October 24, 2008

10/24/08 Second Snow

Wednesday we our second snow. Because it's colder, I think this time it will stick. It actually was a pleasant surprise waking up to see the rooftops and the mountains covered in snow. And even though my thermometer says it's 17 degrees outside, it's a toasty 73 degrees in my room. Plus, just to put some of my reader's minds at ease, I do have hot water now, so no more cold showers. Thank goodness!

And just to keep you updated on the weather here, I have AccuWeather weather widget in the column on the right, just below the archive list. It will give you the current weather conditions and the temperature. Here's an expanded view below:

It's been a different month food-wise. After Naraa's 10-day meditation retreat, she decided to take a full month off, so she won't be back in the kitchen till the middle of November. I'm happy for her but that also meant I've had to fend for myself in the kitchen, not an encouraging development (at least if you've tasted my cooking). I finally cooked some tofu that was actually quite good (my attempts over the years have been pretty disgusting). Iveel, the Stupa Cafe cook downstairs has taken pity on me and has decided that until Naraa comes back, she'll cook my lunch. Anything would have been better than what I was cooking edible though it was, but Iveel's meals have been wonderful!

As for my classes, this has been a very tough week on the teacher. Usually I think I'm a pretty intelligent guy, but I don't understand what my textbooks are trying to teach in my Intermediate classes. Several of the recent lessons have mixed together three or four concepts barely tying them together. But when I looked at the test coming up, none of those concepts are on the exam. Plus, the material my Pre-Intermediate class is learning looks very similar to the material for the Intermediates but seems much more difficult and overly complicated.

So I'm working a lot of extra hours just to make sense of it all but that also means late nights and not getting much good sleep. I'm sequestered in my room/office most of time, rarely getting outside except for a few minutes every morning when I take care of the stupa. And I haven't really had any time for my Mongolian lessons either. [sad smile]

I've had several discussions with Tsetsgee, my fellow teacher, and she enthusiastically agrees the curriculum needs a serious overhaul but finding the time to even begin to tackle that project will be difficult. I know I should do the best I can with what I have, but I don't think I could do that to the next volunteer teacher who comes after me. So, if we can pull it off, Tsetsgee and I will hopefully have something workable before the next term starts in January.

I did have one class that went surprisingly well, but right in the middle, we lost power, which these days happens at least once a week. But imagine my surprise when the students said they didn't want to leave and began using the light from their cell phones to read the lesson.

I've been trying to figure out ways to get my students to talk more, to really get some good practice using the language more in class. So, last weekend I rearranged the classroom to get rid of the lecture seating and now every student faces a partner. I told them I want to do less talking. I'm trying to give them more opportunities to practice with the language and I want them to use me more as a grammar referee. Sometimes it works too well and I have a hard time keeping the noise down when I want someone to speak to the class, but at least all the chatter in English, or mostly anyway.

I would like you all to keep Tsetsgee's family in your thoughts and prayers. Her mother's health hasn't been good and this week she was put in the hospital's ICU. Tsetsgee and rest of her siblings have been taking care of their mother, taking it day by day. Tsetsgee has been a wonderful coworker and I wish there was something more I could do for her, so I ask you to remember them in your thoughts and prayers.