My Uzbek School

Mark writes:

So I’m living in Kyrgyzstan. And I teach English to some 9th and 10th graders in the closest local high school. You would think that I have Kyrgyz students, right? But this country is a big mix of groups of people. I have 54 students. 23 of my students are Uzbek, 16 are Dungan, 5 are Russian, 4 are Uyghur, 3 are Kalmuk, 2 are Kyrgyz, and 1 is Tatar. Of those students, 2 of them are half Kazakh as well and 1 of them is half Tajik. So that’s some pretty good diversity. They all speak lots of languages. But not English! They’ve been learning English for a while, but not from a native English speaker.

It’s not super easy to teach at that high school. Many of my students don’t really want to learn English. How do you motivate someone who doesn’t want to learn? There are ways to do that, but if you cannot communicate with them with words, it becomes even harder. So I just do what I do and hope that my students show up for class.

Another reason it’s hard is because the school system here is remarkable. And by that I mean that it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It really makes you feel for the students when you realize that their other teachers get paid so little that they have no motivation to come up with lesson plans, teach well, or care about the students. That’s one of the basic problems here. And the other is a lack of organization. In the States we’re so used to everything in the school being super organized. But here in Kyrgyzstan the students show up every morning and are sometimes told that there’s no school or the schedule has changed. Or maybe the schedule changes during the day. Nothing is really set. Even as a teacher I get moved around from room to room. Sometimes I’m late because they changed the schedule on me, sometimes I’m 20 minutes early. Sometimes I can’t get the classroom unlocked or locked because the door is so worthless.

Every class day I just fill my backpack with the curriculum, march to school, find my classroom, find my students, get them in to the classroom, and get to work with my blackboard, dry cloth for erasing, and my little piece of chalk. So it’s quite an adventure and I just need to be thankful for it. Who else gets to teach Uzbek 15-year-olds in a school in northern Kyrgyzstan?

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Rice Valley

Jennifer writes:

They don’t grow rice in Kyrgyzstan as far as we can tell.  But this past weekend Mark and I visited a couple who now live in a Dungan village called Rice Valley.  Dungan are related to the Hui people in China.  Most of them moved out here from China more than 100 years ago during the Qing Dynasty.  Many of them have settled in Kazahkstan as well as Kyrgyzstan.  They have maintained much of their culture and language.  They speak a kind of Chinese dialect that I can understand about 20-50 percent.  Because they left China a long time ago, their Chinese language has stopped evolving, however.  So I hear words that might have been used in China like 100 years ago.

Since we arrived in Kyrgyzstan we had not had opportunities to go out of Tokmok much and to visit other parts of the country.  We were very much delighted with the chance to meet this couple and to experience what life is like in the village.  I enjoyed the quietness and slow pace in the village.  Mark enjoyed walking through streets covered with animal manure, passing by sheep and cows wandering on the side of the streets, and witnessing a cowboy on his horse chasing after his herd of cows and sheep.  We were also treated with great American home cooking during our stay. 

Our friends in Rice Valley are some of the many people in this part of the world working with the Dungan.  You may have never heard of the Dungan people before.  Perhaps now you could remember the Dungan and people like our friends in Rice Valley.