Posts tagged Tour de France

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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Kazakhstan’s Shame in the Tour de France Victory

Apparently there seems, for some Kazakhs, to be shamed embarrassment over Kazakhstan’s involvement in Tour de France. I had to use Google translator to get the gist of this article that showed up this past week. The writer of the article is Olzhas Suleimenov, a well known public figure in Kazakhstan. He explained that the “Spaniard” he didn’t even use his name, Alberto Contador, won this major cycling event by a mere 6 seconds.

Yes, Contador’s biking apparel “Astana” was emblazoned in Kazahstan’s two colors of yellow and blue. Perhaps it should be thought of as wearing “Radio Shack” or some other sponsor. The sad humiliation that is suffered by this Kazakh author is that the Tour de France hosts did not play the Kazakh national anthem in Paris where the celebration honored the “Spaniard” instead.

Also, the mayor of Astana supposedly should have been in attendance, but he was not. I am curious why Kazakhstan has pursued this sporting event by paying the top cyclist to wear their colors and Astana shirt. I might add that Astana is merely the capital of Kazakhstan so technically it doesn’t have its own anthem either. However, a LOT of money has been sunk into the northern capital and much money was spent on the Tour de France team.

To show what kind of translation happens from Russian to English, I’ll quote what was written by Suleimenov:

“The band played the national anthem in honor of the winning team. We expected the anthem of Kazakhstan, our country still has a team, formally a team of Kazakhstan. However, sang a hymn of Spain. Last year, the Spaniard also won a t-shirt “Astana”, and then also Spanish national anthem sounded on the Champs Elysees. Next year is a good chance Luxembourger, and perhaps it will be in our shirt “Astana”. And then clap anthem of Luxembourg.

To hear our national anthem, to feel pride for their country, we will have to wait for win kazahstanets. Long wait. We still invest in the development of cycling in Europe…
Everybody congratulates the Spaniards, and we are again as in a strange feast. Humiliated by his own generosity? “

I don’t quite understand what the last sentence means: “Humiliated by his own generosity.”  But could it mean that the Kazakhs were generous to allow the Spaniard to wear their colors and name but then when he won, the rest of the celebration recognized him as a cyclist from Spain leaving Kazakhstan out?

There’s another article that popped up in English about Alberto Contador from a Madrid AP newspaper. Apparently Contador rejected the Astana team’s offer to extend his contract. Contador was exploring other options or perhaps it was too close for his comfort to win only 6 seconds ahead of his competitor. Maybe his teammates had let him down somewhere along the way?

From what I understand, Contador had been with Team Astana for three years but the first year his team was denied a place in the Tour de France because of doping violations. Also, more bad news for Team Astana, according to this article, Team Astana had trouble paying those cyclists from Kazakhstan who were on the team, maybe Contador was not paid in a timely manner as well. Who knows the true story and from which side is it coming from?

Why didn’t Contador ride for Spain is my question?

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Kazakhstan’s Team Astana and Tour de France

I know NOTHING about Tour de France, only that Lance Armstrong has won it many times.  What was it 7 times?  These guys pedal their bikes over rough terrain for 90 hours over the course of a week or two. Okay, I admit it, I don’t follow Wimbledon or the World Cup either.  Too much else to do. You see, I’d rather bike than watch other people bike or run after a ball or play tennis.

It certainly has been a good year in sports for Spain what with the World Cup and all. But I think this has to be put in the context of where Kazakhstan fits in with all the hoopla. I didn’t know about Alberto Contador, the Spaniard, who rode with Team Astana. Next time maybe it might be a Kazakh or Kazakhstani that could stand on the winner’s platform for Tour de France.

My American colleague at work, who is a great biking fan (means that he does his own pedaling around Astana whenever he can) informed me with the following:

“It is all over but the champagne ride to Paris.  Team Astana rider Alberto Contador has won the Tour de France by less than one minute and one of the five closest margins in tour history.  Tomorrow is only a ceremonial ride with no real competitive riding, except for the sprinters at the end of the race.  We should feel proud that Team Astana has won. It is the only team in the race so closely associated with a country and, as we know, a team that the President of Kazakhstan has shown a direct interest.  All Kazakhstanis should feel proud.

And let us not forget Vinokuorov. He was the highest placed KZ rider and won a stage on his own.  He has demonstrated that he is a top cyclist, placing well in the rankings and assisting Contador in his victory. I am sure that we will hear more of him in the future.”

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