Thursday, May 14, 2009

One Highlight of Teaching

My 8th and 9th form students are matched with pen pals from America. We received the initial batch of letters in the beginning of April.....three weeks later, my students had their response letters in the mail. I think the exchange will be rewarding, but I was astounded by my lack of foresight - somehow I didn't clarify that every students should reply to the initial letter I assigned to them and I know that a lot of the questions they were asked went unanswered. Some students took great pride in their letters and others did an excellent job of looking busy during class, yet produced nothing. I never seem to know if students are making progress because they only have 90 minutes of English lessons every week (that is if they aren't skipping, on holiday, or on cleaning duty). However, I was charmed by the letters that my students wrote. I love the creative ways they translate their thoughts into English - for me, the novelty of a new word combination never wears off;)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Spring time!!!

Time for an update…..I just talked to my mom and found out that she checks this blog every day; don’t think I’m that religious about anything. That’s somewhere around 30 days of disappointment – sorry mom.

So, I hear that May is holiday madness in Kyrgyzstan. Not surprising, it’s lived up to this reputation thus far: School is closed the 1st through the 5th (the official holiday being Labor Day !?!). There was also a build-up of holidays right before May: on the 30th we celebrated with the 1st form because they finished their alphabet book and put on a concert, paying tribute to each letter and saying “good-bye” to their first text book. Also, the prior weekend was “water holiday”- the people I celebrated with had a Kyrgyz feast and an extensive water fight….the motive was to pray for good rainfall this year. I’ll keep a log on the rest of May so that I’ll have some sort of calendar to go by next year.

Going back a little farther, on April 16th, we celebrated the school’s birthday. That, of course, meant that we didn’t have school – standard procedure. Another volunteer had come to visit, so we sat around all day, waiting for something to happen. Then, at 8:30 in the evening, my host mom poked her head in the room and asked if we were going to the school for the contest. I was under the impression that there would be a bon-fire and a disco tech; but what we witnessed was much more elaborate: a lip syncing contest. The activity room was packed but we were escorted to the front row of desks and made judges. The pressure of this role was alleviated when the teacher next to me leaned over the informed us that all 11th form participants should receive the highest marks….I suppose that when you pay your dues, you aught to be rewarded with superior lip syncing scores;) In total, there were 18 performances, some with back up dancers and thematic attire. My favorite, though, was the opening number – a montage of Kyrgyz songs performed by the entire group, with periodic solos. I’m pretty sure no one here watches American Idol, but there was a striking resemblance. The entire time, I couldn’t stop smiling! I’m charmed by the little surprises like this….the types of experiences that can only be captured in the two-year attention span of Peace Corps service.

While my school still claims that we will be getting internet “soon,” I went ahead and inquired about purchasing a private connection that my site-mate and I might use. The first time I consulted with the internet providers, I was convinced they had said I would need to purchase a 30-meter antenna in order to pick up the signal, because my house was pretty far away and near the mountains. Of course, the notion of such a giant antennae even existing was absurd, but I told my host-mother what I had heard. We laughed, imagining a pole that size jutting up from the top of our roof….it would make us a landmark for sure. Turns out, it was a 30 meter cable, attached to a tiny antennae – made a lot more sense then;) Long story short, we now have internet at site, so we are able to read world news in English, search for grant materials, and keep in better touch with friends and family. We’re able to teach our host families how to use the internet, as well. My host sister’s first request was to see fashion, so she sat in my room for like two hours looking at google images of “fashion models.” My host mother and father searched the Russian web for world news; and I showed Almaz a picture of projectile germs when a person coughs, so I could convince him to cover his mouth whenever he coughs. It was a pretty random list of firsts. What really made me smile was, when I was helping the family plant potatoes the next day, my host sister asked if it was my first time and when I said “of course,” she pointed out that she, too, had just experienced a first: using the internet.