Saturday, April 13, 2013

April 13, 2013

Had an uneasy night for no specific reason whatsoever as sleep was hard to come by and I just got up early to get going on what appeared to be another full day ahead. I realized that both of my flash drives have been affected by viruses and refused to open up and show its folders even though all information was there.

As a precaution, I emailed both Willoughby and Mairamgul both presentations for the day along with their respective handouts. When I got off the trolley, I ran into one of the teachers heading to the Forum session and we walked together. Willoughby was already there sporting one of her brand-new skirts Baktigul had made for her in a bright blue pattern.

She hadn’t received the presentation on time, and I suggested we go downstairs to the American Corner to retrieve it from her email account, but the young woman working there informed us there was no Internet access yet. Neither Willoughby’s nor my flash drive would show up on their computers. We left the Corner feeling exasperated.

Calvin Preece, a guy from Texas who’s been living here for some years, was giving a presentation on Internet websites teachers could use for their classes and he had brought his own portable modem. He truly saved my day as I was able to log on to my email account and retrieve the presentation I had previously emailed.

After we explained the concept of the “Six Thinking Hats” approach to problem solving, we separated the audience into six groups according to the plastic color card they had drawn and posed a problem for them about the need to create a recycling program in the city of Bishkek to cope with the huge quantities of plastic bottles, glass and paper. They were to come up with solutions according to the thinking hats they were wearing.

We had each group send a representative to the front to inform the other groups as to their approach and the blue group got to summarize the findings at the end. Everyone seemed to like it as the activity used all four skills in addition to incorporating cooperative learning strategies. I promised to email everyone the presentation in the near future.

Gulnara, Bagdat, Elena, Willoughby and I were the only ones at hand for the officers’ meeting, so except for agreeing to come up with a step-by-step process to conduct an election before the end of the school year, everything was tabled until we had all officers on board.

I had an hour to spare before reporting to the School of Law where another training session was taking place all day. The day was beautiful and I decided to walk to the university while taking some photos of the newly sprouted tulips and poppies that now festooned the public plazas in Bishkek.

It was lunch time and I suspected that nothing would be offered to me at the university, so I stopped at a new fast food place called “Mama Noodles” that appeared to offer something worthwhile eating. As it is usually the case, I was extremely disappointed since the food was already cooked, was reheated in a plastic container like those the Chinese restaurants still offer in New York, and was totally insipid.

I called Mairamgul from the corner where I used to live and Chuy and she came to get me. The School of Law is housed in a rather new building with meticulously kept grounds where a gardener was using a lawnmower, something I’d never seen in Bishkek, and benches awaited students in shaded courtyards.

 When I asked about the difference between that university and the dilapidated ones I’m so used to visiting, she answered it was all related to the corruption of the respective deans who pocketed the money intended for maintenance of their buildings.

Apparently, a good number of teachers had left early by the time my 2:30 pm presentation came around. I followed a teacher from the Access program whom I had never met. I presented my session on classroom management for college professors and got the same response as everywhere else: they had no idea what classroom management referred to.

I gave them the handouts on students’ survey, teachers’ immediacy scale and classroom techniques so they could have a few minutes to discuss them with a partner. As usual, the one hour time slot was too short and then it was time for the customary certificate issuing with my even getting a nice framed certificate entirely in Russian. I could barely make out my name as I remain illiterate in the language.

I was dead tired by then and begged Mairamgul to put me in the right marshrutka so it could drop me off directly in front of my building, but she had a better option for me. One of her colleagues had a car and had offered to take me home. 

When I asked her how come she didn’t drive nor Gulnara, Elvira, Elena or anybody else from Forum, she started making up excuses including saying she had saved money to buy her son a car. At the end, she acknowledged she was afraid of dealing with the traffic.

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