Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October 17, 2012

It is definitely getting darker and darker. I was up at 6:33am and it was pitch black outside still. I made my coffee and sat at my computer only to discover that I must be out of funds as there was no Internet access and only a screen in Russian to inform me of the reason. The sky looked cloudy and people scurried around wearing coats, so I decided to bring my umbrella and wear the sweatshirt I have just in case.

It was colder than usual especially since I was only wearing sandals, but there wasn’t time to go back and change. We had the meeting for the CATEC conference where Anna and I would present the template we had come up with for the invitation and proposal submission. Gulnara, from Lingua, thought that our theme, “Critical Thinking in the Language Teaching Classroom” was too restrictive, but could not come up with any suggestions except for saying she wanted something that indicated this was a chance to exchange ideas and network. I told her all conferences contained those ideas in themselves.

 The other participants could not think of a better theme and in fact Munara, from the American Councils, indicated she liked very much and didn’t feel it was too limited. I chimed in saying that my experience in Nepal, Tajikistan and now Kyrgyzstan had demonstrated that critical thinking was left out of most lesson plans. I then suggested that we submit the template to Jennifer Uhler, the RELO sponsoring the conference, and let her give us some feedback. If she turned down the theme, Anna and I would go back to the drawing board. The idea was accepted and we were able to move on.

Some other minor changes were made to the forms since, I for instance, didn’t know that participants in the conference would not have to pay a penny to attend since the U.S. embassy was footing the entire bill, and therefore billing information was not needed. The conference is expecting 200 participants from the five Central Asia countries and a handful of guests from other countries nearby.

Zarina got the IT person to come by today and replace the Russian version of Windows on that same computer so I could work there since I wasn’t able to read the commands. The poor guy was there for more than two hours, but it was finally done and now I can do most of my work there instead of going home to do so.
Had lunch with Nargiza who kindly went downstairs and order fried lagman noodles for the two of us. Zarina joined us and shared her sweet plov made with carrots, raisins, apricots and prunes. I had never had this version of plov. They both found my salad too spicy and tart as they never add vinegar to their salad without diluting a bit with some water.

Zarina had called Megacon and determined my balance was finished and I needed to add money to my account. Nargiza accompanied me to a nearby supermarket where they had the same type of ATM where you punch in your account number, add money and get a receipt. Piece of cake. We also went across the street to the post office so I could mail the postcards I had purchased the day before. The clerk indicated she didn’t have any paper stamps, just a rubber stamp, but I insisted I wanted the paper ones and she asked me to pay up front and return before 3:00 to watch her send them.

I handed in more pages to be laminated to the cute guy, who knows me by now, and Nargiza commented that if she didn’t have a boyfriend already she’d go after him. I had another meeting with Asel and Chinara to discuss the preliminary program for the pre-conference day that had been assigned to them. I suggested a few ideas including fundraising, social media outlets and a local newsletter highlighting events in their regions.
By the time I left the building, it was raining steadily and the temperature had dropped some more. I now regretted not changing into my pumps as the icy rain hit my feet. Lamination was ready and after paying for it, I proceeded to the post office where, I think, the clerk tried to tell me it was past 3:00 and the postcards had already been mailed. I shrugged my shoulders hoping that eventually they will reach their destination.

I was lucky to find a seat in the marshrutka after waiting for more than ten minutes under the rain. There might have been an accident or something, but the vehicle hardly moved while more and more passengers kept piling in. Now, even though I was seated, I could not see out the window because they were completely fogged. After a while, I decided I had enough and exited the van about four blocks from my stop. There was traffic cop at the intersection and the drivers were rudely honking at anyone and everything in frustration.

I was happy to get to my place only to realize I had left the container with the remaining salad and partial lunch at the lamination place when I set everything down to pay for my materials. What a pain in the neck. I have no idea if it will be there tomorrow when I go by.

I watched a film, “Bread and Roses”; about the struggle of janitors in the Los Angeles area to be paid fair wages and receive health insurance. A bit too idealistic, but it reminded of similar demands in many parts of the country where immigrants continue to work for contractors who exploit them due to their undocumented status.

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