Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday, Punctuated with Red Pen

Having spent the better part of Sunday poring over innumerable essay drafts, I have a renewed appreciation for the following (and increasingly rare) aspects of the English language, as utilised by teenagers:

Well placed commas
Agreeable tenses
Vivid and lovely adjectives
Properly punctuated dialogue
Appropriate use of ellipses
Pretty paragraph breaks
Original metaphors

If I were not a teacher, and if I did not harbour aspirations about travel writing, I could very easily and truly state that my ideal job would be editing other people's writing. However, as this is an integral aspect of being an English Literature teacher, that part of my personality is satisfied.

Although if anyone out there is working on a novel and has wads of cash to throw at an editor, I'd reconsider in a flash!

I should clarify that an equally good part of Sunday was spent listening to an edifying sermon on Mark 10 and then eating lunch with friends. That was pleasant - nearly as pleasant as ripping through thirty essays with a red pen.

The latter use of 'pleasant' was a little whimsical, by the way. I could have just as easily said 'heart-burning' or 'hair-raising' or 'brain-curdling'. But I went with 'pleasant'. Make of it what you will.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Shakespearean Excesses

My 7th and 8th graders are researching Julius Caesar and Pompey and the Roman Senate in preparation for reading Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. My 9th and 10th graders are about to beginning exploring themes in Much Ado About Nothing, and my 11th and 12th graders are about to begin reading Othello for the first time.

It's going to be a Shakespeare sort of term, with a dash of Oscar Wilde for good measure. What could be better?

That was a rhetorical question, but I just thought of an answer: lots and lots of rest, and then Shakespeare.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Time of Day

There must be a time of day when the man who makes plans 
forgets his plans, and acts as if he had no plans at all. 
There must be a time of day 
when the man who has to speak falls very silent.
and his mind forms no more propositions,
and he asks himself: Did they have a meaning?
There must be a time when the man of prayer goes to pray
as if it were the first time in his life
he has ever prayed, 
when the man of resolutions puts his resolutions aside
as if they had all been broken,
and he learns a different wisdom: 
distinguishing the sun from the moon,
the stars from the darkness,
the sea from the dry land,
and the night sky from the shoulder of a hill. 

Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Here's your piece of Russian vocabulary for the day: sneg, meaning snow. I confess, I find it a mildly amusing word.

The snow hasn't stopped falling today. It's sitting about in big fluffy drifts and whirls. Cold and fresh and fabulous. Thusly is my antipodean fascination for snow sated. The primary school children built a snow fort in the playground - I dearly wanted to join in. Of course, it means that there are great dirty puddles of melted snow in the corridors and on the stairs, but the cleaning ladies are industriously mopping up after everyone. We're all used to the routine by now - stomping your boots before you go inside, wrapping up in scarves and hats and jackets and gloves before you go outside. It's splendid.

Today was a good day: I got through some grading, put up a new display in my room, wrote a college recommendation, taught four classes, thought about (and decided against) aerobics class, had some important conversations. Now, I've settled in for a long evening with my gradebook, some chocolate and a pot of rooibos tea.

Of course, for that to work, I have to close my laptop...going, going...

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Joy of Books

There's nothing quite like a real book.

9 Books on Reading and Writing

If I had some disposable income and spare time, this is how I'd spend them:

New Year's Resolution Reading List: 9 Books on Reading and Writing - The Atlantic

*drools slightly before recalling senses and heading to school*

Oh, and:

Ala-Too Square has a webcam which can be quite fun. This is the centre of the city. Check it out! We had a nice snowfall overnight.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday Morning Post

I slept in. Blissful. Coffee and porridge. Amy Carmichael's biography. A couple of episodes of QI. I missed church, because rest was needful. Now, I'm gearing up to put in a half-day at school, for grading purposes. Reports are due in on Friday and there's an awful lot of papers standing between me and my gradebook. If I can plough through most of it today, I'll feel much better about the week ahead.

