Posts tagged slavery

Kyrgyzstan terms from “Two Kyrgyz Women”

On Friday I had my composition students download the free version of the book titled “Two Kyrgyz Women” by Marinka Franulovic. About five years ago, I had had my ten Kazakh students read this book in hard copy that I had been gifted with from Marinka.  Now I am glad I can have my American students read the free e-book version. Here it is:

I think it is always a good idea for the teacher to read or do whatever assignment he or she is giving to their students.  I’ve read this book several times before but now I see it with fresh eyes after what I have learned much more about modern day slavery. Actually this book helped to jump start me on this path as an educator to inform others about this great evil. In any case, I will quiz my students on Wednesday whether or not they have read the first story about the first Kyrgyz woman who was in slavery in a tobacco plantation in Kazakhstan.

On p. 24, the first slave named Ainura revealed a little bit about her husband who had become an alcoholic and didn’t help support the family with their two children.  He would often tell Ainura, “Nobody is getting rich by working.”  This was according to the Kyrgyz Post-Soviet moral relativism that pervaded the country soon after the fall of the USSR.  When my American students read this part, it will go against everything they have been taught by their parents and grandparents who worked hard to own their farm or run their business.  My students have a high cultural value of believing in hard work or having a good work ethic. Most of my students value hard work and they had better because I am going to work them hard in the next ten weeks of this semester.

Interesting to read on p. 29 “Some of the world’s most spectacular architectural treasures were built by slaves, and no one is embarrassed to appreciate them.”  Immediately I think of the Great Wall in China and KNOW that there were thousands of slaves who died creating that monster structure which can be seen from outer space, maybe even from the moon.  Marinka, the author, further wrote: “Some of these new land owners in Kazakhstan may earn money by using foreign workers for free, and they do not seem embarrassed by this either.”

On p. 32 the slaves were reminded by their “owner” to NOT speak in Kyrgyz if they met anyone who was a stranger to the farm.  These Kyrgyz slaves who had been brought up to their northern neighboring country didn’t have the right documents. The manager put more fear into these “slaves” that they may be beaten or imprisoned if the Kazakh police found them without proper IDs on the farm.  Apparently on the next page, one girl who was from the Krygyz city Osh and not used to rural life spoke a different kind of Kyrgyz.  As it turns out, Altanay was much more educated than the other slaves and she just did not know how to work quickly like they did.  The masters dubbed her with the name “White Hand.”  She did NOT last long under their abusive jokes and shaming techniques. Actually she was only on the farm for two weeks before she disappeared.

I have seen the movie “Nefarious: Merchants of Souls” and will probably go again next month to another screening of this 1 1/2 hour documentary of slavery in our modern 21st century.  Nothing is new under the sun and the unfortunate like Altanay who was called “White Hand” probably ended up as a sex slave. Many young girls are picked off who do not come from a loving home where the father protects but rather assaults his own daughter. According to this documentary, some mothers in other lands sell their daughters off to be sex slaves.  The question was asked, how can a loving mother do this?  Some of their responses were that they love their daughters enough to sell them to local dealers and not to dealers in some place far off.

These two Kyrgyz women were mothers who happened to be married to selfish and uncaring husbands.  I found out from Marinka that the two women ended up going back to their family and their husbands because what they had been through as a slave did NOT compare to what they thought was a bad home life. They were desperate enough to believe a lie about getting a job in Kazakhstan to support their family.  Little did they know they could have died under the conditions they were subjected to.  In their shelters they were separately told to NOT tell anyone in their family what they had gone through with slavery, they would have been ostracized by the very people they needed to love them.

Anyway, I hope to have some spirited conversations with my students on Wednesday when they come back to our class after a LONG weekend. Today is President’s Day so we have the day off.  Good thing, I could use the break as I know my students can too.  However, reading this 150 page book will open their eyes to the depravity of man.  It is NOT just in Kazakhstan, it is all over the world and slavery is going on right at our doorstep.


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Five things to know about human trafficking

As your typical composition teacher, I have the proverbial stack of papers about human trafficking that I need to grade before tomorrow’s classes. Thirty-five for tomorrow and 15 more for Thursday are due BACK to the students with my corrections.  I am distracting myself with updating my WordPress account with this new posting.  I have been remiss in writing because I have been so busy staying ahead of my students.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, we only have about five weeks left before they will be giving their ppt presentations to go with their research papers.  Thankfully I am having them write a persuasive research paper on something they choose to write on, with my approval, of course.

