3.10 PST Men Kun
Mening Kun (My Day)
I know I said that I would tell you about what my days have been full of but Im sitting here and really, it wouldn’t be all that interesting to write about. But for the fam’s sake, Ma, Im sure you want to know it all and thats because your my mom and moms are like that and thats why I love you, Ill sum it up for you. We have language class (which includes some time spent on cross culture) for 4 hours, either morning or afternoon sessions, Monday-Thursday and Saturday mornings. It is held in small groups, in our village (maybe I told you this in a past blog, I recall) and it is just the 4 of us. We team teach, our practicum, at a school near by, a short 5 minute taxi ride, most Tuesdays and Thursdays, sometimes we have events or observations planned for us instead. I talked about my experience so far at the local school in my Uz Schoolin’ blog. I team teach with Vinh. I could dedicate an entire blog about this funny, quite and very nice guy and I probably will at some point, very interesting dude. Anyways, we are very different in style and approach so its been a bit of a challenge to team teach but thats all part of the experience so its all good. All four of us are also in the same technical group, primary English teachers and we meet with the 5 other primary TEFL’s once a week on Wednesday afternoons on a town about a hour bus ride away. In our technical we talk about methodology, learning styles, lesson planning, classroom management, the Uz edu system and classroom structure. We hear from alot of guess speakers on various topics, mostly from current volunteers (which is great, it gives us an idea of what to expect and it has really clued us in that each persons experience here is different and flexibility is key). It is pretty much a crash corse in teaching english as a foreign language, specifically hear in Uz. Then on Friday’s we all get together, all 65 of us, at our hub site in a town about an hourish away. Everything is ‘ish’ because transportation is fairly unreliable here. A bus may come at any time, there may or may not be taxis around. ((((Speaking of taxis, we have a little taxi mafia in our town. we have been living here for, what, 6 weeks now and these few taxi drivers, who seem to run the show at the taxi/bus stop in our town, still try to charge us 50 sum more than the locals and bully the other few drivers into playing along. Actually, we already have settled to pay 50 sum more than the locals (fine, whatever) so its actually 100 sum more that they are trying to charge us. We get so pissed. Thats the last thing we want to do at 7:00 in the morning is argue, for the god-zillionth time, about the cost of the 5 minute taxi ride we take practically every day. Lately, we take the bus if we aren’t running late even if they are around, just to say, “yo, chew on that you slimy Taxi Don.” Just another daily activity we all encounter being a foreigner, especially a rich American (someone forgot to tell these dudes what a volunteer means. It means, poor people. We aint got no money man! Sorry, today was a particularly bad day with the taxi mafia, I called one of them crazy, trying to charge us 5, yes 5, times the regular cost. He laughed in my face when I called him crazy. Really, they just think its all funny and not annoying in the least. Mr. Red car has been pushing his luck and now he is on our officially on our black list after this morning. We’ll see whose laughin’ when we go straight to Mr. Blue or Mr. White car (or Mr. Bus) for the next few weeks that we have left, funny man. The thing that sucks about the little bus we can take to the stop outside of our village where we catch the bigger bus is that it runs on manure for fuel and it stinks to high heaven. Anyways…))))) Hub is where we have medical, safety and cultural sessions and we get any packages or other mail and we get to see our friends some of whom, we don’t see besides then. So that is my regular schedule. I have Sundays off. Besides all that, we have alot of studying to do, language mostly but we have 5 tests to study for; language, technical, cultural, safety and health. At the end of training we must pass in order to get sworn in on April 5th. No one really ‘fails,’ I mean, really, if you cant grasp all the info after they talk and talk and talk about it for 10 weeks than you probably aren’t going to make it through training for other reasons than “I failed the tests.” Some people do fail the language test but if good effort is shown then you are just required to take further language classes and retake the test. No biggie. They say. Besides, this is a pretty self motivated group, Id think so, all of us being volunteers and all. So we study, we get together for dinner with friends here and there, we do alot of guesting with our families, we try to email whenever we can, some easier for others, depending on where their village is. The PC plans field trips and a few independent trips for us, I think really cause we would drive them, the staff, all out of their minds if they didn’t let us out of our little 60-mile training site bubble they’ve got us in. ((((and actually, I haven’t really talked about this but we have had huge Visa issues with the Uz government lately. Its a long long story, even for my patience, but it all goes back to the past/recent events in the Ukraine and Georgia. The Uz government feels like ever since, and damn, I forget if it was the Georgian leader or the Ukraine’s, I think it was the late Georgian leader, said that he blames the civil uprising on NGOs that were in their country. He said this publicly and now, for the past 6-8 months, the Uz government is not giving us, us being all NGOs here in Uz, not just the PC, not giving us Visas for the full length allowed, all of us have different length Visas and some expired and are under review (still legal to stay here, for now, but…), things like that. In other words, they are keeping a tight reign on the NGO’s here. Granted, we are invited to be here in Uz by their government, we aren’t here uninvited but I think they feel they just want to be in control and let us know this by making things difficult. I feel so bad for the guy who is dealing with all this. He is a local (as alot of the staff is) and he is, Im sure, quite frustrated and exasperated with it all. We just got a new country director who is working closely with the ambassador to try and get all this worked out. In the mean time. This means that sometimes we have to restrict our movement outside of our daily routines. Mainly because anyone in Uz can be stopped by the militsiya (the police) and asked to see id papers. Uz is one of the only countries in the world who still require you to carry id papers. There is a huge police presence in Uz. Even when they stop cars at road blocks or stop you on the metro (a very common place to be stopped), usually they are quite nice, but it is obviously difficult to explain the visa issue to the average militsiya guy, so they have tried to restrict our movement and if everyones visas aren’t, at the moment, up to date, then events can be canceled. As of now, I think we are still on for our trip this weekend.)))) But anyways, we are pretty darn busy. V. busy actually. They say that this is the busiest and toughest time. All the initial adjustment and the intense training, culture shock. That is, until you go home, they say thats the toughest part of all. (I think for me, Ive had a really good training experience, hard, busy, intense but not all that bumpy. I foresee those 6-8th months being a pretty tough time for me, its not new anymore, its in the middle of the school year, its cold, its dark, no real travel happening. Blah blah. But in a way, Im looking forward to getting through a rough patch. Im here to test, to build up some character, so BRING IT!!! I know Ill so regret saying that but as of now, in my little comfort zone Ive got going, thats what Im feelin’. So anyways, thats it for now, thats what my days are filled with. I find out tomorrow my destiny for the next two years, site announcements. So look for a blog next week about how all that went down and find out how stoked or freaked I am about it. Oh, and we are going on site visits over the weekend, through next Wednesday, so Ill let ya know how that all was too.
By the way, we still have our entire group, all 65 of us are still here. No one has left, no serious illness, no freak outs, no breaking the rules, bad enough to get you booted back to the states. And we have a huge group so that is pretty impressive. Im proud. All the other past groups have had someone leave by now, and their groups have never been this big. Rock on.