Sunday, May 19, 2013

May 18, 2013

I woke early as the room had only flimsy curtains and faced east, so the sunlight was streaming into the room by around five in the morning. Willoughby was deeply asleep and I didn’t want to disturb her, so I waited until half past six to get up and use the bathroom.

I had no luck in making the teakettle work, so I realized the hot water from the faucet was coming out scalding hot and would be good enough to dissolve the 3-1 mixture I had brought with me. We both had a cup of this coffee and while Willoughby worked on knitting yet another sock, I tried to get a connection to the hotel’s Wi-Fi, but had no luck.

We headed to the dining hall and sat with Calvin and a guy named Ilia. There was no tea or coffee on the table at 8:00 and we were told only tea was going to be served. Calvin demanded to see the manager as coffee had been included in the menu the conference organizers had selected.

Chynara, the head of the Association of American Studies, joined the conversation and apparently gave the female manager a dress down for instant coffee, cream and sugar were immediately delivered to all tables. We were then served a porridge of hard-to-identify source and I turned it down. We were told that was it for breakfast. I had some bread and cheese and Willoughby ate only the cheese as she doesn’t like white bread.

Another keynote speaker was on at nine and this time the topic was something I didn’t know already, but could hardly concentrate on because at least six people had their laptops open and were busily typing away while conferring with other participants. Others were openly taking calls on their cell phones or walking outside the room to pursue such conversations.

I was so irate that I called Chynara outside when the presentation was over and told her that my tax dollars were being invested in bringing all these people here so they could learn something and instead they were using their time to complete their presentations or scroll through their smart phones. She made a half-hearted effort at asking participants to refrain from such behavior.

Willoughby and I stayed in the conference room to see Sherbet’s presentation as I had met her in Jalal-Abad and she seemed quite competent. It might have been her first time presenting, but when she started to read straight from her paper, we both got up and left. I find that practice simply inexcusable.

We then went to see another young woman doing a presentation that purposely compared the influence of American music on the young people of Kyrgyzstan, but with only twelve slides to her presentation, she didn’t have much to say and when we asked her questions, she just froze. Bryce was the moderator, and the young woman came from the university where he taught, so he tried to help her out, but she didn’t utter a word.

Brice’s presentation on the civil rights movement had to be cut down short for they had scheduled six presentations before lunch. He spoke for about fifteen minutes and then had to go back to his room to gather his belonging as he was heading back to Bishkek to leave the country early Monday morning.

Ilia and Calvin had invited us to come along to drop Brice off at the Cholponata taxi stand and to have lunch at a place they had found. At the last minute, Calvin couldn’t join us, which was just as well for three of us in the back seat would have been rather uncomfortable in Ilia's Subaru.

We stopped at a place called “Green CafĂ©” and I enjoyed a thick, juicy grilled pork chop with French fries and two different sauces to go with it. After suffering through the unpalatable food at the resort, I was in heaven. Ilia and I sparred for most of the meal as I had thought he was of Turkish descent and he felt offended as he was of Georgian descent.

The next session on comparing paintings from American and Kyrgyz’ artists had only three paintings and no background on any of them. The woman who followed tried to demonstrate that using graphic organizers to teach poetry was just the dandiest idea. She gave no information on the two poems selected, didn’t even know exactly when they had been written and got very defensive when one of the American professors questioned the usefulness of such devices.

We left the conference room and went to join Calvin’s presentation on using local history and famous Kyrgyz people to teach English instead of relying on the people and places found in either the American or British textbook most teachers here follow religiously. This is something I’ve been preaching since I got here, but I wonder to what effect.

After dinner, we moved to the lobby area where my presentation had taken place and were treated to some really bad entertainment provided by some of the participants. The music and songs were all out of tune and mournful, the dancing lacked in grace except perhaps for a teacher from BGU who performed to the song “La isla Bonita”.

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