Posts tagged Turkmenistan

“Collaborative Force Against Human Trafficking” (Part II)

A second Kazakh student of mine wrote this problem/solution essay concerning human trafficking in Central Asia. My students know that I never want to see them write that the government is going to solve this problem or any other problems. (In the case of the Soviet Union, they created more problems than they solved.) I would have to agree that if ALL the people are aware enough and make a collaborative effort as the Kazakh government did to close down the crime at Polygon-Semipalatinsk, then positive changes can be made for the emotional and spiritual health of the nation of Kazakhstan.  Her title was the above:

Central Asian countries, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, faced great social and economic crisis. After getting their independence, poor and new established governments of separate countries could not provide the citizens with jobs, financial support and, even, food. Seeking for better life poor people became victims of organized crime. And this picture maintains without any changes into better conditions till present days. Even though the problem of international human trafficking still remains actual and unsolved, opening more human protecting and supporting institutions and strengthening the law enforcement can make this concern less dramatic.

Though about twenty years have passed after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the social and economic issues in Central Asian countries still remain dramatic. The high level of unemployment, poor law enforcement in these countries have now become a global concern. Though the democratic government always highlights the freedom and equality of all human beings, more and more people are becoming the victims of slavery and involuntary servitude. And it is difficult to confess that our Fatherland, Kazakhstan, this year the Head of OSCE and the leading country in Central Asia, is the centre of organized crime and international trafficking.

If we look at our constitution[Kazakhstan], the second part is devoted to Man and Citizen, and in the seventeenth entry of this part is said that 1) a man’s rights must remain untouched, and 2) no one is allowed to abuse, to enslave, to violate another man. But somehow these words carry no importance for some people who are involved in cheap labour market. Recent events show that there is a complete absence of ruling in Kyrgyzstan and its people have been left far away from globalization. The prove for that is the increasing number of their men and women becoming victims of human trafficking. We also can’t say that life in other Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan is better. According to some media information, two or three years ago Kazakhstan was in the first place on the list of countries that use cheap labour forces of immigrants.

Even though the problem of international human trafficking still remains actual and unsolved, opening protective and supportive institutions can make the conditions better. Most people is ill – informed about human trafficking, because very little is written in books and pages of media sources, and very little is said on TV, schools and other social institutions. If we open such protective shelters, it may function actively in providing people with “three P’s”: prosecution, protection, and prevention. And the most dramatic thing is that most people, especially women who were the victims of slavery and sexual exploitation and could rescue, do not share with their problems because of, maybe, their mentality or they are still afraid of that. But they must be persuaded to say about what they have experienced more and more in order to make other people be aware of that. They must warn them.

One more solution that can make this concern less dramatic is strengthening the law enforcement, because Central Asian countries are famous for the high level of corruption. We know that international human trafficking belongs to organized crime. It means that representatives of government, custom affairs may be or are involved in international human trafficking, because the word “traffic” means “transport” and this crime would never happen without supporters in the field of international transportation. And also it means that corruption absolutely takes place in this process. That’s why people and mass media sources should warn again and again the representatives of policy and law.

Summing up, I should say that if there is a problem, there is always a way out. It is just a question of time and effort that people put on it. Consequently, if we start to act actively, open supporting shelters and collaborate with the government, it will help to fight against international organized crime, and make less concern for the people all over the world.

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What I Learn from my Kazakh Students (Part II)

Instead of writing about westerner’s post-modern thinking I’ll continue on the theme I started the other day about professions in Kazakhstan. Today we covered two more professions that were important to this student who came into my office to practice speaking his English.  He has a unique position here at the university and I really appreciated his insights from an “insider” Kazakh point of view.

First of all, he believes that the most popular profession in Kazakhstan is construction work. I think all residents in Astana and most in Almaty would have to agree, there continues to be buildings going up everywhere.  “Building Cranes” are the national bird in Kazakhstan but sadly the same cannot be said in the desperate villages.  Many of the workers come from Russia or rural Kazakhstan where the Turkish companies employ labor for  cheap.  The Turks are the ones who get the contracts to get things built and quickly.  In some cases, too quickly.

