Friday, October 25, 2013

And Then I Pet a Puppy...

Hi all,

So, if I really were a good blogger, I would have done a better job of putting descriptors on my posts for future cross referencing. Because, indeed, I did not die. What was once my key phrase with Schmee in the village for avoiding the topic of death, made me giggle as I got covered in tiny actual puppy kisses. I already looked into bringing a dog home (to ensure good mental health through plenty of snuggles) and it will simply not be feasible. But really, it's the small things these days.

Not to be mopey - as I really have no cause. Things have just been plenty busy and the start of the week was full of nonstop action. I taught two lessons with Hugo this week - our 9th form on Monday, which went quite well, and then we ended up with the infamous 8th form on Wednesday. I really didn't think they were so bad. We definitely got some attitude, and their teacher was in with the 9th grade (don't ask me to explain how they schedule classes, as it seems it is basically a well-choreographed form of chaos...). But they seemed to get the concepts, and almost all of them did a great job with participating. Our cultural teacher was observing, and she was very pleased.
Immediately following, we facilitated a tech session on tips for teaching grammar. You guys, you know my strong love of grammar, so it should be no surprise that I was slightly stressed out by this. However, Hugo did a great job with some of the more technical aspects as they surfaced, and I think it went well.

Also, my iPad is practically the best thing ever.

I mean, sure, I can't seem to be things to load properly and I had to upload to Dropbox, resave the outline in Pages and the reopen in Dropbox so that the highlighting would load, but it makes the lesson SO much easier!

Museum Trip!
Anyhow, though I'd jump around a bit. Last week (although it feels like ages ago!), we got to go to the city museum. It was pretty cool. We were ushered (unfortunately a bit too briskly) by this incredible man who works as the curator. He is in his later years, and time has not been kind - both hands were sans several digits. Despite this profound disadvantage, this gentleman has produced hundreds of clay figures (made from clay from a local mountain that his son brings him,of course...) in several truly stunning dioramas that depict the history of the region. I don't have the pictures, though I shall attempt to get them from others,but his 6 to 8 inch tall figures were so lifelike. He also gave a brusque talk as we wandered through, and answered the question of how long it took to make a diorama with a simple shrug and answer that he simply did it in his free time. He also did a bunch of wonderful paintings, and works closely with a talented wood worker to produce some of the amazing displays.

We had gathered together some money to pay for the tour and admission, which he flatly refused. Our translator told us he k ow we are like students, and they never have enough money. But something had really touched me. This man has so obviously put his soul into the museum, and has taken much pride in its development and upkeep. So, mustering as poetic a phrase as I could manage, I asked our cultural teacher to please tell him: food cannot feed our souls, but this museum can. With a smile that reached his eyes, he declared that this was a sentiment he could not refute, and this was then obligated to take the money. I will keep insisting I am a realist....

Pizza and Money
We undertook a quest to find the local pizza place that a local volunteer had assured us was not populated by students. Curly was ecstatic to find a place she could have a quiet beer to unwind, and Hugo undertook the unenviable task of ordering. We ended up with three perfectly edible pizzas (with only one moderately surprising topping of slightly-pickled cucumbers), and enjoyed them with a great deal of culinary gusto. On the way back to the bus stop, we caught one of our link mates picking up the money. This is even more strange than I initially thought, as I have observed that even the panhandlers in Kiev do not stoop to picking them up! Apparently there is a belief that every coin (and it may be correlated to its value, not certain) will translate into a number of tears you will have because of it. I am sure the history behind this practice, and will attempt to discover it.

Kiev, Kiev, Kiev

Perhaps there will even be sunshine tomorrow? One can hope. We went again yesterday to Kiev to receive (and then immediately hand over) our residency documents to complete the first stage of becoming a legal temporary resident. This also meant that we got to visit the Roshen outlet store - which is the premier brand of chocolate in Ukraine, and is very tasty. We also had lunch again, and did some serious exploration. Found a large bookstore, branch bank, museums of natural science and literature, the opera house, an underground mall (with the most insane shoes I have ever seen!) and plenty of other shops as well. Our new language teacher (oh yes, to add to the stress we got a new language teacher for a 3 week rotation) was a great sport. We were going to go to a free art museum, but that fell through once we got to the door and discovered they were closed between exhibitions. Another time, I hope.

