What do you do in library? Read books or watch YouTube videos?

 

I am writing this post sitting in a University library. Guess what, nobody is reading a book in here. When I say “a book”, I mean a regular book made of paper.

Today in the morning I had a lecture on a subject called E-government. When the lecture started, he asked the audience: “Who goes to a public library?” A dozen of students raised their hands.
“Alright,” the lecturer said. “Tell me how you use the library?”
“With a laptop,” somebody at the back cried out with a simultaneously neutral and mocking voice (I guess that was Zeid). For a split second the class giggled.
“Fair enough,” the lecturer said, smiling. “Let me ask you another question then: how many of you read a text-book for university subjects?” Nobody raised a hand.
“See,” the lecturer continued. “This is how technologies changed the world. It changed the way people learn new information, use services, do business and even earn a living.”

I thought to myself “What a great motivation to study this subject.” Unlike most of other University teachers, our teacher on E-government has extensive experience working at a REAL company. So, he knows a thing or two about what is happening outside the Uni campus. I wish all the teachers were able to motivate students to study their subject in this way.

Indeed, the way we learn new material has changed dramatically over the last decade. I remember when I was a kid, my older cousin used to sit in his room at his desk with several books and copybooks scattered around his table. He would say “I am preparing for an exam. Get outta here!” His table looked like a huge unorganized mess of papers and stationaries.

Interestingly, I cannot recall him using any piece of electronics for studies (well, maybe sometimes an old-school calculator), like we do nowadays. I rarely use textbooks to prepare for exams. Google is my textbook. YouTube is my ultimate tutor.

As a modern Uzbek saying goes: “Savolingni Google amakidan so’ra! [Ask it from Uncle Google. He knows everything!]”

Does a programmer have to know everything related to IT?

“Do know what is SVG?” one of our teachers asked the whole group today. It was the first lecture of this semester. When nobody replied to his question he paraphrased it: “Who can tell me what Scalable Virtual Graphics is?”
“We don’t know,” I said.
“But you have to know. You are Informatics students,” he responded as if being frustrated.

It’s like asking Economics students “What was the GDP of Bulgaria in 2008?” If they cannot immediately respond to the question, teachers be like “What a shame! You are Economics students!”

Or it is like asking Law students “Which article of the United States constitution most conspicuously opposes executive order recently signed by Donald Trump? Seriously?! You don’t know?! But you are Law students!”

Whenever we have trouble with some IT thing, we keep recieving a slap in the face implied in the phrase “But you are Informatics students!” I’ve heard it a million times for the past 2 years at the University.

I heard that phrase even twice today. The second one was thrown at us by our Math teacher at his lecture in the morning, when one of my fellow students was having trouble with Excel. “How can you have problems with Excel?! You are Informatics!!!” he exclaimed. [facepalm].

To be honest with you, sometimes it is really irritating. Obviously, compared to other students we are supposed to be more aware of the IT concepts. And we indeed have relatively much knowledge in technology field. However this does not necessarily mean that we should be able to instantly answer absolutely any question related to computers. Please, do not assume that programmers are all-knowing!

How a Kazakh and an Uzbek decieved a metro ticket inspector

I was coming back home, with two of my fellows, from sales training. As we entered the subway car and stood in front of the door, an inspector, who checks validity of passenger tickets, stepped in after us.

We recognized the inspector by his black uniform and a bag, which almost all inspectors wear underneath their beer bellies.

The doors were still open. Typically, inspectors won’t check pessangers until the doors are not slammed shut and subway starts moving. It took roughly 5-6 seconds for everybody to enter the car and for the doors to close.

Here is what happened during those 5-6 seconds.

All three of us stopped talking as soon as we noticed the inspector walk in. He stood a meter away from us, by the metro entrance door waiting for the doors to close. I was totally relaxed, since I had no problems with my public transport ticket. Nor did our Kazakh friend. But the Uzbek fellow forgot to buy one for this month.

Free riding is charged with at least 800 Czech korunas (more than $30). It’s a significant amount of money for a student. It might be spent to fill our refrigerator with food that is good enough to survive half a month.

