Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December 5, 2012

I certainly couldn’t complain about the weather this week as it’s has been sunny and much warmer than I had expected for the month of December. As agreed with Ainura, I stood in front of the Philharmonic Hall at ten in the morning, and she had no trouble identifying me at all. We walked to her university, the International University of Kyrgyzstan, which was right on the same plaza.

Ainura has been a language trainer for Peace Corps volunteers for many years and charges 200 soms, or about $4.25, per hour to teach Russian. We agreed that my lessons would have to be flexible to allow for my crazy schedule and that I would go to her university for my classes. I had my first lesson during which I emphasized my need for spoken Russian and not the grammar-based instruction which is favored by most teachers here as I didn’t plan on doing any reading or writing at this point.

                          Ainura in one of the classrooms at the Kyrgyz International University

When finished, I walked all the way to Lingua to exchange some money and catch the minibus that would take me to the Russian Slavonic University to meet with Sophiat. While waiting in the foyer, I ran into two of the teachers who had completed the series of workshops last week. One of them, Anastasia, insisted on staying with me until Sophiat came down from her classroom. It was too early for our appointment with the hairdresser, so we went into the canteen and had some snacks reheated as the soup was already gone.

My hairdresser was of Uzbek and Kyrgyz descent and immediately mentioned she was ready to leave the country for better opportunities elsewhere. Sophiat explained what I wanted and I was quickly taken to the sink to have my hair washed. The cut in itself took just a few minutes as she was indeed an experienced hairdresser and I was a really happy camper until she pulled the hair dryer and insisted that she should dry my hair because of the cold weather outside. I refused, paid her 450 soms (about $10.00), including a tip, and walked out.

Sophiat was curious about learning Latin dance moves, and I told her she needed the right pair of shoes first of all, one with a secured strap, and since we had plenty of time before reporting back to Lingua, we stopped at the shoe store, Lion, a chain originating in Russia. The only pair of shoes with a strap was a maroon color pair of pumps with a good 4-5 inch square heel costing more than a hundred dollars even though the material wasn’t even leather.

Right next door, a Christmas store had opened offering miniature Christmas trees in all shapes and materials along with balls, baskets and crystal figures. For a country that claims not to celebrate this holiday, I was really surprise to see the variety of merchandise being offered including a nativity scene and the three king’s figurines.

When we got to Lingua, Joel and Willoughby were already there and after making the proper introductions, we promptly got to work on the now infamous newsletter for Forum. The website Judson had recommended wasn’t the “just follow the prompts” kind he had stated and we had lots of problems trying to add columns, resize photos and create new pages. It became obvious that this would be a newsletter only available in electronic format and not possible to print as individual pages for those teachers still without access to the Internet.

We couldn’t even manage the list of subscriber so as to select a few people to screen the newsletter before sending it out to the general public. Joel had to leave at four and Willoughby and I played with it until five and then I just gave up. I really don’t know what to do at this point, whether to scrap this project and just go back to square one in spite of Forum’s request that the newsletter be available for distribution this Saturday.

I went home a bit downcast and even though a young woman yielded her seat to me, I was soon surrounded by a crush of bodies and my claustrophobia kicked in. Traffic was hardly moving and I opted to get off ahead of my stop and just walk home.

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