Posts tagged Thanksgiving

Spoons and rain

Okay, I realize I haven’t written for most of November but I do have my reasons.  First of all, I have been busy with student papers. Then next, I have been busy with music and practicing the piano and singing at the same time.  Quite an accomplishment for me since I learned to read notes and to sing and play simultaneously is a stretch.  Next, I started a new series in our local newspaper which puts added stress on me to get things written once a week. Also, I should be researching for the grant that I was awarded about history articles about our area of the state. Finally, we had guests over for Thanksgiving, my family from the Cities and also my folks.

I forgot to mention that we celebrated my parents’ 62 wedding anniversary and so that was part of Nov. 14th that we took them out to a local restaurant. Now I have had papers to grade that I handed back yesterday and today. They were all rough drafts but I needed to put my comments down about their doing APA formatting right or getting their thesis statement done concisely.  My students needed to show their claim about their chosen topic and then also the counterclaim.  Most of my American students didn’t get that concept, my Asian students did.

So, you may ask why am I doing another series for the newspaper? I just finished an 8 week series with my students writing about their grandparent. I had to put that all together but it was their writing and my doing a bit of editing or touchup.  I hear from people that they like to read what I write and that is affirming. However, when I write history, I want to get my facts right and sometimes that is what takes the extra time to get it right and yet keep in readable.

I talk to my students about their voice and about their reading audience. Now I will have them convert their research papers to a 10 minute powerpoint presentation and many of them have done it in their own language. It will be a challenge for some to talk in their second language of English. I’m not too worried about my international students. I think it is my native born American students who have entered our college and the standards from high school have been lowered. Therefore, they have some catching up to do. Some are getting it and writing perfect References pages, others seem to not care.

Well, it was good to have my family over for Thanksgiving during our break away from scholarly pursuits. My nephew, who was adopted about ten years ago from Russia, mentioned that we should play SPOONS. That was after we had eaten to our fill, the traditional turkey, ham, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lefse, etc.  It was a good meal. We then passed out cards and proceeded to have spoons placed on the table minus one of the people sitting around the table.  Once the playing cards were passed after each had four cards to work with, then the fun began. Whoever got the first set of four cards would quietly grab a spoon and at that point then everyone else is grabbing for the spoons.

We downsized and got the table smaller for our next round after my one sister won. That may have been our first mistake because when we had another play 3 rounds later, that is when my brother overreached and broke our table. We all had a good laugh about that and then we realized that was the end of our night. Everyone had to take the VERY muddy roads that the rain had left us.  We played spoons and then my company left in the rain. I followed all three cards heading back into town and they made it through the mud at a much slower speed.

I am grateful to be alive and that my husband is living. Oh, I forgot to mention that this month involved his being in the hospital for three days with a blood clot in his lung. I think that would be ONE more reason why I haven’t written that much this month. I was happy to have him returned home after that scare.  Yes, I have a LOT to be thankful in the aftermath of this Thanksgiving season.



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Shadows of Winter Approaches Quietly and Softly

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

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

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

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

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

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What if we were given word limits on our thoughts?

This morning my husband and I were talking about the word counts that I am working with on the next book I am writing on my hometown. I have to put 140 words there, then if more important characters come up I can go up to 400 words. Single captions that go with a picture can be anywhere from 50-70 words. Oy, to keep track of introductions to each chapter not being more than 350 words and limit of 10 chapters and, and…

That’s why I thought about word limits or quotas that we might have to use in every day life. Ever thought that we might have to give ourselves limits on what we think?! A message might bleep “Over capacity of thoughts, delete, delete!” or you have used up your quota for the day but someone drops by on you spontaneously. What to do? Use sign language? Write texts? What if your texts are monitored and you can’t do that in order to communicate.

I guess I was thinking about this because I played the game “MAO” with my nephews and niece over the Thanksgiving holiday. My nephew says there are three things that you need to know about this weird card game. 1) there are no rules 2) you have to figure them out as you go 3) Ever played Crazy Eight? No, it is not like that. So, it is rather frustrating when you don’t know what the rule is, the person who is in control of the game is annoying and you just want to throw your hands up with the cards with them and say, “forget it!” and let the cards fall wherever they will. You don’t do that because you are civilized but you really WANT to.

So, there is not much talking in this game because you are penalized for saying something. You also have to find out what the people who are “in the know” do and then follow their cues. I had a Japanese former student come to our place for Thanksgiving and she sat out the first round. She did very well the second round because she is a good observer.

