Tuesday, February 5, 2013

February 5, 2013

As it had been predicted, a light snow was falling this morning when I got up. Coffee in hand, I checked my email and Facebook updates and learned that my best friend Stephanie had finally caved in and joined the 21st century by opening an email account and sending me a message through her niece’s FB page. I must admit that she did it mostly out of frustration at not being able to get snail mail reliably to and from Central Asia.

The letter I posted at the beginning of December has never reached her, and I have yet to receive the package Elizabeth sent me on December 12 either. Someone recommended going in person to the main post office to inquire about this package, but I will need an interpreter in order to do so. I’ll see if someone from Lingua can accompany me there.

I headed to the Bishkek Humanities University way too early as I was uncertain of its location only to discover it was a ten-minute trolley ride from the bus stop on Manas Avenue. It was only one o’clock and I chose to use the half hour left until my meeting with the dean to walk around the neighborhood, an area totally unknown to me. It was not a pretty sight once one stepped away from the main artery as muddy streets showed unfinished houses and small badly-lit businesses.

I returned to the campus, called the dean from the lobby, and was ushered into his office for the obligatory tea and biscuits ceremony. He had been to the States on two previous occasions and had even visited Kyrgyz friends in Miami Beach of all places. I kept nervously glancing at my watch while periodically mentioning that I wanted to go and set up the classroom, but he insisted the room was being prepared for me and I didn’t need to do anything about it.

He then got a call from Natalia saying they were running late and for me to wait for them before starting. That seemed odd, so I tried to clarify by asking if they wanted to watch the workshop from the beginning and he nodded his head.

When two o’clock rolled around and most of the teachers were present, I mentioned we were waiting for a couple of visitors to arrive, but I’d go ahead and introduce myself in the meantime. More minutes went by and they weren’t there yet, so I introduced the “Famous Pairs” cards for them to find their partners with the usual clueless participants needing some help.

They were in the process of completing the Venn diagram with things they both shared, around 2:25 pm, when Natalia Jennifer finally showed up ushered in by the dean. I explained to them I had had no choice, but to get started or the one-hour slated time would have been wasted. Jennifer apologized profusely and told me her instructions had been for me to start without them as she had been to yet another meeting and it had ran overtime.
The teachers were informed about the requirements for attendance and the obligation to allow for at least one class observation. They completed the survey to determine what they wanted to see covered for the next seven sessions and then we went on to talk about classroom management. Most of their comments were on the need for planning a tight lesson and only one mentioned creating the right atmosphere in class.

I had to compress the usual presentation, but even while doing so, the teachers made some very pointed comments that would have been worthwhile exploring further in the future. At three o’clock, I stopped since they had other obligations to fulfill and just promised to email them the presentation so they’d have a chance to read it and continue the discussion on Thursday.

Once they were gone, Jennifer commented that since the topic seemed to be so relevant to the teachers and they all appeared to be so engaged with it, she recommended devoting all of, or most of, the next session to finishing it. I’ll play it by ear depending on the reaction I get from the teachers once they get to read the entire presentation.

I chose to walk back to the house as the light snow had not hardened yet and it wasn’t too cold. I stopped at Narodni and bought a few staples before getting home. It was time to start putting together my presentation for the Forum session this Saturday as I still needed a few more pictures to round out the activities I want the teachers to carry out.

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