Monday, June 10, 2013

June 10, 2013

Willoughby had requested that I make it to the seminar by 8:15, and did I try my hardest by leaving my apartment at 7:40, but it wasn’t meant to be. The marshrutkas came by stuffed to the gills and didn’t even bother stopping. It occurred to me to jump on the trolley and then transfer to one on Sovietskaya Street.
With my luck, I got on the one that made a left turn after the Vefa Center and had to walk from there.

It took a good forty minute walk to get to the guesthouse while carrying my laptop and cursing under my breath. The Wasabi restaurant that had been my point of reference had apparently folded and now a local restaurant stood in its place. Work was being done on the sidewalks and I had to walk on the street itself to get to the guesthouse.

Willoughby was in the process of introducing herself when I walked in, and I asked for a few minutes to mop the sweat running down my body before joining the group. I knew most of the teachers present, at least recognized their faces, and so I only spoke for a minute or two.

Timur, the trainer sent by a local NGO to conduct the sessions on gender awareness, didn’t like the set up of the room and rearranged the tables so groups could be formed instead. I got a table on the side next to an outlet so I could work on the table of content for my e-book, which I did for a couple of hours while listening to his presentation.

Lunch was another insipid meal: the solyanka soup had no flavor whatsoever and the beef, while tender, lacked any seasonings as well. I ate the salad and had a cup of coffee before returning to my typing. Gulnara arranged for a taxi to come pick us up so we could travel to a hotel where the new Peace Corps volunteers were gathered to give a short presentation on the work Forum does.

There are sixteen new volunteers who will be teaching English in Kyrgyzstan. I spoke about my experience in Nepal and Tajikistan and promised to try and get the booklet to them by this Friday. I met a striking African-American woman by the name of Sidney, from Chicago, who was sporting a cropped hairdo. An older volunteer from Seattle approached me to say how glad he was about the forthcoming booklet.

Gulnara and Willoughby agreed to drop me off at Lingua for the meeting with the other Gulnara and Natalia, but then Natalia called to say they were discussing financial aspects of CATEC and to delay my arrival by another half hour. Willoughby thought about the train tickets, and taking advantage of having the taxi at our disposal, had us stop there to inquire about getting our tickets on Thursday afternoon once the Russian visas are at hand.

The clerk indicated the visas were essential; no tickets can be issued without them, and couldn’t guarantee there would still be seats for the following day, but confirmed I could bring both passports and get the tickets myself.

I walked to Lingua and found the meeting was still on. Amanda was in the resource room and Zarina introduced us as we had been sending each other messages through Facebook. She turned out to be a tiny little thing. We went into the computer room and closed the door for privacy so I could ask her about her experience while at Lingua.

I didn’t know she had been able to extend her EFL fellowship for three years. In any event, her assignments were completely different from mine and there was no way of comparing them. She does plan on attending the book club meeting and taking my apartment although she felt it was way over her budget.

At the end, there was no meeting with Gulnara and Natalia. Gulnara came into the computer room for a few minutes to inquire about the possibility of the Peace Corps volunteer organizing the evening’s entertainment, something we had covered before. I know Willoughby had no interest in doing anything about it. I promised to forward the email addresses of the two volunteers attending the conference.

The heat was infernal at this point, but I did stop at the 7 Days supermarket to buy the staples needed for the dinner on Wednesday only to find they didn’t have the red beans and the chicken was sold in individually-wrapped pieces at outrageous prices. I decided to go to the bazaar the next morning and get everything there.

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