill Ambassador Vladimir Smirnoff who represented Kazakhstan.

One of them asserted that the most popular professions in Kazakhstan are lawyers and economists, especially looking at what students are majoring in for their subjects at university.  Others didn’t agree so we quickly moved into sports.  Apparently the most famous footballer is Pele whose name means “useless” or perhaps “crafty.”  We talked a long time about his name and how his name means smart but doesn’t let on that he is, like in Russian (heat-tree.) I can’t tell from my notes because I had to write fast with six people all having an opinion about this athlete.  Supposedly he was quoted as saying that if Russia wins the World Cup, then Brazil will have a hockey team in hell.  Something like that, like I said, my notes after trying to decipher them 24 hours later leave much to guess work.

This I DO know they talked about and was new information for me, that the Klitschko brothers who are so famous in Ukraine for their boxing feats were actually born in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan. Their father was a military man and it is said as a kind of joke, I’m not sure if this actually happened.  One of the Klitschko brothers ran into Sasha Cohen in New York City, who made that despicable movie about Kazakhstan (which really wasn’t true to Kazakhstan and was filmed in Romania).  Anyway, since Klitschko is really a Kazakhstani, he had some strong words for Cohen and it put the fear into him.  You don’t want to mess with a boxer if you get him riled. Maybe this was just a joke but the point is, that the film has done little to bring good repute to Kazakhstan.

One thing that was supposed to bring Kazakhstan’s reputation up a notch or two was the Tour de France that was won by a Spaniard Cantador while he was biking for Team Astana last year.  We shall see who will rise from the Kazakh athletes to take over in cycling.  A nice stadium that was built just down the road from the university for the ice skating for the Asian games is really for cycle races.  It looks like a bike helmet from the outside.

We moved on to what all Kazakh people know internally but is little known in the western world about Roza Baglanova who died just last week.  She was a much loved singer and represented Kazakhstan in the former Soviet Union.  Apparently one of my adult learner “students” went to school with her son Tarzhen.  When he was born his grandparents went to register him with a good Kazakh name but when the father found out about it, he was furious and had it changed to a good communist name, Tarzhen. I’m unsure of the meaning but it sounds like Tarzan to me.  Apparently Tarzhen didn’t follow in his mother’s footsteps in music but his father’s as a businessman.  He is entrepreneur and his quiet and keeps to himself, a good father of 3-4 children.

Then we got into the subject of names of Kazakh children and what it was like in the past if you wanted to appear politically correct.  I mentioned that during the Cultural Revolution in China in the 1960s many young girls were called “Hong” for Red.  Someone said it was true in the USSR’s past that many had the names related to Lenin or Marx.  One poor lad was named after Albert Gore after he visited Kazakhstan.  With the Asian games now over, some girls are called Aizada (Asia) or boys might be called “Summit” after the OSCE summit last December. Or parents might use the word “Khan” or “Bai” or Abai going back to ancient times.  Some babies are given the name of the day of the week that they were born.  This has deep Kazakh roots to give names that honor an event.  Being BORN is an event here in Kazakhstan!

Somehow our conversation was directed back to occupations and several of these Kazakh people drive cars, so we talked about policemen.  After a Kazakh driver is stopped by a man with a white and black baton, the requisite forms are filled out. Some said they never pay a fine and talk their way out off whatever ticket.  Others who are in a hurry will pay the bribe just to get back on the road again.  You see, if you don’t want to go through all the steps of going to the bank and the police office to get the necessary paperwork down, you can give 1,000 or 2,000 tenge to the officer. However, this is NOT usually done directly, it might be slipped into a book or it might be left in the back seat of the squad car.

If you were to pay directly and officially with all the extra time spent to do it, it would cost about 6,500 tenge.  In the capital city of Astana it is not as bad to pay bribes to police officers as down in the south of Kazakhstan, like in Almaty. Perhaps this doesn’t happen in Astana because the police are more tightly controlled or they have other more important functions to deal with such as security for the president and other VIPs.  Maybe they are better paid than those officers to the south.

We talked of other things of course, such as the football match with Tartastan where the Dutch played in Moscow and the temps were -20 C and they played in the cold and mud with a score of 2-0.  Better than the score during the Asian games where a hockey match was 30-0. That would have been no fun to watch but one of my “students” witnessed that lopsided game.  Others saw the same ice skaters I did and we all talked about the opening ceremony.  I was surprised that one Kazakh woman didn’t even watch the Asian Games Opening ceremony on her t.v. I think she is too busy with her job and raising a family.

That’s it, from Lake Kaz-be-gone.

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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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