Apparently there are not enough engineers to help explain how some things should be built to fit the climate and land of Astana.  For instance, there are very few underground parking lots for cars simply because it is too expensive to create, the water table is too high in Astana.  Some of these companies might also build a wall in a building where the pipes are fitted but hidden behind those walls one cannot see that these pipes are not connected to anything, going nowhere.

Sewage issues abound if not done according to code.  Mistakes due to lack of expertise by the builders or lack of engineers continue to abound.  That is a reality here and sometimes buildings start cracking even before they are a year old.  I’ve been told earlier of one apartment complex across the river in the old part of Astana that is structurally unsound and has had to be abandoned.

The second occupation we talked on was about education.  What chances do people from the villages in Kazakhstan have if they are not given proper education to excel in something?  The vicious circle perpetuates itself because education in the village, which used to be highly prized during the Soviet Union, is no longer considered prestigious.  Teachers used to have incentives to stay in the villages to teach, they were given preferential treatment during the Soviet period, but now that is no longer true.  It’s very difficult for a Kazakh pedagogically trained teacher to return to the rural areas.  Especially true if they have been trained with the latest of technology.  But if there is no Internet and no connection to the outside world exists in the villages, there is a MAJOR disconnect.  Times have changed from the former Soviet days.

This person who came to my English lesson today didn’t realize that I was the one doing the learning. I learned what he knows is a sad reality where his middle-aged parents live in Kazakhstan.  His mother is a doctor for village clinics in her area, his father is an electrician.  Their neighbors and most of the village are pensioners and eke out a living in what they term “Natural life.”  They may breed cattle, sheep and horses to sell as livestock and have some gardens to tend.  But their lives are like ancient times with no running water and a few have a pump to get their water into their homes.

As a teacher of English, this is where it got very interesting to me when my student told me his grandmother used to know Kazakh in the Latin alphabet.  He told me that it is very difficult on his current keyboard on the computer to switch over to the Cyrillic and then to add 10 more letters from the numbers in the top row with the letters that are needed in Kazakh.  All this done with the shift key for upper case.

Put another way, the English language has 26 letters, the Russian Cyrillic has about 33 letters and the Kazakh has 42 letters.  He showed me on a keyboard I have with both Latin letters and Russian letters how he and others have to hunt and peck and shift with caps on and off in order to write a document in Kazakh. It’s very cumbersome.

He claimed that Turkey and Turkmenistan use the Latin letters, then why can’t the Kazakh teachers who are currently teaching Kazakh do the same?  They are forced to switch back and forth with shift keys to write with 42 letters making the learning of writing in the Kazakh language tedious or clearly very tiresome.  No wonder the Kazakh teachers don’t use modern technology when they teach in their Kazakh lessons, it is too difficult.

Why, oh why, when the Kazakh administrators in the Ministry of Education put the three languages (Russian, Kazakh and English) as mandatory languages for Kazakhstan into law several years ago that it would change back to Latin letters?  Apparently some “scientists” said it would be too difficult.

However, what you have now is a HUGE separation between learning of English with technology and learning through the Internet the language of Kazakh. It’s NOT happening.  Further compounding the problem of students learning how to write well in Kazakh.  It is just easier to speak and listen as it is an oral culture.

I was surprised to learn that there are so many synonyms for the same words in Kazakh. Being a very old but rich language they borrow words from the Arab language, from Russian and Turkish.  I asked if there were any Chinese words in the mix, he said “no.” There was much more that my student taught me today about his own culture all the while he was speaking in English without too many mistakes.  He just needs confidence by more practice because he does have the ability and the vocabulary.

Tomorrow we will hopefully listen to an American teacher who has lived in Kazakhstan for about a decade and has mastered speaking the Kazakh language.  Tonight I’ll meet with someone else who has lived here in Kazakhstan for 20 years and knows Kazakh. It is not impossible to learn, even the five words that I know and use liberally pleases or impresses my different taxi drivers and occasional Kazakh person I meet.

