510: The wind is blowing


This way, do it this way.

I tell you, I want it like this.

No, you are doing it wrong, I want it like that.

No, you are still doing it wrong, you are not listening.

I want it THIS way.

No, no, no.

You are being deliberately willful, and defying my authority.

For your own good, I am putting you on an improvement plan, before I fire you.

Tell me your frustrations, so I can use them against you.

I acknowledge your frustrations have merit (because I see the same things),

but it is YOUR FAULT that you mention them as frustrating things, even though I do that, too.

You need to solve your own problems, in spite of the fact that I am the supervisor.

YOU are the one to blame for this.

You, you, you…..employee.

488: Busy, Busy

This weekend is a three day holiday here in Kazakhstan: it is Women’s Day. Different from Mother’s Day in the USA, because you don’t have to actually procreate to celebrate and be included in this one. My last school, which shall remain nameless, worshipped the procreation part so absolutely that women on staff who had not given birth were shunned on Mother’s Day, and got no little gift remembrance on the day. Meh – they could have skipped me, too, for that matter, not that I don’t love my children, I just don’t define myself by that. Anyhoo – idiocy aside….

The first celebration was a very sweet and heartwarming show put on by the male faculty at the school to entertain the ladies, complete with very, very nice gift drawings. You must understand, local Kazakhs earn on average about 300 USD a month, and the men had to chip in to purchase those gifts. VERY generous of them, truly.

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I did not want to win one of the prizes, which from previous experience means that I will. I said this to the lady sitting to my right, and she did not believe me, so I told her “watch this,” and gave my number to the girl sitting to my left, and they called my number.  If I do not want to win, I will. It has happened that way too many times to count.

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I was introduced during the variety show they put on for us to a traditional Kazakh instrument whose name I cannot spell yet. Dumbra? It has only two strings, and they make fascinating and lovely music with it.

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Then, the next day of the three-day weekend, I got to enjoy a cello band concert sponsored by the American Embassy. In a lovely small theater, an American modern cello band of three classically trained-cellists (and a talented drummer) performed one Brahms concerto, and then many selections of their original, modern compositions – some incorporating our city’s native Kazakh musicians as well. Delightful! I think the group called themselves Breaking Reality.

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And it snowed again…… 😦

472: Fair trade clothing

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Most people do not consider clothing when they think about fair trade: they think instead of diamonds or of coffee. Not everyone drinks coffee or can afford to buy diamonds. However, every human on the planet wears clothing of some sort. Therefore, the issue of fair trade in the manufacture of clothing items is a far larger issue than fair trade with either coffee or diamonds.

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Fair trade refers to the ethical and humane treatment of the people (and other living creatures, such as sheep) who all participate in the production of clothing from fiber origin to the ultimate consumer. This includes the farmers who grow organic fibers, the miners who produce the raw materials which are used to manufacture inorganic, or synthetic fibers, the workers engaged in the production of yarns, those who weave or knit the fabric in factories or in collage industries, those who cut and sew the clothing items, those who dye, embellish or otherwise enhance the finished garments, inspectors who ensure quality, and transportation workers who move the finished products to market – not to mention the people involved in the marketing and sales of the finished clothing. Many people are employed in the creation of clothing, and all of them deserve to be treated ethically, without exploitation of their labor.

The primary role of enforcing fair trade ethics in the clothing manufacturing industry world-wide lies with the various governments that oversee the countries where garment manufacture takes place. There are still countries in the world where laws that restrict child labor, or forced labor do not exist.

CNN (http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/15/world/child-labor-index-2014/) reported the to 10 countries for the worst child labor abuses as the following:


It should be clear that this is a prevalent problem in developing nations, but it should be noted that even so-called advanced countries are not immune from child labor abuses. So-called sweat shops don’t only employ children. Often adults who are desperately in need of employment work under inhuman conditions. The owners of such factories are able to exploit their workers’ need for a job, any job.


Fair trade clothing is produced using a supply chain from origin to consumer that is guaranteed legal and ethical, with fair practices employed in the treatment of all the humans and animals involved. Consumers who choose to purchase only clothing articles identified as fair trade are choosing not to financially support the exploitation of people and animals.


