Saturday, 7 November 2009

GX Week 22

Monday 17th August

I do not enjoy community farewell meetings. Maybe I go in psyching myself up for an argument and that’s why they happen but I think not. Despite the farewell being less than two weeks away we have yet to decide anything concrete as some members of the committee don’t like the ideas that have been put forward so want to wait until next week’s meeting before which they plan to have some fantastic idea. Urgg I hate committee work, so frustrating. I am not a good team player. Anyway apart from aforementioned meeting it was actually quite a good day. Our art camp got off to a good start. No one was stopped from entering the hospital by security and the general doctor did not suddenly change his mind about letting us do it. I think all the children in the hospital (14) were there and we occupied them for two hours with potato printing, creating a hand tree, face painting, making chocolate cornflake cakes and having a mini party at the end. While we cleaned up and set up for the next activity we entertained them with games. We took a long lunch in the park and then after Nina went home Ben, Anne-Marie and I tried to change my travellers cheques at the bank named on the American Express website with no success except being given directions to another branch of the bank and convincing the security guard not to hail me a taxi as I would go tomorrow. We then browsed the Soviet souvenir shop, a place no larger than an under stairs cupboard crammed with ‘antiques’ with a huge metal door and barred windows slotted into the side of a building down an alleyway. The oddest place, but lovely people. There I got a medal and saw a lovely watch on a long gold chain that I intend to return for. I then went to Mega to use the internet but upon arriving was told it wasn’t working and so decided to give the other bank a shot. I met Grace along the way who informed me that she had successfully changed her cheques so we went together and changed mine, yay! I forgot to mention that Dinara moved into Nassima’s with Gulnara and me last night after an argument with her volunteer placement, who also happened to be her host home.

In case anyone was wondering what a 'hand tree' is

Anne-Marie and Nina making chocolate cornflake cakes

Tuesday 18th August

Superbly frustrated today. The hospital had some visitors so we were cleared out of the playroom and told by the nurses, who just shout and point at me like I’m stupid, that we could start until they had gone. I don’t feel that I get any respect from the majority of the staff in that place. It turned out that the visitors were from unicef. Surely what we are doing is the sort of thing they would want to see. I don’t understand the mentality at all and neither seemingly does Nina. I almost ran into the hospital to tell unicef what we are doing myself. Later Nina told me that Ulbosyn said to her that the parents might as well take home the materials that we have gathered as no one is going to carry on our sessions after we leave. It’s so disheartening leaving these kids with nothing. Then after work Nina and I went to check out farewell venues only to find that both our potential venues are unusable. One has installed rows of conference chairs that can not be moved and the other is in the grip of the infamous remont (renovations) or so they say. It seems impossible to organise anything here. At least a lot of the team turned up to the pub quiz that we held in a café in technopark. I couldn’t skype with mum this evening as Nassima had gone out and turned the computer off but we spoke on the phone and she made me feel a little better. She told me not to feel so disheartened as what we are trying to do is change attitudes and that may take several teams, several years but at least we have started something.


The bus Nina and I took today

Wednesday 19th August

Had my exit interview with Ali this evening. Not sure that I gave the best impression of myself. Ali is always telling me that I’m a very honest person but perhaps I took it too far. He didn’t really need to know everything that I told him. Nevertheless I think the reference created was fair and we agreed on the majority of the points. He thinks I’ve become a better team player since the start of the programme. Apparently I said something ‘sharp’ to someone back in Stratford that he remembers but I have improved since. My mother has always said I am sharp so I can believe it but I didn’t think I’d gotten any more tolerant or patient with the team. Perhaps I have just mellowed as I’ve got used to the way things work and have not noticed it. I can’t remember all the ins and outs of the conversation but it is interesting that since the mid phase review I have been totally honest with Ali, any little or bug thing that’s bugging me, even if it doesn’t reflect well on me has come out. It’s strange for me. The question I found hardest asked me to give my ‘key skills, knowledge, attitudes and values developed in learning about global citizenship’. The problem is that other than as a tool for teaching others, for GCDs and a possible career as a citizenship teacher, I haven’t found the global citizenship framework all that useful. I have dutifully kept a learning journal anyway, mostly for something to do and because I like paperwork but the whole framework didn’t go deep enough for me. I suppose I could have researched some issues in greater detail but I’ve hardly had the time. I don’t feel like I wasn’t aware of the issues covered before GX and the facts and figures I’ve learner I could have just looked up myself at any point. I suppose I am just used to looking at things in more detail because of my degree. As for my attitudes and values I feel that they were already pretty much in line with the global citizenship framework as a result of the people and support services I was involved with at university. The things I have learnt are how frustrated I get when things aren’t organised. That there are faces behind the HIV and AIDS statistics and that they are the faces of smiling innocent children unaware as yet that these statistics have anything to do with them. That young people leaving care in the UK are cut loose and effectively abandoned by the state at just 18. That it is hard to take someone saying ‘give me’ without and please or thank you even though you know that it is just the way of their language. These things can not be written out into a box on a form. Ali has left me to think about the question. I am sure that given time I will be able to bullshit a paragraph or two of the stuff GX want to hear. The earlier part of the day went pretty well. At art camp we made feely boxes, pasta jewellery and mosaics from glue, grass, petals, oats and buckwheat which was extremely messy. We were prevented from making musical instruments as lunch was prepared 20 minutes early today for some reason. For our lunch we went with Britney, a peace corp. volunteer, to Madelen’s. I miss this lifestyle of long lunches and meeting with friends.

