Friday, November 9, 2012

November 8, 2012

It was hard to believe that I had spent countless futile hours recovering documents from my portable hard drive and saving them to the desktop to discover this morning that the file had disappeared overnight. I was beyond angry and frustrated at this turn of events and didn’t even have much time to vent about it before it was time to depart for the American Corner for the session Natalia had organized.

I was pleasantly surprised to find about ten teachers already gathered there by 9:30. The coordinator helped me set up my materials and print what I needed, and then Natalia came in bearing hundreds of copies of all the handouts I had emailed her. My attempt to find a bathroom proved elusive as they are remodeling the one I knew and apparently had provided no alternative. The tables set up for the teachers proved insufficient and more chairs were brought in from other rooms. We must have had between 60-75 teachers present at the end.

I started out with a portion of my PowerPoint presentation on the importance of emphasizing speaking instead of grammar and then proceeded to show them several of the activities I use to engage the students. Starting out with the “Find someone who..” proved daunting as the teachers themselves couldn’t follow the instructions and insisted on completing each question in each square themselves instead of walking around and asking others. I think the fear of being found lacking in knowledge paralyzes many of them who prefer to retreat and only deal with colleagues they already know if at all.

When we did the “Speedy Interviews”, it was once again difficult for them to understand that they needed to ask and answer one question, trade cards and move up once to speak to somebody else. My voice was practically gone by the time we moved on to the third, fourth or fifth activity. The question came up over and over, “But we don’t know the meaning of these words ourselves, how can we play with our students then?”
This session was designed to last one and half hour, but was extended to two so we could practice a few more activities.

 The teachers were reluctant to write on the handout they had been given so they could have it for their classes, and I could not fault them for doing so since teaching materials are so scarce here. About half of the handouts weren’t used, and I just lined them up on the counter and told each teacher to grab one of each as they left. Of course, there was the occasional educator who insisted on taking an additional copy for a colleague, but overall, the distribution was done in an orderly fashion.

The Dominican woman I had met the week before at Sierra Coffee, Caira, had invited me to lunch and I called to find out where. It was at a restaurant I had never heard of and Caira suggested I go across the street to the Hyatt Hotel and get the personnel there to obtain a taxi for me. They did so and after a little while I got to the Navigator Restaurant located in a part of the city I had never been to.

Caira was already there along with three other women: one from El Salvador, one from Guatemala and one from Spain. We were later joined by another one from Peru. Our food took one hour to arrive and was simply famished as I had skipped breakfast in my rush out the door. I thought I was going to pass out as we weren’t even presented with any bread until we pleaded for it. My salmon and mashed potatoes were good even if the portions were relatively small.

I wasn’t able to establish what each woman was doing in Kyrgyzstan as several conversations were going on at once, but they all seemed to have lived in a variety of countries and had had their children raised outside of their respective countries. Caira mentioned she used to be a television presenter in the Dominican Republic and had worked with my brother in some project or other. When it was time to leave, and since I was completely lost, the Peruvian woman, who had a car and driver at her disposal, offered me a ride home.

Since time waits for no man or tide, it was time to polish off my presentation for the Russian Slavonic University, but my flash drive would only show an icon on the screen, but would not open the file. I began to hyperventilate since I certainly didn’t have the time or energy to create another presentation from scratch at the point. I called Zarina to notify her of the situation and see if I could email it to her at the office. She complained that my landlady had dropped the money to have all utility bills paid and asked her to do it. I apologized for her forwardness and promised to take care of it once I know where to go to do it.

Zarina didn’t reply to my request and I decided to try Elvira who quickly answered she had been able to open it from her computer. Relieved to know my work was done for the day, I treated myself to one of the few movies that had been left on my laptop, The Joy Luck Club, based on the book by Amy Tan that I had read many, many years ago. The film was too long, too depressing and the scenes too drawn out. 

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