(to be continued)

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Good news/Bad news on mortality issues in Kazakhstan

Today was that kind of a day where I had one thing after another after another and there is more to come as I write this.   The tempo is picking up with our PDP classes and I am very proud of my students for listening very attentively to our guest speaker, Hanaa Singer from UNICEF.  My students asked excellent questions from their Kazakh educators point of view and I just watched it all happen.  Of course, Hanaa, is a remarkable speaker and she knew how to draw out a good discussion and relevant comments from her audience.

So much information that Hanaa gave us starting with a five minute movie that shows photos of beautiful children, the most vulnerable part of any population the world over.  Then she gave information that is close to her heart regarding Kazakhstan’s issues and then a slide show that showed more statistics to make her points.  This proved a good example for my PDP students who will have a chance to share their findings and readings from their final research paper in their 15 minute ppt presentations which they will give in about a month.

For now, let me just write down just a few things that struck me about what Hanaa shared with us.  There were many more things but this is the good news/bad news concerning Kazakhstan.

The good news:

Infant mortality rate decreased since 2008 from 21% to 17%

Under age 5 the mortality rate dropped from 23% to 19%

Maternal mortality rate dropped from 37 in 2009 to 23 in 2010 per 100,000.

Bad news:

When I heard Hanaa speak last spring, she spoke of Kazakhstan being second to Russia concerning suicide rate among 15-19 year old Kazakhs.  That has changed now according to her statistics.  Kazakhstan has moved ahead of Russia and this is not something to be proud of.  Suicide deaths and large numbers of them that are avoidable deaths are never something that is healthy for a nation. Especially a young developing nation like Kazakhstan.

According to her graphs, she showed that Kazakhstan had over 30 suicide deaths per 100,000 of males and almost 20 suicides for females, almost 50 of 100,000.  Whereas Russian had 40 with 30 males/100,000 and 9/100,000 females.  Lithuania had 30 suicides out of 100,000 and Estonia with 27 and Turkmenistan with 25 next.  About 20 countries were represented in this graph.  What’s interesting is that there were less male suicide in Turkmenistan than in the other higher countries.

We discussed this as a group and it was thought that suicides are happening in Kazakhstan among rich families where the child gets everything materially but they are not shown love by their parents.  Also, Hanaa suggested that there have been many cases of bullying amongst this age group of 15-19 year olds.

Very sobering subject.  I think I’ll try to find more baby photos tomorrow that I meant to post earlier.  Over and out.

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UNICEF and Kazakhstan’s Youth

UNICEF and Kazakhstan’s youth:  This morning I heard an amazing speaker at the Astana Intl. Women’s club meeting which meets monthly at the Radisson hotel.  She emphatically stated that she LOVES the organization of UNICEF, I think her name was Hannah. She related an account of where she was in some African country where she witnessed a reuniting of a young girl with her mother after civil war that tore many families apart. She first showed a film about all the different things that UNICEF does for the sake of children around the world.  Immunizations, water, nutrition, education, other health issues, orphanages, rights of children, juvenile delinquency…she touched on many topics.  I wish I had taken notes because she also had a lot of statistics that she quoted related to Kazakhstan in particular.

Of course, as a teacher, what I was most interested in what she said about Kazakhstan’s young people relating to education.  She claimed that after Russia, Kazakhstan has the highest suicide rate.  She didn’t elaborate whether that was in the rural areas of this country or among the privileged.  Those students I am used to seeing are in westernized schools in Almaty and Astana.  The young people I work with know English, have traveled, come from good families and have hope.  Hannah said after Russia and Kazakhstan there is a big drop in the statistics and again I was curious what other countries she was referring to, did that mean C.I.S. countries only or in the whole world?  Certainly there is much poverty in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kygyzstan, etc.  Why would Russia and Kazakhstan be so ranked with high suicide rates among the youth?

Once back at work, I talked to a young woman who majors in physics at a local university in Astana.  I asked her what she knew about suicide among youth in Kazakhstan.  She said she had heard of an instance recently where a young girl committed suicide when she found out the results of her qualifying exam to get into university did not make the grade.  You hear of these instances happening perhaps in China where the competition is very tight and there are few vacancies for letting students into their university system.  Here in Kazakhstan, I don’t know.  I need to explore that issue about depression, societal stresses and suicide of the Kazakh youth.  I know in the school system there is much pressure for them to succeed in learning in three languages (Kazakh, Russian and English).

