Thursday, December 11, 2003
WHOA...HEY THERE, HO THERE
What's going on? Oh, oh yeah, the site's moved. It can now be reached and will be updated at the much more pleasant address http://www.alaskanbulgarian.com. Adjust accordingly the bookmarks and links you maintain so religiously. Of course, I just bought the domain name, the server space I owe to the man behind Lex Libertas and so the site's actual address will always have to pay tribute to him.
For the time being (and hopefully not forever) the archives will still be here. So if you want to see something I wrote in the past year, this is the place to go. However, I think everybody will find the new digs homey and hospitable.
See you there!
12/11/2003 05:16:00 PM | PERMALINK
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
For the last few weeks Wednesdays have started early and ended late. I've talked about them before, but it never hurts to praise my favorite day again and again. I get up at 6 or 6:30, relax for a little while as I get ready for the day, and head out for school around 7:30 or so. I teach two eighth classes, which usually go well since the students are still pretty drugged from sleep and have yet to wake up enough to become pains in the ass.
Then, at about ten, I go back home. Today, I ran into one of the orphans who walked with me along the way and, in a heart wrenching attempt to screw with me, showed me about five different things he'd like to get for Christmas. I gave him two leva for oranges he wanted to buy and some time in an internet club, which I gather is one of the orphans' few entertainments during winter.
Back at the apartment, I made myself some French toast and settled in on the couch. Usually, I wind up taking a nap for an hour or two, or three, but something just didn't connect today. I wound up going to bed, reading some Tortilla Flat, dozing off, then waking up a second later after thinking I was going to be late for my Bulgarian lesson. This happened for about a couple of hours until 3:30, when my alarm went off, I stared at the ceiling for a couple of minutes, then got up to go study some Bulgarian. Two hours of study, coffee, and cookies later, I always come to the internet club to check up on things and do that one thing that makes every Wednesday--read the Onion, top to bottom.
Today, in addition to a brilliant article about a point in teaching I've come close to but never reached, I chuckled audibly at just about everything on the site. Also, the Lakers won, which kind of wrapped the whole day in a tidy bow.
After the internet club, I'll go home, check homework for tomorrow's classes, and watch the WWI documentary on the Discovery Channel at midnight. I can't really say that Wednesdays are the most productive day of the week, but it's nice having a day where I relax and actually do something . Makes the week flow a little easier, especially when Thursdays always wind up being a challenge.
For the last couple of days, I've been orally testing the eighth classes, and I really hate giving tests, I've discovered. The problem is, every student speaks English passably well, but I have to draw the line somewhere. I wind up dropping students I know speak the language well down to the equivalent of a "B" for not using full sentences or messing up word order in slight ways.
It's awfully stressful. Pretty much every kid here wants to learn the language and learn it well, but sometimes they just can't keep their mouths shut during the test. I gave about four "2"s ("F"s) for talking when not allowed and, in a moment of pity for the great students that just couldn't keep themselves together for forty-five minutes of testing, gave them a nigh impossible extra-credit assignment to have the privilege of taking the test. Fortunately, the students are well-disciplined enough that this doesn't seem like rolling over and exposing my throat to them.
Some volunteers have had to get so strict on cheating as to impose an actual, fully-functional bell curve on their classes. This smacks of weeding students out. I would never want to give a kid a two just because he wasn't keeping up with the rest of the class, but I suppose if that's what they need to do to maintain order, then that's what they need to do. Discipline, especially in the younger classes, seems to be paramount.
So what does this coffee-inspired divergence mean, exactly? Well, it means that I only had to suffer through a couple of hours of teeth-grinding testing before I got to relax the rest of the day. That was pretty nice...
Anyway, what I now realize too late was an unfortunately dull entry peters out as the bulk of another Wednesday comes to an end, and as I search for a decent way to end this post..Oh screw it, the post is over. Good night, everyone.
12/10/2003 06:46:00 PM | PERMALINK
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
TIS THE SEASON
There have been signs in Silistra for about 3 weeks now. The first Christmas trees began popping up in store windows then. Since that beat Thanksgiving--which most of the volunteers I've talked to seem to agree is the beginning of the standard Christmas explosion in America--Bulgaria seems to be right there in the Christmas spirit.
I find that impressive, somehow, but have yet to put my finger on why. Maybe it's the growing presence of a community identity, something that didn't seem to exist in summer but grows every day now. Maybe it's just that I've gotten to know the city well and am noticing the details. Whatever the case may be, it's the holiday season in Bulgaria, and Silistra seems about as ready for it as Sofia was when I visited it last weekend.
Lights lace the town center and store windows, although houses are still bare. There's finally a thin film of frozen snow on the ground, not enough to qualify for a white Christmas, but there are still two and a half weeks. I haven't seen any department store santas, but that doesn't mean there won't be.
Most of all, the students are into it. My slackest class last week got into singing Christmas carols, and to get through the last ten minutes, I even managed to pull all twelve days of Christmas out of the deep recesses of my memory. One girl, a singer, left her usual seat in the back and hopped quickly up front when I started writing the lyrics on the board. They all really ate it up. Even mentioned it to Vanya, my counterpart English teacher, in her next class with them.
The gloves are beginning to come out and snowballs, scraped together off the park lawn, are getting thrown lamely across the street toward the school.
I'm going to go up to the orphanage this weekend and do whatever I can to pull off an early Christmas there, since I won't have another free weekend until the New Year. I'm thinking of just going as a Santa, bringing them whatever goodies I can get together, and take their wishes. We'll see how that turns out, I'm sure there will be pictures.
Of course--and here's the problem--if I do a pre-Christmas Santa, how do I not disappoint them when the big day arrives? I could leave 70 or 80 candies with the director up there to be dispersed on the morning, I suppose that would work. But it's something I'm going to need to make sure I have nailed down before I go.
12/09/2003 04:54:00 PM | PERMALINK