Payday and More Sunflower Art in Almaty
PAY DAY today, at least I hope that is true. Last month the guy behind the glass booth at my bank wanted a 1.5% commission for giving me MY money in tenge (150 = $1). I hope this doesn’t happen again because it had not happened all the other months I have pulled out all my money to pay for our rent and other necessities. When I loudly asked “Why?” in Russian, he decided he better not extract any money from my wad of tenge. Maybe it helped when I showed my university employee card, I don’t know. It used to be that all of us were paid more (120 = $1) but that all changed when the tenge dropped in value in early February. Consequently, since our teaching contracts are in tenge and NOT in dollars, we absorbed the shock of that 20-25% pay cut.
I’m adding more photos of the artwork that can be found in Almaty at Craft Fairs, see earlier blog posts. Some of these felt pieces run about $100 or more, they would be easy to carry home in a suitcase. However, on my low salary as an English teacher at a “westernized university” I can only take photos and admire them from a distance (me and the computer screen). I know my husband loves sunflowers so this blog entry is dedicated to him.
What my Kazakh colleagues don’t understand is that we have health insurance, property insurance, car insurance, life insurance and many other bills to pay in the U.S. while we also have to absorb the cost of our transportation to get to Kazakhstan to teach at our university. Tack on almost $2000 for every roundtrip ticket with KLM and NW airlines and also expensive housing in Almaty just to be close to the university, IT STARTS TO ADD UP! Seems we are paying out way more instead of earning for the privilege of teaching our Kazakh students in Kazakhstan. No wonder there are so few of us westerners left to teach at our university, they have figured out the dollars and sense of it all!!! Unfortunately, many of my English teaching colleagues don’t care about my plight as a westerner because they have their own problems to solve with the economics of the KZ tenge sure to devalue again in the next month (maybe down to 180 = $1). We, as Americans, can always leave if we can’t take the heat. However, the Kazakhs are stuck with their situation, this is their country for better or for worse.
In the end, with the economic downturn, it is the artists who really feel the crunch. They will not have anybody left to buy their art if more westerners feel forced to leave and the locals here will not be in the mood to buy either because they are feeling the pinch. So, while I gaze on these poppies and try to think bright thoughts by looking at sunflower photos on my computer screen, I can only hope that the students I’m teaching will do well in their respective jobs and help raise the standards and economy of this great land of Kazakhstan.