The UNICEF speaker also went on to explain that immunizations for polio and also for tuberculosis need to be re-instated.  There has been an outbreak (I think in the Chymkent area?) of that where it was thought to have been eradicated since 1988.  Also, people who might have contracted HIV/AIDS are too ashamed to seek help.  One woman who had been infected by her husband would not take the medication that could have saved her life. She did not want to be stigmatized with having AIDS.  To her, that was worse than death, if her family learned of her AIDS, she would have been considered a social outcast.

The most shocking was about how there is still the hold-over of Soviet thinking among the doctors in Kazakhstan.  Their one and only definition of a live birth is if the baby is breathing air on its own. However, according to international standards of what is considered “live births,” set up by the organization WHO, there are 14-16 different ways to see if a baby, once born, is alive by checking palpitation of heart or other vital signs.  All those signs are ignored due to the old Soviet training of doctors that still exists in hospitals.  When I talked to a foreign doctor who is western trained, she said that perhaps if those babies who are birthed with complications, they might have defects or disabilities that families would not be able to take care of due to the expense.

One other thing mentioned was that many children who end up in orphanages in Kazakhstan are not actually orphans (defined by a child without father or mother) but they are castoff children and do indeed have a parent still living.  Our speaker said this concept of children being taken over by the government is another carry-over from the Soviet period where this was actually encouraged so as to train up the children according to the State-controlled regimen.  Hannah ended with a answer to a question among the group of about 40 women that the Kazakhs need to return to their own tradition of taking care of their OWN family and not giving up children to orphanages because many times if they have been institutionalized, they are without good job skills to enter the work force at age 18 when they are turned out to fend for themselves.

One foreign woman said that she and other expats had worked on a charity to improve the conditions of the orphanages because the toilets and showers were deplorable.  Our speaker said that this was a very delicate issue because if there is not better social networking to adopt these children into Kazakh families and have that working, it only encourages more people to “throw away” these young children into the orphanages that might have better conditions than what they are currently living in. She said it was more important for children, even living in poverty, to grow up in their own families or be adopted by relatives (just like what used to be done before the Soviet period) than to institutionalize children in orphanages.  She said it was important for charities to work and improve the conditions of the places where children currently are kept but better to NOT have so many “social orphans” in Kazakhstan.  If orphanages look better than a home in poverty, more and more children would be dumped.

Our speaker representing UNICEF had to rush off to another engagement so I didn’t have a chance to ask her my main question about depression and suicide among Kazakh youth.  She obviously has strong emotions about what she does for a living, obviously she LOVES children.

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K.U.’s Grandfather Survived “Golodomor” Hunger

I would like to write a life – story about my grandfather. He was 44 when he died, I think his life was intensive and it would be enough for two or even more people, but let’s start from the beginning.

My grandfather’s name is Kazhigali, he was born in 1919, in the village Sholay near Kokchetav. He lived in a very difficult time, it was a time of hunger “golodomor”. His parents died when he was only 7 years old and he began to live with his sister. But after a couple of years his sister hadn’t enough money and food for feeding him and boy went to the orphan house.

Kazhigali began to work very early, when he was 13 he worked in printing office, later he worked in Kokchetav district – committee of Komsomol. In 1939 he graduated a Pedagogical college of Kokchetav. In the same year he applied to the military – artillery college in Leningrad and Zenith Military College in Sevostopol, and chose the last one, after two years of study, he graduated in 1941. After graduation, he worked in Moscow like a military – guard during four months and then he started to work in c. Kushka, the Republic of Turkmenistan.

As you know in that period of time began a war and my grandfather was enlisted in Zenith – Military army of the South front as a lieutenant. He was at war from the first days till to the end. I really don’t know about his experience of the war, of course I read his diary, but he never wrote about the horror of that war. I can only summarize results of the war for himself. Kazhigali was wounded four times, he received a lot orders and medals, among them: two orders of patriotic war 1, 2 degree; two orders of red star; medals for liberation Vena, Praga, Budapest and others and of course he had a new rank – Captain.

