22 February 2006


All you warm ones (except Celeste),

Well, we're marching ever onward. The cold that hit the country while
we were in America didn't sweep away with our arrival. The following
monday, we got hit with -28c weather. Only one day, and the day I
happened to be walking around downtown with nothing to do. I'm sure
some of you have been in weather where, when you bearth, your
nosehairs stick together. Where you face feels like you're laying it
on a block of solid ice. All of this, and the sun was still shining.

It's a cruel trick, looking outside the window and seeing sunlight,
long forgotten here, creeping through the snow bound tree limbs and
thinking, "Today will be a find day to wear my non-artic clothing." A
quick trip back inside to change back into that artic clothing, and
the day finds its start...

So our first full week back, we taught as much as we could, but the
cold weather drove most of the students away. It's like snowed-in days
back at home, only here the snow's constant. We've got "too cold to
move; foolish to go outside days." I think I taught maybe nine classes
the first week back. Karen, less, but not just because of the cold.
She's got some schedule problems at her site. Something about two or
three classes shoved into the same time slot. The confusion is
understandable if the schdule there is anything like the schedule at
my school. Take graph paper and draw along the x-axis (is the
horizontal axis really x? It's been so long since imaginary numbers
and parabolas) all of the grades (or forms) that study at the school.
Along the y-axis, draw all of the of the tiem slots available,
grouping each day of the week seperately. Now, on different colored
pieces of cardboard--some the designs of christmas wrapping paper,
others all cardstock from Soviet times--type the names of all of the
classes. Each class gets it's own color--some of my English classes
have this weird chess-piece design. Now, spend a whole day arranging
those tiles on the graph paper so that none of the classes conflict.
Impossible, say I , but they manage to get it almost right. Of cours,
my schedule changes every week. Of course, of course, I haven't
really been at that site much because of going home to America and the
language conference we just had in Kyiv.

Oh yes, language conference. PC sent us to Kyiv for a Ukrainian
language refresher. We'd have four days of content-based language
instruction while staying at that fine Ukrainian resort, P-sok. All
the egg-dipped chicken and egg-dipped beef and egg-dipped mystery meat
we could eat. So, we're at the conference, and we get to see our
friends again. Kris and Jen and Ben and Nate; names meaningless,
maybe, to you all, but pure joy to us. So we have our classes, which
were quite good. I got to do in a class what I do at home--read
newspaper articles, practice ukrainian cursive, sing along to
Ukrainian songs, etc.... Good stuff, but I felt, once again, like a
second grader. I've really come along with the langauge to a point
were I feel realy comfortable with what I know--that plateau thing.
Being there, and taking the advanced course, the world was once again
laid bare to me; the skeletons of the earth that I saw were made up of
every bit of Ukrainian I (a) still don't know and (b) didn't know
existed. One class I attened was more a philosophy of the language
than anything tanglible or useful (now, although on work for my MA at
MIIS it'll be invaluable, I feel). I learned how the three genders of
the language (male, female, and neuter) give way to a fourth gender
(spilny) which is really the hermaphrodite of the language as words
that fall within its orbit take both male and female gender. Oh my God
I'm boring you with nerdy word facts....

Anyway, it was good to see our friends. Ben got a (not!!!!) pirated
copy of Brokeback, and we watched that one night. Good movie, but I
liked the story better, I think. I played chess (finally!!) all three
days and got my ass royally kicked by my former Ukrainian teacher. It
was cool though, cause we did it all in Ukrainian, and now I know how
to say the useful word "castling" which some people don't even use in
English and I'll barely

(oh, oh, just gave an impromptu English lesson in the Library)

be able to use the word in normal conversation with people here. I
thought here'd be some chess playing fools, but I've only seen people
playing once. And that was while they were trying to exchange Dollars
for Hryvnia in the street.

Anyway, back in S-town now, and we're thinking about the way of things
here. How much easier life could be for people if only a few things
were to change. How our work here is really affecting our students.
Our we really helping them? Is knowledge of authentic English really
going to help them when they teach with the Ukrainian variant of
English like "to go in for sports" and "the US is washed by three
oceans" ? If the students don't go anywhere but here, are we really
helping them by teaching them Englosh as it is really spoken by native
speakers? Or are we hurting them because they'll use words that even
their teachers don't know? And will later correct out of them? ?s ?s

Started working with a Ukrainian tutor. Got off to a slow start
because she wanted to take me back to Ukrainian 101 when I'm already
in 301. Had to really convince her that I already knew what she was
talking about (and that I really wanted speaking and writing practice,
not listening practice and vocabulary drills). I'm starting with a
second tutor today, so I'm up to four hours a week, which really isn't
much, but coupled with actually living in the culture I'll use the
langauge in, it's a big help. In a few weeks, I'll get that piano
tutor. One lives across the hall from us. I'll learn piano, something
I've always wanted to do, and I'll learn some language at the same
time.Just gotta find a patient teacher.

Well, that's enough for now. Gotta teach in 40 minutes. Hope all's
well with you and yours.

Your friend (or relative) in Ukraine,

1 comment:

Shari said...


I hope you don't mind me reading along in your adventures. I'm very interested in teaching in Ukraine - how's the term going? It's your first semester of teaching, isn't it? I'd love to hear more.