Posts tagged Washington

What I remember of Astana, Kazakhstan, THEE coldest capital in the world…almost

Yes, we just experienced Astana cityscape

40 mph winds this past weekend and I was reminded what it was like living in Astana. It has the recognition of being the SECOND coldest capital in the world…after Ulan Bataar, Mongolia.  I thought it was THEE coldest some days I was out in it.  Wearing fur helped, having cuddle duds on under pants also provided the necessary warmth. Owning a good pair of boots that only Canadians know how to put together and wearing mittens instead of gloves was the key to staying warm in the onslaught of merciless winds.  In any case, as I listened to the wind howl around our house, I thought of those who live and work in Astana and what they have to put up with for almost 5-6 months.  I understand coming from Minnesota.

What most of us do is look at seed catalogs and think about our spring planting. We look at summer pictures with blue skies and green trees and grass. We tell ourselves that “soon and very soon, we will  have warmer temps again.”  The people on the East Coast from New York passed Washington D.C. just had about 2-3 feet of snow dumped on them.  They don’t know how to handle that sort of thing.  Best to just hunker down and do what I suggested above…or read a good book.

Anyway, green grass will be back soon and then there is the mowing of the lawns that happen all too frequently.  Enjoy each day no matter what the temperature or weather…it is a gift!



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Letter dated September 21, 1993 – Minnesota to Kyrgyzstan

I’m continuing with what my emotional roller coaster I was traveling on from Kazakhstan to the U.S. and then back to Kyrgyzstan in the early 1990s.  Please read my two prior blog entries to understand what I was doing in Kazakhstan in the first place.

September 21, 1993 – I Pet. 2:12 is certainly applicable to me since my university in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan wanted me to be teaching at the start of school on September 15th.  Due to a mix up of communication, I am arriving on October 1st, instead.  Thus, I am already starting out on the wrong foot with the dean of the school.  I need this situation to turn around since this woman, Camilla, is known to steamroll over people.  To cross her is NOT a good idea.  I have learned only too late and so I am looking at ten months of working with her.

On Sunday, September 26th at 2:35 p.m. I will be boarding a Delta plane to go back to Central Asia. I have more than enjoyed the past month of staying in Minnesota with family and friends.  For the past four months working in Kazakhstan for Peace Corps, life was just plain hard work.  Thanks to good fellowship in Almaty, I was able to survive the rigors of living in a culture in flux.

I know what I am getting myself into as I prepare to leave and there is both a feeling of dread and excitement.  I look forward to getting to know the Kyrgyz people more as I will be teaching phonetics and listening comprehension at the Kyrgyz State University.  Fortunately I will not be alone but teaching with another American Fulbright scholar who is there for only three months.  She arrived two weeks ahead of her schedule to accommodate the university’s needs.  I am not sure if we will be sharing living quarters or not.

I need wisdom on how to proceed with a relationship with a man I met at church five months ago.  Ken has been the recipient of many e-mail messages since I got back to the States.  He works for the U.S. government for the Department of Agriculture as an economist and deals with many of the same issues of living in this Central Asian culture.  He will be three hours away in Almaty while I am in Bishkek.  I pray that my e-mail can be hooked up in Bishkek so we can continue in “close” communication.  I will be spending Christmas with him and his friends in Wash. D.C.

Once I know what my e-mail address is, I will be sure to let the e-mail users know. That is the most efficient way to keep in touch with me since the mail system cannot be trusted.  I will bring back a new laptop computer which also has fax capabilities.  I need to learn about that too so it can be up and running while trying to get prepared for my classes.

There’s lots to learn and experience in these next ten months in Kyrgyzstan.  I have so many, many people to thank for making my one month visit in Minnesota so special.  I was able to use my parents’ car, stay the whole month at my friend’s apartment while they moved out, visit with others in Minneapolis.

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Question about Ukraine, My “Short” Answer

The following is a question I got through someone who knows my aunt in North Carolina. He will be a Peace Corps volunteer soon in Ukraine, another land I lost my heart in.

