Saturday, October 9, 2010

Back to School

To everyone who commented on my last blog post - thanks for the feedback, it is exciting to know that people are actually reading my blog! Its nice to have some contact with the world outside of my little town - I haven't been in contact with like any of the other Peace Corps trainees in other clusters yet, but I've heard that they will be publishing a phone directory soon since we all just bought cell phones here. Sorry my posts are so long, I've taken a ton of photos and I think I will only be posting once or twice a week so the posts are longer than usual. Here are a few more photos from inside my apartment that I live in with my host mom.

Here is our kitchen!
Here is the other half of our kitchen, we have a small booth-style table that is like 6 in away from the fridge.
Here is our living room! Have I mentioned that my host mom loves growing plants in her spare time? 
Here is the bathroom. The tub/sink are in a seperate room from the toilet. The toilet looks like a normal toilet, so I won't post a picture of it here.
 This week, we went to visit the school that we will be teaching at! They are very creative with the names of the schools here... we are working at School #3. There are 3 secondary schools in our town, and you guessed it - the other two are called School #1 and School #2. Here are the 6 of us in the cluster in front of the school.

1st day of school!
Our school is a typical secondary school in Ukraine, where they have 2nd form through the 11th form. Each form has about 50 or so children. And I learned that apparently only in America do they use the word "grade", most other places use the word "form". Its strange to think that they have kids from ages 6 to 16 all in the same school. Although the school looks really plain from the outside, the inside lobby of the school is bright and colorful.

And yes, they ride the little bikes here that have tiny wheels.. just like in Beijing!
And there is a statue of some famous Ukrainian poet in the lobby as well. At first I thought this might be a statue of one of the old Soviet leaders, but then one of the local teachers told us that it was a famous poet. 
The inscription on the wall is in Ukrainian, not Russian.
 Most of the subjects in our school are taught in Russian, though all the kids can speak and understand Ukrainian as well. They actually teach English in all of the forms, so we will have a great opportunity to observe and practice teaching children of all ages. Unlike most of the elementary schools that I have been in, the hallways of the school are bare, but at least here is some of the children's artwork outside the Teacher's Lounge. Fun fact - the designated Teacher's bathroom is an unmarked white door on the first floor, and it is a single unit squat toilet without any toilet paper or soap. I'm having flashbacks of studying abroad in China haha.

Art is the same in any language!
On Wednesday, we sat in the back of the room and observed a 5th form English lesson and a 10th form english lesson. The 5th form students were learning the names of different animals, their lesson was very cute and used some interactive computer software that the teacher had projected onto the wall (very impressive technology that I did not expect to see). The 10th form class was definitely more advanced, almost all of their entire lesson was conducted in English with some prompting of the directions in Russian. This is me and my cluster-mates sitting in a classroom, ready to learn how to become teachers :)

These desks were not really meant for anyone over 5 ft tall haha.
We also had our first school lunch! They only give the students 15 minutes to eat lunch, so they all just wolf down their food and then run (literally, run down the hallways) back to class. They call their school cafeteria a canteen, which reminded me of the time that I spent last summer at the National University of Singapore :) Here is a photo of lunch from our first day at school, served with juice made from apples - cok (pronounced like sook). The cup of cok was deceptive, I was hoping that it was going to be milktea. I think I've had a cup of tea (or chai, as they call it here) with almost every meal at home.
Lunch was some salty oatmeal, pork cutlets, and tomatoes tossed in some kind of oil.
I can't believe we are going to be teaching our first classes next week! I feel like I've just arrived in Ukraine and we're getting put to work already. Oh and fun fact - the central heating doesn't go on in our town until October 15th, so our classroom is quite cold and we all still wear our jackets inside the classroom.

Monica and I are ready to learn!
So after just one week in Ukraine, I will be team-teaching two classes next Friday with Nathan, the guy from UGA. Don't worry, we're not going in cold turkey - we've had some techical classes on how to plan and present a lesson. One of the more interesting things that we have learned is that the Ukrainian grading system is on a 12 point scale... and that the 12 point scale does NOT correspond to a 100 point scale. It is illegal to fail a student and the lowest mark given is a 2, 11 points are given to exceptional students and a mark of an 8 equates to about a 85% or something like that. Nathan and I are teaching the 10th and 11th forms (so all the kids will probably be taller than me). Jakob and Heather are teaching the 5th forms, and Monica and Laura are teaching the 6th and 11th forms. We each have to teach 15 lessons by December, so we start out teaching in pairs and then we will eventually be teaching lessons on our own. We will also rotate through different forms, ranging from little elementary-age kids to high schoolers. From what I've heard, that is pretty standard for the secondary school TEFL Peace Corps volunteers.
After school, we did some more exploring around our little town. Here are a few more photos from the adventures of my cluster-mates and I, in no particular order.