469: Hello, Microbes


As a teacher, you learn one fact about changing your job. You are going to get sick. Not of life, or of the job (though sometimes that does happen), no: literally, you will get physically sick. See, here’s how that happens:

When you work in one school for a number of years, your body develops antibodies against all the local germs that the darling kiddies you are working with (regardless of their age) bring to school and share with all and sundry – including you. So, after a few years, you manage to stay reasonably well, because you have already suffered thorough all the local varieties of common cold, influenza, etc., etc., etc., and now you are mostly immune and can stay mostly healthy.

When you change your job, and go to a new school, guess what you are meeting along with all those interesting new people? Yep. All those uninteresting, new, local microbes. You are going to get sick. The fact that you are working with children, and lots and lots of them (nearly 800 in this new school) does not help that situation. Children are still learning to wash their hands and blow their noses, and when to stay home and be sick in private, and when it is OK to be sick and come to school (like, virtually never). So you quite literally shake hands with lots and lots of new (to you) varieties of germs. Now multiply that truth by the interesting complexities of germ adaptation in totally new countries in different parts of the globe.

Yep. *cough*


You got it. No, actually, I got it.


466: Processing Me

At any new employment, there occurs the process of processing the new employee. There are papers to sign and forms to fill out, medical checks to complete, introductions to be made, and orientation tours to be taken, among other processing tasks, like training the new person.

I am right in the middle of that process of processing me. Every one else here has been employed since the start of the academic year in August. I am replacing a person who departed mid-year, so I am being processed all by my little old self. This is interesting, since previously, I have always been part of a group of new hires. I have never been THE (one and only) new hire. Hmmmm.

Easier to fade into the crowd. Hard to fade into a crowd of one.

465: Welcome to Kazakhstan

Well. It’s been one whole day in my new country: Kazakhstan! I finally got the work visa approved, and since you must have your visa in hand before you can fly, that took some time and doing. The Kazakhstan Embassy in Washington, D.C. does not accept mail, or other deliveries like Fed Ex or UPS. Because of this, you either have to GO there and take your documents in person and then go back a week later and pick them up (from ATLANTA), or, you have to pay for a courier service to do that for you. Easy decision, that one.

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It was two full days (48 hours plus about 10 more) to get here, what with three flights and two lengthy layovers, one in Amsterdam and one in Almaty. Almaty is in Kazakhstan, and is one of its two largest cities. The other one is Astana. One is the capitol, and the other one is the largest city. I forget which is which, but I am sure I will learn.

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The one funny thing in Almaty’s airport terminal, while I waited over eight hours on my next flight, was that workers came around prising up from the benches (where weary travelers were sitting, waiting on their flights), the CUSHIONS from the bench seats. ???? They did not ask any of us who were seated to move, but they scarfed the cushion right next to me…..? Interesting, I could not help but giggle over it.

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The other thing I will get to learn is some Russian. Seriously. The other language they speak here (could not be just one, huh?) is Kazakh. *sigh* And, like Arabic, this one has another new alphabet, too.

Well. At least the apartment the school furnished is nice. It is pretty bare in the kitchen, which I will have to remedy, but it will certainly do, and it is free – a perk of the job. No complaints, believe me. I can buy a few dishes.

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This morning, a colleague at the school who is named Georgia (! my home state, what a great good omen) came to take me shopping for a few necessities to get through the first week. The stores are only a couple of blocks away – no bus or taxi fares! The school is only about a mile and a half away, too – shared taxi should be reasonable, too.

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My first dinner consisted of one of the new grains in the supermarket – I think wheat berries, plus carrots and potatoes. Root crops are very reasonably priced. Packaging is interesting. More glass jars than cans. Good for reusing. I like it, except for when (not if) I break one getting them home.


Yes, it  is cold (15 degrees Fahrenheit), but the apartment is warm. Tomorrow is the first day at work, so I am excited enough to be uninterested in sleeping, darn it. Clothes laid out, Panama cell phone set to Kazakh time as my alarm clock/watch, since I forgot to pack any watches and the darn cheap thing does not work here in this country, anyway.  Makes a good alarm clock, though, so I’m keeping it. I bought an electrical adapter today, so my laptop, tablet, Kindle reader, cell phone and tablet are all charged. Woo Hoo! New job, new life, here I come!