The guy from Kazakhstan is a genius. He did something that I could never do. He immediately noticed how my Uzbek friend’s face changed from a “regular face” to a “worrying face” when the Uzbek saw the inspector. The Kazakh fished HIS OWN ticket out of his wallet and handed it to the Uzbek in such an inconspicuous way that even I didn’t spot it, although I stood just next to them. Then Yernar (the Kazakh) turned around and slowly walked a few steps away into the crowd. He knew that inspectors usually check only a few people around them. They are just not able to control everybody.

Here is what happens afterwards.

When the doors close and metro starts to move, the inspector shows a metallic yellow-and-red badge (confirming that he is really an inspector) and says something in Czech. I understood from his body language that he asks for my ticket. I hand him my ticket. He checks it with special equipment, gives the ticket back to me saying “Děkuji [Thanks]“.
Then he asks for Doniyor’s ticket, who is standing just next to me. The serious inspector checks it. Hands it back saying “Děkuji”.

The inspector controlled a few other passengers in that subway car. When we arrived at the next station, he got off. He never checked the Kazakh.

Yernar walked out of the crowd towards us with a smile on his face. The Uzbek gave Yernar’s ticket back and said: “Спасибо, брат! Как я мог забыть купить билет за этот месяц?! [Thanks, bro! How could I forget to buy a ticket for this month?!]”

I admire Yernar’s loyalty. If my UFC coach would know him in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, I bet my coach would say with his gangster voice: “Give me two more of such guys, and I will take the whole town under my control.”

My peculiar driving instructor

I was driving back to downtown. He says “Turn left here. Check the traffic sign warning about children. Reduce the gear.”
I say “Okay” and reduce speed.
“This is a strange street,” he says as we enter a long narrow street with houses on sides.
“Why strange?” I ask.
“Because this is a children’s house,” he says pointing at a kindergarden on the left.
“And just next the children’s house is a men’s house”
“Men’s house?” I ask being rather confused.
“You know…”
“You mean brothel?”
“Yes,” he laughs.
“Agreed: that is really strange,” I say smiling.
“Maybe they figured it’s convinient for men: after leaving children to children’s house, they can immediately go to men’s house just next door,” he laughs.

Incidentally, my instructor looks pretty well for his age. He is nearly 60. He owns the driving school at which I am learning.

“Slow down at the pedestrian zone: a girl is crossing the road. It would be a pity to kill such beauty,” he said.
I thought: “That’s rather weird joke”
“Besides,” he continued. “There is an awful lot of people nowadays who commit a suicide in Prague. Take a look at that bridge over there. It is a popular place for those who want to finish their lives.” He stressed the word “popular” to sound hilarious. In fact, it was indeed funny, because this word is not usually used in such negative context.
“Do you know why this bridge is a favourite place for them?” he went ahead. “Because it’s a quick death. When they jump down, they will hit tram wires right there [he points at them] in the air and their bodies split in two. When police officers arrive to the spot, they collect the pieces of their bodies.”
“Man… that’s creepy,” I said. I didn’t understand why he was telling me all of this. Most probably, it is because I’m a cizinec and he enjoys telling me about life in Prague, which I sometimes appreciate.

“Slow down at pedestrian zone,” he said again. “Take a look at this girl crossing the road: she is totally busy looking at the screen of her phone. She doesn’t even care about cars. Maybe she doesn’t care about her life either? What do you think?”
I shrugged.
He said “After all, insurance will pay whopping big amount of money to her family in case of her death. Unless she commits a suicide. If she wants to screw money out of an insurance company, she has to have somebody kill her.” He laughed after these words.
I did not know what to say, I was absolutely stunned by his weird joke and did not take my eyes off the road. “Man, you sound so crazy,” I said.

When we finished the driving class, we went inside the school to sign some pieces of paper.
“Abdullah,” he says looking at me. “I woke up today in the morning, looked at mirror and you know what I noticed?”
“What?” I ask.
He touched his large stomach with his both hands and said, “I noticed that I am pregnant.”
Two ladies in the room started laughing. He looked at them and started laughing as well. He wanted to impress the women and he did it.
“Do you think it is a boy or a girl?” I said playingly.
“I think, it’s twins.”
“Man, you are crazy.”

