Thursday, March 28, 2013

March 27, 2013

After only five hours of fitful sleep, I woke up with a pounding headache and got up to make coffee in the tiny kitchen where nothing seemed to have been changed since the building was originally occupied. The tiny fridge barely cooled the yogurt and the sink was rusted through and through. I found matches in the cupboard and boiled water in a rusted out teapot. There was only one mug.

I looked everywhere for a plug for my laptop, but the bedroom had none, so I had to unplug the fridge and use that one. Bill had informed me the night before that I’d replicating the same presentations as for Monday, so I had to take the wrinkles out of my pantsuit and get ready to take part in the plenary once again. At 8:30, Holly and I walked to the guys’ apartment and then we walked together to the university.

The plenary took place in a conference room of modest size where a smart board was prominently displayed up front. I immediately asked Bill if my afternoon presentation could take place there to take advantage of the numerous monitors for attendees to read the jokes at their leisure, and he felt that shouldn’t be a problem. The schedule was fined tuned once again with coffee break and lunch offered at the same time, which made no sense to me at all.

Attendance was so light that everyone fit inside the conference room and after a few speeches, quite short thankfully, I made my presentation on mentoring new teachers and it went quite well with some of the teachers actually asking question and Max, Bill and James also adding their input. I felt quite pleased with the outcome.

I stayed in the same room to take part in Bill’s presentation on using debates to see how it compared to mine. We only had six participants, not including myself, and he tried really hard to get those six teachers to take part, but some of them spoke so little English that they simply refused.

James, Max and I went downstairs to the student’s canteen and had the day’s special: borscht soup, plov, tea and bread. The portions were small and bland, but still edible and we held a passionate conversation about the school system in the States and how it simply warehoused kids from the lower stratum of society while teaching them nothing.

James and I took a walk around the university only to find that only the building facing the street was part of it while the rest looked like a storage place of some sort. Back inside, we both took part in Sholpon’s session to find that her tinny voice could barely carry across the room and the topic of storytelling for a fifth grade level didn’t hold my attention.

 She indicated she needed to cut her session short as she needed to return to her city and I thought that perhaps there was an emergency there. Instead, Holly told us she had been selected to take part in the TEA program and simply wanted to go back home and celebrate right away. I wasn’t pleased to hear that since her hotel had been paid for already and she was scheduled to take part in the closing ceremony. She and Holly seem to be quite close and Holly had authorized her leave taking. That’s totally unprofessional behavior in my book.

My turn came up to do the humor presentation, and to my amazement, I had sixteen participants. I gave them enough time to read each slide carefully and felt pleased to hear the laughter and chuckles elicited by the materials in most of the participants. I again offered them the presentation to take home so they start using some of the jokes, funny signs and cartoons in their own classroom.

At four, the closing ceremony started promptly with Bill giving the closing speech, presenters getting a certificate and small gift and participants receiving their much awaited certificates. Photos were taken and then we went to clean up the room where refreshments had been served noticing that huge quantities had been purchased for such a small audience.

We had to carry the remaining items so that Natalia could use them for her Access program’s kids. I desperately needed to use a bathroom and to have a cup of coffee, so I had to walk up five floor to the guys’ place to use the bathroom and then walk back three blocks to find a coffee house. My legs felt like gelatin by then.

Only Holly and Max wanted coffee as Bill and James decided a nap was the thing to do then as they planned on going clubbing with Natalia that same night. We went to another Madeleine coffee shop and sat on cushions on the floor while the server brought me a latte and Holly cherry mint tea in a French press this time. Max went downstairs to buy pastries.

On the way back to the apartment, Holly said she was trying to move me into the hotel room that Sholpon had left vacant as she knew I hadn’t had any comfortable place to stay during the visit, but I turned down the offer letting her know I wasn’t about to start packing my stuff again just for one night.

She then offered to show me a bit of the city if my legs could hold out for a little bit longer. We walked to the center where some newly constructed pastel-colored buildings sat on a wide avenue with the requisite statues in place. Walking a little farther, she showed me the statue of some local legend, I can’t quite recall who the couple was, and ran into a wedding party being photograph there.

We agreed to have dinner at a nearby Turkish restaurant and invited the two other teachers from Shymkent who had come with us. I had a lentil soup and some bread covered with cheese, no flavor whatsoever, while they had the doner kebab platter so common in these restaurants.

My eyes were practically closing on me while I desperately tried to follow the conversation, so I told Holly I really needed to get some sleep. We paid our bill, bid goodbye to the teachers and retrace our steps in the now well-lit streets where buildings were flooded with lights coming from every possible recess.

Once at the apartment, I flossed and brushed my teeth while Holly primped herself to join the guys for their outing to the club. It was only nine o’clock when I turned off my light and went to sleep. 

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