Saturday, April 30, 2005

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More words, words, words… Okay, so I’m no linguist (yeah I know I have spend time over here studying Hebrew and Sanskrit, but what’s your point?), but one of the fascinating things about language to me is what words are and are not in a language. Bare with me for a minute on this, because I think what words it has in its vocabulary really says something about a culture. Take Kyrgyz, it there are many words that can be found in the Kyrgyz language relating to farming, horses, and other nomadic type things, but if you look for words about cars, of all of the parts to a car, there is only one part that the Kyrgyz have their own word for (tire). What really got me thinking about all of this was my brother’s recent engagement to Karen (yeah I have a one-tracked mind, but can you fault me for being excited?) My students are always wanting to know about life in America and more importantly about my life and that of my family, so I decided to turn this whole thing into a bit of an educational opportunity (I know leave it to me to take a happy event in my family’s life and turn it into something educational). I went to all of my Kyrgyz dictionaries to look-up the words for engaged, fiancee, and other related words. Umm yeah, they don’t exist. There is no word for fiancee or engaged in Kyrgyz, which took me back to a poem we read my sophomore year of college which talks about the fact there is no word for goodbye in one of the Native American languages (okay not doing the poem justice, but you get the point. Col, it was from the goddess class). So the same can be said for Kyrgyz in a sense, which got me thinking. I mean come on everybody gets engaged and married (or at least it happens in every culture right?) I had a conversation later that day with a fellow volunteer who pointed-out the problems with the assumptions that I was making. I was subtly reminded that engagement is not traditional (or least does not really exist in every recent tradition) for all cultures. In Kyrgyzstan, brides are often kidnapped, and even when it is an agreed upon thing, a ceremonial kidnapping is often still carried-out. In some ways, that is sort of like proposing here. Take for my host brother for example. My host mother came-up to me early in March and informed me that my host brother would be getting married at the end of the month. I was a bit confused, because it seemed like a short time, and I wasn’t even aware that he was dating anybody. They don’t really do the long engagement thing here. Once people decide they’ve me the person they want to marry, they just sort of go ahead and get married, and there reaches a point at which even if they haven’t found the person, they go ahead and get married anyway. In other interesting news… I have often used this space to complain about the locals, so let me give some props where props are due. School here are by and large corrupt. That’s not an opinion. That’s just sort of the way things are. I wish it were otherwise, but even locals will tell you that it often doesn’t matter how much you know, but who you know and how much money you can slip them. You don’t have to be rich to get good grades, but being rich will get you good grades. Well, a victory was one this week for all those who are not corrupt. I was sitting in the teacher’s lounge the other day when one of my assistant principals came-up to me and asked how a particularly problematic class of mine was doing. I told her that they were still lazy and not doing there homework. She looked at me and said, “Then you give those little chicks (it is an insult to a child that age to be called a little chick) twos (ie fail them).” Another teacher who is a friend of mine (or as much of a friend as I can have here) looked on and gave her encouragement as well. Most volunteers in this country are told not to fail students. In fact, many are not permitted to do it, and yet there I was being told by one of my assistant principals to fail the little booger eaters. Maybe, they finally get it. Maybe there is hope for some of these people when people in education realize that failing a student who doesn’t deserve to pass is okay. Teach these kids to work for things, and I know that they will excel. I guess I’m lucky. I have a school where, with a few exceptions, they seem to get that concept, and they allow me to enforce it. Maybe they encourage me to do it, because they know I’ll do it anyway, or maybe it is because they wish that they could get away with it. Regardless, it was a pretty awesome moment, and help me gain a lot of respect for people around here. Things I think I think… I have only about 6.5 months left before I am planning on departing Kyrgyzstan. A lot of the new group keeps telling me that this a long ways off. Bullshit!!!!! I have been here almost 3 times that time now, and I can say with some amount of certainty that next 6.5 month will be gone before I know it. The goes especially because I have the summer sitting ahead of me, which is a notoriously quick period in the life of volunteers. I tried imagining my own departure the other day. Couldn’t do it. My mind cannot grasp the concept of not being here. Weird uh? If a former Peace Corps volunteer ever makes it on Survivor, it would be a site to see. Either the volunteer gets kicked-off early for not being a team player (come on we work on own away from other Americans), or the living conditions would be too easy, and they would coast through. Speaking of Survivor, I’ve never really seen anything other than a couple of final episodes, but why the hell is it always somewhere hot? You want a challenge? Try Survivor Siberia or northern Kyrgyzstan for that matter. Let’s see how well they do when they’re under 10 feet of snow and the only thing they have is rotten potatoes. The NFL draft this year had some of the most surprising failures in years. A Heisman trophy winner undrafted? What the hell? Speaking of sports, my fantasy baseball team continues to do well (or was a few days ago) with absolutely no work being done on my part. Finally, for those of you who happen to be alumni of Elizabethtown College, check-out the newest version of our alumni magazine ( I know you don't normally read them), but in this one there should be a familiar face (or not so familiar since you haven't seen it in a couple of years) staring back at you from somewhere inside. Folks I’m off. Enjoy Chong (my Kyrgyz name meaning: big) Brian

Thursday, April 21, 2005

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Okay, I know that I haven't really posted anything in a while, and for that I am sorry. This one will be stort, but it is important to me. It is on this page that I am happy to announce that my brother has gotten engaged!!!! Yippy Skippy!!! I cannot put into words how excited I am. I have never met her (they started dating about the time I got here), but I could not be more excited. So I hope you will join me in raising a gloass to my brother and his new fiance Karen. Here's to the two of you! YOU GUYS ARE AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!