неділя, квітня 29, 2007

It is now 15 times cheaper for me to call the US!

Please pray for the Y family...their van broke down this week, leaving them without transportation, which is a problem when you have 10 kids. I didn't quite get the details, but it isn't running at all right now, so they're going to have to try and get it fixed, I think. Nadia told me last week that they'd really like to sell this one and buy a new one, but I don't know how that works out financially.

Went to a concert at the Palace of Culture today, which was very nice. A lot of Ukrainian concerts feature flashing lights and large troops of scantily-clad children dancing to songs with random English lyrics, but this was a lot of love songs in Russian (and Italian!) with flowing piano accompaniment. And no flashing lights.

I am deeply impressed by the MSU Credit Union. I used my debit card tonight for the first time in close to a year to put some money on my Skype account. Apparently within an hour of doing this, someone from MSUFCU called my parents' house to confirm that I was, in fact, the person using the debit card. I'm amazed that a) they deal with this sort of issue this quickly and b) especially on a Sunday. As Mom said, they seem concerned about the security of my money.

Decided to clean out random things in my fridge tonight and ended up making a dip for crackers out of cream cheese, sour cream, imitation crab, green onion, and a little bit of Worcestershire sauce. When I told Grandma about this on the phone, she wanted to know if I was having company. Nope, but maybe the neighbor kids will help eat it. Tomorrow's cooking plans include pizza with chicken, onion, and mushrooms. Or maybe a couple stuffed mushrooms with a little bit of the cream cheese and crab that didn't go in the dip. I like cooking! (And I like reading recipe sites online now that I have Internet...but so many things call for ingredients like Mozerella cheese, which is only available at one store in Kharkiv and is rather expensive, comparatively speaking.)

As I mentioned, I put money on my Skype account, so now I can call US numbers (and maybe Germany also?) for about $0.02/minute, as opposed to the $0.30 I was paying before. Am trying to catch up on calling everyone...if you want to be considered part of everyone, let me know.

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пʼятниця, квітня 27, 2007

odds and ends, with an odd end

Current Music: "Secret Ambition" by Michael W. Smith, courtesy of Live 365 On-line Radio (a very cool thing I just found)
Mood: tired

Funny moment of the day--when I gave my open lessons on Wednesday, I used that blue sticky-tac stuff to hang things on the board. This is something I always do, and my kids never fail to be fascinated by the stuff, as it isn't available over here in stores. A lot of them want to know if it's edible, and multiple pre-adolescent boys have asked for "just a little piece," to which my reaction is, "Not on your life!" I shudder to think what sort of mischief they could get up to with it.

Anyhow, apparently my director had never seen sticky-tac before, so she corralled me into her office to ask about it today--what it was, where I got it, why I had so little of it (!), and could she have some. I gave her some, but if Mom can please send me a thing of it just for her, that would be a nice touch.

Afterwards, Nelya, who hadn't been around for the conversation, said to me, "The director was interested in your [I forget how she termed it]." She grinned. "She seemed like a child about it."

"Yeah," I added, "like my 7th form boys."



After school, I came home and then went for a walk to the train station because a) it was a nice day, and more importantly, b) I had to refund a train ticket because I had thought I was going to Kyiv this weekend but it won't be for a few weeks yet. I'd been apprehensive, because the train station ladies are notorious for not understanding my accent, but the lady I got was very friendly and helpful. She asked me, "Are you the American who was here a while back or are you a new one?" so I explained that there's just me, and that I'd been going to Kharkiv to buy tickets, but since she was so helpful and friendly that I just might start getting my tickets in town. In this country, I figure that when you get good customer service, it's worth encouraging.


Played Hide-and-Go-Seek and a variation on Monkey in the Middle with my neighbor kids this evening. I think I'm going to teach them Capture the Flag one of these days.


Quote of the Week from Viktor Y: "What do PCVs without a church family do in their free time?"

Good question.


We have school tomorrow (Saturday) because next Tuesday and Wednesday are national holidays for Labor Day (former Soviet Republics celebrate on May 1st), so the powers that be decided that we'd all have Monday off but go to school on Saturday to make up the extra day. I guess this is a good thing, because it gives us four days off in a row. Still, Saturday school is weird.

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середа, квітня 25, 2007

Movie Meme

I ran across this while blog-hopping, and it looked like fun.

"Head to IMDB.com and look up ten of your favorite movies. List three plot keywords for each movie, and then see which of your friends can guess what movie you're talking about."

No fair looking up the answers!

