Saturday, December 8, 2012
December 6, 2012
It was hard to believe that it was December as the temperature reached 50 degrees and the abundant sunshine made it feel as if it was even higher. I decided to walk to the Arabaev University and stop at the post office along the way to mail the letter to Stephanie and pay my utility bills. To avoid being bombarded by the diesel exhaust from the many minibuses plying the Kiesvkaya Street, I decided to explore the one behind my building, Toktogula.
There was still plenty of snow and ice on the sidewalks where the sun didn’t hit and I saw lots of people, including elderly ones, skidding and trying to hold their balance. I continue to be terrified of falling and breaking my neck. At the post office, I was told to return after two o’clock to mail my letter, reason unknown. There was a long line of people paying their utility bills, so I decided to just do both on my way back.
Jyrdal met me at the gate as I had called her earlier to find out if they could handle the photocopying of a handout for the teachers so I didn’t have to go to the underpass. When we walked into her office, I met Eric, another Peace Corps volunteer who teaches critical thinking skills at this university. I mentioned to him that was doing a session on Bloom’s taxonomy that dovetailed perfectly into his topic, but he confessed he had never heard of Bloom as he wasn’t even an English teacher, but a health educator. I promised to email him the presentation so at least he’d know what the teachers had been taught.
The turnout was lower than the first day, but at least there was room at the round table for everyone to sit comfortably and have a surface to write on. We played the “Name Game”, which they liked, and proceeded to the Bloom’s materials. I gave them a piece of text covering the recent admission of Palestine to the UN council on an observer nation and asked them to come up with appropriate questions according to the Bloom’s classification, but only two teachers could it and one of them was not following the action words on the table.
It turned out that they had found the piece of text too difficult to read themselves as one of them even asked me what “abstain” meant. Unable to comprehend what they had read, asking questions about it seemed pointless. I really felt sorry for their university students who should be expected to read something similar to this and then answer questions on the topic. I could just feel how embarrassed and uncomfortable most of them were to be put on the spot. I gave them an exit slip asking what they had learned today, something they already knew and something that had not being clear before they left.
All of them said they had never heard of Bloom’s taxonomy, many said the text had been too difficult and most felt that they couldn’t understand the classification and question method at all. Perhaps Natalia would consider conducting a follow up session here in the spring to revisit the topic with these teachers as it was clear they are not in the habit of asking questions that go beyond the five Ws.
My letter to Stephanie, containing seven typed pages plus an article on Cuba ripped from the National Geographic magazine, cost me almost $7.00. I was simply shocked for 248 soms is a considerable amount of money here. The utility bills came up to 671 soms or a little more than $14.00.
My quest for apple cider vinegar continued and after stopping at two other supermarkets, including the just-opened Food Boutique where there was no vinegar of any kind, I found it and got three bottles of it for good measure. At the corner of Toktogula and Umatalieva, a young guy was selling honey, something I have always forgotten to add to my list, and I had to rummage through my bag to find enough change to pay the 250 soms or less than $6.00 for a sizeable jar of the stuff.
Nargiza, the teacher from KNU, had called me earlier to say she wanted to meet with me around five and I had planned on asking her to come up to my flat as I was plain tired. Instead, she called to say she had cooked a national dish, manti, for me and was waiting for us to have dinner together. I cursed under my breath as I prepared to walk to the university to meet her just as the sun went down.
Nargiza lives in a hostel for teachers in a run-down building with no lights at the entrance or on the staircase. The kitchen reminded me of those improvised cooking areas set up in the Dominican Republic while a proper kitchen is being built except that here the arrangement was permanent. No counter space, no stove, but a hot plate, improvised plumbing system and so on. The manti was barely edible and there was no sauce but a bottle of supposedly spicy ketchup.
I found out that Nargiza hadn’t invited to dinner just because she wanted to see me, but because she’s working on a paper, due on December 15, on the subject of euphemisms and needed my help compiling examples. I felt a bit deceived and somewhat furious she hadn’t mentioned on the telephone for I had no time to devote to such project. I offered to show her two worksheets I did have on euphemisms and double talk to see if she could use those examples.
Nargiza and her children
Her neighbor, another Nargiza, came in then and offered me a ride back home in her car. That was the only pleasant side to this visit.