However we are going tomorrow, and it will hopefully be less stressful that the previous times, as we somewhat have our bearings down. I am not on a mission to find anything other than a tea ball and perhaps Biscoff, but the atmosphere is a nice change from the village.

Anyhow, signing off for the night.

Hope all is well!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Will Kill them for Monday!

Hello all!

So, I suppose the title needs some kind of explanation? However, I think that in order for you to properly enjoy it, some back story should be told first...

They Said it Would Happen Eventually...
But I was hoping for a grace period! Flushed from our first Demi-success of teaching, Hugo and I sprang to action with the present perfect lesson for 7th form...whom we had not even matter! We decided to refresh them on past participles, since it was in their practice section of their books, and then jump straight into forming positive/negative sentences. If that all sounds confusing, believe me, I had to do some refreshing too! We out together a solid plan with the help of our cultural/tech tutor, and  prepped our materials well. This, however, soon fell to pieces as we were soon informed that, actually, students had NOT been taught past participles. Soooo, I did what I thought was probably the second-worst possible action...I shut up. This may not have been my usual first approach, but I had reached a point in my cold of sounding like a frog.

Fortunately, Hugo was fearless and endeavored to stagger onwards, while I tried to quickly patch together an alternate plan. Unfortunately, pretty much everything hinged on them knowing the pp verb form, so we ended up spending the majority of time drilling over those. Mercifully, time finally passed, and we left a wake of probably very confused students... The teacher ran out of the room quickly,as we stood in a numbed silence, knowledge of our failure stifling most reactions. We braced ourselves as she came back in the room, and I steeled myself to say - "Well...that didn't go so well..." To which she certainly did not disagree... She asked why we didn't introduce vocab (because we weren't given a list and have no idea of which words would be problematic, and you're about to have your baby and we feel bad about calling you??) , and then informed us there was a list of pp verbs onthe back of their book, so, really we needn't have worried about actually teaching them. So, that was unfortunate. However, she also told us not to feel bad, and gave us a piece of chocolate and a sincere smile before we shuffled out the door.

Luckily, Hugo is not one to dwell, and so we immediately decided that while the lesson was undeniably a complete failure (although we didn't lose control of the class, so we get a brownie point there, yes???), it was also good motivation for figuring out strategies for mitigating the situation in the future. Needless to say, I think it also put a damper on the thought of our next lesson on Wednesday (today) with the 9th grade, as it was also highly grammar-intensive. Albeit with easier topics of comparative/superlative formation and some work with vocab.

I am Getting to the Point...
Well, Tuesday night found Hugo and I rallying to put together a super lesson. We did a word search, on gridded paper (actually wall paper...) Hugo enjoys precision work. After being productive for several hours (we may have been overcompensating a bit), we were roped into a break (after a startled look-in that revealed us to be sitting in a chaotic assortment of papers and craft supplies...). Which is how I ended up drinking my first real Ukrainian beer, or half of one, while eating smoked braided cheese. It was delicious. We also got some history, including that of the Cossacks from my host dad, Beren, most of which we were able to understand. Then, more beer mix! This time, it was unfortunately lime and gin, which I unsuccessfully tried to point out was not actually a juice, and nor should it be mixed with beer...I was made to drink it anyway, after I made a comment on drinking Christmas trees, and was relieved to discover it was only mildly gin-ny. However, this put a damper on our initial inertia, and I resigned myself to a 7 am morning to finish the last poster.

