Posts tagged Ukraine

“Spring Thaw” Event This Friday in February!!!

Whoever came up with this event at our university to have a “Spring Thaw” in February must be from California.  Anyone who grew up in these parts of Minnesota would not even consider to tempt the weather minstrels with the thought of spring thaws in February. We can have some of our worst blizzards or storms in February and March. It would be more realistic to have a Spring Thaw in April or even May based on experiencing past winters. We have nothing to complain about with our winter so far, nothing like the brutal beast of a winter we had last year.  However, to get into the mood for a Spring Thaw means that you are probably going south to Florida or even farther south during Spring Break which DOES happen in March.  One full week of no teaching, hurrah!!!

Today for this event I will be playing in a six piece orchestra that we have slammed together with practices every day for a week.  The music pieces we are using are from Broadway hits and movie hits.  Songs like Edelweiss, Beauty and the Beast, Circle of Life, Cabaret and Memory.  Then movie hits like Chariots of Fire, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13 and Somewhere Out There.  Should be interesting to get the responses from people who show up for this fun activity of food, drinks, cashbar and photos and games.  I hope I can hold up playing my violin that I haven’t picked up for over 20-30 years!

This “celebration” starts at 4:30 today. Everyone will be there ON time (closing time for many office jobs) but they will be out the door and on their way home by 5:30 p.m. After all, it IS a Friday and people have their weekends planned out already.  I plan to go to a movie screening tomorrow titled “Nefarious: Merchants of Souls” which is about human trafficking. A friend of mine already went to it down in Texas and she had a hard time watching the whole thing. Victims’ testimonies but also footage from the traffickers themselves.  We live in a depraved world and unfortunately human trafficking is escalating instead of the numbers going down.  What does that say about our sin sick world?

I’m also watching the events unfold in Ukraine with extreme sadness. The Russian separatist terrorists (given equipment from Russia) are riddling the cities with civilians living there with bullets so that they can take over the east end of Ukraine. Their goal is to move on to Kyiv and then the other eastern European nations. The leader in Russia is not dealing with the reality or he is forcing the hands of many leaders from other nations. Things will be bleak for those living in Russia because their economy is currently plummeting. However, their “fearless” leader, who many Russians still believe in, is waiting for Ukraine to buckle first. After what Ukraine has been through over the century with the Soviet rule, the memories run too deep, they will NOT let Russia rule over them again.  They would rather fight and die first.

I wonder if this leader in the north has the same designs for the assets in Kazakhstan?  Would the Kazakh people be ready to fight and die for their own sovereignty?  I wonder…are we going back to the Cold War mentality.  So much for the spring that, right?

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Home stretch…less teaching of writing and more WRITING of my own

Not sure if this is a baseball term or where “Home Stretch” came from, I suppose I could google this and find out.  I like to admit that “I see the light at the end of the tunnel” and I am making sure my 85 students in my six composition classes know they can share that light with me too.  Once this fall semester is finished, I will miss seeing my students who all seem ardently working away.  They come as freshmen students with different skill levels depending on what high school teachers they had and how much they worked with research papers. Some understand the complexities involved, others are like deer in the headlights about what is expected of them when it comes to researching.

However, I think after three months together, my students have a good understanding in my class that this is university level and what they pulled off as “A” papers in high school doesn’t cut it in their new academic environment.  One class has proven a bit of a challenge for me. I got two students out of there who were good and it fit their schedule to attend another composition class I taught in the morning. Two others dropped out while one student hasn’t handed in much of anything.  I keep wondering why if we are up to 700 points out of 1,000, he has about 100 points and still shows up for class.  For sure he will be taking this comp class again next semester…that is if he can survive the cold.

This weekend my 45 comp students are hopefully working diligently on their Paper #4 which is a topic they were able to choose, once I gave my approval. I had a list of ten topics that I considered “Hot button” topics that did not get my approval. Initially I needed to see from them a workable thesis statement and also a working bibliography of FIVE academic, peer-reviewed articles.  Some of my students chose topics that haven’t been written about by the academics or if they have been written about, there are no opposing views.  That was also part of my assignment for this persuasive research paper, it must have an alternative argument so that they can see from another point of view.  I am getting all different types of proposals and titles for title pages from my very diverse group of classes.  I have football players that want to write about football helmets or another wants to write about whether college players should be payed or not. Then I have would be farmers who want to write on the latest in planting and harvesting.  I have soccer player girls who want to find out more about the effects of artificial turfs and then I have a dancer who is learning more about children’s motor skill development with programs in dance.