The following is something I found in an old folder and relates to the tough things I need to be reading from my students’ papers.  It IS a reality that is so far removed from our university setting…yet we are part of the problem when we remain unaware of other people’s suffering.  One thing I had shown a part of was a clip off of YouTube titled “Dark Side of Chocolate.”  Unfortunately, I did not share what a reporter from CNN, Amanda Kloer had written about “5 things to know about human trafficking:”

Editor’s Note: Amanda Kloer is an editor with, where she organizes and promotes campaigns to end human trafficking. She has created numerous reports, documentaries and training materials on human trafficking in the United States and around the world.

Human trafficking might not be something we think about on a daily basis, but this crime affects the communities where we live, the products which we buy and the people who we care about. Want to learn more? Here are the five most important things to know about human trafficking:

  1. Human trafficking is slavery.

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. It involves one person controlling another and exploiting him or her for work. Like historical slavery, human trafficking is a business that generates billions of dollars a year. But unlike historical slavery, human trafficking is not legal anywhere in the world. Instead of being held by law, victims are trapped physically, psychologically, financially or emotionally by their traffickers.

  1. It’s happening where you live.

Stories about human trafficking are often set in far-away places, like cities in Cambodia, small towns in Moldova, or rural parts of Brazil. But human trafficking happens in cities and towns all over the world, including in the United States. Enslaved farmworkers have been found harvesting tomatoes in Florida and picking strawberries in California. Young girls have been forced into prostitution in Toledo, Atlanta, Wichita, Los Angeles, and other cities and towns across America. Women have been enslaved as domestic workers in homes in Maryland and New York. And human trafficking victims have been found working in restaurants, hotels, nail salons, and shops in small towns and booming cities. Wherever you live, chances are some form of human trafficking has taken place there.

  1. It’s happening to people just like you.

Human trafficking doesn’t discriminate on the basis of race, age, gender, or religion. Anyone can be a victim. Most of the human trafficking victims in the world are female and under 18, but men and older adults can be trafficking victims too. While poverty, lack of education, and belonging to a marginalized group are all factors that increase risk of trafficking, victims of modern-day slavery have included children from middle-class families, women with college degrees, and people from dominant religious or ethnic groups.

  1. Products you eat, wear, and use every day may have been made by human trafficking victims.

Human trafficking isn’t just in your town – it’s in your home, since human trafficking victims are forced to make many of the products we use everyday, according to If your kitchen is stocked with rice, chocolate, fresh produce, fish, or coffee, those edibles might have been harvested by trafficking victims. If you’re wearing gold jewelry, athletic shoes, or cotton underwear, you might be wearing something made by slaves. And if your home contains a rug, a soccer ball, fresh flowers, a cell phone, or Christmas decorations, then slavery is quite possibly in your house. Human trafficking in the production of consumer goods is so widespread, most people in America have worn, touched, or consumed a product of slavery at some point.

  1. We can stop human trafficking in our lifetime.

The good news is not only that we can end human trafficking around the world, we can end it within a generation. But to achieve that goal, everyone needs to work together. Already, activists around the world are launching and winning campaigns to hold governments and companies accountable for human trafficking, create better laws, and prevent trafficking in their communities. You can start a campaign on to fight trafficking in your community. You can also fight trafficking by buying from companies that have transparent and slave-free supply chains, volunteering for or donating to organizations fighting trafficking, and talking to your friends and family about the issue. Together, we can fight human trafficking … and win.

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Giving a Talk on H.T. Issues…Again

Recently I was asked by someone I know from my hometown, through Facebook, if I still give talks on human trafficking issues.  What evolved from my affirmative answer was a whirlwind of phone conversations on her end to get me to be the speaker to 20-30 people in one month. (my guess is their other featured speaker must have cancelled on them at the last minute)  On my end I wrote the following to convince the promoters of this event and eventually the audience participants that I mean business.  I will be paid by some federal grant for my gas mileage, hotel and meals and speaker’s fee.  I hope that I can do this two day conference justice. Surely they have many speakers in the Twin Cities who can talk on this subject rather than getting me from five hours away.

In any case, I will go and do the best I can in 90 minutes to convince those in attendance that this is a plague amongst all of us throughout the whole world. Not only domestic abuse and violence against women, but men and children are also enslaved. That is my main message. Slavery and using humans is an age old and troubling problem that has been with us for thousands of years. Wherever you have the powerful and dominating culture, you will also have the vulnerable and weak. Those in the middle need to rise up and do something about helping those who can’t help themselves. The abolitionists did it before with changing laws and trends, people like Wilberforce, worked within his sphere of influence.  Surely we can do the same.  Here is what I quick wrote based on what I had written earlier on this blog.  My eyes had been opened up to this tragedy of human trafficking after living three plus years in Kazakhstan. For some inexplicable reason, this dreadful topic will not go away for me. I need to stay on the front lines to help in the fight.

