Thursday, October 18, 2012

October 18, 2012

It was a cold and gray morning when Natalia came by on time to pick me up for our meeting with the Peace Corps country director and other members of his staff involved in the teaching of English in Kyrgyzstan. The compound sits on a residential area and has a pleasant garden beyond the high fence and prior to the guard entrance where Natalia showed her embassy badge and convinced the guard I didn’t need to show him any ID since she was accompanying me.

We sat at a round table and I gave them my background as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal so as to save them time in telling me about their program. Peace Corps volunteers teaching English nowadays are called TEFLers, and constitute the majority of the volunteers in Kyrgyzstan. The head of this program, Bill, was very much interested in getting his hands on the booklet I had put together for the volunteers in Nepal and even offered to redo the format and add the pages I wanted to it before making it available to the volunteers here. I was elated by the prospect since I really don’t have the skills to do it nor the Mac computer that would facilitate such task. I promised to email him over the weekend.

The country director was interested in having a look at the results of the survey I had provided to the teachers at Forum and I promised to send it to him as soon as I was done compiling the answers. Bill provided me with a copy of their Russian language training book, as suggested by Natalia, and the name of another teacher now that I know Nurkys is not coming back. Bill accompanied us back to the entrance not before chastising the security guard for not having demanded identification from me and issuing me a badge. I felt really bad for the poor guy.

When we stepped outside, Bill pointed out that snowflakes were just beginning to fall, the first snowfall of the season. I can’t say I was happy since I still don’t have any winter clothes to wear and Ryan has said nothing about the progress in getting his visa. Natalia dropped me off where I could catch a minibus to Lingua, and I stopped at the lamination place just to see if by any chance my container had been set aside the day before.

The cute guy couldn’t understand at first what I was trying to convey by “salat” or by miming  “food”, but a vendor across the narrow hallway, an older woman in this case, loudly shouted I was searching for something containing food, and he then immediately pulled the plastic bag from one of the shelves. I thanked him profusely and he smiled widely. I really didn’t think that anyone would have bothered to save it.

At Lingua, I printed the changes Anna had made to the document for the CATEC conference and started to type them up, but then felt really hungry and went to the Muslim Kitchen for my usual lagman noodles and a salad for Zarina. There was no one sitting outside, to be expected, and the service was the usual chaotic mess. Back at the teachers’ lounge, Gulnara thanked me for bringing the salad the previous day, but confessed few of them had been able to eat it because it was too spice. She related that many Mexican restaurants had opened in Bishkek and had failed because the local people do not like spicy food. She also told me of a Chinese store about three blocks away where I could buy Jasmine rice and oriental condiments.

It was time to head to the Kyrgyz National University to present my workshop on vocabulary teaching in an interactive way. I gave the teachers a set of cards with homophones and asked them to find their partners, but many of them couldn’t identify the homophones in the first place. We talked about the importance of them, themselves, having an extensive knowledge about words, something I knew was lacking as many of them had indicated they do no reading at all outside of the required textbooks.

Through participation in different activities, “Find someone who…”, “Odd one out”, classification exercises and others, the teachers were shown fun and active ways to engage students in learning vocabulary while moving away from assigning lists of words to be memorized or looked up in dictionaries. Before leaving, I asked them to complete an “Exit Slip” telling me one thing they had liked, one they disliked, and one that wasn’t clear. They had never taken part in such an activity and it required a bit of explaining before they completed it.

One teacher complained the workshop timetable was too short as I never have enough time to cover the entire PowerPoint presentation or utilize all the handouts. On my way out, Bazilat asked me if there was any chance of extending the number of workshops being offered, and I said no since I’ll be rotating through four different universities before the winter break.

When I got to the underpass, it looked ghostly as the power had gone out, apparently for some time, and the vendors had lit candles to continue their operation. I was hoping to have power at home for I didn’t have any candles or even a flashlight, having left my good one in my suitcase in Dushanbe.

I did have power and enjoyed having a chance to watch the movie “The Lover”, based the story by Margarite Duras, once again. Such gorgeous setting, great acting and period costumes. What’s not to like?

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