I understand that you were a Peace Corps volunteer and lived in Ukraine.  I am getting ready to leave on March 29th for my training in Kiev to hopefully become a Youth Development volunteer.  So I just wanted to see what you did as a volunteer and if there were any pieces of general advice you had for me.  I am sure you can go on for awhile so certainly don’t feel like you have to write a lot!

The following is my “short answer:”

Actually I did my Peace Corps stint many years ago in the Philippines and NOT in Ukraine.  I was a PCV in 1981-83 and then learned to love Asia enough to teach in northeastern China from 1986-88.  Then I got my MA in TESOL at U of Minnesota in 1990 and was awarded a Fulbright grant to Kyrgyzstan in 1993-1995 to teach English at the start of the university that is now known as AUCA in Bishkek.  Then I got married in December of 1994 to a USDA guy I met in church in Almaty, Kazakhstan summer of 1993. We ended up in Alexandria, VA because of his job in Wash. D.C. for three years before we both were awarded Fulbrights in Kyiv, Ukraine in 1998-2000.  But we loved it so much in Ukraine that we stayed on another five years.  Then we ended up in Almaty, Kazakhstan in 2007 and have been in this great country ever since.

So the short answer is no, I didn’t do Peace Corps in Ukraine but I know someone who did.  He is now working with USAID in Afghanistan and he has been meaning to come up to visit us here in Astana, Kazakhstan.  He is from the same area of North Dakota that my aunt is from.

What you REALLY need to bring with you more than the metal hangers that we get from dry cleaners is flexibility and tolerating the most infuriating things about the host culture.  Like when the drivers try to mow you down at the pedestrian crosswalk or the cars drive on the sidewalk so you not only have to look left and right but also behind and ahead of you for oncoming, careless drivers.

The Ukrainians have gone through a LOT in their long history but most heartbreaking are the last 100 years.  They are deeply divided over the Russian version of their history, especially the more west you go towards Poland.  Ask them about their grandparents or their grand grandparents, ask them what they went through with the famine of 1932-33, the Holodomor. Ask about what they endured with the Great Patriotic War, some will be willing to tell you.  Other babushkas have such painful memories that they go into a deep, troubled silence.

Knowing their history, I think, helps to explain the corruption, bribes, all the other dishonest things that go on that seem normal to them but outrageous to us westerners.  Plagiarism is not frowned on at national universities, cheating is the way you succeed at university and some of the students boast about it.

So, you have to pick your battles and love the people for who they are, not what you think they should be according to what you learned in your university training or elsewhere. Mainly if you learn their language and their culture, they will love you back.  I think you will find all the material things you could ever want. The main thing to do is bring books with you because you won’t find the kind you may want to read or use as textbooks in Ukraine.

Hope that helps.

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Central Asians Thoughts on Leadership

It has been fun to coast while my Kazakh students did the writing about their grandparents this past month.  I have started a new job and had my vacation back home in the U.S. for Christmas Day and New Years holiday.  How great to be with my family and friends again even though for such a short time. There’s many challenges with my new position and namely I will be in an administrative position.  I look forward to making changes in this westernized institution while being mindful of the things I will learn from my Central Asian students.  The next following three days are what I have gleaned from Central Asian students about Leadership!!!  Always good to get their perspective!

Thomas Carlyle “the history of the world is but the biographies of great men.”

President Islam Karimov of Uzbek “Without the historical memory, there will not be a future.”

George Washington: “Observe good faith and justice toward all nations.  Cultivate peace and harmony with all.”

Pres. George Bush, Sr.  “A volunteer is a person who can see what others see, who can feel what most do not feel.  Often such gifted persons do not think of themselves as volunteers, but as citizens, citizens in the fullest sense, partners in civilization.”

Ronald Reagan “What I’d really like to do is go down in history as the president who made Americans believe in themselves again.”

Olympic motto:  Citus, Atus, Favtus = Faster, Higher, Stronger

Chinese philosopher – “The country regulated by correctness, the war conducted by ruse.”

Warren G. Bennis “Good leaders make people feel that they are at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization.  When that happens people feel centered and that gives their work meaning.”

