06 Dec 2007
On a September afternoon, we traveled out of Ufa by car to the south of Bashkortostan. Once out of the city, there are large farms as far as one can see … wheat fields heavy with grain ready to be harvested … and sunflowers and sugar beets also nearing harvest. There is evidence of another harvest from deep underground, … oil and natural gas.
Large-scale agricultural and petrochemical operations represent the new Bashkortostan fueling the wealth of this Republic.
Still, despite the glitter and promise of the new, … the old is never far away. For us, it is apparent that the villages are repositories of the past … places where time seems to move very slowly. [ INSERT Map of Bashkortostan ] Our destination is located a 3-1/2 hour drive from Ufa and at the extreme southern tip of Bashkortostan. We are making a return visit to the village of Krivlya … population of 700. It seems as if nothing has changed in the 4 years since our last visit.
Some of the houses are old … others appear to be recently built. The kitchens are small but well equipped with a refrigerator, gas heating stove, sink and a 4-burner cooking stove. Flowers are frequently planted in the front and the vegetable garden planted at the back and sides. It is the potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage and other vegetables from the garden that sustains the residents during the entire year.
The chickens, geese and ducks roaming freely around the village as they seek plant seeds and insects bring smiles to our faces.
Primarily, employment is farm related including the huge grain processing facility located near the center of the village. Here grains are cleaned, dried and stored for later distribution. Another source of income is from honey. Bees are very productive in June and July while the Lipa Trees are in bloom.
The Mayor of Krivlya invited us to visit the school and we gladly accepted.
The first graders were a bit shy with their American visitors. The low number of students, … such as in this class, …makes the rooms appear somewhat empty. The boys and girls were getting ready to start their day. School enrollment, at its peak in the early 1980’s, counted over 200 students in grades one through eleven. Today there are only 104 students … a reflection of the general decline of the population in the farm areas of Russia.
The 4th grade class and their teacher were in the midst of a lesson as we opened the door. They were working quietly while sitting side by side at desks made for two. The professional demeanor of the teachers enhances the learning process. The cheerful décor of the rooms creates a pleasant environment.
Upon entering the 6th grade class, we noticed the inspirational and informative items that were neatly arranged in the back of the room. As in other schools throughout Bashkortostan, students are well dressed; often wearing stylish uniforms. Apparently, our visit interrupted a math lesson. Getting back to work, the students were carefully studying the material as their teacher moved among them providing individual help when needed. Of course, some felt a little self-conscious on camera!
Walking into the small gymnasium, we were in time to see a class doing calisthenics. The opportunity provided here to play basketball … their favorite indoor sport … makes this a fun place.
In addition to academic subjects such as math and science, the arts are included. The music teacher is a very talented musician with skill on the piano and other instruments. What is more, he has an excellent singing voice.
On camera: … teacher singing
Vocational education is also important for some. The shop classroom includes metal and wood working equipment. The instructor proudly demonstrated the workings of an animated owl … one of the popular articles for sale. He also showed us a large variety of items in process. We were amazed with the quality of the crafts being made … many of which will be sold at markets in the larger cities providing a source of income.
The food prepared in the kitchen provides the students with a mid-day meal, which is eaten in the adjoining room.
As we finished our tour, flowers from the gardens in front of the school were given to Arline and our translator, Nastya. These … along with the warm smiles of the school director and the village mayor … and a group picture are enduring reminders of the beauty and friendship that exists in this part of the world.
Last, but certainly not least, is the kindergarten. Located in a separate building, this facility continues the theme of excellence found at the school. The director was also happy to introduce us to the children … about a dozen boys and girls. Breakfast of cereal and milk is provided for them at the beginning of the day while they visit with each other. There is plenty of room for learning and playing in a happy atmosphere as these younger children are prepared for the “big” school. Naps are taken in a comfortable and quiet area. Outside, … behind a security fence, ….is a well equipped and maintained playground for these small children.
The school and kindergarten is the place for the future of this village of Krivlya. Yet, … across the road, … there is a horse and wagon with a driver who is also a part of this village. Will the children of Krivlya remain here continuing the simple but difficult lifestyle of their grandparents or will they follow other young people who have left the village for the larger cities?
Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. … Proverbs 22:6
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