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Charleston, SC, United States
"Fear is a stranger to the ways of love. Identify with fear, and you will be a stranger to yourself." -ACIM

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Wine and Whining

Ok there really isn’t that much whining that’s going to take place, but I thought it was a catchy title. Camp is over and I figured I’d type up a post about what I learned and how everything went. Overall I thought the camp went well. I had a lot of activities planed and I’m glad I over planed because some of them were a failure. Not because the activity was bad but because my student’s English was worse than I expected.

Let me set a little stage for you here first before I go into the details. There are three English teachers at my school that I’ll be working with. The one that has the most hours is the main teacher followed by an Azeri lady who teaches the students that speak no Georgian and a third who only teaches four classes a week but teaches in the next town over as well. The students are mainly taught by the first teacher who, at least in my interactions with her, seems less than interested in teaching and knows little to no English. And, her students were the ones that showed up to my camp. The other two teachers were there to help translate but where was the main teacher? When we called her on the second morning she said she didn’t know the camp was taking place. If that were the case then neither of the other teachers would have been there either since all four of us were together when I explained when the camp would take place, where and what we would be doing. She did make an appearance on the last day but was less than helpful.

Never mind that right now, I’m sure there will be more blogs to come about her and her English teaching. My problem was that I had a room of about 30 kinds (a better turnout than I expected) from the ages of 12 to 15 who didn’t know how to construct the sentence ‘My name is ___, his/her name is ___.’ Needless to say grammar bingo was out of the question. I ended up spending the first two days feeding them sentences to learn and trying to pull some form of creativity out of them. I did get more than a few games to work but explanations took forever and anything that required them to actually read or write something was out of the question. Dialogs didn’t work and it seemed like I spent more time explaining simple grammar points and forcing vocabulary on them than anything. I’m not kidding either. The concept of him vs. her and he vs. she or his vs. hers was mind blowing to them. Now I’m no language master by any means, but if I’d been studying anywhere from 4 to 7 years, I think I would have gotten at least that much down. That doesn’t matter right now though. I’ll start working on those concepts with them once we get to actual classes. What matters is the kids had fun, they got to know me a little bit and they somewhat seemed enthusiastic about being there. Again, that could change once we get to textbook learning.

Classroom management was my other major obstacle with them. The concept of be quiet for two seconds so I can hear myself give this explanation was also a little too much for them. You could get one half of the room quiet and then the other half would start up and the other teachers were of no help there because they’re used to it. What I’m really wondering about is which level of students I should choose to work with. Will it be worth my time to work with the older kids, deal with their noise and lack of motivation or should I just start with the little kids and try to get them off to a good start rather than play catch-up with the middle aged kids? I’ll have a week or two to observe once classes get started and I’ll have to make my choice then. I think I’ll also look for a hard spot on the wall in one of the hallways too so I’ll have a good place to bang my head on.

Another note here: While teaching in my camp I found that Georgian is the language least likely to be used. More students understand Russian (good for me) than do Georgian. Azeri was the main language that the Azeri teacher used to translate my instructions and the only one used by the students. If and when that failed the Georgian teacher would translate into Russian for them. I never heard Georgian and that didn’t dawn on me till the camp was over. I don’t have much to say about that other than making the observation. Good thing I speak Russian and not a good thing that I don’t know any Azeri (thanks to some really poor language training on the Azeri side of things). At least the teachers all know Russian and I can communicate with them. A lot of volunteers are struggling to be understood at their sites; at least I know a functional language and can get my point across in any work related situation. Note to self: find Azeri tutor soon.

Moving on… Tuesday was interesting. My host-father and brother came home from work in quite the merry mood. Apparently it was one of his nephew’s birthdays in Baku. Why would that be a cause to celebrate I have no idea, but family is very important here so celebrate we did. We had dinner out in the courtyard and two pitchers of wine to go with it. Oh, and if you guessed that we had boiled lamb for dinner you would be correct. After dinner we moved in to the family room and two more pitchers of wine appeared and some more bread and lamb because you have to keep eating or else you’ll be messed up from all the sweet wine. Needless to say I was in no mood to get out of bed on Wednesday morning, not because of a hangover but because I didn’t go to bed till well after midnight and wanted to keep sleeping. Neither my alarm clock nor my bladder were in agreement, so I got up anyway. Another drawback to the outdoor toilet came to mind that morning too. I have to get dressed, go across a balcony, down some stairs, down a path, across a garden and then around a turn just to get to the thing. And good morning Muganlo, that smell is enough to shock you awake every time.

