Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October 29, 2012

I overslept once again and having promised the staff at Lingua that I’d be bringing rice and beans this morning prompted me to notify Gulnara I’d be coming in an hour later since I didn’t have a meeting or observation scheduled anyway.

The coconut milk I had purchased turned out to be more coconut water as it had no taste of coconut whatsoever. I cooked only two cups of rice in the little saucepan and even at the lowest setting the stove offered it burned the bottom layer rather quick. There was no aroma of cooked white rice in the flat as I so much like to smell. I packed as much as I could in one of the two plastic containers I have and took them to the school. It was warmer outside than the weather forecast indicated and it was a delight to walk to the office admiring the continuing changes of the leaves.

There wasn’t much time for me to print and laminate the cards that day’s presentation after Anna came to ask me if I had had a chance to work on the CATEC documents. I admitted I had had no time to do so and would do it that evening once I was back home. The two of us had received a memo from Natasha subsequent to our meeting asking for other details to be included on the document. 

She gave me directions to her university, the Russian Slavic University of Kyrgyzstan, where I’ll start to do my workshops next Tuesday. It was relief to hear teachers only had an hour and a half to devote to them. I offered to give the teachers a survey form to determine what topics they wanted to see covered after the initial workshop.

I took my lamination to my guy and waited for the three pages to be done while standing in the crowded passageway. On the way to the bus stop to get to KNU, I noticed there was an entire line of stores I hadn’t seen or paid attention to before. These tiny cubicles, so to speak, all sold gold and silver jewelry and had plenty of women mesmerized at the offerings on the windows. Some of the jewelry appeared to be Kyrgyz, but other resembled Tibetan or Indian pieces.

The usual classroom we had occupied for the last three weeks was being remodeled, with money provided by the Chinese embassy, to become a computer lab, so we were dumped into a tiny room with some wired-together benches and a red blackboard. The sixteen teachers that showed up then were barely able to fit into the four benches available.

To my dismay, I learned that the presentation I had slavishly worked on was completely off-target since it was aimed to address issues related to large classes with students at varying levels. The teachers informed me that their classes were small by comparison, fifteen students maximum, but there was no entrance exam or placement test as the students were assigned to classes simply based on their status as freshmen, sophomore and the like.

As a result, some of the students were fairly fluent while others could barely read or write in English much less speak at all. The teachers have no choice as to who gets into their classes and must work with everyone at whatever level they might be. So as not to waste their time, but still interested in showing them some strategies to deal with low level and advanced level students in the same classroom, I moved on to the portion of the presentation that provided specific ideas on that topic. They were interested in the concept of cooperative teaching and learning, but I told them that was a completely different presentation.

At 4:10pm, students were knocking on the door letting us know another class was due to begin there soon. We packed up our stuff and I reminded them that certificates should be ready by Thursday and had everyone check their hours and spelling of their names before five of us repaired to a café, for what I thought would be a cup of coffee, but turned out to be a full dinner. Bazilat had chosen a nearby restaurant owned by people from her region, Talas, so I could try the local cuisine. We sat at a tapchon and she did the ordering. 

The teachers had asked for contributions to buy me a small present and they gave me a set of earrings that looked exactly like the ones I had been peering at that afternoon at the jewelry row made of silver with a small green stone in the center.

We had two somewhat spicy salads, one of them with sesame seeds, and one with the usual large amount of mayonnaise. The main entrée consisted of the local dish, beshbarmak, which turned out to be a pile of overly cooked noodles with pieces of boiled horse meat in around the noodles. I didn’t care for the flavor of the meat and the noodles’ texture was a turn off. I ate a little bit of it by mixing it with the sauce from the salad and had to take the rest home claiming to be already full. Gulnara, from Forum, came in toward the end of the meal and we were able to talk in a relaxed manner for the first time.

One teacher commented that her daughter’s child care bill almost equaled her monthly salary at 4,500 soms or $97.00 and that her husband wanted for her to quit her job and stay home to take care of their child. She had been successful in convincing him that her job was important and made her feel like she was making a contribution to society.

Another confided that she had been married for only a year and her husband had been away for almost as long living in the UK because there are no jobs here for him. She said he worked in the construction field and acknowledged he sent her no money at all. Two of them concurred it was easy for them to get visas to Europe, but not to the United States, and their problem in leaving the country was not having the money to do so.

Two of the teachers walked me home while commenting on the deplorable state of the streets, the lack of sidewalks, the irresponsible manner of most drivers all the while feeling nostalgic for the Soviet years when they both felt the city was a safer place to live.

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