Friday, January 11, 2013

January 10, 2013

It was a frosty morning as I made my way to the school ahead of schedule so I could rearrange the chairs and desks in a single row for my presentation on pragmatics. I had taken my hat and gloves out of my handbag to accommodate the materials I’d need and then forgot them, so ears and hands were freezing as I walked to the school. One of the teachers caught up with me when I got to Chuy Avenue and I asked if she could give me a hand in setting up the classroom, but of course, she didn’t understand the “give me a hand” or “do me a favor” expression, so I had to explain I just needed help.

Getting the participants to get into pairs by finding the opposite noun to the one in their hands necessitated Willoughby’s assistance as they didn’t recognize the vocabulary for the most part. Giving them situation cards to read so we could hear what speech act they’d use to accomplish their goal was simply a frustrating exercise as they couldn’t understand the text in itself much less how they would respond in that situation.
At the end of it, participants indicated their appreciation for learning about an aspect of language teaching they weren’t aware existed. Even Willoughby indicated she had learned something new, so all was not lost. After a hurried coffee break, I got to do it all over except for the fact that the second group included a couple of teachers who actively participated in reading their cards and attempting to use one of the speech acts.

Nurila approached me to go to lunch with her so we could continue our discussion on her presentation on the first day. The cafeteria was jammed with people and took a while to get our food, but I reassured Nurila in the meantime that the mistakes I had pointed out were not serious ones and most likely the audience in general had not even been aware of them.

I attempted to attend the presentation given by Asia, the Peace Corps volunteer, but was called almost right away to sign the certificates for the 70 plus teachers and all presenters. I helped Gulnara with the speech for the closing ceremony and returned to catch the end of it. Willoughby and I followed her to the next one to find out she’s quite funny and makes up for her lack of teaching skills by endearing herself to the audience. We passed out evaluation forms for the entire three days at that point and then moved the participants to the auditorium.

Natalia came from the embassy and spoke for a few minutes, followed by a representative for the school and then Gulnara before we called participants to receive their certificates of participation. Willoughby and I were presented with Christmas decorations, little jewelry boxes in the shape of a yurt and a cake.
After promising participants that we’d emailing all presentations and handouts to them as soon as possible, we said our goodbyes and the three of us proceeded to Sierra Coffee to partake of the cake and for me to place the ad for the upcoming meeting of the book club on their bulletin board.

Asia had texted me the night before asking if she could spend a night or two at my place and I had agreed. Now she was talking about going clubbing and coming back at 4:00 am, which would certainly not work for me who is such a light sleeper. We had our coffee and cake and I ran into Christina again and reassured her I’d be there on Saturday to observe her speaking club while turning down her request that I run it this time.

Asia must have found another place to stay as she was happy to take the remaining cake, flavorless unfortunately; to the other volunteers she would be partying with that night and the next as well she indicated. I was infinitely relieved, so I said goodbye to Willoughby agreeing to meet on Sunday at whatever time she could make it to my place.

It was lovely to have a quiet evening at home where I watched a rather violent, though well acted, movie with a cast that included some of the best actors of all time: Marlon Brando, Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Angie Dickinson, and some others. “The Chase” depicts a small town in Texas where bigotry, racism and double moral standards lead to a violent confrontation that confirmed my perception that I’d never live in such a state.

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