Tuesday, April 9, 2013

April 9, 2013

I practically overslept today not getting up until almost 8:00 am even though the driver sent by the International University in Central Asia was due to pick me up at ten. It was a good thing I had organized all my materials the night before and knew what I was going to wear for sure.

Natalia called me to set up the meeting with Johanna for Thursday at 1:30 pm with my coming to the embassy to see her. I wasn’t too happy about that as I don’t really know how to get there by public transportation and would need a transfer at some point from my house.

Tatiana, from the IUCA, called me to let me the driver was at the intersection waiting for me and that two other visitors would be picked up along the way. They turned out to be an Italian, with a British accent, and South Korean woman representing the Korea Foundation, which pays for faculty and students to engage in Korean studies.

We had a delightful conversation all the way into the city of Tokmok with Matteo, the Italian guy, relating his experience working in Central Asia for the last fifteen years while the woman disclosed how much they paid teaching assistants, 660 Euros per semester, while teachers got a lot more. In fact their salaries were higher than what I was earning at FSCJ as an adjunct professor.

The IUCA campus was a former health clinic built during the Soviet era and consists of three separate buildings around a pleasant, but small courtyard. It was taken over five years ago by former AUCA employees and has about 230 students enrolled. We were taken into the administration building and introduced to a whole lot of people including a guy from Illinois who shared the fact that he was here doing missionary work for his church while teaching English.

We had lunch in the faculty lounge, a watered down version of shorbot, and a small serving of pasta with a few shreds of beef on top. What appeared to be pastry turned out to be just dough with a dusting of sugar, so I grabbed a few pieces of chocolate and had those for dessert. Tea was served automatically, so asking for coffee seemed rude.

I sat next to one of the administrators, someone from Britain, who has been doing development work both here and in Tajikistan. He was quite familiar with the road to Khorog and other areas of Tajikistan and even knew about the coffeehouse, Morning Star. I wondered if he was here doing missionary work as well.

Tatiana had a pre-intermediate class at 1:00 and asked if I could observe her and she was delighted to comply indicating she was going to demonstrate the same strategy she plans to offer at the CATEC conference. It was basically a jigsaw reading activity in a ridiculously small room where moving chairs around was simply too challenging for all twelve students.

The students kept switching to Russian despite Tatiana’s admonishing them not to do. As usual, many students hadn’t done their homework assignments and couldn’t take part in the activities. Tatiana never wrote anything on the wall even when it came to grammar points just assuming the students actually knew the difference.

I was scheduled next and then my flashdrive showed to have a virus and it wouldn’t open. The IT guy had to come in and clean it up before I could open the file. The laptop in the room was really old and took forever to move from one slide to another. I simply gave up and with the remaining time just had the students play the games for collocations I’d brought with me.

Tatiana sat at the back taking notes and later told she didn’t know anything about collocations or how to teach them. I promised to send her the presentation along with the handouts so she could go over again with her students since they are preparing for the TOEFL and certainly will need practice in using those.

Our driver was ready at 4:00 and I got in the minivan along with the passengers from the morning and one other woman. The landscape had changed considerably since last January and now sported splotches of green here and there while vendors stood on both sides of the road offering fresh radishes. I wanted to stop and take photos, but everyone around was quiet and some dozing off, so I gave up on that idea.

I also started to nod off after a while and only woke up when the driver veered suddenly or when we dropped off the visitors at the Holiday Hotel. When I got dropped off, I walked to the convenience store and bought few things for dinner as I still don’t have anything to cook at home.

My landlady had sent me an email indicating she couldn’t come by tonight either as we had previously agreed to discuss the issue of installing the A/C unit this week as the temperatures are expected to rise quite a bit by the weekend. I replied that I’d have Lingua find me a contractor to take care of it and deduct it from the rent as I’m sick of waiting for her to do it.

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