It was with mild apprehension that I entered the class, but soon we were in a good groove. The teacher actually started her maternity leave today, but will still be in school sporadically until she has her child- which may still be several weeks, it turns out. Anyhow, our technical trainer was observing, although I was able to pretty much tune her out. Earlier I had watched Curly and Zim teach 5th form, and was comforted to find out that others were struggling to gauge student knowledge  bases as well. They did a great job of changing their lesson on their toes and attempting to attack the issue from several angles. I think they felt bad about the lesson, and I am sure it wasn't made any easier by having 3 observers! Anyhow, knowing that we were all struggling with the same challenges and fears made it somewhat easier to walk into my lesson.

We did not end up covering everything we had set out to, but were in the process of giving out home task (apparently the Brits use this term instead of homework), when we discovered the children did not have their workbooks, because the teacher had not given them back yet. So we improvised...later, when we stopped by the lounge, we found our partner teacher and explained how we had been caught out, and asked what we should of done. The teacher, bless her, immediately got a peeved look and exclaimed:

"I will KILL them for Monday!"

...and then proceeded to inform us that that they had flat out lied. I have to give them props, because there was no cross-talk when they mentioned lacking the workbook, so I assume this was a planned event. Fortunately, we will get to see their faces on Monday, when she will be giving a strongly-worded lecture...So that should be fun.

Not So Fun...
I haven't yet mentioned the weekend, as it was a hard one for my host family - most especially Leanne - as her father passed away. I tried to be out of the house as much as possible, as I did not want to add to her stress. Even though they had a funeral, she still ended up sending no less than 3 people to make sure I'd eaten, and tried apologizing!! Unfortunately, the sentiment of saying I am sorry for your loss is not present in this culture, but she eventually figured it out. I was finally able to explain to the English teacher friend she sent over that I could actually not only make my tea, but also cook for myself...and even listed what I had cooked earlier in the day as proof.

However, the weekend still had some very nice highlights, and I enjoyed spending most of Saturday with Curly and Hugo. We played soccer in a nearby soccer field, and studied ay Curly's house. She has also been kind enough to provide me with a wealth of new music to further my (obviously lacking) education in music appreciation, and I will listen to some after I complete this insanely long post.

Well, it feels that way at any rate, due to the whole iPad keyboard situation. I am also appalled as I look back at the spelling atrocities it lets me commit, with weird spaces and so on....

Anyhow, I am off to Kiev tomorrow for paperwork and city exploration!

Hope all is well,


P.s. I am super excited to be practically, almost back to normal health!!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Performing Achievment: Pizza!

Hi all,

Today I was proud to inform my group that we had moved to the 4th stage of group work. We seem to have passed through most of our storming stage, and are now hitting the "performing" stage...and just in time too! However, it has been a while,  so I am going to back this post up and start a bit earlier...

So I am Kind of a Teacher Now..
I don't feel as though I have remotely earned that title, and am sure it will take trial by fire and much stress and survival-mindset to ever feel as though I can actually call myself a teacher! I team-taught with Hugo, and things went quite smoothly...although we kind of ran out of material. We had plan for this contingency, but it was an awkward happening where we had only 3 minutes of extra time at the end. Certainly not enough time to really get anything achieved, but a long time to perseverate. When we approached the teacher after class, and (cringing a little inwardly, in my case) asked how she thought it went, it was hardly the most reassuring comment - "We'll, it was only your first lesson." Very true, and honestly, I thought we did pretty well.  We had some good and focused moments, and I am a pretty good patroller, and picked up on the class clown pretty fast. When he answered that he wanted to go to a city to shop (prompting a cascade of tittering from the female population, and some hearty guffaws from the guys...), I fixed him with a grin and asked "shop for what?" This prompted furious muttering as classmates raced to provide him with ideas, although he got stuck on trying to remember how to say "jeans", which, rather amusingly, is a complete cognate. We will teach them again on Wednesday, and also took on teaching a class of 7th form on Monday....which was probably pretty idiotic, as we have not see the class but decided to jump at the opportunity to teach grammar!! Oh boy. Luckily Hugo is incredibly smart (and has a knack for punditry that proves detrimental to our homework at times...) and has a fairly strong grasp it seems on grammar. Which is fortunate, as I definitely took MUCH more literature, and seemed to have repressed most memories of my sole grammar class in college. However, we at least did not have a student proudly present the tooth that they lost during class - that honor went to Curly and Zim.

