Saturday, November 21, 2009

It's Christmas time in the city!

Blog 34
November 15

All of the sudden it's halfway through November, and I'm listening to Christmas music!... how did that happen lol. I guess it's a good sign that I haven't really noticed time go by. I've been trying to stay busy. My first day of classes is tomorrow, and, to say the least, I'm pretty rusty - at least planning-wise. Hopefully it's like riding a bike lol. I couldn't think of anything for these classes! My counterpart is expecting the circus conductor PC has promised her lol. I couldn't remember all of the games and activities PST taught us... and I don't want to run a circus 12 times a week anyway (it was exhausting). Maybe for English Club... Quite a bit has happened in the last 5 days that I just didn't have the chance to write down... I have "gosti-ed", which is a verb for being a guest at someone's house, done our first Teacher's English Club, almost made 2 friends (haha), and explored with Johnny.
It's interesting how different Johnny and I's situations are. He is working in a Kazakh "Gimnasium", which is sort of like a private school. It's huge, warm, new and has a lingaphone (lol) room - which has laptops and supposedly wi-fi, a swimming pool, a plant and animal room, smart boards in every classroom, an auditorium, and a counterpart that is actually enthusiastic lol. This is just from the first visit I had at the Teacher's Club... we have it together on Thursday's at Johnny's school for all of the English teachers in the district. I'm not sure whose arrangement is better yet though... :)
After the club, I was invited spontaneously for tea by a teacher passing by as I was getting out of the taxi. So, I went for tea. Little did I know, tea actually meant a big meal... As they were cooking, my counterpart and I were watching cartoons with the teacher's son. It was strange lol, we were watching Anamaniacs in Kazakh. The theme song was hilarious... it was exactly as I remember it being 10 years ago, except no music - just the spastic cartoons- and a monotone man's voice speaking Kazakh slowly. I'm assuming it was the translation. I was trying to read their lips and sort of remembered some of the words... It's funny how people here are surprised that we have things like, "Colgate, Tide, Snickers, SpongeBob, M&Ms, Garnier Fructis, and so much more" in America. Sometimes it's such genuine disbelief, I actually think twice about where the companies are from lol. The American-ness of Anamaniacs was confirmed by some great American cultural references, Southern culture stereotypes, Fort Knox's gold, California wildfires, I feel like there were a couple of more but I can't remember them. They made for some conversation. It's funny to watch stupid old cartoons like that when your older. Even though I don't know how to say it in Kazakh, I know that Pinky said, "So, what are we gonna do today, Brain?" - Response, "Try to take over the world!"
We also did all of our scheduling the other day. I'll be teaching grades 5-9, which is the same as in Panfilova, so that's nice. They initially (and still do) wanted to me to basically take over all classes. I was able to use Johnny's schedule to say, "Johnny is only teaching 10 hours, so 12 would be better than 20..." and my counterpart actually fought with the other teachers to give me Saturdays off... apparently my Regional Manager told her that we weren't allowed to teach on Saturdays! I figured I would have to swindle free Sats. later on in the year. Nope. She had the master schedule re-done to accommodate free Sats. from day one! (Johnny was able to use me to get his Sats off too lol.) We planned our first two lessons, and it was quite odd. She just told me to play games and practice the new material for 20-25 minutes each lesson. Not much for teamwork, but I can handle doing my own thing for 20 minutes with the kids. I have volleyball on Wednesdays and Fridays, which is amazing. Who would have thought that I'd have a volleyball team in Kazakhstan! (and my host sister said that the teacher's team competes too!) Then my English Club is on Tue/Thur. My counterpart is on top of the scheduling. She is very good at doing exactly what the rules say. She wants me to do a wall newspaper on Christmas and AIDs? whatever that means. I'm not even supposed to start clubs until 3 months... O well. Now I just need a Kazakh tutor. I was hesitant to seriously pursue anyone simply because I didn't know my schedule, but now I can actually coordinate a time and place with someone.
I asked this sweet older English teacher, Gulbak (or Flower Garden :). She told me she couldn't do it because she was an English teacher... she doesn't know how to teach Kazakh, and that I should ask the Kazakh teacher. They don't understand the concept of tutoring... over and over I tried to explain that this was informal, minimal grammar... I just need to be able to live in this village normally, speaking Kazakh. She obviously speaks Kazakh... and English. She also mentioned, I think, that money is sort of an issue. Teachers aren't paid much and I think she's the only income she's living on. She doesn't have kids - and seems like a side job would be doable. It's only 2 days a week, one hour each. My counterpart overheard me and offered. I dismissed the idea pretty quickly - Johnny said too quickly - so I spoke with her about it more, afraid I offended her. I don't want her to tutor me, although it may help build our relationship. Maybe. I don't know, but I need help. In the meantime, Saule has been wonderful about drilling me!
I'm looking forward to not being new news. It's awkward having the same conversations over and over. I'm also looking forward to being able to actually have more in depth conversations lol. And I'm not talking politics or neuroscience... just more interesting small talk - to start.

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