How to bribe a professor?

After leaving school, my schoolmates dispersed to various high schools across the town. Some went to high schools specialized in banking, some went to aviation schools, some went to high schools called “lyceums”, where students recieve help with preparations for getting admission to higher educational establishments.

We hung out with ex-classmates from time to time. I remember once my friend, who was learning at civil engineering high school at the time, told me how they bribed teachers over there.
“During sessiya I enter the teachers office, take a seat in front of him and he asks me exam questions,” my schoolmate would describe the scene. “Obviously, I cannot answer his questions. So, in a delicate way I offer him a bribe.” I loved the way he said “in a delicate way”.
I ask my childhood friend “And how much did you give?”
“Three thousand sums,” he responded. “It is good enough to pass the subject. If you want a ‘very good’ grade, it’ll cost you four thousand sums. For ‘excellent’ – five thousand.”
“They even have a price list?!” I said bursting into laughter.
“Yes, they do,” he replied smiling. “Well, teachers will never say the price in your face, but everybody knows how much a certain subject costs.”
“What kind of civil engineers are you and all of your schoolmates are going to become? I would never venture to live in a building that is constructed by graduates from that school,” I mocked at him.

Recently I had a swift discussion on education systems with someone who got his education in the States.
“Seriously? You used to bribe a TEACHER?!” he seemed not to believe my words.
“Well, I did not. Because I never had to study at Uzbek University. But I heard lots of stories from my friends how they bribed teachers to pass subjects. They bribe to enter University, they bribe to pass subjects during studies, they even graduate with a bribe.”
“That is kind of insane. What is the point of studying then?”
“Some people just need a piece of paper, as a confirmation that they are ‘educated’.”

Now that I am struggling with Math at University, I start thinking about the words that some of my street brothers used to tell me: “There is no person who won’t accept money; rather there are people who don’t know the art of giving it.”

Benefits of MBA

Saturday – the day on which we play football. We rent a pitch, organize an event on facebook and enjoy football for 2 (sometimes 3) hours every week.

Last Saturday after the game, one of the fellows offered to give me a lift in his nice blue Volkwagen Golf. When I got into the car and the car got to move, I said:
“I have to thank you for your advice about MBA and GMAT. After our talk I made some googling and figured out that GMAT is a crucial admission requirement to business schools that I want to study at.”
“That’s right. Besides, GMAT is crucial for getting a scholarship as well,” he said.
“Exactly.”
“When did you start preparations?” he asked me as we were driving out of the parking lot.
“In November.”
“Do you have a tutor?”
“I purchased an online GMAT course. I can’t afford a personal tutor. A course at the GMAT center costs 2000 euros.”
“If their course is really effective, why don’t you invest in it? It will pay off afterwards.”
“I am highly satisfied with my current course. I am doing a lot of practice, lessons are just great. Moreover, I can ask a question through the platform if I don’t understand anything.”

This guy has over 12 years of management experience. He did his MBA at an American school in Prague and he has been successfully running his own company for the past 5 years.

“When did you do your MBA?” I asked him.
“Ehmmm… it was in 2012” he responded very slowly as if not being sure about the year.
“Did you have experience before that?”
“Absolutely. Before that I worked for 7 years on executive positions. I believe MBA is for those who have extensive experience in management. Otherwise, MBA is not going to benefit you very much.”

He talked mixing three languages at the same time: Uzbek, Russian and English. It is so typical for people who grew up in an Uzbek home, went to a Russian school and to English university. I guess I tend to mix the languages myself too. When he was talking English, he used sophisticated English phrases and business terminologies, although he had a clear accent. I thought “It must be easier for him to express his thoughts in English.”