Back to thinking about how word limits to our thoughts might not be all bad. It might show that there are people in this world who never reach their “thought limit” on a daily basis. Perish the thought!

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Could write in LOTS of directions

Today is the day after Korban Ait (not sure of spelling since I’ve seen about ten different variants of it). We will celebrate this grand holiday tomorrow in unison as employees at the university cafeteria.  As a friend of mine wrote on Facebook, “Korban Ait is not a good holiday for sheep.”  The same could be said for our upcoming American holiday next Thursday, “Thanksgiving is not a good holiday for a turkey.” I plan to celebrate Thanksgiving with some other Americans and French people late in the evening next Thursday.  Nice but not the same as being with family and I know there were Kazakh students at the university that missed being with their family. They live far away and could not afford the long train ride home.  In any case, next week I hope to do some singing to ward off all the extra calories of good home cooking from both these events of sheep and turkey.

Yesterday was a legal day off for ALL of us at the university. Therefore, it was my husband and my chance to go out on a date after we did some work at home.  I baked pumpkin cookies and finished up on reading apps so it was time to celebrate with a nice meal at the fish restaurant at Khan Shatyr, the tipped tent.  We walked to work up an appetite against the cold west wind.  Then after our meal we decided whimsically to take the splish splash roller coaster ride. Things didn’t look good when they could only provide us with WET towels to sit on.  In the middle of our ride I knew something wasn’t quite right when Ken and I couldn’t get up the steep hill and then our water car finally jerked forward and up.  What goes up, MUST come down.  Down we splashed into the water that sprayed all over us. This particular ride cost 400 tenge each.  I ask you, would you knowingly pay about $3 to get your clothes wet?  That’s what this thrill ride is about.

So, once through that, the drama wasn’t over, we had five cars ahead of us that were stuck. There were worried attendants that thought we were the suing type because our car was starting to fill with water.  We were like sitting and very lame ducks. Ken quickly jumped out and that brought the car up a bit.  I followed his lead on the narrow track to get back to where we had started.  The attendants were helpful by carrying our backpacks and wet towels. They were very apologetic.  So much so that they had us go for FREE in front of the line for the other electric car ride that goes around 5-6 stories above ground.  By this time I knew I didn’t want to look down and I wanted to make sure that Ken didn’t rock the boat.  I could just see us catapult to the crowds below. I had had enough adventure already with the top of the water ride.  We made it back okay to the start and then walked home after buying some groceries at the supermarket below.

With the wind on our backs, we were able to get our clothes dried out and came home to a hot tea and watched “Hoosiers.” That was our date night on an unconventional Tuesday night. I had to prepare for my lessons on Wednesday which is the OTHER direction I could go in writing today’s blog.  On Monday I had prepared my class to do “SurveyMonkey” and to come up with 10 questions related to their research project that they could query their classmates and other colleagues from work about online.  I showed a survey I had made up as an example, one they had answered. We created another survey in class after looking over three students 10 questions. This way they could see how they would input all their questions tomorrow at the computer lab.

Another direction is that we got into a discussion about morals. I asked what is taught in school to girls and boys about abstinence or purity in sexual relationships. Surely I know from reading the book “Two Kyrgyz Women” and talking with the author that these issues about sex are taboo, a very private matter.  One teacher said that she was yelled at by her mother every time she had questions about sexual relationships.  Another student knew that she could NEVER talk to her mother about this topic.  I just wondered what is done in the school system or if there is anything in the Muslim faith that exhorts a woman to remain pure before marriage.  If it is not talked about or discussed, how do kids know what is inappropriate in the lyrics they hear from rockers or rappers from the West?  Much of the garbage called “music” is really a hatred of women and debasing them as sex objects. Oh, what a critical problem this is when Western “mores” meet eastern private sensibilities.

Today we also got on the subject of teachers salaries. I found out that Kazakh teachers, even though they are paid a low salary, at least they are always paid.  Well, that is not true of some teachers as near to Astana as Akmola.  Since September they have not been paid and this little village is where the prison camp ALZHIR was back in the Stalin years for women who had the misfortune of being married to “Enemies of the People.”  If this is true about a city close to Astana, what of the other villages and towns throughout Kazakhstan, are teachers being paid or not? I remember this happened in Ukraine that the teachers were a dedicated lot, they were like mothers who would not give up on their own children no matter how difficult living was.  Teachers in Kazakhstan are just as dedicated to their profession, they have to be because they are not paid much. The show must go on, they will teach despite not being paid.  No such thing as teachers’ unions here in Kazakhstan.