Gotta love the statues of Lenin randomly around town.
Look, its a store that sells capris! You know how Europeans love rocking capris.

Nathan and I reppin' the A-town by the lake.
I taught Laura and Monica how to take photos like this. Jakob's host family saw us take this photo and laughed.
Jakob and Nathan on the dilapidated old bridge... they were worried that the old wooden boards would break.
They like to recycle old tires by laying them around randomly like this. The playground in front of my building actually has painted tires stuck into the ground as part of the playground.
There are a lot of stray dogs in the street, and it is common to see them wrestling like this. One of the other PCV girls actually got bitten by a dog on her way home from school, so she is getting some dog-repellant spray from the PC office.
Remember how I posted about turkeys running around last time? Well here is a house that grows chickens in their backyard, I pass this house on my way home from school every day.

What better place to stock up fresh meat for winter than your backyard?
So after one week of intensive Russian language learning bootcamp, here is a basic summary of what I can say in Russian:
  • I am now able to introduce myself and say a few basic greetings in Russian such as good morning/day/night, glad to see you, whats up, etc. I can also say some basic phrases like please, thank you, and excuse me.
  • I can identify myself as a Peace Corps Volunteer from America (state of California, city of San Francisco) and explain that I am a teacher.
  • I can describe my family and ask questions about family members and occupations.
  • I can express a lack of understanding, ask for clarification, and ask for translations in Russian/English. This is especially helpful when I sit down at the dinner table for meals with my host mom and my Russian/English dictionary... I use it to ask her the names of the ingredients in the food dishes and talk about what I learned at school during the day!
  • I can ask what someone likes to do in their free time and what their hobbies are. If you're wondering, I've been saying that my hobbies are swimming, yoga, dancing and studying Russian.
  • I can ask about the price of something at the local Bazaar and understand the prices (unless they speak too fast). I also know how to say the colors and the names for the basic clothing items such as hat, boot, coat, scarf, skirt, etc thanks to Rosetta Stone.
  • I can conjugate basic verbs such as to love, to like, to write, to play, to swim, to speak, to buy (unless its a Friday afternoon and I've mentally clocked out for the day).
  • I've also learned how to tell my host mom when I will be returning home from school. I actually made a weekly calendar in Russian of when I have language class/teaching lessons at school and posted it on the refrigerator... its super cute because I used a pink marker and I write Russian in all caps like a 5-year old haha.
Next week's Russian language classes focus on food. The food is organized into different categories like meat, vegetables, dairy products, fruit, desserts and there are a TON of words to learn! I think we are going to cook a Ukrainian meal as part of our class as well, that is really exciting! I need to start taking more pictures of the food that my host mom serves at home.


Angela said...

We had tires on the playground in Ohio too. They were usually half stuck in the ground and then painted

Annie said...

it looks so cold there!! by the way, i keep almost texting you this week about random stuff. sad i can't do that anymore... i'll just have to send you an email. lots to talk about!

Dalton said...

Jinger. It sounds like you're doing really well! I love the pictures and the in depth entries about what you've been doing/learning. I wish you the best of luck and can't wait to read more!

Michelle said...

Glad you're catching on quickly and enjoying your time! Seen any swimming pools yet!? :)

Sally K said...

- you'll be posting only once or twice a week? that's A LOT compared to how often i did!
- your host apt reminds me of my house in mexico
- hahahah school # 1, 2, and 3!
- what exactly are you teaching? and will you be teaching in english?
- i wish 8 pts out of 12 was a 85% here as well =/
- love your picture w/ nathan by the lake!
- the part about writing in russian in all caps like a 5 yr old made me chuckle out loud in the middle of my 8am.
- for your mailing address until 12/10, do i use the PO box or st. address? or both?

Chikin Boi said...


have fun in not america

Shyari said...

I find it hilarious that you're decked out in about a bajillion layers while i'm still wearing shorts and t-shirts outside complaining about the heat.

P.S. Props on picking up the Russian so fast.

KCooper said...

I want to be you when I grow up.

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