“Modern-day traders in human property know their business inside out and respond to changes in the market with a speed unmatched by even the most competitive corporations.  Their expertise and ability to exploit the market are surpassed only by their disregard for human life. Women are bought, sold and hired out like any other product. The bottom line is profit.”

We, as westerners, should NOT be complacent about human trafficking. I have seen with my own eyes the slavery mentality in countries I have lived in or visited from the Philippines, China, Hong Kong, to the countries of the former Soviet Union of Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. I have lived 15 years outside of my own country to know that human trafficking exists and is getting worse than ever. Maybe out of willful ignorance we do not care to know about those trapped in sex trafficking who need an outside advocate. Maybe it is because we think slavery was abolished since our “Civil” War in America, that it doesn’t exist elsewhere in the world? It does exist and the numbers of trafficked victims far exceed the total number of slaves during the hundreds of years of the trans-Atlantic trade from Africa to the U.S. My main question is: “Shouldn’t there be an all-out war and campaign against human trafficking?”

My answer as an educator is that I am convinced when people are presented the facts about human trafficking, they respond in wanting to help or donate in some way to alleviate the suffering.  We must admit that we live in a privileged, first world environment that is comfortable while many languish in poverty and grab at any opportunity that will possibly help them out.  In my presentations that I give about human trafficking, I set forth some of the things I have learned along the way about child soldiers, child labor, building construction, tobacco/cotton fields, begging in streets, forced marriages, surrogate maternity, harvesting organs, pornography and prostitution. Whoever listens to what I have learned, will come away knowing that this is not just a war against women but men and children as well.  They will also find out there is hope because there are international organizations (i.e. Polaris Project, Freeset, Remember Nu, Not for Sale, etc.) which are mobilized to do something about trafficking.  We are NOT alone in this fight against human trafficking.

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Fenced in Wild Pigs in the U.S.

The following story is tragic if it becomes true.  I’m watching things become dismantled as fences are being put up…read on.

There was a chemistry professor in a large college that had some exchange students in the class. One day while the class was in the lab, the professor noticed one young man, an exchange student, who kept rubbing his back and stretching as if his back hurt.

The professor asked the young man what was the matter. The student told him he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting communists in his native country who were trying to overthrow his country’s government and install a new communist regime.

In the midst of his story, he looked at the professor and asked a strange question.

He asked: “Do you know how to catch wild pigs?”

The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punch line.

The young man said that it was no joke. “You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come every day to eat the free corn.

“When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming. When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence. “They get used to that and start to eat again. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in the last side. “The pigs, which are used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat that free corn again. You then slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd. Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught. Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity.”

The young man then told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening in America.

The government keeps pushing us toward Communism/Socialism and keeps spreading the free corn out in the form of programs such as supplemental income, tax credit for unearned income, tax exemptions, tobacco subsidies, dairy subsidies, payments not to plant crops (CRP), welfare, medicine, drugs, etc., while we continually lose our freedoms, just a little at a time.

One should always remember two truths:

There is no such thing as a free lunch, and you can never hire someone to provide a service for you cheaper than you can do it yourself.

If you see that all of this wonderful government “help” is a problem confronting the future of democracy in America, you might want to send this on to your friends.

If you think the free ride is essential to your way of life, then you will probably ignore this warning.

But, God help us all when the gate slams shut!

Quote for today: “The problems we face today are there because the people who work for a living are now outnumbered by those who vote for a living.” — Anonymous

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Human Trafficking – Euphemism for Slavery!!!

Euro2012 will be going on in Poland and Ukraine and you can be sure that the “traffickers” are busy getting their sex slaves to certain locations for some of those “loyal” soccer spectators. As I write this the countdown is one hour away…the excitement builds on the Euro2012 website.  The same would be true of any World Series or Super Bowl events in the U.S.  The “handlers” of sex slaves move their products to where the customers are congregated.  Why aren’t more people aware of this slavery problem? Perhaps because law enforcement turns a blind eye to what the slaves are going through since any huge sporting event is good for the cities’ economies.

I’m glad people like State Department Ambassador Luis CdeBaca is bringing attention to Minnesota businesses about how they can be “trafficking cops.”  If you read the entire text of this StarTribune article, you will see that the title of this blog comes from the quote I got from the article:

“Human trafficking is a bit of a misnomer. At the end of the day, what we’re really talking about is modern slavery.  ‘Trafficking’ is a euphemism that makes people a little bit more comfortable, so we tend to hear it called that more.”