Kazhigali came back home in 1946. Starting from 1947 he worked in Committee of the State Security in Kokchetav. In this period of his life he met my grandmother – Damela. She was very young girl, she only just graduated from university and worked in the school as a teacher of the history. They married in 1949 and had three children, but that was later.

After their wedding, Kazhigali had an opportunity to study in the Moscow School of Committee of the State Security, of course he used this chance and during the next 5 years he was in the school. In 1955 he graduated school and had a lieutenant colonel rank. After his graduation from 1955 till 1960 he worked in the Ministry of the State Security like a chief of two departments. But starting from 1960 he was ill because of his war’s wounds and after 4 years he died.

My grandfather died many years before I was born, and it’s very pity that I haven’t even seen him. I know about him only from my grandmother’s words she says he was very kind, clever and brave man and I believe her.

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Unedited Versions of TWO More Babushkis Stories

Lidia Timofeevna

When this woman got into the classroom it was obvious that she used to be very active during the Soviet times. This was true as she told us about the being an A+ student in the morning and looking after the cows in the evenings. She was born in the 1939, just before the WWII started and she had clear memories of her father leaving to the front in 1941. It is obvious that her parents were very strong people. They used to live during the hardest times of the history: WWI, Famine of 1933 and WWII.

For the Lidia the WWII ended in the 1941, when there was a big battle very close to the Moscow between Soviet Union’s and Fascist forces. Soviet Union put all its power to win this battle and actually did it. At that time the war was over for Lidia.

Lidia’s father died on the front leaving her mother with 4 girls. In 1946 when Lidia went to the school they had nothing to write on and with, they didn’t have a backpack, no notebooks and no books, they didn’t have a library, but they were happy.

It was clear that although Soviet times were hard, she misses them a lot. She told us a story when she lost a herd and was very afraid of what would be done to her, but people from her village saw these sheep walking without her and put all of them to own yard, so that no sheep would be lost. Lidia says that people were more honest before, but “now their idols became money”. She talked about the friendship that the war created within the country. She said that they were taking blue bread to the school to share it with other classmates.

She had a very successful career in the textile plant and used to be very nervous. She became ill with cancer and had overall 8 surgeries. She said that God helped her to go through everything. Lidia kept repeating during her speech this phrase, which I think reflects not only her personality but the mentality of people in Soviet Union: “Always work with conscience”.


Galina Alayevna

Galina Alayevna was born in 1932 in Ashkhabad, the capital city of the Turkmenistan. Her mother was Russian and father Turkmen. Her mother was sent there to work in the tuberculosis hospital.

Galina has told us a lot about the living conditions during those times. She said that there were no rich people, no differentiation by income. People could be differentiated on the base how close to the party they were, because these people were the ones that got apartments and all other privileges. Others had to live in the “komunalka”, a prototype to the dormitory. Women had only one dress to wear and sometimes no underwear. Her father once presented her mother a chintz shawl; it was a very expensive gift for that time period. Galina describes the life in Turkmenia as very hard. They lived on the backyard of the hospital where mother used to work. Unfortunately her parents got divorced and mother took young Galina to the Orenburg.

When the WWII started Galina was 9 years old, her mother had to work in the hospital, taking care of the injured soldiers, while young Galina was taking care of their home and Grandmother.

Galina graduated from musical school and college and then moved to the Almaty to study and work here. She has worked as a teacher of music for almost 30 years, she started to work in 1951 and until 2005.

Galina’s either uncle or grandfather (she doesn’t remember herself) was killed during the time of repression and his monument is in Ashkhabad city.

I was very expressed by the fact that Galina’s mother working in the tuberculosis hospital at the age of 30 also got ill with this disease. I think that I would never want to work somewhere always being disposed to this disease.

In the end Galina said happily: “I have everything”.