Oh, and I am Sick
I won't even mention the mucus. I don't even want to think of it myself, which has become impossible as it seems to have taken over my life. It started with sinus pressure, and has kept on with a vengeance. Not taking me completely down, but definitely been a wearing factor. It also seems to be developing into a nice hacking cough, which I simply do NOT have time for. Unfortunately, I doubt my cold is a native English speaker, and Sparta has refused to teach us any particularly naughty words...probably with pretty good reason. The poor man starts off most day with a good measure of vim and vigor, but I think he is just as tired as all of us by the day's end. And his patience is astounding. However, I think he might actually enjoy us, for the most part, as he allowed me to make pizza today after class, and then suggested we all watch a movie too! All without the  slightest indicator that he would rather simply crawl into bed and pretend we didn't exist for a few hours! So, onward to pizza!

Well Actually, I am kind of Scared of the Oven...
This statement came straight from Sparta's mouth as four of us sat crouched around the gas oven, named Greta, and attempted to discover exactly where the gas should be lit from. This ,rant adjusting the heat was tricky, and I had it going pretty darn hot, according to the incredibly un-helpful temperature arrow that sits on the surface of the door. Luckily, I like to bake my crusts at a high temp, so this was ideal. We did get it figured out eventually, and I think Zim has photo documentation. I had had a slight meltdown the previous evening - between a sorely chapped nose, my attempt at being proactive and making a verb list failing due to conflicting resources, the pressure of two class preps, feeling inadequately qualified to have a community project be grammar resource development, and simply not being able to get away from everyone for a while to do some processing. This, added to the fact my shower would have to wait because laundry got put in, which then screwed up my shopping plan for pizza and just mad me grumpy in general.

But then I had a dream. And, it wasn't that my teeth fell out, which has been a reoccurring theme in other stressful time. Instead, I was at my cousin's wedding (who really is getting married this weekend!), and kept running into people who knew me and kept professing their confidence in me. So I woke up Ina very positive mindset, and then was ver successful in working up the nerve And vocabulary to ask a rather harried (and therefore slightly intimidating) Leanne if I could borrow her garlic press. I blurted out a quick stream of Ukrainian...and got a quick nod and smile of comprehension and permission! This was wonderful.

My groupmates were all very enthusiastic about pizza, and were a lean, clean, kitchen crew machine! Everyone pitched in, and it was very smooth sailing. The results were very scrumptious, with the homemade sauce being incredibly tasty, and the toppings being all vegetables. The nearest butcher only carries whole chickens (although I did learn the word for breast today, oddly while learning about the names of months....) and we have some other dietary restrictions that just made that the easier choice. Next time I hope to have the gumption and energy to actually make it into the town proper, and get some more specialized ingredients!

Everyone's favorites!! Those charming little tidbits of Ukrainian culture that make you cocky our head and make you aware of your current placement on the culture shock curve. Such as: scented Kleenex. Even the brand is here, but I swear I have never seen nectarine or strawberry scented ones before. I can't tell if I am ridiculously out of touch with Kleenex subculture, or if this is just as abnormal for America as I think it is. Nevertheless, I am Not a fan, as it makes me acutely aware of the fact that this is practically ALL I can currently smell! Another fun fact: dropped money becomes dead to least if it is a coin. You see them quite often...on the floor of the minibuses, on the streets or in the parks, here and there. Yet no one seems to pick them up. Sparta expressed confusion over why we would even ask about them, and shocked we would think of picking them up. I'm guessing they probably don't have the 5 second rule here either... Finally, a misunderstanding of something I read online had me cautioning Hugo about accepting pumpkins from women. The actual tradition is linked to if a young man has made a proposal to the woman he is courting, she would signal her acceptance by presenting him with a pumpkin. Still probably not a good idea to accept pumpkins from strange women, although you could them,are a tasty pie!

Anyhow, that is it for me...