“Did MBA benefit you?” I asked him.
“Of course it did. It contributed immensely to my career development,” he responded.
“May I ask in which way it benefitted you?” I asked despite I felt that I was being a little too nosey. My curiosity took over.
“I benefited from those 18-months program in two ways,” he claimed with his hands in the steering wheel and his eyes on the road. “First, I met incredible people. My groupmates were absolutely smart; they had great time management skills, soft skills as well as hard skills. They then became top brass of the society. One of them, for example, is now a Chief Financial Officer at Tesco. Another is Senior Director at HP. We bacame good friends. During studies we used to go to a bar to chitchat and to make fun of each other. I remember one of them once cried on my shoulder because his girlfried had left him [he laughs]… And we still sometimes meet to chill together. When I see those crazy friends of mine soar high in their careers, I get a kick on my ass [I laugh]. Then I start to think “Why can’t you work harder and be equally successful as them? How are they different from you? You know what I mean?”
“Yes, I do… What about the second benefit?”
“I founded my own company immediately after graduation. We have been successfully operating in Czech event management market for 5 years now. During those 18-months of MBA, I developed a business plan for my company, with the help of business professors and experts at the school. I did a start-up.”
“Did you work during the studies?”
“Yes, I did. I never received financial help from anyone.”
“How busy were you during studies?”
“I was extremely busy. I had to remove all my profiles from social networks like facebook,” he said smiling.

I could not agree with him on that one, but did not want to divert the subject. But he responded to my confusion as though he read my thoughts: “If you want to achieve something, you have to sacrifice something else.”

“I figured out that I don’t qualify for a real MBA,” I said. “Because I don’t have much of management experience (in fact, I don’t have management experience at all)”.
“Right…”
“There are Management courses, though, for fresh graduates. They are hardly different from regular MBAs. The thing is, I want to start my Masters right after graduation from Bachelor studies. Because I want to get over with all the degrees and start working as soon as possible.”
“That is smart of you,” he concurred. “In fact, I highly encourage you to stick to that plan. Because as you get older, degrees will become a much lower priority. Moreover, you will just not have time for it. Especially after you get married. You can trust my experience [he smiles].”

Then we winded up talking about GMAT.
“GMAT is a really effective gauge for measuring the management skills of a person,” he stated being quite excited about the topic. “I rectuited over 500 people throughout my career. I can tell you that those who achieved a decent GMAT score absolutely have the skills to do business successfully. They say, GMAT is the most difficult test ever. By getting a decent score on GMAT, you also prove your commitment to a business school that you are ready to study hard and make necessary sacrifices in order to study at a reputable business school. Have you noticed that you develop business mentality by practicing GMAT problems?
“Yes, I have. And I absolutely agree with you,” concurred I.

Successful people with extensive experience have always impacted the way I think, the way I look at the world and the way I do things. Those people have always inspired and motivated me.

After this talk I made necessary conclusions. Here are they. You should consider MBA if:
1. You want to recieve deep theoretical business knowledge.
2. You want to make friends with like-minded businesspeople that will constantly motivate you to work hard throughout your life.

How to become a better conversation partner

I went to an Erasmus party. When I entered the hall, there were 30-35 Erasmus students sitting around a long table. Everybody was chatting with each other. There was only one chair empty at the end of the table.

When I took that seat, I felt a little awkward because the folks sitting around me stopped talking for several seconds. Just next to me was an Austrian girl. When our eyes met, she said: “Hi! I’m Gloria.”
“Hello! I am Abdullah. Where do you come from?” I asked her a standard question when two people meet at an international event like this one. We went on talking.

Then for some reason I winded up talking about political conflict between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, because of a small territory at the border that officially belongs to niether party.
“Divide and conquer, you know. This is an ancient strategy invented by empires in order to control colonies,” I told her drawing a map on a serviette. “The empires would create a conflict between two countries by assigning a small portion of land to neither side. The government of one country would claim that land, and the government of another country would obviously claim it too. Once they have this political tense between each other, the empire has no difficulty at all taking a control of the both states”. I kept talking for 5-odd minutes.

This topic was exciting to me. But you might say (and you would probably be right): “Why in the world does she have to listen to all this trash? She is a european, and most probably hardly ever heard of Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan. This is one of the topics that she is just not interested in.”