1. child bride/1550s/corporal punishment
2. hidden camera/royal romance/press conference
3. battle of wits/giant rat/kissing, The Princess Bride, guessed by Tina
4. subliminal message/terraforming/government cover-up, Serenity, guessed by Liz
5. spinster/Africa/river, The African Queen, guessed by Mom
6. concert/drug addict/marriage proposal , Walk the Line, guessed by Tim
7. fish out of water/linguist/horse race My Fair Lady, guessed by Tina
8. culture clash/sister-sister relationship/dance...Tim said Pride and Prejudice...not quite right, but SO close!
9. milkman/dream sequence/wedding reception, Fiddler on the Roof, guessed by Liz
10. monk/uprising/thunderstorm, Luther, guessed by Pastor Dave

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it's over! and I'm alive!

Oh, I'm so glad today's over!

For people who weren't aware, today I presented two "open lessons" at school. That is, I taught two carefully prepared, methodologically correct lessons to good, quiet students while about 10 teachers from other schools in town watched me. And my vice-principal. And my director.

My topics were "The Ukrainian Diaspora in English-Speaking Countries" (8th form) and "The Life and Creative Work of J.K. Rowling" (11th form). I'd spent the last two weeks preparing...the Internet came in very handy, as I found newsletters from Ukrainian scouting organizations in Canada and Australia, not to mention downloading the Order of the Phoenix trailer onto my computer on Monday when I realized that my HP3 DVD that I wanted to show a clip from to start class was in Kharkiv at Kathryn's.

The research was fun...for instance, did you know that Kazakhstan has the 2nd largest number of Ukrainians outside of Ukraine, after Russia? (The USA is #3.) I've made so many photocopies in the last week that I'm surprised there's blank A4 paper left in town.

So this morning, I got up, put my last few materials together, dressed up (earrings! polished boots! favorite sweater, skirt, and scarf! Peace Corps pin!) and caught a marshrutka (it's the size of a kindergarten van) to school, as I had my purse, my tote bag, and my laptop bag. Spent the first two class periods in the teachers' room being nervous. Then the teachers showed up and it began!

My 8th formers were awesome...they're great kids anyway, and the pressure of all the extra people in the room meant that my smart kids decided to show off how much they knew (although one group of boys just went silent for 45 minutes). Natasha, however, got so nervous she felt sick and asked to be excused, but she pulled herself together, came back, and did a good job. However, after the lesson, Firyuza was peeved at me because while I had already given her an 11 (a very good mark...usually the highest I give is a 10), I changed my mind and bumped Zhenia up from a 10 to an 11 as well. Somehow this made her mad at me (because she wants to be the BEST), so she snapped in Russian, "Give me a 2!", turned on her heel, and stormed out of the room. Honestly. Teenage moods!

My 11th form wasn't quite as stellar as my 8th form, but they were also good. We had a group activity where I separated them into the four houses at Hogwarts...Slytherin won. Since I'm not supposed to be political as a PCV, I'll let my readers who are familiar both with Ukrainian politics and Harry Potter to draw their own conclusions.

After the second lesson, we had a short question-and-answer period, and then we had lunch in the school cafeteria (not school lunch, much better!) so the director could show off that we have one (it only predates me by a year or so and apparently not all schools offer lunch). Then I collected all my stuff, Nelya gave me tulips, the director told me I'd done a good job, and I caught the bus home. Played on the computer a little, and then fell sound asleep for about two hours!

I was starting to wake up when the phone rang...it was my friend Natalia calling to tell me that two people had already called her and told her that I'd done an awesome job with my presentation, so she was calling to congratulate me and suggest that I should lie down and relax. So I told her I'd already been doing that. :)

It's over...слава Бого (thank God)! But I hope that the teachers who saw it really did get some new ideas, that it wasn't just showing off the American teacher at School #3. Because that's more important.

And now I have to write a test for my 7th form for tomorrow and plan an English club. A teacher's work is never done! (And I do hope that Firyuza will improve her attitude!)

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понеділок, квітня 23, 2007

u gotta read nwz artcl, its v intrstng...understand?

I ran across this article today on Yahoo...it's funny, because I never thought about texting when I lived in the US (I didn't even have a cell phone), and now I text quite a bit, since it's cheaper than calling people. I can even text in Ukrainain, sort of.

I'm definitely not up to the speed of those kids, though...but I can text without looking with a very small percentage of errors. (This was discovered last summer on a day when I was really, really bored...)