So, that reminds me of an American I know who has worked terribly long hours this semester and has not been paid. This person has been spitefully used like a slave to the Kazakh students. The students are the delight, it is the administrators who are the culprits!  Who is reaping the benefits of this arrangement with misusing an expat? Perhaps the rector of the university, perhaps someone else in administration but apparently oral and written contracts between two parties mean nothing.  So goes what I wrote about in yesterday’s blog concerning transparency and trust.

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Photos of Busy Holiday Season (Part II)

Yesterday I showed some of the photos from our Thanksgiving feast.  Today is the Culture Festival at our university which I experienced after the big meal with a full stomach, watching my students sing and dance.  What fun to see Aina perform a solo in French and Karlygash as a model for a fashion show in the French Club; Nariman, Assemzhan in the German Club, Dana was dancing in the Turkish group, Xeniya was one of the M.C.s and Young Su and Jisun from Korea were in the Russian group.  Did I forget anyone?  When you have almost 100 students, you are likely to see many of your students in extra curricular activities.  I was proud of them.  I think the crowd stopper and stomper were the Turkish dancers, break dancing and hip hop must be a derivative from traditional, macho Turkish dance!

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Photos from Busy Holiday Celebrations

Thanksgiving was celebrated in full American fashion with dressing, turkey, mashed potatoes, salads, pumpkin and pecan pie, the WORKS!!!  Thanks to my long time friends from Minnesota, Kim and Erik, I was hosted with 30 other people. 

Almost like home where we sang and laughed and carried on, almost like I was back with my own family in Minnesota.  Thanks Kim and Erik and thanks for getting the bird, what a sacrifice he made! Now I have my Christmas tree up with all the decorations and have pulled out my Christmas cards from last year.  I’m ready to enjoy a less busy pace of life once all classes and meetings are done and grades turned in.  Tomorrow I’ll show the photos from the Culture Festival at our university where many of my undergraduate students participated.  Busy times, but fun ones as the Kazakhs celebrate Kurbanait or KURBAN AYT (Eid al-Adha) holiday today and tomorrow.

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More Paintings from Tengri-Umai Art Gallery

Happy Thanksgiving!!! The following was an e-mail I got from an American art friend of mine.  As Americans, we are all thinking Thanksgiving and turkey today in this Central Asian former capital of Almaty, Kazakhstan.  We have MUCH to be thankful for. 

I would like to go see these paintings with my own eyes.  Some paintings appear to be affordable for my teacher’s budget.

 I have prepared the private show of pieces by artist whom were working in Kazakhstan between 1950-1990s of the previous century. In the show there are included around 100 artworks of different styles and sizes, price range from $100.
> I would be happy to meet and help to look around in the gallery for everybody at any suitable time since 12am upto 7pm everyday from the following Wednesday to Saturday.
> (on Sunday – by a preliminary appointment).
> It would be nice if somebody who would like to come to the gallery to look around the show… Welcome to Tengri-Umai gallery!

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Where is “The Desolate Wilderness” Now?

The following piece titled “The Desolate Wilderness” was written by Nathaniel Morton who kept the records for the Plymouth Colony under the governorship of William Bradford.  Morton chronicled in 1620 what the first settlers in the U.S. went through the year they crossed the Atlantic Ocean for distant and inhospitable shores.  Every Thanksgiving since 1961, the Wall Street Journal publishes this piece. 


Strangely enough, I believe what Morton wrote almost 400 years ago applies to my situation now in Kazakhstan, except reversed.  I am recognizing the fact that we can’t afford the expensive airfare for me to join my family and husband for Christmas.  The sad reality is hitting me that we will be apart for our fifteenth wedding anniversary and also separated from my parents, sisters and brothers and nephews and nieces.  Life’s cruel ironies I guess, I’ve survived Christmases apart from family but with ex-pat friends while teaching in the Philippines and China.  This time, most all my friends will have left Almaty.  Seems dismal right now but then I hearken to the fact that I am merely a pilgrim and stranger on this earth.


“So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hat prepared for them a city (Heb. XI, 16), and therein quieted their spirits.


Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.

Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? And what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weather beaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.

If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.”

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