Posts tagged Wall Street Journal

“Why We Teach Overseas” (Part IV)

This story about a ring of Russian spies being caught by FBI is a strange kerfuffle in my estimation. It may be a news media set-up to distract us from where the REAL news stories are happening.  I watched the Wall Street Journal videotaping of the Anna Chapman (not her real Russian name, of course).  She had no substance, didn’t talk like an entrepreneur and I think the WSJ interviewer knew it.  Simply political posturing by those in high places and Anna is being used, her interview was a joke! It must be heady business to get the news media to take a byte out of that whopper.

The following are my last reasons why my husband and I live and work in Astana, Kazakhstan. Look back several days ago and you will see other reasons “why we teach overseas.”

6. I have many years teaching both at home in the U.S. and abroad. I can detect a problem in the classroom that can be remedied quickly.  For instance, when I taught in Kyiv, Ukraine I had 40 students bunched together in a big classroom.  I found that the black leather jacket guys who were enamored by their cell phones and did not care about what I was teaching, were disruptive and rude.  This disrespectful attitude became a terrible distraction for me and the rest of the class who wanted to learn what I had to teach them.

After putting up with this behavior for several weeks, I finally determined to purge 10 of them from my class of good, hard working students and create a new class for them, meeting at a different time.  The dynamics of the class changed drastically once these “characters” were separated out.  It also served notice to the other Ukrainian students who might have considered being absent to show up for my class or else they would be put in the remedial class.

7. I know the Kazakh educational system has many huge obstacles. This reminds me of the Kazakh saying, “Getting an education is like digging a well with a needle.” One problem that impacts the whole country is to require all Kazakh students to be taught tri-lingually (Russian, Kazakh and English) in the elementary and secondary schools.  The pressure is keenly felt by the Kazakhs to realize their own identity after having it suppressed for so long.  Many middle- aged Kazakhs feel they are “shala” Kazakhs because they do not know their own language or even their old customs; they are Kazakh in ethnicity only.

Second, undoubtedly China does pose a threat to Kazakhstan.  This Asian country just east of them is burgeoning with people, and Kazakhstan would appear to the Chinese like an empty, unoccupied land of only 16 million people.  Of course, learning a fourth language, such as Chinese, would be out of the question.  The Kazakhs have gained their independence and they will do what they can to maintain that.  However, the Kazakhs have a proverb they like to quote attributed to their highly revered, wise man, Abay.  Abay highly recommended learning seven languages. “Try to master seven languages and know seven sciences.”

Perhaps because Kazakhstan is close to the Silk Road, knowing many languages was considered good for bargaining power and knowing seven sciences fits with the goals of the new university in Astana. However, Kazakhstan is on a mission and that is one to succeed.  I want to be here in Astana, working with the future of this country. That future sits in the desks of every classroom throughout Kazakhstan and is in the minds of the bright young Kazakh students. They want to work hard to build up their country to be recognized by the rest of the world.  My husband and I are here in Astana to help in whatever way we can to facilitate the new university to reach these achievable goals to educate Kazakhstan’s future.

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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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