Fortunately, more and more people are becoming aware of the problem and want to DO something about it.  I still have people giving me greeting cards that we turn into “Card-Again” cards. Profits from the sale of these cards go to Not For Sale, Minnesota.  We have been selling gift bags and books as well to spread awareness about modern day slavery.

I am happy to report our first small shipment was sent off to Kazakhstan and will arrive to Astana this weekend.  Those working at the trafficking shelters in Astana will receive samples of envelopes, cardstock, recycled fronts of greeting cards, and ideas about how to make these “Card-Again” cards. In anticipation of the Christmas Bazaar at the Radisson in December, I hope this is the first of many such shipments and the profits can go back to their shelters.  A win-win because it gives those skilled in making cards something to do and perhaps a future cottage industry will come of it.

Contacts I have in Astana will help those victims who are rehabilitating in shelters and those who are craftsy will assemble the cards together for the international women to buy by December’s bazaar.  At least that is my vision for this new enterprise. Awareness here in Minnesota and North Dakota will spread back to women from all over the world who are spouses of businessmen living in Kazakhstan.

I’d like to see “Awareness Trafficking” happen where more people look at analyzing lower-down tiers.  We all must take seriously the monitoring of the supply-chain of products we buy, use and take for granted.  Read the StarTribune article and find out what more people in the Minnesota business community are doing.

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The Numbers, the numbers, can’t get away from the NUMBERS!

“Tens of thousands of young girls are being forced into prostitution in the U.S…” according to Shared Hope International. ( That’s the numbers I’m writing about and behind each digit is a little person with a withering soul who cries out to be free.  At least a soul who is screaming deep down inside amidst the darkness. I am encouraged to read on this website about “Protected Innocence Initiative – State Action – National Change.” The numbers are what my finite mind can’t fathom, but the ache for freedom I partially understand as an American. The statistics, the numbers. Perhaps I have seen their young faces in passing at a Walmart checkout line, at truckstops, at gas stations or restaurants.  Not too likely to see these unidentified “numbers” at the movies, plays or concerts I attend. I live a sheltered life.

A book written by Linda Smith and Cindy Coloma is titled “Renting Lacy: A Story of America’s Prostituted Children (Call to Action).” I haven’t read it yet but the stories will be in that book of child prostitutes who are way below the age of consent.  Stories we can embrace better than numbers. What I can’t get over is that these children should be embraced by loving parents and grandparents in their lives. Instead they are used and used over and over again.  What I’ve read from a pamphlet of Shared Hope International is that 13 years old is the average age of children who are forced into prostitution.  AVERAGE number! There is nothing average about this…it is substandard, inhumane.  We as Americans treat our dogs and cats better than many of these children.

In fact, I just read on the website the individual report cards for each different state and what they do about prosecuting crimes, such as child pornography which feeds into child prostitution.  Apparently according to this calculation on the website, Washington state gets a “B” rating as does Texas, Illinois and Missouri. That was a surprise. Whereas, North Dakota and South Dakota get “F” grades.  Minnesota and Arizona comes out with “C” grades but even this is mind boggling.  Look up the factsheets for yourself, the crime in North Dakota for “Hiring an individual to engage in sexual activity” is considered as a Classification Class B misdemeanor with 30 days max and fine $1,000 max.  A misdemeanor???!!! That’s a very lame word and a low number for jail time and penalty!

Linda Smith who organized this SHI platform to fight child trafficking reportedly said the following:  “We need to mourn the selling of innocents. And we need to, as believers, ask God to forgive us for our apathy and go out there and fight for these kids.”  I agree with her.  “The ready availability of internet pornography majoring in the exploitation of teenage girls has greatly fueled stateside demand over the past decade.  Smith hopes to link pornography to sex trafficking in the minds of all men as a deterrent against beginning down a dangerous path…”

Smith also said: “The solution is to dry up demand. If there weren’t demand, there wouldn’t be the child sold. If a few men were hung like crows over the corn, if men thought their life would be dead if they bought children, you better know some of them would stop buying…If you knew that in your city tonight there were 5,000 slaves, would it bother you? Would you do something? What about 500? Would you march if you knew there were 500 people being hurt and enslaved? You would. Well there are, and we can prove it in every city we’ve looked at in the United States.”

What people need is not proof or more numbers but softened hearts who are called into action against such a tragedy that is ongoing in the cities and states we live in.  I was greatly saddened to read about the reality for children that is happening only 70 miles from where I live. Crimes are happening at truck stops along two major interstate highways, these ribbons of transit going north and south (I-29) and then east and west (I-94). Young child prostitutes are derogatorily termed “lot lizards” and sent from truck to truck by order of CB radio.  What?!