This weekend I have already corrected 50 points worth of a quiz on the textbook dealing with the APA formatting style. Now THAT was tedious and I still have to finish off with two more weeks of instruction before we take a two day break for Thanksgiving the end of November.  After that, I will have them do a ten minute powerpoint presentation on their writing assignment. Then Dec. 12th, we are DONE with instruction, classes. It is up to me, while they are taking finals the last week of the semester, to get the grades in before my husband and I head south for a two week vacation in the warmth. Can’t wait to see the grandbabies and how they have grown from last year.

What a strange day today with near white out conditions, then sunny, more wind, then it dies down.  I’m looking out now and can see two miles away, but earlier you couldn’t see 300 feet or even 50 feet in front of you out in the tundra prairie.  Oh, we DO love it here because it keeps the riff-raff out. People who are up to no good do NOT want to stick around when the really bad weather starts up.  It could happen any week or month now.  I’m thankful though that our weather is NOT as bad as what I experienced in Astana, Kazakhstan for two winters. Now THAT country experiences a real hard-core winter and Astana being the capitol of the expansive country, you can be sure they have managed to keep most of their riff-raff out due to the extreme temps but also the high prices.

Do I want to go back to Astana? Some days I think about it but I think I would prefer Almaty even with all its air pollution and slanty roads because it is south and warmer.  How did I get on this topic?  I DO want to write about all the stories I collected from my Kazakh students the 3-4 years I lived and taught in Almaty and Astana.  If only I had more time and didn’t have to currently teach writing…I could write and get this book that has been on the back burner finally published.  It took me THREE years to come up with a title for this book “Unbroken Souls:  Soviet Grandparents’ Stories from Ukraine and Kazakhstan” but it will probably take me another decade before it gets into print.  Perhaps it would be best as an e-book to reach the expat community who care about these countries and who want to order it off of Amazon.com.  We shall see…I just have to get to the end of THIS tunnel I am in right now, even if I feel like I am in the middle of a white out!

 

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People are Passing Away, Towns are Passing Away

Facebook reported the passing away of an American teaching colleague that I worked with in Almaty and Astana. I am sorry that I don’t know more information about this sad event. I was told by another colleague over FB that he died in his sleep. I’m sure there is more to this story than that. He did smoke and so it could have been some complication related to bad choices he made. He was in his late 60s I think.  Anyway, where I live, people keep passing away.  I am in an old established town where all of us in high school were encouraged to get out of town, do better by going to the big cities.

I did better than that, I went to the BIG cities elsewhere like in Harbin, China or Kyiv, Ukraine or finally Almaty and Astana, Kazakhstan.  I should not forget the year and a half I spent teaching in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.  I would not count Bishkek as a big city, however. It had not changed much from the time I was there in 1993-1995 to when I went to visit again in 2007 or 2008.   It is holding its own even after the startling spring revolution that happened about five years ago now.  Ukraine had its Orange revolution, I think Kyrgyzstan’s was dubbed the tulip revolution. I can’t recall.  I’m sure I have it on this blog if I went back to look at the exact date and name of the event.

Yes, people are passing away but also small town American is passing away.  They have statistics that show that by a certain date in the future, many more people will be living in the cities than in the countryside.  Why is that?  I would think that if people can live away from the metropolis, if they can sustain themselves through the winter with the right kind of heat and food, they would not have to move INTO the city.  I think it is safer and more peaceful out in the rural areas.  I would think the trend would be to move away from all the people and crime and violence and live in solitude in a small town.

However, what was true over 100 years ago where people were pushing west and getting land parcels for a very good price, now people don’t want to do the country thing. Small towns that were thriving with the railroad as their connection to the rest of the world are withering away.  If they have not created some good industry to keep up employment, then one by one, the store fronts look empty for the businesses downtown.

My hometown has a strong image from the past, we have many old brick buildings that remain. Some elegant ones have been torn down due to lack of money to keep the roof shingled, thus the decay from the inside has made the brick work that looked regal and stable become a liability.  People my age have the memory of what our downtown used to look like, bustling with people and business.  Now, the move has been away from downtown and to one of our city of 8,000 people.  We have businessmen and women who are struggling to have any kind of business downtown since the amazing old high school was torn down and moved to the one end of the city.