Lidia and Galina had very different life stories, they are different a lot from one another, but what makes both of them similar is their strength. However I am more impressed by their parents, because these are the people who actually were very strong and brave. This makes me think how easy is my life in comparison to what these people had to go through.


by Mahkfirat

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“Buried Treasure” in Four Students’ Stories

        The following are stories about grandparents I received orally from my Kazakh students and some are real treasures worth the time digging up.  As I wrote notes, I asked questions all along the way.  Their names are typical Kazakh names, Aigerim, Bahtiyar, Galymzhan and Dana.  Some names are difficult to pronounce for westerners.  Of course, each has a meaning unbeknownst to me until I ask and usually they will tell me the Kazakh meaning. 

My first story starts with Aigerim.  She is an attractive 22 year old and very communicative.  She talked about her dad’s grandfather who was born in Kyrzlorda in 1904 and died in 1999.  She recalls hearing that the early years of 1930s were very difficult ones where many people starved.  Fortunately for her family, they went to another country of Turkmenistan, she can’t remember if it was Ashgabat or not but her father was born in Turkmenistan. 

When her great grandfather found out that things had normalized after the starvation period, the whole family returned to Kazakhstan again.  Aigerim’s father graduated from school and went into the army at age 19 and when he returned from where he was stationed in Ukraine after two years of service, his grandfather had moved the whole family to Almaty.  The great grandfather of Aigerim had checked it out because one of his daughters had married a man from Almaty and he found that it was a suitable place to live. 

Aigerim commented that it was very unusual for an older person to make such a decision to leave their home place where he was born.  Perhaps it was because he had worked for the railroad during WWII and was used to moving around.  She knows that her father was very thankful for the move from Kryzlorda to Almaty and he would often say, “Thank you my grandfather” for the move.  Aigerim’s father was the oldest of 8 children, he is 47 years old now as he was born in 1961.

Second, Baktiyar probably has the best English skills in speaking of the four students and he is a faithful member of my English class.  He has some Uighur connection and has heard many different stories about what has happened to that particular ethnic group.  He was cynical when he said there are two different versions of his grandfather’s death.  One is that he was a tragic war hero during WWII but the other story is that he liked to gamble and he was shot during a fight.  Baktiyar thinks the second story is more likely, he didn’t have as much to share about his family history.

However, Baktiyar DID say that his grandmother was married five times.  She had five children, four sons and one daughter.  After WWII the family moved to Almaty and unfortunately the half brothers and sister didn’t get along with each other, while they shared the same mother, they each had a different father.  Such was the life of struggle when there was no man in the family.  All this is on Baktiyar’s father side.  On his mother’s side, her mother died when she was 10 years old and her father had died earlier.  So Baktiyar’s mother’s big brother was like a father to her.

Third, Galymzhan is from Shymkent and had help from his classmates to get his story out, he has the weakest English skills.  He will be getting married on October 24 to another woman from his hometown but whom he met in Almaty. Once married, he is determined to go back to Shymkent to find out more information from her still living grandmother.  He wished he knew more to tell his inquisitive American teacher.

As it turns out, Galymzhan’s great grandfather was a very rich man many years ago on his mother’s side.  In fact, in his village or aul, he was considered a powerful leader.  When things got dangerous for him after the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, his great grandfather knew he had to bury his gold and silver in the ground.  He ran off to Mongolia or China, Galymzhan doesn’t remember which country and there he hid out.  Meanwhile his family was left behind near Turkestan, about 30 kilometers away in a village there, a place called Kemtau.  The group joked about how they would like to go back to Shymkent and find that “buried treasure.”

Galymzhan said that his grandmother was from Taras and she worked all her life in a factory on a sewing machine.  She was awarded many medals by the USSR for her outstanding work.  Yes, she was a good communist, we all smiled at that thought.

Finally, bubbly and funny Dana spoke about her father’s parents, her grandmother and grandfather.  They were in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan but later moved to Shymkent and then Aktau.  Her father is a lawyer who practices law representing a factory in Almaty.  Her mother is 44 years old and a teacher at an elementary school.  She got married when she was 17 years old, they have five children, two boys and three daughters.  Dana recalls that her mother’s father was very handsome, tall and intelligent.  He never was sick a day in his life, when he went to WWII he got many medals.  He died around 1991 and Dana was so surprised because he always appeared so healthy.