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неділя, квітня 22, 2007


Thought for all of you to ponder: do the verses in I Corinthians 14 prohibiting speaking in tongues without an interpreter also apply nowadays to people singing in a foreign language in church? I don't mean once in a while, like if you have guests from a different country, but on a regular basis. My pastor here occasionally asks if I'll sing a solo in church (part of the weekly service is devoted to special music in small groups, duets, trios, and solos), and I don't know what language to sing in. If I sing in English, I can accompany myself on the piano and know that I'm pronouncing everything correctly...but no one can understand me. If I sing in Ukrainian, it's harder for me to read the words of the song and the piano notes at the same time, especially as I don't get to practice playing the piano often...also, my accent's noticable enough that I don't know how easy I'd be to understand if I sang a song people didn't already know.

Either way, I feel awkward. I love singing in our "older group" (i.e. anyone over 18 who can carry a tune...we sit together and function as sort of a very small choir), because I'm part of it, just another member of the church. If I sing a solo, everyone looks at me, and no matter which language I sing in, everyone's reminded that I'm the American. I spend my life over here being the American...at church, I just want to be another Christian. But my pastor keeps asking me to sing, and I don't think that trying to explain all of this to him would help.


In other news, the Y kids and I watched E.T. dubbed into Ukrainian this afternoon, which was a lot of fun...I hadn't seen that movie in ages!


These are the best of what comes up when I type "Sally needs" into Google:

*Sally needs a suitor who is capable of tending to her dreams and is willing to be second priority so that the people can come first. (I followed the link...it's about Sonic the Hedgehog, of all things!)
*Sally needs to be reminded to multiply before adding
*Sally needs to learn how to stay on task during independent work
*Sally needs to increase her positive interaction with peers
*Sally needs $50000 to buy a Pete's Postage Post franchise
*Sally needs to get a real gun
*Sally needs to work in such an unfulfilling job
*Sally needs sunshine
*Sally needs to make her best underwater documentary film in order to attract backing for future projects
*Sally needs a hug

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субота, квітня 21, 2007

not quite Tom Sawyer, but still whitewashing

So this morning was actually a lot of fun.

The 8th, 9th, and 10th formers gathered at school this morning (11th form had to go take tests connected to finishing school)...that is, the ones who showed up, along with the staff. The girls had buckets and the boys had bicycles. We went along Novoselivka Street and the girls whitewashed the bottom two feet or so of the treetrunks white while the boys hauled water to mix with the whitewash. (Apparently the whitewashing is done in order to a) keep the bugs from taking over and b) it makes the trees prettier.) Us teachers spread out and did varying jobs...mine was to watch for traffic (it's a main road) and yell at the kids walking along to stay on the sides of the roads. No one died, so I figure I accomplished my job.

We finished up around 10:30 am, which meant that I was only there for two hours total, and we didn't even get started until 9-ish. So I'd say we made pretty good time.

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Last night, due to the good weather, Maksym (21-year-old college kid I help out with English occasionally who wants to move to Canada, an acquaintance of a teacher at school) suggested that we go for a walk during our conversation practice. So we walked around the center, eating ice cream. He's definitely loosening up a little as far as being willing to speak English...his comprehension is good, but he was scared at first of making mistakes. And it was a good conversation, about ethnic food and Tajikistan (he was born there) and how he thinks that Balaklia is SO boring and I don't.

However...apparently my downstairs neighbors were in a cafe and saw us, and called me to see if I wanted to come hang out, and I said no, as Maksym really did want to practice English. But the music teacher at school is Oleg's dad, and now I'm just waiting for it to get on the gossip mill that I was hanging out with a young man. My bet is that I'll have heard about this from someone (not Oleg) by the end of the day on Monday, allowing for the weekend.

At least I didn't run into any students.


Off to school today for Earth Day...we're going to go paint the tree trunks white!

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середа, квітня 18, 2007

a week's reprieve

Current Mood: annoyed by lower back pain and internal discomfort
Current Music: "Strawberry Wine", Deana Carter

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

Anyone know where this quote is from without using Google? (I'd add that it was one of my favorite poems when I was six or so, but that really wouldn't help most of you except Mom...and it would get me some weird looks.)


Okay, so apparently having Internet in my apartment doesn't make me post on my blog more. I have a good excuse, though. Today was supposed to be a rayon-wide teachers' seminar where I presented two "open lessons" (i.e. I teach, my children are angelic and clever, and thirty-some people stare at me), so I was doing heavy-duty prep work. As it turns out, the seminar got postponed until next week because no one had thought to let the teachers know about it until Monday, and it might not be a seminar after all, but only the inspector for foreign languages and literature coming to watch me (Nelya says that she's a foreign lit teacher, which basically means Russian lit, and that she doesn't know English...neither do my director or my vice-principal, who will also be watching). And apparently if it's a seminar, someone has to give a presentation on theoretical material (hopefully not me). The director seems to have a big grandiose idea about how she wants this to go, but no one (Nelya, me, vice-principal, other vice-principal who is also an English teacher) seems to know what it is. The solution to this seems to be everyone telling me how I'm supposed to be presenting, what I'm supposed to be doing, and everything I've forgotten. I occasionally try and stick in my own ideas, but have resigned myself to the conclusion that this really has nothing to do with how I teach.

