Friday, December 07, 2012

Kitchen Time

11:02 P.M. The last tray of jumbo chocolate chip cookies came out of the oven. The last of the batch, they look rather un-chocolatey but nearly perfect in roundness, sugary smoothness, and caramel color. The teenagers who were helping me left nearly three hours ago with three different types of dough to bake for the fundraiser tomorrow. Now, it's just me. And my purple cell phone, the white-flower-imprinted-on-black coffee mug I've adopted, and the computer at the kitchen table.

Two red pot holders and a red and white striped towel hang over the oven handle, placed intentionally by the heat to free them from the water so freely soaked into their fibers. The gas stove still has the dried, crusty spaghetti sauce splashed across it's surface in an artistic design from last night's dinner. Three stacks of cookies rise above the counter from the cooling racks, Cookie Monster's dream. Lemony white stockings, stars, and Christmas trees wait to be iced. The window has been ajar all evening in an attempt to counteract the double warmth of the oven on top of the city-heated apartment. (Energy inefficient, surely, but with no other method to regulate the temperature, it is what it is.) The two house plants I've placed in the kitchen in an attempt to keep them alive droop on their ledge between kitchen sink and window. Dishes fill the drying rack, the red bowl resting precariously on top of the ceramic plates and wooden spoon, the untouched dishwasher ironically just beneath them, only the counter top providing separation. Empty jars, waiting to be stored in the bench seat, stand guard next to the coffee accoutrements: beans, French press, grinder, electric hot water heater.

Welcome to my kitchen. Messy, used, almost always in process, a personal refuge. 

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Did you know...

...that you can use vodka for windshield wiper fluid?  Evidently it's cheaper than washer fluid here, and with the added bonuses that it doesn't freeze and is widely available, it's the perfect alternative.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Chocolate Heaven

I have eaten more chocolate in the last month than I have in the last two years. For one, it's delicious, and it is frequently given as gifts.  Birthday.  Recognition.  End-of-the-year thank yous. Just because.

Somehow I think it's going to counteract the running.

Walking Home

I walked home from my ESL class after rain showers had swayed me to stay for tea while waiting for the rain to end.  Grimy water filled the pockmarks in the sidewalk, making an obstacle course out of side-stepping ankle-deep muck while simultaneously avoiding other pedestrians accepting the same challenge. Water swooshed through the gutters along the streets.  Up above, clouds blocked the usual piercing sunlight, cooling what had been a hot day unusually fast.

In the city square, the fountains still sprang up to their usual height.  In what must be an attempt to create a pleasant atmosphere for tourists posing for pictures or lovers out on their evening stroll, garbled music oozed out of the speakers. Ironically, the record-player quality makes me think more of the grim scenes in Schindler’s List than I do of parties or roses or happiness.

Nevertheless, the night still has a charm to it. Many people, mostly youth, walk along the streets.  Night clubs are open.  Flowers in the arms of young women show the romantic intentions of their date.  Street lights and signs give light to the sidewalk in pinhole bursts. 

A few more streets to cross.  I gauge my go time for crossing by the blinking green light that tells cross traffic it’s about to turn a quick yellow and then red.  A few more blocks. Past the first apartment building on my right.  Down the driveway.  Open the door with a magnetic key; up two flights of stairs.  Turn the key twice. Slip the shoes off. Home.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Group Work

Supervising a film group after school today, I sat out of the way working on some grading and communication.

The two boys fiddled with the camera, pointing it outside the window, making sure the shot was right.  They swung their arms back and forth, fixed the gloves they were wearing for their evidence scene, and talked.  One, humming as he erased the board, asked me if I knew Frank Sinatra's song L.O.V.E.  His dad listens to it.  I found it on my computer and played it; we talked about swing dancing and showed some of the swing steps we knew.

Exasperated, one of them finally said, "Where are they?"

All this time they had been waiting on the girls to change their clothes for the next shot.

He walked into the hallway.  "Hey!  Are you guys almost ready?" he shouted at the bathroom door.  No answer.  "Hey!  Girls!  Come on!"  No answer.  "Hey!  Are you guys ready yet?"

"No!" came the decided answer. "We still have to do my hair!"

