Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lawn Chair = Heaven



I told you I intend on writing regularly! Today was a pretty regular day. One of my classes was cancelled. The rest were smooth. The year's goal for the teachers that I work with is to "get through the book", overlooking what is actually in the book or whether the students are actually understanding what is going on in class. That said, in most classes we are finished with the book. Finally the stupid book is out of the way! Too bad students are pretty much over school at this point. I find my ways to fill class time, though... Today only 3 students came to the 10th grade class, so we looked at my pictures from home and talked about them (I brought my laptop to have my counterpart check on the certificates I'm making for my summer volleyball camp.) The students loved it - and we only spoke English, so there. Then in 8th grade, I somehow found myself giving Spanish lessons lol! Students - getting me off track! But it was very much grammar related....?

I look forward to next year, having a couple of months to explain some changes I'd like to make will go much better than coming from another country to a village school a month into lessons - with an agenda.... I hope. The other day I had one of the worst teaching situations happen. Gulbak had missed a series of classes - giving me the room to do my own thing (without the book). She suddenly returns one class and decides we are further back in the book than what I am teaching. So, we go back. I usually don't do any exercises from the book because they are ridiculous and confusing. She decides I will facilitate all of the exercises this class and she will do her grade book. Exercise 1 says "Read the job advertisement below and discuss it." - "below" is a exert from the dictionary of the words to qualify, to apply, and to interview. I say, "Gulbak, I don't understand what this exercise wants us to do, there is no job advertisement." We continue to argue about the stupidness of the book. She tells me to write the translation and transcription of these words on the board. I say, well... then we aren't doing the exercise from the book, and the students don't learn from a translation and transcription... (I know its petty, but I decided to use this to make my case about the books.) We argued for a while (students stunned), and by the end of class - she was with me! She is all about new books for next year - yes! (Although now she uses the "awful books" as a scapegoat for her not preparing for class...)

I finished my "locavore" book, and although I don't 100% agree with every detail, I am moved to change. Please read it! It really is important. That is what I spent the rest of my day doing - finishing... I don't know what it is about the book that I just couldn't stop reading. Hopefully by the time I get home and have a place to settle down and invest into, I'll still be passionate about food. For now, I'm moving on to the next book. Tell you what, one thing I've discovered about myself while here is that I really like to read lol! I'm currently on a desperate search to find a lawn chair in this country. The superstition for women here is you may not sit on the ground or touch your bare-feet to the ground - or you will become infertile (assuming that is what they mean when they tell me "Your woman parts will hurt lol). They take this very seriously and have a near heart attack if they see a young woman touching the earth. However, there are no chairs or benches outside. ever. which only leaves the squat-perch position, which they have mastered but most western people teeter over while attempting. This position is not a lounge and read position. I want a lawn chair.

Food, Food, Glorious Food...



I knew this would happen sooner or later when I started this blog - the unintentional awkward black hole in the blog series. Fail. Two and a half months of mystery..... :) And now how to fill the cavity while staying current. First of all, I am perfectly healthy and still in the same village I was since blog...#? I figure with my intended very regular future blogs, the hole will refill itself. But for my own sake, I will quickly note (with the help of my planner...) the major events since Valentine's Day: Volleyball Competition, Music Department Competition, Ford's Olympiad, Balkhash trip, Women's Day, Shimkent, Nauryz, Turkistan, Janatas, Aksukent, In-Service Training, Project Design Management, Saule's 15th birthday, India Trip confirmed, Commitment to Eurasian Marathon, Victory Day/Zhere's birthday. Well, there are so many stories within each of these listed - and so many in between! Like I said, they will surface naturally, I'm sure.

Back to the present. The last day of school is on May 25th for us at Eginbayev. This leaves about a week and a half of classes, then I start packing my bags for India! Classes have been a little lame, students aren't so willing to cooperate, which leaves me being Angry Miss Noelle threatening children every class... well, mainly the same ones multiple times. My Student English club has morphed seamlessly from actual English themes, to holiday themes, to Drama Club ,to Card Game Club, to, currently, Sports Club. We are now happily practicing English outside within a wonderful sport of the children's choice! Johnny gave me a frisbee for Christmas and it's a huge hit. I've taught my kids Ultimate Frisbee, Kickball, and American football (with a frisbee instead of a football). They love it. - and so do I! I have some very active students both in the classroom and out.