For those of you who are interested, the lesson topics are the life and works of J.K. Rowling (11a) and youth organizations in the English-speaking Ukrainian Diaspora (8b). And I did get to pick my own topics, based on the curriculum available.


The best music I've found since getting on the 'Net...Laura Bates and Brandon Foote are a folk/bluegrass duo who are apparently connected with Riverview now and sing in one of the worship bands. They just released an album, Jubilee, recently, and four of their songs are up on MySpace. I really like their sound and also how while the songs on the site aren't "Christian music" like you'd hear on Family Life Radio or Smile FM, they operate within a Christian vocabulary and mindset, which I almost like better. Currently debating whether to try and order Jubilee trans-Atlantic or just ask for it for Christmas.

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четвер, квітня 12, 2007


From EnglishDroid.com, the Maxims of English Language Teaching (my favorites are in bold):

1. If it moves, teach it. If it does not move, put it in the resource files. If you cannot put it in the resource files, switch it off.
2. The success of a classroom activity is in inverse proportion to the time and effort spent preparing it.
3. Most activities take longer than planned, even when you allow for this in your plan.
4. The best lessons happen when the Director of Studies is not present.
5. If the lesson seems to be going well, you must have overlooked something.
6. If they do not understand, try again, then give up.
7. If a language point is really not worth teaching, it is not worth teaching well.
8. A bad teacher blames the students. A wise teacher blames the previous teacher.
9. An activity in the hand is worth two in the resource files.
10. Do every listening exercise and you will never need to cue the tape.
11. Faint heart never taught TOEFL.
12. He that laminateth materials and storeth them shall reap the benefits thereafter.
13. He that preppeth not is a genius or a fool.
14. Hi-tech, lo-learn.
15. If you are late, the Director of Studies will be in the corridor.
16. If you are late and the Director of Studies is not in the corridor, you are late for a teachers’ meeting.
17. If you phone in pretending to be sick, the following day you will be sick.
18. Other teachers’ students are prettier.
19. The photocopier will jam a minute before class. (Or you could work at our school, where we haven't had ink for the copier for over a week...)
20. You will usually be one handout short.
21. The recording is always on the other side of the tape.
22. Whatever interests the teacher will bore the students (and vice versa).
23. Better jobs in other schools are advertised the month after you renew your contact.
24. How to identify the type of class you are meant to be teaching:
If students are looking bored, it is General English.
If students are looking bored and wearing ties, it is Business English.
If students are sitting in silence, it is Conversation.
If students are looking desperate, it is English for Academic Purposes.
If students are running around screaming and damaging the furniture, it is a children’s class.

I find these hilarious (and mostly true!)...you might have to be an ESL/EFL teacher to truly appreciate them, though.

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I am a goldfish.

While I've spent a great deal of time online this week, reading sites on all sorts of topics (mostly pointless), I don't seem to be blogging all that much more. Time to remedy this.

Tuesday night was my friend Natalia's birthday party. About a dozen of us were at a cafe near her house...a mix of her friends (mostly teachers) and former students. A lot of her former students spoke English a bit, and once they got over staring at me and being shy, we had a nice conversation. It was a fun party...good food, watching Natalia do an impression of a popular Ukrainian singer while dancing, and just a nice chance to be social.

However, around 9 pm, as the bar crowd was starting to collect in the front of the cafe, two of my 10th form girls came in. They were with older (ie mid-20s) guys and drinking beer. One of them, Maryna, is one of my wilder girls, so while I was disappointed to see her, I wasn't surprised. But the other girl, Natasha, is a "good girl"...does her homework, behaves, etc. She's the sort of pretty, romantic girl who wants a boyfriend and so is willing to settle for the first relationship she can, whether or not it's the right one. Sigh...

Four different students had seen me over the course of the evening, and so yesterday at school, kids kept asking me, "Miss Sally, were you at the cafe in Novoselivka (the neighborhood where Natalia lives) last night? Why? Did you like it? What did you drink?" I felt, as I often do, like a goldfish in a big tank. I have no private life, it seems.

Dealing with allergies and sinus headaches this week. Ugh.

I stopped at a shop on the way home today and found cinammon bread with raisins, which is very similar to a cinnamon roll, but the size and shape of a loaf of bread. Yummy. :)

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понеділок, квітня 09, 2007

neighborhood fun and an Easter recap

Okay, time for an actual post, as opposed to the "Oh my word! I have Internet!" postings that I've been doing the last couple of days.

