30 December 2006

america, america...

something about shedding light (or grace) on me (or thee).

man, it is so nice to be home. i forgot what it was like to feel like i belonged somewhere. the static dragging along in the back of my mind, the constant reminder that some things are a little off kilter, has fallen away. i'm smiling. i'm happy. and i've still got 13 days. w00t!

karen cut her hair today. she cut it real short. she asked my opinion before she did it, and i thought she'd look nice with short hair. i, as usual, was right. her students will say things like, "oooooo!" and "ooooooooooooo!"

went to a beach in San Diego yesterday. it was nice to be so close to the ocean. there's a pic up there on top of karen walking down the beach. (all that long hair is now gone.)

it's 78 degress here, plus. we're happy to be here, basking in the sun.

i was blown away, and still am taken aback, by all the english i am hearing. all the diversity i am seeing. i'm still not used to seeing people who aren't white. and i'm still not used to hearing perfect english. even my english has degraded since living in ukraine.

to all of my friends still in ukraine for the holiday season, i wish you luck, joy, and love.

and these words: america is more amazing than you probably remember.

25 December 2006

merry christmas

merry xmas from Krakow!

staying at a hostel near wawel acstle with our friend celeste. we're all flying home tomorrow. it'll be a very long day, flying against the time zone and all of that. but we'll touch down tomorrow night and be with family. almost teary just thinking about it.

krakow, as always, is amazing. two nights ago , i stayed up all night with my friend casey. he was taking off for home early in the morning, so we decided to punch through the night, drinking. we pub hopped, moving from a cool music club (where karen and celeste were with us) and then off to a pizza club, a sub-street level pub built out of bricks and resembling a bomb shelter, to our final stop--a death metal club. the woman at the door didn't seem to want to let us in. she kept asking, "you know this is a death metal club, right?" as it was, it as the only place still serving beer, so we pushed in. got a 1/4 of the way through the beer and decided it really wasn't a place we wanted to stay.

the train from l'viv to krakow was long. we had about a 4 hour wait at the border. we always heard the waits were long on the train, but 4 hours? turned out an old woman in another wagon had died and the authorities were waiting for a lawyer to come to clear up the legal troubles of a ukrainian dying on a ukr/polish train in poland. it was a strange experience for us. ignorant of the situation, we all played rummy. karen and i had a coupe mate in an older ukrainian woman who aws flabergasted that we a) spoke ukrainian and b) didn't have family in krakow. why would we go to another city if we didnt have anyone meeting us? other than that, seh kept trying to get karen to drink hot, black tea beacuse it was "good for the heart." in Casey and celeste's coupe was a man from London. i think casey still thinks the guy was a spy. he's lived in ukraine too long.

anyway, havign a pot luck chtistmas dinner tonight with some aussies. should be fun.

love to all. see some of you soon.


17 December 2006

another day deeper

two days ago was my best friend's birthday. it was the second, and the last, that i have missed. next year, i'll be there in person to celebrate. he'll be picking us up from the airport midway through our time home in california; he will drive us to meet my mom. we're very excited.

yesterday, on a saturday, i held a leadership conference at my school. karen and i interviewed 23 students and selected the top twelve to take part in the conference. we invited another volunteer to help us give the conference. the start time was 10 am, and, par for the course, only a handful of people arrived on time. but, by 1015 we had eight students and we kicked off the four hour event with a kinesthetic activity. then, as we began our first session, and introduction to leadership, two more students came, bringing the final total up to 10. we talked in the second session about communication--active listening. in the third, and final, we discussed problem solving. the students were very active. i was surprised to see students who rarely ever raise their hands in class raising their hands in the conference. everyone was talking and cooperating, all in english. karen, casey, and i were very impressed.

and i was very happy. for all the lameness that happens at my school on the administrator level, i have to remember that the kids are where its at. they came in on a saturday and worked very hard. they wanted to participate, and they wanted to do it in english. i gave them an opportunity to speak in ukrainian, but they chose not to. they wanted to push themselves, to try. something i really don't see in class in school. it was refreshing. i'm hoping to do many more of these conferences. i also plan, next semester, to begin after school clubs: writing and debate.

lastly, we're leaving very soon! it's exciting, but i'm so busy here, our journey home hasn't been on my mind so much. but it's coming on fast.

07 December 2006

it's already december

a fairly familiar title, but what can you do. thinks are still trucking along here. we're officially under three weeks until we return home for a much needed plug-in to a familiar culture. it's good here, but by that i really just mean it could be worse. and i'm really glad that it's not.

parent teacher conference tonight. kinda like open house, i assume. except there aren't projects on display in each teacher's classroom. students don't troupe through the corridors hand in hand with mother or father. in fact, when i asked if father's would be coming out as well as mothers, the students just laughed at me. a sad laugh, i felt. i'm sure there'll be some daddy's down there tonight, right?

this conference comes just at the right time for me because my supervisor at my school just informed me that a majority of students and parents are unsatisfied with my work. she went on to list a number of reasons why--though each one was a specific problem my supervisor has with me and, most likely, wasn't uttered by a parent. that hunch was later confirmed by a colleague. so, i'm not getting along with my supervisor. my supervisor observed one of my classes and pretty much disliked everything i did, dismissing it as "new wave methodology" that my supervisor had tried in the past and found ineffective. it wasn't a super constructive meeting--but after our mutual bitchfest three days ago, it seemed constructive--but at least my supervisor has some basis for the negative things my supervisor says about my work now. previously, all the negativity was based upon hearsay. so, at he conference, the majority of parents get a chance to tell me just how much they dislike the practices of the american they have never met.

in seriousness though, being a western trained teacher is a tough gig here. everything is seen as a game instead of a legit practice. and i refuse to unlearn everything, sink into grammar-translation and dialogue memorization and call that something which it is not: learning. my students like me and they are learning. its a benefit if a student is learning but doesnt, at first, recognize that fact. especially with my 8th formers, which are the students particularly in question.

it's all very frustrating, but in a very small way. being lied to has kind of reduced my emotional involvement in the argument. i don't need to prove myself as a competent teacher to someone who needs to lie to attack me. that's not worth it.

and, in 2.5 weeks, i'll be home! nothing can get me down with that on the horizon.