However, that is the funny thing about it. All this time she said nothing, kept looking at me and just listened. She didn’t interrupt me, didn’t try to add anuthing to my story. She just listened and went out of her way to UNDERSTAND.

When I was done with my monologue and saw Gloria looking at me with curious brown eyes, I thought “Wow! I am being understood!” – such a rare feeling.

in my 21 years I’ve hardly known anyone better than Gloria to have a conversation with. I really enjoyed talking to her. But this is kind of strange. Because it was more of a monologue, rather than a dialogue. It was me, who talked all the time. She just listened and just tried to understand what I was saying.

Now I recall the piece of advice that one of my favorite teachers gave me when I was 15: “Listen! And you will be the most pleasant person to talk to.”

Can you find Uzbekistan on the map?

I was sitting at the warm corner of the mosque hall, reading an article about “Britain after Brexit” in The Economist magazine in my tablet. Two cute little kids were running and playing “house” several meters away from me.

An arab came up to the boy, smiled at him and asked teasingly: “Hey, little boy, how are you?”
“Good,” the boy said. He didn’t seem to know English very well. But the fact that he understood the question and was able to respond correctly was pretty impressive.
“Alhamdulillah,” he said, “Where are you from, my son?”
“From Uzbekistan,” the boy responded.
When I heard “Uzbekistan”, the conversion caught my complete attention. I didn’t expect at all that the young gentlemen were my fellow countymen.
“O-o-oh Uzbekistan… from Tashkent?” the arab brother asked. It pleasantly surprised me again that he knew the capital of the country.
“No, from Bukhara” said the little boy with a typical Uzbek accent. And he pronounced the word “Bukhara” exactly the way we say it in our language – “Bukhoro”.
“O-o-oh! So you are from the town where the greatest scholar Bukhariy lived?” the older gentleman claimed.
Clearly, the little boy didn’t recognize the name of the scholar, whom the whole city was named after, and whom the whole muslim world knows as one of the greatest scholars ever lived in history.

I, on the other hand, felt really proud at that moment that I come from the same country, where such a world renowned scholar came from. Bukhari lived in the 9th century.

Aside from Bukhari, we are proud to have other world renowned scholars like Al-Khorazmiy – the Father of Algebra; Beruniy – great mathematician, historian, astronomer; Ulugbek – astrology genious. Ulugbek ushered in a new era of natural sciences in Central Asia in 15th century by making astonishing scientific breakthroughs.

We haven’t had, though, such great world-shaking scholars ever since. Well, this makes a complete sense: we have had a poor economic situation. It is really hard to “do science” when your stomach is churning. All the latest popular scholars came from either Europe or America. Yet, I feel optimistic.

I strongly believe that the economy of the Uzbekistan (with the new government), and of Central Asia in general, will soon significantly improve.

In several decades, perhaps, I will be proud to hear from a European or American “O-o-oh, so you are from Uzbekistan?”

Economics

“Are you sleeping?” I asked Sam when he picked up the phone today. I was walking to University building at 08:10 in the morning.
“No, I am not. I just woke up,” he responded  with a voice as if he was still asleep. Most conspicuously, it was me who woke him up.
“Look, man,” I said, “we have less than 2 hours left until the exam. How about meeting at the Economics faculty to prepare together?”
“That’s a great idea,” he said.
“I will be on the first floor.”
“Give me 20 minutes.”

After 20 minuts he called me back and said, “I am in the building. Where are you?”
He was punctual. That is what I love about Sam: there is no difference between his words and his actions. He keeps his promises, even the small ones.

“The first floor,” I said, “come to the place just in front of the main entrance.” It was a cozy spot with a bar and high-legged chairs. Nice place for a group work.
“Okay, tell me: what are the main factors of production?” I asked him. After he responded to this question, he asked me a question: “What are the key determinants of the aggregate supply?” We kept reviewing economic concepts in this way.