The next day was apparently wine turning day. We all noticed a few skin pieces called “fish” in our white wine on Tuesday so according to my host-father the barrels needed to be turned. I thought he meant turned like rotated, but apparently it just means you take it out of one barrel and move it to several smaller ones thus removing the “fish” by leaving them at the bottom of the bigger barrel. You then clean out the big barrel and have it ready for this year’s harvest. Kind of cool actually. I think harvest is in October and I’m hoping to go back to Tokhliauri to help my host-family there one weekend. The family here only has grapes at home so there is no big ‘harvest’ so to speak. The family in Tokhliauri has a huge vineyard and one more hand couldn’t hurt. Plus my host-mom there was really excited for me to see her vineyard and get to witness the harvest.

I did have a funny incident happen the other day. There are two huge dogs here, one of which I’ve made friends with. The other one is old and mean as hell, so I just try to avoid him. So, I was on my trek to the toilet and he came up to me ready to play and be petted and I obliged him with a few scratches on the head and rubbing his belly with my foot. He’s all jumping around fired up ready to play when I opened the gate to the garden where the other dog was. He immediately runs over and jumps on that dog ready to play which got him a quick bite on the leg. No matter, he was still ready to go but noticed that I no longer had any interest in him so he starts chasing this chicken around the garden. I always find it funny watching chickens run and watching this dog mere inches behind it was hilarious. My host-mom hearing the commotion poked her head out a window and starts yelling at the dog who could care less so she throws a shoe at it as it passes the window on its third lap around the garden. Luckily for the chicken that was enough to snap him out of the chase because I think the chicken was running out of energy. Yep, that’s my entertainment here. Guess you probably had to be there.

On to the book review. The Unbelievable Lightness of Being was a better movie than book and I rarely say that. There was too much of the author interjecting himself into the story and breaking from any decent line of narration to put in his own philosophy and classify people into categories. It was a bunch of, ‘there are four types of people in the world… there are three kinds of lovers… there are two types of men…’ It got old quick.
The end was terrible too. You knew how the story ended 100 pages before the book ended. The last was just a bunch of self created loose ends that only got knotted rather than tied up. I’m probably being too harsh because I don’t like love stories too much, but there was one piece that I did like:
“Perhaps all the questions we ask of love, to measure, test, probe, and save it, have the additional effect of cutting it short. Perhaps the reason we are unable to love is that we yearn to be loved, that is, we demand something (love) from our partner instead of delivering ourselves up to him or her demand-free and asking for nothing but their company.”
I thought that was nice.

I’m on to the next book but I realized that it’s time for my annual read of The Sun Also Rises and one of you out there has my copy of it. Give it back! I need my book! So, luckily/unluckily I brought an audio copy of it that I downloaded before I left. I was looking forward to it until I actually heard it. When read by William Hurt it sounds like a bunch of sentences that don’t even go together. I listened to about the first 20 minutes or so then wanted to either shoot him or myself. Why do people feel the need to read Hemingway like they’ve got a glass of Scotch in their hand putting emphasis on all the wrong parts of the sentence and slurring their words during dialogs? Again, I may be being too harsh because it is my favorite book and I guess it is his interpretation of how the book should be read. I bet he doesn’t even like that book and just read it to collect a paycheck.

Ok ok, I guess I should cut this off. It looks like I’ve just been rambling for three pages now.
All is well considering and thanks to those of you that sent e-mails this week. It’s nice to get a laugh from time to time and hear what’s going on with you guys. I miss y’all and hope all of you (all y’all) are well.



Ma' said...

I have a copy of "The Sun Also Rises"--not sure if it's "your" copy--it looks brand new, but I will put it in the next box coming your way. Love you!!! Ma'

Christie said...

A) The dog chasing chicken incident does, in fact, sound immensely amusing. Wish I HAD been there.
B) After a month of camping, I can actually relate to you on the toilet situation right now. There is never a toilet nearby the tent site, and they're not always flush-oriented latrines either. Ugh.
C) I don't know if you remember, but I was working on The Unbearable Lightness of Being myself shortly before you left. I had a similar reaction to it and never finished it (which is rather odd for me). I liked a lot of his philosophies even if I don't agree with all of them, but maybe I'll check out the movie at some point.
D) The wine harvesting sounds awesome! THAT I wish I could see. You should definitely make that happen. I only got to spend a few hours in the wine country of California, but I would have loved to have spent a week there. They're also preparing for harvest, and I wish I could see that.
E) Miss you!