The people in charge, those on the city council, the city administrator, mayor and others have to make tough decisions about what to maintain due to our tax base not being as flush with money as it used to be when families had 6-10 children.  Many of those children have left for better jobs elsewhere, leaving the older parents behind in the dying town.  So we have the melancholy problem of people passing away in the towns that are passing away.  Sometimes I do yearn for the big cities where the action is…for right now though, I am happy to be in a small town that minds its own business and doesn’t have great fanfare about much of anything.  I can write that because I am teaching 85 freshmen students how to write. There is adventure and challenge enough in doing that.  LOVE it when the lights go on in their heads about what I am trying to get across to them.  I have GREAT kids, most of them want to learn.

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World Cup and Malaysian Airline

I suppose I am your typical American, I did not watch any of the World Cup. I’m not interested in soccer or “football” as it is called elsewhere. I haven’t even watched our own games of baseball so I guess I am not “INTO” sports. I think Germany was a good win for the World Cup, they probably worked hard and a great team effort. Someone wrote that the main objective is to keep kicking the ball towards the net, the more you do that, you wear down the goalie and the ball is apt to get into the net for a score.

Life is like that in a way. If you keep working towards your objective, you will little by little achieve your goal. If you are wandering around the field with no good plan or teamwork, you will have no success. I have been getting stronger and stronger where I weeded a flowerbed that was entangled with quack grass and lilies of the valley plants. The latter had taken over and was very intense as a root system, superficial but irksome nonetheless. My husband helped me free the ground up because it was too big of a task for me. Now I have impatience plants and begonias replacing the tall grass. What a marked improvement in my flower bed that has old bed posts on the top and bottom of it with railroad ties on the sides.

This morning I went after another area by our shop to put in holly hocks that I got from my mom. I found all sorts of metal pieces that had been thrown out perhaps 75 years ago. LONG nails and other ancient items that don’t decay with the soil. So, now I hope to have holly hocks growing, an old kind of flower.

That’s the thing, you have to keep fighting the weeds. If you give the weeds’ roots just an inch, it will go the full mile. Kind of like the northern neighbor to Ukraine. They want more land and are having a full out war over this. The Ukrainians want peace and do not want separatists or others that are known by another term in the eastern part of their country. It is like weeds, they need to be pulled out NOW otherwise, worse things will happen.

The commercial airliner that was just shot down with almost 300 people on board is an example of someone using their missile to take an aircraft out. The bodies are strewn throughout Ukraine over 7 miles, we know the impact happened in the air. Maybe it was a bomb on board coming from the Netherlands and its final destination was Malaysia. Not now, currently they will be pulling all the pieces together to find out what hit this plane that should not have been hit.

This is a world wide problem, this is not just some small incident. The World Cup was big, yes, but it seems that what is happening in Ukraine is much, much bigger and will start to affect us all.

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Heart wrenching news about Ukraine

Difficult to passively sit back and watch the events unfold in Ukraine as they are moving forward. The Ukrainians have taken three steps forward with their newly elected president but several steps back with what is happening in eastern Ukraine. Possibly the separatists are employing terrifying tactics of their own volition but I think the guy in charge in Moscow is not only encouraging it but aiding them. How do you get sophisticated missiles into the country to take down a Ukrainian plane that is landing at the airport, 49 dead as a result? Where do the tanks come from that are infiltrating Ukraine? Why do they not have their insignias on the armored vehicles or why do the agitator men NOT wear symbols on their clothes to show who they represent? This is an undeclared war that is going on and yet supposedly it is NOT happening because they are simply Russians who are dissatisfied with the Ukrainian government and want Russia to take over.

Meanwhile, the tourist trade is not faring very well in Crimea and that is a beautiful place to be at this time. The Tatars were aggressively moved out when Stalin wanted it for his own Soviet headquarters and now people who are catching on are leaving…that is, if they are able to now. I don’t know if they have the electricity or fuel or food they need. I believe they are living on ration cards now. So sad.

What I know from one of my friends currently living in western Ukraine is that some of the far eastern cities in Ukraine are without food, electricity or a means of transportation. Some people are hiding out in basements of apartment complexes because it is not safe for them to be in their homes or apartments. This means dire straits for those who do NOT want to be in this chaos. However, there are heroes who are doing what they can to help these people who want OUT!

My heart goes out to those who ARE helping people who have no means, Ukrainian unfortunates who are caught in the cross fire. I also know of brave, young men who are involved in the fight to help Ukraine return to order and peace. That is all anyone wants who LOVES their own country.