Selva came a little late, when only 40 minutes left until the exam. “Are you ready for the exam, guys?” asked Selva.
“Kind of,” I responded making fun of us. “Alright, Selva, tell me: what is Economics?”
“Man, that’s easy,” said Selva, “Economics is… ahhh… ehhh… uhmmm… F**k!!!” He forgot the defition.
Sam and I started laughing. Sometimes we fail to explain simple stuff. That being said, we all successfully passed the exam.

How much does a woman cost?

If you ever studied abroad, you must know how it is like to live in a dormitory. Rooms are so small and narrow that sometimes you don’t have much space to breathe easily. I was invited to an Uzbek dinner in one of those small rooms yesterday.

The room is designed for only two students to fit. We were seven people in this room: six guys – all good friends of mine – and a lady – one of the guy’s girlfriend. At the middle of the room was a table. The table was “decorated” with salad, spoons, cups, coke, bread, and of course our beloved national meal Plov.

As a famous Uzbek saying goes: “Perhaps our place is narrow, but our heart is wide.”

The friendly atmosphere was just great in the room. In spite of the narrowness of the room and despite being at the center of Europe, I felt pretty much at home – at the very heart of Uzbekistan.

We finished eating after 20 minutes, but we kept talking the next 3 hours. We love talking. We love talking about all kinds of stuff, starting from world politics all the way until new fashion trends on travel bags. But most of the time we just make fun of each other.

I checked up with my watch. It was 23:10. “I have to get up at 6 tomorrow,” I thought.

While others were still talking, I stood up quietly and started cleaning the table. I figured “They invited me. They were amazing hosts. They even cooked Plov. I should at least wash up, to show my gratitude.”

I took the dirty dishes off the table, went to the kitchen, which was a narrow 3 meterish place with two wash-basins. Sponge… detergent… hot water. I started washing up.

After several seconds the lady showed up, leaving the guys in the room.

 

“Let me do the dishes,” she said.

“No-no, I will do it. Don’t worry about it,” I responded without looking at her.

“Why?!” she seemed to be nervous for some reason.
I didn’t know what to say. “I will wash up.” I said being confused, “Take care of the table, if you want.”

She said “Okay” and brought some more dirty cups and spoons from the room.

“I wanted to do the dishes when the guys are done with their conversation,” she made an ‘excuse’, grumbling.

I thought “Why is she making an excuse?”

“Abdulla, let me do the wash-up,” she said once again. “Seriously. I am not feeling comfortable.”

“Use that wash basin, if you want,” I said pointing at the basin just next to me.

“Oh yeah! I didn’t think about it.”

While we were both at the wash basins, we talked a little bit about her graduation from the University. Then I thought “What makes my friend’s girlfriend feel not comfortable, if I wash up?”

So I asked her: “Why don’t you feel comfortable to sit with the guys now?”

“Well, you know…,” she said not looking at me and carrying on with scraping the plates. “I am a girl and I am kind of supposed to do the house chores. The guys [in the room] would look at me like at a girl with awfully unappropriate manners, if YOU, a man, would do the wash-up and I, a woman, would sit with them chilling.”

For some reason, this compelled me to think about my mom.

“Interesting…. But don’t you feel “low” and inferior?” I asked being curious about her personal feelings about this.

“Absolutely I feel inferior! I feel sometimes very low,” she said smiling. Sometimes people smile in order to hide their deep feelings.

These feelings are, most of the time, associated with childhood traumas, and by smiling we hold ourselves from bursting into tears.

I don’t think that this lady was about to burst into tears. Nor do I think that she had some childhood traumas connected with washing up. But I do think that at least she felt really bad about the current situation.

There was a long pause after that.
“How about the country you come from?” I asked. “Would you feel and do the same if you had a similar situation in Tatarstan?”
“Well, there are some other cultural nuances, but basically – yes: that would be the same problem,” she responded.

This is the approximate attitude towards women in my country and Tatarstan.

And I am going to guess, it’s a similar case in Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, China, India, Bangladesh, African countries, Middle East, perhaps even in some parts of the western world. I believe this is really unfair towards women. Why in the world should they ever feel inferior? Women are those who brought you and me to this world.

Think about this: When mothers give birth to a child, they endure such pain that they almost die. Don’t they deserve a little more respect?