Well, it's been a busy past week...but we'll endeavor to hit the highlights. I'm using the royal we, since I covered the National Sport of England (!) in class this week...but more on that later.
"Be Happy Me" Club
So, about the 3rd day after my arrival to my site, I was greeted with a letter from a parent. She wrote in perfect English (not to mention script!) and was very welcoming - saying she had lived abroad and wanted to open her home to me if I needed anything - but also not-so-casually mentioning that she was extremely interested in having an adult conversation club. Needless to say, I was a bit overwhelmed, and let most of the break go by -after politely answering her question. One night, however, she gave me a call and asked if I was free to meet. Following my Country Director's advice, I thought, what the heck, and then met her for coffee. She's a serious dynamo...she's got four kids - two teens, a tween and an almost (?) 6 month old baby. She was very chatty, and I admit I had a lovely time.
She kind of hoodwinked me a week later into having the first club - which consists of us and two of her mommy friends. We're having it open to anyone that wants to come, but so far it has met 3 times and is a bit slow in gaining momentum. It's great though - she organizes the themes for us to reflect on (so far hobbies and blessings) and we just sit and chat. We had the last meeting at her house (on the way to which I got to see some amazing trumpeter swans - humongous!) and I got swept into a very domestic setting. It was lovely. And the homemade doughnuts were fantastic.
They Didn't Prepare Me for This During Training
While on the theme of things I've been hoodwinked into, I should probably mention the strange occurrence of the maybe-dead-man-in-the-night story. I promise, it's pretty much as awkward and potentially horrifying as it seems. I'm sure my mother will be pleased. Anyhow, last Monday I was guilted (which, according to the dictionary is not a word, but anyone raised Catholic will definitely not agree with the dictionary) into meeting with a local language school director. It's not that I don't want to run community programs - it's simply that I'm on to 5 clubs now (oh yes, I split my middle-aged group of kids and have added a club for 5-7th, because...I'm crazy?) and I'm feeling like I need to gain some stability in that first. However, there are some personal reasons involved, so I felt obligated to at least meet with the director.
Now, I'm sure if you dig back far enough you'll be able to recall my fiasco that led to my getting a GPS while living in the community. In case you need a refresher, I tend to get a little traumatized when lost. This being said, the directions I was given for walking to the building were a little vague - and resulted in me getting a little panicky for 5 minutes, until I turned around and realized I'd passed right by it. However, between my house and that point, I had a rather uncomfortable experience. First of all, it was rather dark (being 8pm), and as I ambled my way down the unlit street (not quite as sketchy as it sounds - it's normal, cuts down on light pollution, and there were many people still out and about), I pondered how false my sense of security potentially was. I thought that perhaps I should be more freaked out by my lack of worry than I actually was. But then I reasoned that that line of reasoning probably wasn't helpful.
It was in the middle of this ambling that I first spotted the man "lying" on the sidewalk. Well, to be fair, at first he appeared to be a giant blob on the sidewalk, but as I got very close it became clear that 1. It was definitely a man and 2. The position he was in was decidedly unnatural. As in, completely fallen-on-his-face unnatural. To make the matter more severe, there were also dark liquidy patches near his head - although in the poor light I couldn't tell if they were streams of ice on the pavement, or drying blood. Head wounds bleed a lot.
I had an instant moment of sheer panic -and then slight hysteria. What on earth was I supposed to do? Prod him gently to make sure he was alive (a statement I can barely muster, mind you). Doubtlessly, had he been able to be raised to consciousness, the ensuing conversation would have been unintelligible to me and probably to him as well. It occurred to me that I didn't even know the name of the street I was on. I was stopped short in my panic when I noticed a young couple standing and looking worriedly at the man on the pavement - and the man had his cell phone out. They caught my eye inquiringly, and I awkwardly kept on walking. Had I opened my mouth, I probably would have only delayed any action they were going to take.
I still felt like a terrible person.
