Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pretty tame here!

Good grief about the headlines today around the world and Wisconsin. Then I read that 12-18 inches of snow are predicted for Minneapolis and feeling a little guilty for leaving. But I got over it!

So I'll write about the fun I had teaching English to 15 year old boys and a few girls yesterday (Saturday). They are such a challenge and often skip, but they knew something special was planned so most showed up. I decided to give each student a different English name on the name tags sent by friends at General Mills. Previously we'd an English class learning the words for personality traits so why not ask each student about their own. They wrote characteristics on the back of the name tags and then I went around the room and printed a different English name for each student. They loved it! Both that they got a new American name, but that they could speak about something more than "I live in Azerbaijan. I have one brother. I am 15." No. They stood up, said their new class-only name and then 4 - 5 character traits.

The best were the 2 boys sitting next to each other who tend to be quiet and not speak during class. When I gave one of them the name "Tom" he immediately ask that his buddy be given the name "Jerry." Those cartoon characters play very well over here, so what could it hurt!

The excitement continued after class when they wanted to have their picture taken with me, but they had already taken off their name tags. Of course, one class decided to give me an Azerbaijani name so I picked Aynur out of a hat. (It means Moonshine and I love it!) I'm never without my camera, so after the requisite cellphone photos, one of the girls snapped a couple photos on my camera.

There's nothing like a site visit from a PC TEFL Program Manager to get those creative juices flowing with new ideas for teaching English. Check out the bed, sunrise and shower I drew on the blackboard to teach "get up"and "shower." That's my 5th grade teacher in this photo who also brought in a visual aid on the same day. Teachers here don't feel comfortable drawing on the blackboard, so I might run a "chalk talk" camp for teachers this Summer. Everything I know about drawing, I read in a book!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Living the Low Tech Life

Patience please. Since Monday Feb. 7th, I have been enduring life without the benefit of telecommunications technology. And if you think that is just about internet access or satellite TV, you haven't been paying attention to all the things that depend on electronic transmission of data.

On that afternoon there was a gas explosion in a telecom building in Masalli which killed 2 people working in the post office next door (This photo was taken after demolition started and is not of the damage itself). Local residents and businesses have not had use of the internet or land line phones since then. But even worse, there are no functioning ATM machines in the city!  Who would have thought about ATMs being disrupted? 

For those of us using bank cards in Masalli, we cannot get funds since the ATMs do not work. 
Transmission of data was restored on Feb 15th - 8 days after the explosion. Unfortunately, I have not had time to walk to the internet cafe until today. I was beginning to think I'd have to implement Plan B which meant traveling to Lenkeran about 40 minutes away to use an ATM machine there.

I was able to send a text message to Anton since he has T-mobile and ask him to let a few others know why I haven't been in touch. Thanks guy.

I didn't relish the idea of writing individual letters that take 2+ weeks to get to the USA. But I'm definitely thinking about what I will do if this should happen again.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Developing a daily routine

I'm still adjusting to mealtimes which revolve around school times and host mom's tutoring schedule.

I wake up around 6:30 but around 7:30 I can hear hMom putting on water for tea while hDad and children still sleep. That gives me time to make my bed, use the bathroom and get dressed. The teaching materials I prepared the day before are in my bag and ready for me to carry to school.

By 8AM their 9 year-old son Layig has come back from purchasing fresh bread and there may be jam, cheese, hard boiled eggs, peanut butter and tea waiting on the table. I've learned where this bread shop is, so sometimes I go down to buy the bread for family breakfast. We usually eat together but always watch the clock above the piano so that everyone is ready to leave by 8:20 for their nearby school which starts at 8:30. This photo shows coffee, but more often I have tea for breakfast.

My school is farther away and starts at 9 AM, so my hdad has been driving me to school. My classes end at different times each day, so usually I walk home about 1.5 miles for a meal prepared by hMom, who also teaches. This is not the main meal of the day, but often consists of a hearty bowl of soup with more bread, followed by tea.

Then the dining table is cleared so that hMom has a place for the English language learners she tutors in the afternoon as late as 6 PM. Peace Corps has okayed her serving as my tutor also, since my AZ language is pretty abysmal.

Hmom begins preparing dinner after 7PM for an 8PM dinner. This meal is the largest of the day and often has rice or potatoes or pasta plus chicken or ground beef. And always bread. Fresh fruit such as oranges, apples, kiwi or bananas are sometimes cut up and served at the end of a large meal. More tea. This photo is from a special birthday dinner of plov and roast chicken plus salads.

To me, 8PM is really late to be eating, but I manage. I say goodnight around 10PM but the children are often still up past 11 PM watching stupid movies - IMHO. Some educational TV here including cultural music.

I think that I've mentioned that my host family lives on the 4th floor of an apartment building, but I think I forgot to mention that there is no elevator. I go up and down 6 flights of stairs - 10 steps each - at least once every day! In the 2 months I've lived here, I hardly notice all the walking I do. I just do it!