First, Friday afternoon. I had some of my neighbor girls over after school to dye eggs with a kit Tif sent me. It ended up quite the experience...five girls by the time we ended with brownies and Go Fish, donated eggs that we thought were boiled but weren't (fortunately, we didn't break them...but we'd already dyed them), and a cooking pot that will always have a tinge of green from now on. I felt slightly like Miss Hannigan by the time we finished (Little girls, little girls / Everywhere I go I can see them / Little girls, little girls / Night and day, I eat, sleep and breathe them), but really, it was fun. I have pictures, but I'm having problems uploading them...not sure if it's Blogger, my computer, or my Internet. Will try again later.

On Saturday morning, I went to church for what I thought was a pre-Easter service, which made me think about what it must have been like for the disciples on the day after Good Friday, how that must have been almost a sadder day for them as it truly sunk in. However, it turned out that the service wasn't for Easter Saturday but instead for the Annunciation (when Gabriel told Mary that she would have Jesus), which apparently is more of a holiday over here (and falls at a slightly different time than in the US). I confess I was very confused at first why all the Scriptures and sermons seemed to be about Luke 1, but it eventually clicked.

Yesterday was Easter...Kathryn came down from Kharkiv to visit me and we went to church with the Ys. She and I sang a duet for "How Great Thou Art" with me on the piano, and I sang "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" acapella, as I don't have the piano music. Afterwards, we went to the Ys for dinner. When she went home, I came back to my apartment and found out just how nice it is to have Internet at home. Talked with Greg and Jason on Skype, which is just about the coolest thing since sliced bread (which you have to specifically ask for here).

Today my neighbor boys gave me a soccer (football, over here) lesson. They taught me different ways of kicking the ball and how to aim to compensate for being left-footed. It was a lot of fun...I'll never be a great athlete, but I did okay, and they were very encouraging and patient. (Although Dima asked at one point, "Do people in the US play football?", so I had to explain that yes, they do, but I was a nerd back in school and didn't play sports.) We also had a teachable moment that while the Russian word for having black skin is very similar to the n-word, it's not appropriate to say in English. I think I'll play again sometime.

And then, of course, because there was no school (Easter Monday), who came over this afternoon to play Go Fish and Uno but...little girls (and one boy)!

Some women are dripping with diamonds
Some women are dripping with pearls
Lucky me! Lucky me!
Look at what I'm dripping with...
Little girls!

Seriously, though, I love having my neighbor kids over. (During the writing of this post, three little girls showed up to borrow Go Fish for the evening.) It's fun to interact with kids that don't see me as a teacher.

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неділя, квітня 08, 2007

sing, ye heavens and earth reply

Христос воскрес!

Or, if your computer can't read Cyrillic, "Kristos voskres!"

Or, if you can't understand Ukrainian, "Christ is risen!"

Happy Easter!

субота, квітня 07, 2007

Public Announcement


(After the guys were here for three and a half hours trying to install programs in various languages, dealing with an obnoxious firewall, and other such inconveniences. But it's all good now.)

:) :) :)

I also have Skype...will be emailing my contact info out in the next few days.

Happy day-before-Easter! (Which is also Vitaly's birthday, the Annunciation according to the Ukrainian calendar, and my 1 year anniversary of knowing the Y family!)


вівторок, квітня 03, 2007

one of those weeks...

I'm in the mood for a bit of irony today...

...that while I've been lectured lately by Nelya for not keeping my apartment clean enough (which she didn't see, but heard about from my director, who heard about it from my landlady, who came in when I wasn't home because that's legal here), my 6th formers (and many, many other people here) see nothing wrong with throwing their candy wrappers and chip bags on the ground outside because "someone will pick it up later." At least when I don't clean my apartment it doesn't cause an eyesore for everyone who walks by.

...that I was wearing an ankle-length skirt with a back slit to the knee today, and Nelya was upset because my slip showed. "The children will notice," she said. This in a country where I don't think anyone wears slips and where my girls come to school in very short, tight skirts...and tight, low-cut tops with suggestive phrases on them in English. Honestly, I don't think it matters much if a very small portion of my slip shows through the slit in my skirt.

I keep trying to track down my landlady at the school where she works to ask about Internet. I haven't talked to her yet, but today my director came up to me and asked what was up. I have no idea how she knew that I'd been there...sigh...I live in a fishbowl. I left it at "I have a question for her," because Sally Getting Internet doesn't have to be everyone's business. Then again, in Ukraine, maybe it does.

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