As I went on, I realized how truly helpless I could be in some situations - especially those that require quick action. I thought about what if I had tried to call the police, but doubtless my poor language skills would have gotten my contact (a high up officer) called and no telling as to what he might do. Not, once again, that I knew where I was. And an American girl who can't tell you where she is and muttering on about a maybe dead man would probably cause a bit of a stir.
Later, it was pointed out to me that I could have called PC security (they have a non-emergency line) or even my counterpart to ask her what I should do. It made me realize that you really can't have a contingency plan for everything in life - and also how lucky I was that someone else was there to take action. When I returned 40 minutes later, the man was gone - I hope into a warm room somewhere. I also may have freaked out a young couple by walking pretty close to them pushing their baby pram back into the center of town.
My meeting went fine with the director - although she wants us (myself and Hugo,who she met at one of their hosted events) to have a club once a month for 2 hours on Saturday. It's a bit daunting, but I think we'll meet again this Saturday, with Hugo, and we can try to plan some things. We'll see. And, all my co-worker English teachers thought my story was hilarious. They've heard my limited language skills, and immediately realized that I'd been in WAY over my head. I hope it was endearing - I'm still struggling with figuring out how to try not to intimidate them...process!
So, briefly, I was talking with Will last week and he mentioned how bored he was because of having been on standfast the last 2 weeks. I invited him to come to my site, saying both he and Zim were welcome to come - but then he said he'd really like to show us his village instead. It's about 2 hours of traveling total, so not very bad. Since I had my Be Happy Me club, I decided to leave early Sat morning. Hugo had visited and we worked out a key situation so he was able to stay and use the internet for the rest of the day. Because by early, I mean at 7:40am the bus left - so I left my house at 7. Zim had called the night before to say she was super-stressed because she just found out she had to take over all her counterpart's lessons due to her son being sick. So she had to bail on visiting Will.
I found out on Sat morning when she met us in the nearest big city (5 of us volunteers ended up meeting up for a while, which was very nice) that she'd neglected to inform Will about this change of plans. He was a little distraught since he'd promised his landlords (he lives in a room attached to the main house) that he'd have 2 girls visiting. Since he lives in a microcosm, I could appreciate that having only 1 girl come could look like something it wasn't - so I offered to just make it a day trip. However, it was already planned that he'd sleep in the main house, so we planned to avert scandalous rumors in this fashion.
I was very glad to meet his landlord's family. He and his wife are both engineers and speak some English - quite a bit, really. They have a 7 year old and an adorable one year old, who loves to flirt with girls. Needless to say, I also got some very tasty borsht and some homemade wine (he had his vodka distillery set up as I walked in the door -quite the set up. We had a nice evening with them, and played some Uno. We did lots of talking and it was very nice. I left the next day in the early afternoon, and was able to be fairly productive in lesson and club planning for Monday.
Finally, Olympiad Boot Camp
While I'm rather bummed to be missing the Olympics (which I could possibly stream but am too busy/lazy to find), I was roped into helping with the "boot camp" (my own emphasis) for the region's candidates for going to the national English Olympiad competition. Today I was helping out with reading and writing skills. I'd met with Vonnie (the volunteer I'm finally naming who lives an hour away and works at the language institute there) who was in charge of coordinating the whole week of training and we'd found a few activities to supplement doing practice activities. We used "Synonym Snowman" (try saying that 5 times fast!), I taught the 5-paragraph-essay-as-a-burger structure, we did tongue-twisters and also had some fun conversation and a name game. They were all great kids, who clearly had a passion for English and seriously wanted to go on.
It will be very hard to know that not all of them get to go on - but hopefully after working with them for a week it should be clear to Vonnie who the strongest candidates are.
Anyhow, I need to go to bed. I'm not entirely prepared for tomorrow - as I missed planning with a few teachers today. But, I am as prepared as I'm going to get and know I can whip something out if needed.
Hope all is well,
PS - I spent a solid 3 hours creating a presentation/lesson plan for teaching Cricket to the 6th form - and I only marginally understand it better than before. They loved it.