Feely box

Making pasta jewellery

Thursday 20th August

It’s a shame that our last day of art camp didn’t go as well as the others. The kids just didn’t engage well with today’s activities of making masks, costumes and musical instruments. They also seemed to be pretty over excited which I didn’t help by pretending to be a dragon and chasing them around the room then picking them up and swinging them round when I caught them. One little brat thought this was a great excuse to hit and pinch me and god he was strong. After I managed to detach him he started doing it to the other kids. Moreover at the end a normally sweet little girl decided it would be hilarious to keep stealing our materials and running off with them. I was not amused. I don’t know what got into them today. After work we headed to the park for another long lunch and then onto the bazaar where Nina helped me to buy a selection of sweets as gifts. Then I hung around for a while before heading to the internet café after 6 to spend nearly two hours writing my newsletter article, a summary of my placement, my answer to the exit interview question I had trouble with yesterday and updating my blog, which is woefully behind.


Ben and I dressed up even though the children wouldn't. Witness the birth of sick pirate cat

Friday 21st August

The last GCD of the exchange was led today by Rory, Baur and Kassym on the subject of corruption. Of course first we looked at the definition; when an official gives an individual (or group) a benefit to which they may or may not be entitled in exchange for an illegal payment (not necessarily) cash. An official is anyone in a position of power. I wondered whether the payment part of this definition was essential. What about those who give people benefits as a personal favour? The boys then asked the group to brain storm their ideas about corruption; arms deals, education, medical, employment, judicial, business, aid programs, foundations (although this does not fit our definition of corruption. It is not a benefit given in exchange for payment but misuse of funds), money laundering (ditto), tax evasion, politics – expenses, cash for questions/honours, police, property, electoral system, queue jumping, immigration, financial market, fixed television/radio competitions (again this does not fit the definition as the winning individuals did not give payment). It became clear from this brainstorm that the teams ideas about corruption go beyond the narrow definition provided to include all illegal and dishonest use of money or benefits, such as fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. A better definition to use perhaps is the one from Merriam Webster online dictionary ‘impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle.’ Rory asked the team to change seats if they had ever taken or given a bribe. Most, if not all, of the Kazakh volunteers moved. Corruption is rife in Kazakhstan. We were then asked if we had ever used our connections e.g. in getting a job. Then almost everyone moved. Next we looked at a presentation Kassym made on the causes of corruption. I didn’t get it all down at the time and now the Wikipedia article he got the information from seems to have vanished so you’ll have to do with what I’ve got.

Low level of salary in government sector compared to private sector

Dependence of the common people on officials’ monopoly of the government in some spheres

Alienation of bureaucratic elite from common people. Can be a rich/poor divide or in some countries a caste system

Lack of knowledge and misunderstanding of the laws by people which gives opportunity to the officials to impede the bureaucratic procedures and raise too high the appropriate payments. This cause is particularly relevant to Kazakhstan where many people, even officials, are not familiar with the numerous new laws passed since independence

Economic instability

Unstable political system

Low level of economic development

Religious traditions

Culture in Kazakhstan this applies to the legacy left from the Soviet period

Lack of government transparency

Lack of freedom of information legislation

Lack of investigative reporting by local media

Contempt for or negligence in exercising freedom of speech and/or the press

After we played a game designed by Rory which made us all residents of the new country the Republic of Jumbalaya in which it was cheaper and in the end I believe necessary to depend on bribing officials to ensure your families survival. I was married to Dinara who got really into the game and sold our daughter to the police officer in order to get our jobs back. Next we took part in a quiz because what CAD would be complete without a quiz? I’m afraid that being a cynical kinda girl I do doubt the reliability of many of the ‘facts’ we have looked at in our GCDs throughout the programme especially when those delivering them can’t name their source. However they are unlikely to be total fantasy I just wouldn’t suggest using many of them to look clever in front of your friends. You may be caught out.