Yes, “Real Men Don’t Buy Sex” is a poster I’ve seen or a t-shirt that is worn by some abolitionists. We need changed hearts, we need broken hearts for the victims.  We need more people like Linda Smith to make us all more aware of the little girls named Lacy who are rented out every night.  Smith said this and I’ve seen it before: “There’s a saying on the street that a drug can be sold once, a girl over and over…the younger they are, the more money they get by the hour.”

I didn’t write anything today about Kazakhstan in this post but if they are wanting to emulate developed countries, such as the U.S., they should be on the right side of the law and stopping the demand in their country with better laws.  But I’ll add this at the end, I was encouraged that Kazakh students had a fun run last weekend which was sponsored by the U.S. embassy in Astana called “Run a Mile against the Wile.” Many young Kazakh students participated and wore t-shirts that broadcast their taking sides against the tragic numbers. May this trend of awareness continue in Kazakhstan and in North Dakota and the rest of the U.S.

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Poems by Anna Ahmatova (Part II)

Continued from yesterday’s blog posting, translated into English by Sasha Soldatow. Anna Ahmatova somehow knew how to write of her dark experiences in the former Soviet Union.  Perhaps not unlike contemporary slavery that prevails in human trafficking which continues unabated around the world.



The word landed with a stony thud

Onto my still-beating breast.

Never mind, I was prepared,

I will manage with the rest.

I have a lot of work to do today;

I need to slaughter memory,

Turn my living soul to stone

Then teach myself to live again. . .

But how. The hot summer rustles

Like a carnival outside my window;

I have long had this premonition

Of a bright day and a deserted house.

[22 June 1939. Summer. Fontannyi Dom]



You will come anyway – so why not now?

I wait for you; things have become too hard.

I have turned out the lights and opened the door

For you, so simple and so wonderful.

Assume whatever shape you wish. Burst in

Like a shell of noxious gas. Creep up on me

Like a practised bandit with a heavy weapon.

Poison me, if you want, with a typhoid exhalation,

Or, with a simple tale prepared by you

(And known by all to the point of nausea), take me

Before the commander of the blue caps and let me glimpse

The house administrator’s terrified white face.

I don’t care anymore. The river Yenisey

Swirls on. The Pole star blazes.

The blue sparks of those much-loved eyes

Close over and cover the final horror.

[19 August 1939. Fontannyi Dom]


Madness with its wings

Has covered half my soul

It feeds me fiery wine

And lures me into the abyss.

That’s when I understood

While listening to my alien delirium

That I must hand the victory

To it.

However much I nag

However much I beg

It will not let me take

One single thing away:

Not my son’s frightening eyes –

A suffering set in stone,

Or prison visiting hours

Or days that end in storms

Nor the sweet coolness of a hand

The anxious shade of lime trees

Nor the light distant sound

Of final comforting words.

[14 May 1940. Fontannyi Dom



Weep not for me, mother.

I am alive in my grave.


A choir of angels glorified the greatest hour,

The heavens melted into flames.

To his father he said, ‘Why hast thou forsaken me!’

But to his mother, ‘Weep not for me. . .’

[1940. Fontannyi Dom]


Magdalena smote herself and wept,

The favourite disciple turned to stone,

But there, where the mother stood silent,

Not one person dared to look.

[1943. Tashkent]



I have learned how faces fall,

How terror can escape from lowered eyes,

How suffering can etch cruel pages

Of cuneiform-like marks upon the cheeks.

I know how dark or ash-blond strands of hair

Can suddenly turn white. I’ve learned to recognise

The fading smiles upon submissive lips,

The trembling fear inside a hollow laugh.

That’s why I pray not for myself

But all of you who stood there with me

Through fiercest cold and scorching July heat

Under a towering, completely blind red wall.


The hour has come to remember the dead.

I see you, I hear you, I feel you:

The one who resisted the long drag to the open window;

The one who could no longer feel the kick of familiar

soil beneath her feet;

The one who, with a sudden flick of her head, replied,

‘I arrive here as if I’ve come home!’

I’d like to name you all by name, but the list

Has been removed and there is nowhere else to look.

So, I have woven you this wide shroud out of the humble words

I overheard you use. Everywhere, forever and always,

I will never forget one single thing. Even in new grief.

Even if they clamp shut my tormented mouth

Through which one hundred million people scream;

That’s how I wish them to remember me when I am dead

On the eve of my remembrance day.

If someone someday in this country

Decides to raise a memorial to me,

I give my consent to this festivity

But only on this condition – do not build it

By the sea where I was born,

I have severed my last ties with the sea;

Nor in the Tsar’s Park by the hallowed stump

Where an inconsolable shadow looks for me;

Build it here where I stood for three hundred hours

And no-one slid open the bolt.

