Those who know me well, or even if they are only acquainted with me, know that I work hard. I go after causes and find other people of like minds to join me. That is true of battling the human trafficking issue as well as anything having to do with preserving history. I have pursued Ukraine’s sad stories of the Holodomor (forced famine of 1932-33 where millions died of starvation) or North Dakota history, my grandparents’ history, my students’ grandparents history, etc. Of course, I am also very interested in Kazakhstan’s history but I can only skim the surface of that now that I am far away from living there as I did for 3 1/2 years. I did collect plenty of my composition students’ stories that are waiting to be put in book form.
Many others who currently live in Kazakhstan, especially those of you who are expats, hopefully will pay attention to the stories you hear from your neighbors, colleagues, students and anyone else who offers up what they know. Kazakhstan has an oral tradition that is foreign to us westerners because if we were to compliment someone, we would say, “He is an excellent writer” or “She knows how to express herself beautifully.” They would mean in the latter case in writing and not in speaking. Strange to our American ears to hear someone being praised with, “She was a beautiful story teller.” They meant that that person knew how to knit a tale together that kept the listener spellbound until the end. I heard this comment from a Ukrainian woman who was remembering her grandmother’s talent of storytelling. We might say that someone knows how to tell a good joke and I truly believe that is a gift that no one in my family possesses. My husband used to tell many jokes, more than he does now. He would give credit to the person he heard the joke from…as if re-living the moment he heard it and giving them due respect.
That gets me back to getting credit for the hard work that I do. I have scanned 1,000s of photos in the last ten years. I scanned many photos from Ukraine when I had my students tell their stories from their grandparents’ past. We had two presentations where the expats were invited along with the old babushka women to our university’s auditorium. The second presentation we gave in the spring of 2007, the American ambassador and his wife came to listen to my students reveal their history.
I have scanned 1,000s of photos from our local museum and gathered up other photos from old postcards so that I could get two books published with Arcadia press out of South Carolina. I enjoy sharing these pictures on Facebook with people from my hometown. However, our museum needs money and now we have launched into using Internet with imagekind website out of Oregon to show off those photos of our town. What I am dealing with is letting someone else get the credit for putting up the photos that took time to scan. He put all the photos I scanned up on the website but it would seem to anyone else that he also did all the scanning.
At the same time, I and another volunteer have gone through about 700-800 pieces of vintage clothes that our museum was storing. We took photos of every item and also wrote the tag number on each and described the item. We have about 20 pages of the listings and I have the 700 photos of the clothes that we could potentially sell to vintage clothes people. It is BIG out in the East and West coasts, not so much in our locale. So, the other night at our board meeting, one of the members who wanted to take over to sell these items on her own terms said something incredible. After my friend and I had spent many Saturday mornings over the course of about four months doing this mammoth job, she had a potential buyer in a town about 150 miles away. This board member, who has done NOTHING of the work, said in front of everyone, “Have her come to me to ask about selling to this vintage clothes dealer.” I was shocked that she had the audacity to claim something that she had not worked on yet and take it out of my friend’s hands who knows a LOT about clothes. That is taking credit for something she didn’t work on.
What are my feelings when others want to take the glory for all the work that I do? I have another example that recently happened. One person at my university has wanted me to talk about our town’s illustrious past. I have done many presentations on this topic and I have 100s of photos that I have scanned to show with stories to tell. It didn’t work out last semester because she dropped the ball and didn’t have the advertising set to go. I bowed out and said I would do it the following semester. That semester is HERE! She had been e-mailing me about doing this history presentation in March. I thought, that is fine, I will do it but then she started sending three insistent google scheduled messages where I had to accept, maybe or deny her scheduling requests. Even though she had said that we could meet when it was convenient for me, she pushed three times with setting a day and time. I finally wrote to say I was not interested in doing a presentation for her AT ALL! Why? Because she has a reputation of having other people do all the work but she would get the credit.
After what I had just gone through with scanning 1,000s of pictures and going through 700 pieces of vintage clothes, I have HAD it with people stealing the show. Others want to get the glory for things they haven’t done. I am not a volunteer who wants to be walked all over. I am a volunteer who wants to help others and promote causes. So, what do people in Kazakhstan do about those who “steal” stories and tell them as if they are their own? What would be considered “plagiarism” from an oral tradition point of view? Just wondering? The concept of taking from others, even ideas should have a penalty of shame attached to it, right?
Well, I will have to figure out how to work with the person on the photos, he is my friend. The other person who wants to do all the clothes selling with the data that we collected, she will probably fail because noone will be wanting to work with her. It will probably end up back in our laps. In any case, I am venting right now about how I feel. Has this ever happened to you where others claim the glory for things that YOU have done?