Q1: When and where in history was corruption first recorded?
A: Lagash 24th century BC

Q2: Which was the least corrupt country in the world in 2008?
A: Denmark
Baur didn’t actually know where this ‘fact’ was from which I wanted to know as corruption is due to its nature notoriously difficult to measure. Who has done the measuring and how it was measured is very important. I guess this came from the 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index complied by Transparency International which is one of the most common datasets used.

Q3: In 1996 how much money in dollars was given by German corporations to foreign partners and governments in bribes?
A: $5.6 billion

Q4: In 2005 how much money in US dollars was estimated to have passed through the Kazakh black market (anything you are not given a receipt for including brides)
A: $32 billion

Q5: When is international anti-corruption day?
A: 9th December

Q6: According to the barometer of corruption in the world 2007 which Kazakh organisations took the most money in bribes?
A: Traffic police, customs, courts

Q7: How much does the average Kazakh citizen spend each year in bribes?
A: $129

Q8: Who holds the record for the world’s most corrupt politician and how much did he embezzle?
A: Suharto, The President of Indonesia from 1967-1998
Somewhere between $15 to $35 billion

Q9: According to the corruption perceptions index which country was recognised as the most corrupt in 2008?
A: Somalia

Q10: According to Christian Aid how much tax are transnational corporations estimated to avoid annually?
A: $160 billion

Q11: With this amount of money how many children who are predicted to perish between 2000 and 2015 could be saved?
A: 5.6 million

Q12: How did Spanish officials use Francis Drake as a cover for corruption?
A: All monies missing from the Spanish treasury was attributed to Drake.

After the excitement of the quiz we settled down to view a slideshow the boys made about the efforts made by the governments of Kazakhstan and the UK and International efforts to tackle corruption. A 1998 law in Kazakhstan bars individuals convicted of corruption for working again for the government, however sometimes their family members also lose their jobs. In Kazakhstan at the beginning of 2008 1581 corruption crimes were registered. Of these 520 were condemned and 990 received disciplinary actions. According to Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index the Uk is the world’s 14th least corrupt country. However few anti-corruption laws exist; those that do often allow individual organisations to deal with individuals as they see fit. The 2006 Money Laundering Directive requires a police check of the financial history of anyone wishing to set up trust funds, off-shore companies and casinos etc. Transparency International UK lobbies the government and has created the NGO, UK Anti-Corruption Forum, run by and for companies and corporations such as Lloyds TSB. In 2006 Transparency criticised the UK government doing “the barest minimum” to meet recommendations and that its anti-corruption legislation was “unsatisfactory.” In response to the recent expenses scandal the government passed the Parliamentary Expenses Bill 2009. The new law requires regular checks on expenses, the following provisions, however, were removed in debate; a statutory code of conduct, enforcement or disciplinary powers and a means to regulate the House of Lords. The media branded the bill as “rushed” and a “publicity stunt.” Nevertheless corruption in the UK is low, partly due to the high wages of public officials and a historical tradition of trust. On the other hand public investigations are rare and very little information is available. Internationally organisations tackling corruption include the UN Governance and Public Investigation Department, the Commonwealth and Transparency International. In Africa and other countries lacking infrastructure the local media is often used to tackle corruption, by setting up anonymous hotlines for example. In the afternoon we watched The Constant Gardener. It was a harrowing film and difficult to watch but one that for me showcased a lot of the issues that Global Xchange attempts to deal with, not just corruption. It is a film that I would certainly recommend. After the GCD we met at 7 in Mega, although Ben, Sarah and I had managed to be there since we left the Business Womens Association, to go to the Italian restaurant mozzarella. We thought it would be a nice celebration of the last GCD, although clearly not everyone agreed. All the UK volunteers were there and Nina. Apparently 7 was too late to go. It was an extravagant evening in terms of tenge expenditure. I spent just under 2000 tenge but still that is only £8 for a large pizza and a small glass of wine. The waitress in me got very frustrated waiting for my large pizza which took over 45 minutes while everyone with small pizzas received and ate theirs. Apparently it is somehow more difficult to make a large pizza. Even then they had the order wrong. Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed my pizza when it came, having duck breast for the same price as a margarita. We didn’t get out until half 9. Perhaps we should have gone earlier after all.

