Thursday, February 3, 2011

Some thoughts on a changing world and a walk in the snow

Safie and I with the snowy fields behind us. My mountain, Chatyr Dag, is hidden in the clouds.
Grace and Safie.
Making snow angels.

Neshet and Safie working on the crossword puzzle.
Life seems to be churning around me these days. The tremendous upheaval in Egypt is in the air everywhere, I think, including here in Crimea/Ukraine where the dissatisfaction with the government grows. The failure of the Orange Revolution in 2004 to reverse the held over Soviet trend towards totalitarianism cumulated in the election of a president last year who has begun to tighten controls on freedom of expression and instituted a number of measures that have had a great affect on the people here. I am not much of a political analyst, especially in an environment in which I have such a limited understanding of the language and culture, but I would have to be completely oblivious to my surroundings to not be aware of people’s anguish about the lack of jobs, the rising gas and food prices, the threatened reduction of pension if one also has a job, an almost absolute necessity when the pension is only $100 a month.
And for the Crimean Tatar people, the change in government has threatened the gains they have made in establishing their lives in Crimea. Though the new president has paid lip service to the idea of settling the “Crimean Tatar problem,” he has at the same time appointed government officials in Crimea who are not favorable to the Crimean Tatars. This morning I attended a very heated meeting o f the library staff about the fact that the library has been without a director for almost a year now. The acting director stepped in when the long time director resigned last year to devote himself full time to the newspaper he publishes. She has done an admirable job, and the staff wants her to be installed as the official director. But apparently the new Minister of Culture (which is the government body libraries function under) does not want her as director and is awaiting orders “from above.” The staff is much concerned about what that means, fearing that the library could be absorbed into the bigger Franco library. To add to those fears, recently the library presented its 5-Year Plan to the Minister of Culture and was told it was the best they received. However, they have failed to post it on their website, only posting the plans of the Franco Library and Orlova, the large children’s library where I work. I couldn’t understand much of the library staff meeting, but I did get that people were angry and wanted to fight back and are sending a letter from the whole staff to the Minister of Culture stating that they want Gulnara (the acting director) to become director.
And last night at the Seiptatiev’s, Serdar sat and talked with me for a long time about the events in Egypt, wondering if something like that could happen in his country or in Russia. He said if people took to the streets in Kiev, that he would go there, that he badly wants to see a change in his country. But he also said he would never get involved in politics, though it is exactly young people like him—passionate, educated, and socially aware—that need to be in politics. Which I pointed out to him, but I also understand his negative feelings about politics, particularly in a country of such corruption. But he is only seventeen—who knows what the future might hold for him.
And on a different note, last weekend my PCV friend Grace came for a visit. We finally got some snow here in Crimea, and we took a walk with Safie up into the bluffs and forest in Ak Mechet. Spent the evening at the Seiptatiev’s talking, playing the dice game of pigs which Grace brought, and Grace working a Russian crossword puzzle with Neshet and Safie. Her greater fluency in Russian is a big help to me in communicating with them, and I try to learn from the experience instead of just getting depressed at how much worse my Russian is!
Starting to think about the summer and the possibility of Serdar going to America with me. There’s a lot to work out—visas (him to go to the US, me to return to Ukraine), money (now that PC is no longer giving a free trip home to those of us who extend), and when and where to go. I just keep telling myself that it will all get worked out, and it will, in whatever way it is meant to be.
Back to work. Thanks to Grace for some great pictures. Love to all from Crimea.

1 comment:

  1. Barb, I got shut out of your blog for a time and only just got back in. Interesting post about travel with Neshet! If you go somewhere again, let me know--I'd be glad to put something in your account to cover a hotel.
    I love seeing you with SAfie in the mountains. I'm glad she's starting to be more part of your outings--she needs a push to get out into the world a bit.
    Politics here are such a horror story. The House just voted to end ALL funding for planned Parenthood, which, if the Senate agrees, means an end to clinical care for about a million low-income women around the country. So watching the uprising in Egypt makes me feel wistful about what we're doing to reverse the drastic s hift to the right here at home