Hope all is well,


Sunday, October 6, 2013

In Which I Discover the Milk and "The Bitches"

Hello all,

Ian luxuriating in the fact that I got to sleep in to 9:30 this morning, and am currently enjoying my tea with milk. Several days ago the milk bottle ran out, and I overheard Leanne telling her husband to it forget about the milk, with just the edge of exasperation in her voice that seemed to indicate this was a common occurrence. So the next morning I was not too terribly surprised to open the door and not see milk. This trend has continued the past three or four days and I gave up even looking. Then, as I was waiting for my tea to cool, Oda - the girl twin, came into the kitchen to prepare cereal for herself and her brother, Vad. After carefully pouring her cereal out into bowls, she padded over to the fridge and withdrew...milk. In a bag...which had probabably been there all along. I watched as she  clipped the clothespin back on and tucked it into a fridge drawer - but not before getting a a splash in my tea! So a new twist on milk. And I don't think it was super-pasteurized, so that was good as well. Although I would think it would be a rather awkward way to try to stock a cooler in a grocery store, and I will try to investigate this next time I am in a store!

Got to Love the Welsh
So Hugo and I have our first team teaching on Wednesday, and have been trying to do our lesson planning. The further we got, the more apparent it became that we will have to do a lot of planning the day before, after we have observed her teach the class on Monday. The structure of the lesson is very strict: warmup/motivation using review information, presentation of new material, controlled practice of new material, application of new material, and summation/ homework for new material. So we cannot do our warmup until we know what is being focused on the previous lesson ( we only got a copy of the two page spread we will be focusing on for Wednesday), and have to talk to the teacher about what will be covered Tuesday and what sort of homework we should have.

However, we have looked into the actual material stage and we have the grammar construction of the verb "to visit" and also they are supposed to work on learning how to phrase recommendations. Since it will be 9th form, we wanted to look up some additional information that the book mentioned. Key among them: mt. Snowdon, St. David's Cathedral, and Ramsey Island. Ramsey island is a 3.2 kilometer sized island that has a human population of 2 permanent residents who served as preservation wardens,  and then thousands of nature-seeking tourists who come to see a variety of birds and seals. Also listed in the wiki link (quality researchers that we clearly are), was an enigmatic link to "The Bitches". So of course that had to be investigated. The Bitches is a very small rock outcropping that is very close to Ramsey Island, that attracts many experienced extreme kayakers, who like to test their mettle around its tortuously devious undertows and water patterns. Clearly, there is not a great fondness for these rocks....

There you go, random spot of arcana for th day, which has the bonus of getting to use a naughty word with a straight face. Which we will not be utilizing as a fun fact on Wednesday, gem though it may be.

Anyhow, I still have some homework to get done, so am going to sign off.

Hope all is well,


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Peel Your Teeth

Zim filling the dumpling dough with spiced apples, while Harmony rolled.

Hello all!

Though it might be hard to discern from today's posting title, our topic of the day was actually food and preparation of dishes for vocabulary building. We learned that the same word is used for peeling carrots as
"brushing" your teeth. Since apparently you are merely peeling off a layer of plaque, I suppose this makes sense! However, one must chop vegetables and cut wood. However, "Super Soup" is funny in both languages, so that's a win. But, first things first - the visitation!

Dignitaries and Tea
 So we naturally needed to buy groceries for cooking, and also had to make sure we were stocked up on cookies and tea/coffee. We had the country director come and visit, and we could tell that he'd been looking at his print out. Especially since he not only told us, but also accidentally left his packet behind when he left...He and his second in command, a lady Ukrainian-native filled us in on odd facts about Roshen brand chocolate (the country's premier maker who has been a politician and other such nefarious positions). Apparently the chocolatier gave Russia's P-man's advisor a good talking to about Russian media spreading a rumor that they were making tainted chocolate (with the EU joining proposition sitting on the table, things have become a little tense,to put it lightly, in the trade world between Ukraine and Russia).