Listen, even in blissful death I fear

That I will forget the Black Marias,

Forget how hatefully the door slammed and an old woman

Howled like a wounded beast.

Let the thawing ice flow like tears

From my immovable bronze eyelids

And let the prison dove coo in the distance

While ships sail quietly along the river.

[March 1940. Fontannyi Dom]

First published Sasha Soldatow Mayakovsky in Bondi Black Wattle Press 1993 Sydney.

Translated by Sasha Soldatow


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What Rotary is doing about Child Slavery

Ironically, the International conference for all Rotarians from around the world was held in Bangkok, Thailand last week. I’m told around 30,000 people showed up.  I got a report from someone who just returned on a 20 hour trip via Japan. (It took 20 hours to get there too, no thank you long flights over the Pacific!) I am happy to report there are a few Rotarians who are doing something about child slavery. Mark Little represented his concern in the Friendship Hall at his booth from Norfolk, England.  He gave out buttons “Defeat Sex Trafficking.” I believe he was a very lonely voice among all the other action groups represented in the huge hall.  What I find MOST ironic is that the Rotary convention was held in Bangkok which has their highest income based on people from all over the world coming for the sex tourism.

Bangkok is well known for sex trafficking and what my friend told me was she saw very few children on the streets as they made their 45 minute bus trip from their hotel to and from the convention center. She did see much abject poverty while also seeing where the king of Thailand lives. (Supposedly he is much loved by his people.) They went on a tour of the city and their tour guide could not answer questions about the royal family, otherwise she could lose her job.  Her English was good which is probably what saved her from the dismal prospects of any young person growing up in Thailand.

Since Rotary’s inception over one hundred years ago they have been all about saving children from polio, the disease is nearly eradicated.  The organization that has been saving children from polio now finds that children live in poverty and are vulnerable to being a trafficked victim (enslaved) in manual labor or the sex industry. My friend told me something that was an eye-opener.  There are organizations giving out seed money to women so they can create their own industry and sell their own product.  Otherwise, some women will purposely get pregnant in order to later sell their children into slavery.  I can’t even imagine a woman doing that as we celebrate “Mother’s Day” in the U.S. today.  That is how desperate people have become in many countries.

That is why I was happy to find this factsheet from where Mark Little is the committee chairman of the “Proposed Rotarian Action Group.”  The following is what I found VERY sobering from his website:

RACS Factsheet 1

12 facts about Modern Slavery

  •  Slavery is not legal anywhere but happens everywhere.
  • Modern slavery shares two key characteristics that distinguishes it from slavery in the past:  slaves to day are cheap and they are disposable.
  • There are 27 million slaves in the world today. The majority are children.
  • Slavery: Forced to work without pay, under threat of violence and unable to walk away.
  • The majority of slaves can be found in India and in African countries.
  • 4,000 slaves are trafficked each year into Britain; 17,500 into USA.
  • Child slaves work in brick kiln works, clothing, firework and glass making factories, stone quarries, carpet looms, mines, brothels and farms – anywhere they can be better hidden from law enforcement agencies
  • The modern-day slave trade is now called human trafficking.
  • The average costs of a child slave can be as little as $40 – $90
  • Slave holders use many terms to avoid the word slavery: debt bondage, bonded labour,attached labour, restavec, forced labour and indentured servitude.
  • Obstacles stand in the way to ending slavery: lack of resources and lack of awareness.
  • Everyone has a role to play in ending slavery – government, international organizations, business, NGOs, consumers, Rotary clubs, YOU.

Old Slavery                                             New Slavery

Legal ownership asserted                                  Legal ownership usually not asserted

High purchase cost                                               Very low purchase cost

Low profits                                                               Very high profits

Shortage of potential slaves                                 Glut of potential slaves

Long-term relationship                                         Short-term relationship

Ethnic differences important                               Ethnic differences less important

Slaves maintained                                                            Slaves disposable

 (to be continued)

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“Bad Writer is a Bad English Teacher”…oh really?!

The attached photo is a wonderfully warm, Kazakh teacher who got hurt by her own educational system while teaching at a westernized university in Almaty. I knew her to be a good, motherly type mentor to her university students.  She is neither a bad writer or bad teacher but her superiors dismissed her without any explanation.  I’ll withhold her name but let it be known that I witnessed several painful injustices (my own included) within this so-called institute of higher learning while teaching three and a half years in Kazakhstan.