He turned around, tightening his lips, left only to wait in annoyed tension.

I have to give it to them, though. Two girls, two boys--each gender is living up to it's stereotype and completely annoying the other sex, but they're making it work.  Even if the girls spend 20 minutes in the bathroom prepping for the next scene filmed from two stories up.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Such a great acronym for remembering coordinating conjunctions. I used the idea of my former student teacher Julie to actually make fans with my 6th graders to help them remember the acronym.  I also added the rule that any time I said, "FANBOYS," they had to say, "Oh, it's so hot in here" and fan themselves.  Class discussion, then, went something like this:

Me: "Okay, who sees the FANBOY--"

Students: (fanning themselves madly) "Oh, it's so hot in here."

Me: "--in this sentence?"

Student 1: "But."

(Male students snicker and exchange mischievous glances.)

Me: (ignoring the middle school humor) "Yes, but is the FANBOY--"

Students: "Oh, it's so hot in here."

(Male students giggle.)

Me: "Yes, but has two meanings, but the second one is spelled with two ts. What does the one we're talking about show about the sentence?  Hmm?  What does this FANBOY--"

Students: "Oh, it's so hot in here."

Me: "--mean in this sentence?"

Needless to say, it was a bit of a laborious lesson, though quite humorous.

My opinionated student told me today that he'd had quite enough of FANBOYS and could we please not say it any more? :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Play Time

We drove about two hours out of town to reach the village.  Paved road gave way to wide gravel road to partially paved, partially dirt road.  The snow-topped mountains seemed much closer, though we were not yet in the foothills. 

At the village club house, the village elders ushered us into their ESL room, replete with computers and an ESL teacher excited to welcome us and tell us about her ESL classes.  Then, a meeting of the minds occurred as plans for the day were discussed.  We were there to play games with the kids--all kids, including those with disabilities--in celebration of Invalid Day. Normally, I understand, kids with disabilities have very few options here.

After the formal decision-making was made regarding where to play the various games and how to divide the children into groups, we moved outside to welcome the children, who had already been playing outside the gates, into the yard.  The village leaders formed them into four lines, shortest to tallest, and waited for latecomers to divide them as evenly as possible into the teams.

Jo lead two of the teams in a game of kickball.  The translator, having not played the game before, was uncertain about how to describe running the bases and outs.  We found it easier to place the children in their positions and show them how to roll the ball, how to catch it and tag someone out, how to run the bases in order. The older boys, who were around thirteen, loved it.  The first group was very helpful and directed the little kids to run from second to third when the ball was kicked; the second group was ornery, telling the little kids who ran to first to turn around and run back home.

While waiting to switch groups and activities, I entertained two teams with a Simon Says turned learn-body-parts-in-English game. "Simon says touch your head," I said, touching my head.  The kids nearest me looked at me out of the corner of their eyes.  "Simon says touch your nose," and I touched my nose.  A few of the older ones half-heartedly touched their nose and laughed.  I continued, eventually dropping "Simon says" and even "touch", leaving us with a rapid motion, "Nose. Ears.  Knees.  Toes.  Knees. Toes. Knees...."  They giggled, all of them repeating the words and movements after me, laughing harder when I wiggled my ears back and forth as I said, "Ears," or made them bend over and touch their toes only to immediately stand up and touch their shoulders.  Only a few minutes of this, and then switch.  New activity!

The kids seemed to thoroughly enjoy the events Sandra planned.  The adults with our group and from the village assisted the kids in each event, cheering them on, adjusting leg bands, making sure popped balloons got replaced, and leading them around the right marker. Relays, three-legged races, a variation of dodge ball, water balloon volleyball, sack races, kickball, and red light, green light lead to lots of smiles and laughter.  Before leaving, the kids received a couple of pieces of candy for the walk home.

Hopes are that part of the group can return for Children's Day on June 1. I won't be able to since I'll be teaching, but the village leaders are excited about the huge event they are planning to celebrate their kids.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Semi-Pioneer Days

I felt spoiled this morning by using a full pot of hot water for my bath. We have a month without hot water (still cold running water, thankfully), and we're too cheap to buy a water heater. It makes me feel very Laura Ingalls Wilder. And at least we don't have to reuse the bathwater in order of age.