Archive for August 19, 2009

Three Adils and One Dima, an Angel

Yesterday I met with three fifths of my Kazakh students.  In total, this fall semester I will have at least 100 Kazakh students’ names to memorize. Some are easy to learn, others are difficult to pronounce. In one class I have three Adils so I will need to learn their last names as well. 


After my three classes that were spread out from starting at 11:30 a.m. and ending at 8:15 p.m., I was able to find out the level of English they had in each class.  My last class in the evening is filled with different Masters degree students from their respective programs of Law, Economics, Social Sciences and other specialties.  This cross teaching with more mature students has its pros and cons.  One is that these older students take their education seriously yet some have greater facility with the English language in writing than the others do, or speaking for that matter.  I think I will enjoy getting to know these students better over the course of the semester.  I certainly enjoyed my forty Masters students last semester.


However, even though I have three preps and five different classes, I still have NO contract. Strange to travel 10,000 miles over the Atlantic Ocean and the Central Asian continent with no teaching contract and no promise of a raise because of the budget problems. This is after I spent over $2,000 on roundtrip airfare of my own money to represent my university last spring at a TESOL conference.  We are having our own budget problems. This recent flight on NW and KLM took me 28 hours from port to port, leaving my family and friends behind in Minnesota to come to a land that is strange to me.  That is trusting on my part and I have no basis to trust except that I feel called to back in Kazakhstan. For some people, this is difficult to fathom.


Also, seems that even though the university administration let go of about 15 experienced teachers in our Language Center, there is one new freshly minted Kazakh teacher sitting next to my cubicle.  As soon as I arrived and was going through my 295 unread messages, he wanted to talk and get to know me.  Friendly guy, but I’m still mourning the loss of those qualified, experienced teachers who were let go over this summer due to lack of enrollment.  He pegged me as an opera singer (do I really look like one?) and then he went on humming, he is as happy as a lark to be teaching at our university with his new MA degree from our very own university.  Also, several of the administrators have moved into their own spacious offices.  Consequently, I am requesting my own office since I have such a heavy work load compared to all the other teachers in the Language Center.  What I don’t understand is that if we have lack of enrollment, we get less teachers but we still have the same amount of administrators.  I just don’t get it!!!


Another request that I’ll make is to have a university car bring me home to my new apartment after my Tuesday and Thursday evening class.  Last night I took the bus and ended up in a place I didn’t want to be, so unfamiliar and dark was it.  Sure enough a drunk was ahead of me swerving back and forth.  Fortunately, I had met a nice, young Russian guy on the bus who looked at my map and told me which busstop to get off on.  He lived in the same general area so was aware of the dark path I needed to take.  Dimitry had fairly good English but when I asked him what university he had attended, he didn’t know how to answer.  I asked him if he considered himself Russian or Kazakh after living in Almaty all his life.  He said Russian but when he goes up to Russia, he considers himself Kazakhstani.  We talked as the drunk Kazakh wanted to engage in conversation after he playfully had blocked a narrow entrance pretending he knew karate.  Dima took that in stride and kept walking with me.  Finally, the drunk wandered off and I was in my courtyard area of my new flat.  While shaking hands, I thanked Dima profusely and the last words I said to him was, “You are my angel.” 


I really need a university car to transport me home just two nights a week because not only do I have to think about the “harmless” drunks, there are yapping and snippy dogs to beware of.  (the saying “Once bitten, twice shy” comes to mind) Okay, back to looking at the names of my 100 students, 20 in each of my five classes.  We are on to a great semester because that is why I am back in Kazakhstan, for the Kazakh, Korean, Kyrgyz and Russian students.

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