Dana had a funny story to tell about her father because she thought the day’s assignment was to come up with a “funny” story.  NO, I had wanted a “family” story and I was glad that all four had complied.  I am hoping to find out more from my other students tomorrow.  I believe every single Kazakh, and other nationalities who are called Kazakhstani, have interesting stories to tell about their grandparents. Ethnographers and qualitative researchers would have a treasure trove to dig up if only they would travel and live in the “ends of the earth” for a spell to discover what a great country Kazakhstan really is!!!

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Diana’s Grandparents and their Cow

My name is Diana, and as I said before I am from Taraz. And now I live in Almaty with my grandmother’s sister, Sara Hamziyevna.  She was born in 1936, her family was living in a small villageKoshek, it is still there, near Semey. When World War II began my great grandfather was sent to fight. My great grandmother left alone with two little daughters. The whole day my great grandmother was working in kolkhoz, in the evening she was knitting gloves, socks and sewing different stuffs for soldiers. After few years connection with great grandfather was lost. It was really hard time, my grandmother Sara was helping her mother everywhere, where she could.  

In Koshek grandmother Sara has finished 4 year school, after my great grand mother’s mother took her to a town where Sara apa (how I call her) has finished 10 year high school, and after that she was introduced with her future husband. As you may be know, in Kazakhstan, especially in auls, usually parents were choosing future husband or wife for their children. In this case our relatives decided to introduce themselves to each other in a “modern” to that time way, they went to the cinema. After marriage they went to Turkmenistan, where my grandfather should work. But there they caught illness and were returned to Kazakhstan. In that time everyone said that Sara successfully got married, because my grandfather worked as an engineer, it was one of the best jobs. In 1954 they moved to Almaty and still they live in this city.

Unfortunately, my mother’s mom died when I was 14 years old and I don’t remember exactly stories that she told me, honestly, there were so many and interesting of them. One story that I remember it is about cow. When their family was living in aul they had the only cow, that was breadwinner for them, her name was Manya. One day this cow with other cattle has been grazed in a field, and there were well, and Manya went down to it. First of all it was tragedy for family, but for girls it was loss of their friend, because this cow was so clever, she never mixed  her house after grazing with others. And in addition she knew her name, when somebody was calling her by her name she always was saying something to show that she know that somebody called her.

It is so pity that I don’t remember stories of my granny, because she was the first person, whom I loved the most.  I exactly know, that she loved her father, even she was so little when he left them, because she often showed me a very small photos of her father and cried a lot… She tried to find him among heroes of Soviet Union in other countries, she believed that he is may be still alive…

I think that life of my two grannies was different, but both of them was difficult in their own way…They have gone from a lot of difficulties, but they always were very good persons with a “huge hurts”. 

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Almaty’s “well kept secret” sanatorium

mountainsyard and gardensHUGE sanatoriumYelena and viewsanatorium endgolf coursedouble rainbowman made lake

Thanks to American taxpayer dollars there were about 200 English teachers from all over Central Asia. I enjoyed meeting those especially from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan since they come from some real hardship posts.  Many difficulties to get their necessary paperwork done for some of these participants whose governments are rather suspicious of conferences such as this.  Some of those teachers I spoke with were SOOOOO very grateful for this opportunity to be exposed to learning new strategies on how to teach reading and writing in English better.  Andrea Schindler did an amazing job pulling this conference off as a Regional English Language Officer with her office and staff up in Astana. Yelena and I felt VERY privileged of the few of us who came from Almaty to take part as presenters and participants in this Central Asian Teachers of English conference.  I met many wonderful people and Yelena saw her Kazakhstani friends from years ago when she used to be president of TEA (Teachers of English Association). 

My friend and co-presenter, Yelena kept saying, as only a native Russian speaker can with their stress and intonation, “I LIKE this conference!”  Heavy emphasis on “LIKE” which almost made it seem like two words rather than one.  Yes, I did too and I felt the money was well spent on deserving teachers who are dedicated to the craft of teaching. I also believe that the setting is one of Almaty’s well-kept secrets!

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