Great scholar Azim Premji claimed:  “One must have strategies to execute dreams.”

Alan Keith of Genentech states:  “Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.”

Richard Nixon: “People are persuaded by reason, but moved by emotion; the leader must both persuade them and move them.”

Zakhiriddin Muhammad Bobur “I knew about him from history books and novels which about his life.  He governed his government till his death.  One chilly winter day they came across to the river which covered with ice and troops scared to cross the river.  Because it may be break down if they cross out of it.  What can he do?  It’s very difficult situation to everybody they must cross out of it anyway they’ll die.  Bobur dives to the ice several times, soldiers shocked how he did it.  By this way he encouraged his soldiers mood and they crossed out of it.  Of this cold weather was very harmful for his health and after some years it gives its results and he dies.

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Why I LOVE Teaching ESL/EFL Students

I will make a HUGE disclaimer before I quote an essay from one of my Sierre Leone students from 1995, it is just too good to pass up.  As I’m going through papers to file, to keep, and to burn, there is a reason why THIS descriptive essay is a keeper.  Also, this will help to explain why I LOVE teaching.  I taught ESL (English as a Second Language) classes soon after I was married while living in northern Virginia for three years.  We lived about 5-7 miles from the Washington D.C. and we could see the Washington monument from our upstairs bedroom window.  I had writing and grammar classes with students from ALL over the world, it was like a mini-United Nations.  Maximum class size was 25 students and in one case I had a class where there were 23 nations represented, it was an amazing experience!!! 

Quite different from when I taught in China where I had students who all looked alike and had the same linguistic problems. Here’s another reason why I like teaching non-native speakers, I was a judge for an English speaking contest in Harbin, China in in 1987-88.  I had one student who had memorized his piece and the title was something like “Why I LOVE to Smile.” He used the word smile about 20 times in his speech but when he pronounced that word it always sounded like SMELL.  So, it would sound something like this:  “I love to smell when I am with my friends…I love to smell when I win at a game of ping pong…”  You get the idea, I may just dig that out of storage where I saved the hard copy version of this Chinese student’s speech.

Just so you know more about this particular writer, he was a BIG, black guy with a booming voice in the back of the room.  He was a politician from Sierre Leone and will remain nameless because it is not written on his essay, I will keep the spelling as he wrote it. I really think he was trying to butter me up for a better grade, it may have worked. You be the judge.  Also, it just has the title of the essay as my name, Mrs. G. (I will remain nameless)

Mrs. G. is an indiginous inhabitant of minnsota, one of the State in the United States of America.  She is married to a Russian Mr. G. and according to my observation, she is a middle age woman and very presentable in public.
To be honest, she is very beatiful. In supporting this fact, she has a long black hair whic is one of the contributing factor indicating the beaty of a woman. Additionally, her straight nose sitting in-between her doll eyes and small mouth, beatifies the entire upper section of her smooth body.
Furthermore, it is unfair if one doesn’t mention the way she dresses, which truely portrays her beatiful image. In polishing her beaty is her hight which is appropriate for her structure.
In addition, to this already beatiful woman described, is her character. As a teacher, she is having all the qualities, that students are looking for. For instance, she is soft spoken, pontual in class, helpful, and at the same time very friendly.  To be specific, nor matter what student does in class either intelligently or stupidly, she is always there to assist.
Moreover, this charasmatic woman’s status in society is excellent.  To start with, she is highly educated.  In clarifying her Educational Standard, she is a masters degree holder. Therefore has the quality to teach both home and abroad. Due to this quality of her’s she has been not only to the then Soviet Union, but also thought in People’s Republic of China. For such a woman, beaty is part of her daily life.
Finally, it is necessary to note that, beaty is compose of a lot of contributing factors put to gether in a possitive way, which includes interlectualism, possitive character and imagery of beauty itself. All this factors are present in a single human been known as Mr. G.

Now I ask you, what kind of a grade would you give this student?  He DID have the transition markers in place, he just didn’t use spellchecker which might have only discouraged him.  I saw his heart and I love to see my students’ heart in Kazakhstan, I’m looking forward to being back with a new crop of writing students.

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