I want to highlight the writings from two Kazakh women in this blog. One I know only from reading a website titled “Vox Populi” and the other is a former student of mine.  I think the two go together because they are suffering the same angst of living in a country of Kazakhstan that is going through phenomenal growth spurts.  There’s baggage from what used to exist from the Soviet Union, yet hopeful anticipation in what could be their future in Kazakshtan.  The first one is named Madina and a summary of what she said in Russian in an interview to Vox Populi after I used Google translation.

“A typical dream for us 30 year olds in Kazakhstan is to go where we feel our rights are not violated, where there is law and order and where the government works for its citizens.  I am part of an astonishing generation, we were born in the Soviet era where we grew up during the breakup of a single state (USSR) but have taken off running during the construction of a new nation (Kazakhstan). Therefore, many of our own parents will never understand that we have a sense of choice.

When I was 27 years old, I began to choke on what surrounded me, the country, the people, our laws.  My friends and I found the easiest way out, we just ran away and left for a half a year to the United States.  America seemed at that moment a bulwark of democracy.  I left Kazakhstan with the underlying idea of staying in the U.S.  This is so typical of us to dream to go somewhere else…but experience showed us all the same problems in the U.S.  Eden, NO!  I went back to Kazakhstan but I came back more relaxed.  I learned to accept the imperfections of the world.

Even with blatant injustice in Kazakhstan, my contribution is to keep working on this project to uncover everything that happens in our country to show a different life, to expose social problems and talk about difficult situations.  Unfortunately, I am not a revolutionary in spirit, to ride with a sword.  Also, I do not like publicity, but I admire people who are active citizens righting wrongs.  If we had a “Swamp,” I would have walked out.  No, instead I have gotten up on a stage, not to be encouraged but to be listened to and supported.  Civic engagement in Kazakhstan doesn’t happen because the majority believes that stability is better than change.”

Here’s the second one from Aigerim, a former student of mine who nails it about where the problem of slavery works into the mindset of the Kazakh citizen. She was a teacher who got in trouble with her superiors for pointing out some errors in her contract.  They are to teach critical thinking to their classes but at the same time they are to obey and not object to injustices.  She is NOT a bad person, teacher or writer…read on:

“Bad writer is a bad English teacher. I want to be a good teacher, or at least not another person reciting same old song or grammar rule. I stand firm on the point that any skills or knowledge taught should be relevant.

When I conducted IELTS classes at my former work place, which is an elite focused and fully funded from President`s fund, I committed to turn this extra-curricular free of charge classes into a writing experiment. We watched and reflected on films, then wrote on blogs. Some of students created and posted their own poetry. Indeed, learners came up to a stage where they reflected on their lives. They wrote great essays about teenage suicides and problems of education in our country.

While my students were making their best in critical thinking, my own free speaking brought me into trouble with a department manager as I enquired too many questions on controversial points in a contract. Well, I don`t regret appealing against bosses, I am quite happy with my new job. When my writers learned about my resignation due to my being a wrong format, one student replied with a phrase that still warms my heart, “If you’re A4 format and they’re A5 (smaller), that doesn’t mean you’re a bad teacher, you’re just different.”

Young people can think critically until they are framed into stupid rules. Nowadays it is common to think that you have to say what your teacher wants to hear and you get a point, do what your boss wants and keep your place of employment. The problem of slavery exists not only on construction sites and massage parlors, but in thoughts and enslaved wills of ordinary people.

My colleagues were obedient and got another year of their teaching contract. However, I wonder whether these teachers are able to teach young people to think critically and act globally.”

I love my former student’s writing about being different and indeed she is NOT a bad teacher or a bad writer.  On days like this, I feel the same where it is difficult to write and English is my native language.  Some days I feel defeated in trying to explain from my “A4 framework” that I don’t fit in with the A5 environment whether it is in the U.S. OR in Kazakhstan.

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In Kazakhstan “Creativity NEEDS freedom!”

I was chatting with my former Kazakh student and I wrote: “Creativity needs freedom. Independence of mind breeds wholesome thought.” I had just learned from her that a second year male student jumped to his death from the 9th floor window of his dormitory before the spring semester started.  This tragedy happened at the GREAT university in Astana where so much money has been poured into the building complexes, into these students and their high paid teachers from London.

What is even more tragic was that it was never reported in the local or national news in Kazakhstan. Somehow it was “smoothed” over as Aigerim put it. He was a good student but he could not take the pressure any longer. These students at my former Kazakh university are under such intense demands to perform.  Some have been ill equipped from their studies elsewhere in the country by teachers who are using old style Soviet methods.  My former student who was a teacher for some of the best and brightest students in Astana fears for her students lives, those who have been accepted in this great university that is meant to produce geniuses. They need a counselor in residence who can help these young defenseless students out, a place where they can vent or have a shoulder to cry on.