Saturday 22nd August

Dinara and I departed the host home at half one this afternoon having spent the morning reading. Gulnara had left earlier in the morning for some location unknown to me. We met the others, that beingNina, Anne-Marie, Aigera, Grace, Beth, Ben and Kate, at Ima bazaar and took a marshrutka (or minibus) to Sayram. Well first we spent some time persuading the driver and the Kazakhs that we could find the town’s mausolea ourselves and did not need to pay him 500 tenge each for a guided tour. Sayram is one of the oldest settlements in Kazakhstan and a place of pilgrimage due to its associations with the sufi mystic Ahmed Yassawi, whose mausoleum we visited in Turkestan, and was born in Sayram in the early 10th century. The marshrutka dropped us off at the central crossroads and towns bazaar from where we found the mausolea of Karashash Ana, Yassaui’s mother, Botbay Ata, Mirali Bobo, a 10th century Islamic preacher and Abd Al Aziz Baba who either accompanied Iskak-Bab in his mission to convert the local people or led the conversion depending on which guide book you read. We then made the sensible decision, it already being 5:30 to head back to the centre of town rather than walk another km or so to the mausoleum of Ibragim Ata, Yassawi’s father. Back in the centre we tok a turn about the bazaar, meeting there a girl who spoke English. She hoped to take some kind of test soon in order to study in London and America to become a surgeon. It was interesting to me that she described herself as Uzbek despite the fact that she was born in Sayram and all her family were in Kazakhstan. Although she still described Kazakhstan as “our country.” The Uzbeks do seem to form a more distinct and discriminated against minority in Kazakhstan. Ethnic Russians and Koreans etc will tell you their ethnic background yet generally still describe themselves as Kazakhstani. Sayram is dominated by Uzbeks. The street signs were in Uzbek and there were absolutely no Russians. Unlike in Shymkent we stuck out like sore thumbs. Still people were friendly enough apart from one woman in a shop where Grace and I wanted to buy some Uzbek patterned fabric who was far more interested in having a conversation with her friend than actually selling anything and another woman outside a mosque who berated us for our fakery in only wearing a headscarf to visit the mausolea which we would remove afterwards and for not covering our arms and shoulders which should be done permanently. So much for trying to respect others beliefs. You will never please everybody. By 6pm we headed to a couple of cafes in search of the celebrated Uzbek plov but were disappointed to find it only served at lunch time or needing to be ordered two hours in advance. A rather bad mood descended over our group as we decided to go home though it improved once we were heading back to Shymkent in another equally crowded marshrutka with the realisation that we had actually managed to get out of Shymkent and see somewhere different for the first time in a while.

The mausoleum of Karashash Ana

Botbay Ata

Mirali Bobo

And Abd Al Aziz Baba with ferris wheel in the background

A stall at the Sayram bazaar

Our group at the modern town gates

Sunday 23rd August

Met at 2 at Mega today for another trip to Bekjan bazaar. Dinara decided to come along with me. I really value her for making the effort as I don’t suppose she thought the bazaar would be terribly interesting and knew that she would be called upon to translate prices and bargaining, although we are getting a lot better at distinguishing Russian numbers and I managed to bargain just by writing my proposed price into my phone. The seller accepted it straight away. I totally could have got more off. Everyone got more or less what they wanted. I purchased a Kazakh hat for Matt and then a Kazakh waistcoat, sheepskin boots and some Uzbek patterned material all for myself. It seems that I can’t resist a material stall even in Kazakhstan. Rory called a last minute debrief meeting in the evening which Dinara had to attend while I went to Caravan in Ken Baba with Grace and Ben to enjoy beer and some delicious fat greasy noodles. Something felt very strange tonight though I don’t know what it was. Perhaps the sudden darkness as sunset has been creeping slowly ever earlier. It took Grace and I ages to get a bus from the strangely empty bus stop despite it being only 9pm and never having had a problem at that time before. We have begun to suspect that the buses operate according to daylight hours not their supposed finishing times. Back at our apartment block I found the main door closed and no way in. I had to call Dinara who sent Gulnara down to let me know. The door has a code which no one had bothered to tell me.

My Kazakh waistcoat...

...Sheepskin boots...

And the fabrics. No idea what I am going to do with them yet

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