I snuck in my long list of missing things "Eurasian Marathon"... which is quite an ambitious stretch for my running abilities. However I am so excited to give it my best shot. I've been running much more regularly now and feel better in more than one way! Denise suggested this marathon a couple of months ago and as it is still quite intimidating, I had to let the idea sit for a couple of weeks before committing. Now, I'm all in. It will be October 17 in Istanbul, Turkey. It is the ideal time and situation for me to run a marathon. Financially, I will be scraping... but... I'll get to go to Istanbul.. with an amazing group of girls... run a marathon... and use these ol' muscles of mine to the max! Not knowing exactly where to start, I've just been running. Five times a week. (Although I am currently in a mini slump - the arch of my foot is giving me problems) I run for 30 minutes in one direction along the river, then turn around and run 30 minutes back... for now. I've gained quite a reputation in the village - there's no doubt, they notice lol. My students adorably ask me every day, "Miss Noelle, boogin jugerasiz be?" (Are you going to run today, Miss Noelle?) I told them in the beginning to ask their parents first - if it would be ok for them to run with me, then changed my mind and said I would rather they not run with me... I run along a road, along the water, in the mountains. The cars make ME nervous, let alone being responsible for children! Needless to say, they didn't listen to me anyway. I run with 6th graders - and they keep me moving! They don't usually run the entire route, but the beginning and end, which are where it counts anyway! I'm glad they didn't listen. It's nice to have some company! My favorite part of all this running is the 5 bucket bathes I now take a week! Spick and Spam! I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner! LOL!

I have had a recent revelation in regards to food. A good friend of mine, Sam, let me borrow a couple of books - all of which I have really enjoyed. This one in particular has really touched me. It's called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver. I recommend this to all who eat. It's about American food culture. What it is, and could be. It's inspiring, political, scientific, social, do-it-yourself, creative, funny, homey, poetic, down to earth, dare I say, life changing. That said, I'm considering abandoning all of my worldly ambitions, degrees, languages, you name it lol - and becoming a serious gardener. Simple life, no drama. When I came here, initially, I was, of course, impressed by the magical-ness of turning a garden into dinner... (what? fresh tomatoes means they actually have dirt on them? dirt is bad. cucumbers aren't all straight and exactly 6 inches with a 2 inch diameter?). Then I quickly became defensive of our convenient-quick-cheap-easy focused diet, typical American mentality. Time is money, right? Reasoning: I would rather eat something quick and tasty then this stupid bland potato dumpling you put so much work in growing and kneading and NOT spicing up, respectively... I'm alive aren't I? - not starving. That's all food is needed for - and I actually could just skip it all together and take a pill or a disguised chocolate covered concoction of supplements. It seems like a good percentage of us would do just that without a second blink (myself included).

In America (and abroad) we are harassed and scolded for being obese - not eating right - eating Mcjunk - etc, and we are so far from the memory of our own real food culture (yes, we do have one) we panic, binge, deny, ignore, and justify. It doesn't have to be this way. It shouldn't be intimidating or a shameful thing to eat. It's O.K. to talk about food, America. The US is amazing for more than one reason - and one reason is it's food potential. Most of America's land is completely capable of producing more varieties of food than I imagined possible on their own. The seasons alone decide the types of food you should eat year round. This book helped me realize that it is possible to make and enjoy delicious meals from your own backyard. "Homegrown" doesn't always have to mean sheep liver, onions and potatoes, this isn't actually a terrible meal.... lol (from last night's dinner); and also, food is just about as timeless as you get. Since when do people decide eating isn't really for them? I don't remember a time in human history when any one civilization ever decided they would actually prefer to pursue photosynthesis instead, thanks. (Although wouldn't it be nice to be able to get a tan (...or green?) for a healthy reason!) So I think it's about time we get back on track.

I planted about 500,000 potatoes yesterday with my host mom. three of our four garden squares are potatoes. WHY SO MANY POTATOES?! I so wish I could control something in this country.

I rearranged my room - and feel a little better.

(P.S. our soil is way better than the soil here - dry, pale, rocky - and they still manage to eat through the winter without trouble - just not very creatively. We have the upper hand.)