This makes me think of what would happen in the U.S. if it were to happen like that. Would we have people who would cave in and do whatever they are told by the “government?” Probably so, those who watch tv and are passive because they believe everything they are told by the media. Would we have others though, who would fight for our country to become what it used to be? I would hope so…for our grandchildren’s sake.

Freedom is important and so many people do not have that in their lives. That is the heart wrenching news from around the world. I continue to think about Ukraine…and Kazakhstan.

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June Busy-Ness and other things of note

Well, I guess we are INTO June already and I haven’t posted anything for about a week. Time to put down my thoughts as they come to me. This was a VERY busy day, I accomplished quite a bit in the morning, went home and had help with picking asparagus and then a meeting tonight with gals, talking over finger food. Yes, a good day but all the people I talked with from different areas of my life means I feel fatigued now. I know I must not overdo it.

I found out more from someone who witnessed the aftermath of my accident over a month ago. I was obviously in shock and wanting to be in control and acted as if nothing was wrong with me. Something was VERY wrong and the others as first responders knew it. Well, without going into detail, I am healing and in recovery but have to go slow physically. That is hard to do because there is SOOOOO much work to do around our place with gardening and weeding. I can mow the lawn, rake the grass clippings but that is about it. I walked a mile the other day on the treadmill, the week before I felt like I had done a marathon with walking a mile on the gravel road in search of asparagus.

The lilacs are blooming, as are all the other trees like plum, chokecherry and apple. Early June is a wonderful time to be outside to enjoy the cooler temps before summer really sets in. As we relish our life, I’m thinking of those in east Ukraine who are fighting for their lives and for their country. I think the Ukrainians from the west are making steady progress but not without cost of human life. I have friends who are helping out with the Ukrainian children who have come to stay with them during this time of chaos.

So many other places in the world do not have the solace and peace we enjoy in our corner of the world. Of course, they have not survived an utterly, horrible winter like we went through with the cold, etc. We complain about it but when June comes we seem to have a memory lapse about what we just endured for six months. I know there are colder places like Astana, Kazakhstan because I have lived there, but survived.

I don’t have much to report, especially about Kazakhstan but I wanted to keep you updated about my doings. I am glad I am alive, I’m finally hearing stories about my accident and it could have been a different ending. My husband is good to me, I’m grateful for him and his patience and understanding. Also, God is good, ALL the time!

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Memorial Day and Ukraine’s triumph

Today is a very important holiday for Americans, for some it means remembering those who have given their ALL for our freedoms. Sadly for others it means BBQ and being outdoors in the fresh spring air. I am reminded that during all the wars that Americans have fought in, “All gave some, some gave ALL!” The family members who are left behind to grieve, remember that. So, today my husband and I put up our two American flags to show any passersby that we remember the sacrifice of others for what we often take for granted. We went out to stalk asparagus in the ditches and came home with a fresh batch. Life is good.

My American friend, who is an economist, wrote the following earlier to her friends about what she has been doing as an election observer.

“So economic nerd thoughts on today: 1) we take so much for granted, like indoor plumbing and power. Schools in this town had indoor plumbing, the villages did not. 2) The average monthly income here is about 200 to 300 per month. We are paying our interpreter and driver over 300 dollars for four days work. No wonder they love elections! 3) gasoline (or benzine as they call it) is about 6 dollars per gallon-and we complain about 4 dollar gas ( and keep in mInd the average income above) 4) cars in Kyiv were Audi, Saab, Benz, and upward from there in price. Cars in Khmelnytsky were Honda, Kia, and the like. Cars in Slovuta (where we are stationed) are Lada (ancient Soviet brand) and in the villages it is bicycles, horses and walking. Net result of all this trivia-I am so very blessed and should be more grateful than I usually am. Lesson learned!”

Thankfully Ukraine got the right person to do the job the first time around. If it had been under 50%, they would have had to go through more uncertainty and waiting for a second election again. I am glad they have the former boxer as mayor of Kyiv. Time is of essence for all the new leaders in Ukraine. I am glad my friend is safe, here is what she wrote:

Happy Memorial DAy and thanks to all my family that have served!

I have spent two full days touring the villages of west central Ukraine and it is interesting to see a monument to soldiers in EVERY one of them. One SMALL village of about 700 adults had a multiple memorials to the 200 plus + lost in WWII.
More economic and farming reflections tomorrow. Tonight I am just tired after two days of little sleep, rough roads, trying to think in another language!

So, that is what I am thinking today, I know it is far removed from anything having to do with Kazakhstan. However, Ukraine wants peace and so does KZ and also the US. Too much blood has been shed already.

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