We were also encouraged to share stories, and so several misadventures spilled out for their enjoyment. When warned about the bathroom, the Ukrainian lady informed me that she had locked herself in that very room previously!! So that made me feel better as well! It was a lovely time, and nice that he makes the effort to at least briefly visit each group as we are settling in. He had to run to a meeting with the president of the Ukrainian professional soccer federation, as they are looking to partner on events at games that would involve free HIV testing.

борщ and вареники
So, that was our menu today. Contrary to what I had believed before coming to Ukraine, borscht is not only made from beets. In fact, the only thing that seems to differentiate the two is that soup does not contain beets. Curly took the lead (and yes, it is a challenge to have two alpha cooks in a kitchen, especially with 3 other people in a very limited space!) and after some intense discussion of the recipe (which was feasible only in some aspects), we were soon all hard at work and having a good time. Sparta enjoyed pestering us with questions about what we were doing in Ukrainian (we had just "learned" verbs for mixing, chopping, shaping dough, etc) and we had to be quite creative with our limited resources. Thankfully, Hugo 

Hugo, Who made this especially pouty face especially for his blog debut
Or is possibly just sad because his Babuysa wouldn't let him shower again...

brought his potato peeler, measuring cups and spoons. So that was great for measuring flour for the apple dumplings and peeling the potatoes. The food turned out stupendously. I'd had my doubts about not using bouillon, but I'd eat Curly's borscht any day! We also got compliments from our technical advisor and Sparta. (Who, upon discovering he indeed did not have sour cream for the borscht, ran out and bought some!) So we were pretty proud of ourselves. Unfortunately, I think I got a bit overheated in the kitchen, and after lunch did not feel the best. However, I perked up about an hour after getting home. I am sure that cultural shock is due to set in soon, and I am promising myself to take it one day at a time! Luckily, my days are structured, I genuinely enjoy my clustermates and teacher, and I find the work so far rewarding.
I have two more picture for you (Curly kept dancing around to her iPad as I was taking them of her, and so they were blurry, but there is also a better one of Harmony with Zim!).

Hope all is well!


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Wedding Saga Continued...

Hi all,

So I have some disappointing I was leaving my tutoring session with Sparta yesterday, I asked him about one of the wedding traditions, which led to a rather awkward conversation in defining cross-dressing and the ultimate realization that this wedding was chocked full of regional charm. So, not everyone gets a week of wedding. Which probably for the best, as I would suppose one would end up spending a few years otherwise engaged in attempting to not be a functional alcoholic due to all the wedding vodka consumption - to say nothing of the odd glass of champagne, beer and wines of all variety as well!...on to the cross dressing!

That Video, Has such a Shame...
While looking over photos for the third day of the wedding, chickens featured prominently, along with some very awkward photos of rather disturbing cross-dressing. Including, or rather mainly, the inlaws, who got quite creative with their expression of gender. Lets just say I wouldn't want to eat several of the produce pieces that were modeled! When asked about a picture that showed the day being filmed, Leanne clattered into her tablet which spit out : that video has such a shame" and then : "Lawlessness". So I am guessing that got taped over, or perhaps simply burned!

4-7th Days
Honestly, it is pretty hard to trump day three of the festivities, but there was still more to come. The inlaws got duped in the pond at some point (explained with a vague comment about her husband being the youngest...?) and the bride bringing garbage to her maid of honor's house - to imply a sort of relatonship cleansing??? On the 5th day, they apparently break into friends houses and steal items, which they proceed to sell back to their friends the next day... Finally, on the 7th day they count their money and (of course) drink more vodka!!

And then I'm guessing they take go back to work with barely functioning livers.

Tomorrow we are supposed to meet with the principal and also observe one of the actual school teachers do a typical lesson. After a debrief we will have language as usual. We have been having some challenging group dynamics, and are definitely "storming" right now. Of course, it will all come out all right in the end - one way or another. All my clustermates definitely have a lot of valuable skills and experiences to offer, and I have high hopes (and a few murderous thoughts through the last insanely-over committed last group) for the final project.

Anyhow, hope all is well,