I believe these Kazakh students have such demands on them as if there is a gun pointed to the back of their head and they are told by their captors, “Be creative!”  I know Kazakhstan has a very high suicide rate (exceeds Russia) among their youth but it is regrettable that even among the most gifted, they feel desperate enough to end their lives.  These bright students are supposedly the hope of the future of Kazakhstan.  Perhaps they are the future slaves of their country. All 1,000 students are on full-ride scholarships. What does that tell you when some students want to end their lives in such a tragic way?

The following is what Aigerim wrote to me to give me an update on activities:

“How great you have been my teacher and I hope I learned something from you. The main thing I liked about your classes was the way you taught us to think beyond the context deep into the roots. Hope my classmates could manage teaching critical thinking at school using this up-to-date context. Your blog is a good source of “food for thought.” Perhaps, someone from the establishment will happen upon it someday, feel ashamed and start acting in the proper direction.

Your last Moodle assignment was on change management. I remember skipping this last task. No, I wasn’t stubborn or lazy. I just have no such a habit to reflect on what I do not know and have never done. Now, as I made some attempts it is possible to dwell on changes and ways of making change in Kazakhstani context. What if to entitle this post “Critical Thinking in Kazakhstan”?

There are not the only four centers for victims of human trafficking in our country. In my hometown Aktobe there is a crisis center for women who suffer domestic violence. These same centers help victims in the southern and northern parts of the country. Mostly these NGOs seek for grants from international organizations or, if the head is on good terms with the statesmen, get support from the government. Also, The National Red Crescent Society provides any kind of support to migrants and repatriates, single mothers and all those who are “unfortunates” in Kazakhstan.

I had a great opportunity to work with one of the shelters and visited another two, I learned about their work and, what is more valuable I learned the reasons that enslave people. As far as I know, the victims could be divided into the following groups: 1) migrants from neighboring countries (Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Russia, and China), 2) ethnic Kazakhs who return from Turkmenistan, China, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, etc. as they do not speak neither Kazakh nor Russian, 3) people from low-income rural areas, 4) children from orphanages, 5) troubled children and the saddest fact, children with mental and physical disabilities.

Once an American friend asked me, what if victims tell their story to interested people as it attracts society to the problem of trafficking. Actually, one of the rescued girls from Temirtau (small industrial town dozen kilometers away from Astana) became a volunteer. She talks to women at the shelter, helps them during the rehabilitation. However, it is the only case I witnessed. Due to Kazakh mentality, people prefer not to speak about being enslaved or being forced into prostitution. According to common idea, the only person to blame is the victim. She made a mistake, may be it was up to her way of living or behavior.

There was a happy ending recently with one of the rescued women in Astana. A Kazakh woman was forcibly involved into prostitution and she got pregnant. Unfortunately, I do not know the details of her case. I met her several times at the shelter since autumn. Gulmira was pregnant and soon bore a baby boy. The baby was weak and they spent much time in the hospital. When I told about babies in the shelter, my current boss gathered three bags of children’s clothes and toys. Moreover, the most part of them were new. She said her kids grow up fast that they are not able to use all the clothes given as presents. Anyway, these bags were a great joy for my people. When I brought these and other clothes different people donated (my family members, colleagues and even my manicure girl!), people at the shelter looked at children’s stuff with joy and excitement. The feeling of warmth emerges when you show some support and encouragement to those who are misfortunate.

But about Gulmira, in winter her relatives came and took her home. I remember, Luba, the NGO coordinator at IOM, sighed with relief speaking about this woman. It is unusual for Kazakhs to accept the shame of being a prostitute and having a baby from an unknown person. Indeed, these Kazakhs forgive everything and are sincerely happy with the fact that their sibling is alive. So, it all depends on the family.

Unfortunately, Amina is an orphan from southern Kazakhstan, has problems with eyesight. Her relatives sold her for servitude in Astana, and kept receiving her invalid’s pension. When she was rescued, she had a baby in her belly. When I last saw Amina she was looking for a job. Unfortunately, she has no home and welcoming relatives.”

Thanks to my former student who sees and knows things I could never be aware about while back in the U.S. She can inform me about what is happening in Kazakhstan even though my blog is now blocked from being read within Kazakhstan unless people have a VPN (Very Private Network).  Yes, there is no freedom of thought in Kazakhstan if things are blocked or obfuscated such as this suicide that was not reported. They certainly do not want people from the outside to know that slavery is going on in Kazakhstan.  If it helps for those who CAN read this in Kazakhstan and feel ashamed of the statistics about slavery, it is going on everywhere in the world.  EVERYWHERE.  What we need is creativity in knowing how to solve this problem so that ALL people can be free!

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