Sunday, February 20, 2005

A Call to Tact, and Some Russian Jokes

Bryan was asked to take down his blog. A couple local people (anonymously, at least as far as Bryan knows) complained to the Peace Corps director about their characterization in it, and she, in turn, asked Bryan to remove it. A friend of mine, being told about this, said, well, in America, I'm sure you can't publicly criticize people in power, either. Well, actually...but really, that's neither her nor there - whatever the rights of average Kazakhstanis to publish their opinions of the power structure on public, inexpensive places like web site, we're not ordinary Kazakhstanis. Peace Corps volunteers have a serious and important commitment to being apolitical. If we were going to be empowered to be a threat to power structures that we object to, these power structures wouldn't have invited us here in the first place.

Maybe more significantly, saying publicly what we think of the way things are managed is counterproductive. Taking cultural issues head on (and unfortunately, attitude towards incompetent management is a cultural issue), openly and honestly, tends to blow up in your face the same way moving openly and honestly in chess does. Frankness doesn't seem to change things, and it makes people angry.

So how do you effect cultural change? Damned if I know. But when I find out the secret, I'll make sure to post it here.

Anyway, Bryan knew all this, he basically just forgot that his website was public and wrote imagining having only his friends back home as an audience.

And you may think this is just academic, but thinking about this has made decide not to write about work in this entry and instead to write a less offensive anecdote, which will be three Russian jokes that I was told at at a banquet for poets and singers from Kokshetau and Petropovlosk that I was lucky enough to attend last night. That they are funny to me isn't meant to be implied.

1) A little girl wanted a bicycle very badly. Every day for a week, she asked her father for a bicycle. Finally, on the seventh day, her father took an axe and cut off her legs. "What do you need a bicycle for?" he asked. "You don't have any legs!"

2) A hunchback and a stammerer were friends. The hunchback came up to the stammerer and said, "I have good news for you! You've been offered a job as a TV anchorman." The stammerer was very offended, and said to the hunchback, "Well, you remember that photograph you gave me of yourself? I'm giving it back to you so I can close my photo album."

3) Two men, Ivan and Vladya, got very drunk together. Staggering out of the bar, Ivan fell into a filthy ditch with chickens in it, and the chickens started pecking at him, cheep cheep cheep. "Ivan, shoo the chickens away," said Vladya. "I can't," said Ivan.


Blogger Nathan said...

And let me guess, the tellers of the jokes thought them hilarious. I never quite got the humor in Russian jokes.

Anyway, superb post.

-Nathan of

3:04 AM  
Blogger randall said...

I love it! I still can't read half of your page due to apparent formatting issues, but I was able to 'view/source' and read them. I posted the jokes to my blog as well.

4:24 AM  
Blogger randall said...

Ryan, if you copy your template into a text file and send it to me in an e-mail as an attachement, I will have it fixed for you. Send it to me at

5:15 AM  
Blogger randall said...

The format for those of us that use IE to view your blog is still messed up. A web wiz friend of mine suggests that you have issues with your CSS and that you need to employ CSS hacks, whatever that means. My offer still stands however. If you will e-mail me your template in a text file I will have it fixed for you.

10:40 AM  
Blogger thegio said...

I believe I fixed the IE issues. I stupidly only tested my template on Mozilla, which assumed that the sidebar would sit at 0 left even though I didn't specify it. IE assumed no such thing.

I actually fixed this about a week ago, but I haven't been able to get a good enough connection on Kaztelcom until now to fix it.

And when I was trying to explain to Gulshat about how unfunny these jokes were in English, she asked, "Did you mention that the chickens were pecking at his penis?" which is a detail that I somehow missed during the party, and which, though it does bear mentioning, doesn't help much at all in the funniness department.

10:26 PM  
Blogger randall said...

Congratulations, it looks great now! Now you just need to add a link back to your pictures. BTW, I posted your jokes on my blog (referencing yours, of course ;) and one of the comments I got was "I must confess I sniggered." Of course it was from one of my Mac friends, so that probably explains it.

5:02 AM  
Blogger randall said...

Nice pictures page Ryan. It looks like your new apartment has plenty of spirit(s) ;). And much more ordentlich than your old one in Boise!

5:09 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Last week I built and launched a new blogging site for Peace Corps volunteers called Third Goal.

I invite you and any other volunteer to create a free account and begin using the site to share your Peace Corps story among others.

I enjoy reading about your Peace Corps experience.

Jason Pearce of Third Goal

"Third Goal Is Born"

5:42 AM  
Blogger Mike Rolig said...

... I figured out my picture problem! If you click on the links from the "main" page, it works. If you follow links from a specific entry, the links don't work. (looks like they're relative links, and the specific entries are in a different directory).

11:58 PM  

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