It's so good to have internet at home again! I can Skype people and haunt Facebook and write emails at leisure. Two Russians from Megaline turned up yesterday to install it: my vocabulary about computers is not so good, and their English was limited to "I not speak English", so things got increasingly comical, until a Kyrgyz friend was able to come over and help sort things out. She was marvellous. Following which, I made cucumber sandwiches and scones (substituting local ingredients along the way) and hosted an Importance of Being Earnest viewing with members of the cast, because the DVDs arrived by post, at last. The Colin Firth version doesn't hold a candle to the 1952 Michael Redgrave version, which I thoroughly recommend; it's genius. Lady Bracknell is a delight, Jack is a perfect straight man, and Algernon is exquisite. My cast, however, being of a teenage and 21st century persuasion, resolutely prefer the newer version, over which fact I have sighed and resigned myself. Nevertheless, rehearsals are going very well. My 'Algernon' and 'Gwendolyn' have already learned all of their lines, which is a feat worthy of great praise, since they have huge roles. Sets and costumes are underway.

Yes, things have been quiet on this end. I know it. The cultural and emotional disconnection that I experienced in England over Christmas really knocked me about. I still feel bruised from the shock of it all, and I haven't really had a chance to process it since plunging back into Bishkek life, which is as fun and chaotic as ever.

More anon!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Leif's Rabbit Trap

My dear delightful friends, the Loftis family, are off to Thailand soon to do exciting things. They won't mind (I hope) me sharing this very beautiful video, made as a New Year greeting. It brought tears to my eyes. Chad is a talented film-maker.

I love these guys.

Leif's Rabbit Trap from Chad Loftis on Vimeo.

Still no baby, so I'll be catching a plane in the morning, with a view to sleeping for the ensuing 9 hours. The plane gets in at 3 AM - I catch a taxi to my new apartment (as yet unseen) - take a shower, find clean clothes, and head off to school for a full day's teaching. Then, I meet my good friend A for dinner, who is visiting from Osh for one day and one day only. An unmissable occasion. But, as you see, being able to sleep on the plane is a desirable, if unprecedented, state of affairs!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Several Lists (of a non-NY-related variety)

Hurry up, baby! I have a plane to catch.

Despite some promising signs yesterday, the bub (not mine, obviously - E's) shows no inclination to leave her comfortable home. I'm leaving for Bishkek in 24 hours, so it looks increasingly as though I won't meeting this long-awaited little girl. Not for many months, at least. Sadness.

It's New Year's Day in England! We have to keep reminding ourselves of the fact, since we're all focused intently on E's every move, casting covert glances at her from over the tops of our books. We had a lovely meal and prosecco last night, which was both relaxed and celebratory. There were the requisite fireworks at midnight, and the requisite phone calls this morning, but on the whole we're very baby-centric around here.

I've been practicing packing my bags. It's quite an art form, given that I purchased bits and pieces from Waitrose that individually didn't look like much but have collectively created substantial mass. This mass is enhanced by the many beautiful gifts I was given at Christmas. I was very, very spoiled indeed. In fact, I'm in the mood for a list, so I shall make a list of my Christmas gifts:

  • A stunning poster from the British Museum, detailing the history of science fiction in a colourful riot.
  • A gift box of delicious Neal's Yard lotions: Geranium & Orange. Neal's Yard, in case you've not heard of it, creates beautiful organic cosmetics and also has one of the finest cheese shops in London. I do hope it arrives in Australia one day.
  • A set of shampoo and conditioning soaps from Lush that you lather up and use with flair.
  • Some tea towels with koalas on them and a 2012 'Geelong & Bellarine Peninsula' calendar (!).
  • A gorgeous purple and green hat and matching fingerless gloves that are the very epitome of 1920's style. I feel like Flora Post when I wear my hat. There was also a big, greeny, beachy necklace which I am growing to enjoy.
  • A substantial voucher for John Lewis, which I spent on a Liberty print shirt, a soft brown cardigan, and a purple sweater.
  • A pretty pair of earrings from Venice.
  • A sweet smelling collection that included: a delicious bottle of Sarah Jessica Parker perfume, a box of Yankee Candle tealights, and the cutest little Parisian calendar.
  • A very substantial, generous financial gift
I am blessed and humbled and know not what to say. Each gift was a very perfect reflection of the people who gave them. Some of the gifts traversed the world to get here. I'm floored by so much goodness and love.

Now that I am in the swing of making lists, here is the list of good grocery-like items that I purchased at Waitrose:

  • A range of spices for Indian curry-making
  • Various organic stock cubes
  • Several good jams
  • Several bags of organic coffee beans
  • Peppermint tea
  • Golden syrup (possibly foolhardy, but I've been dreaming of gingerbread cake)
  • Treacle
  • Crystallised ginger
  • Good bean soup mixes
  • Couscous
  • Sundried tomatoes
  • Organic muesli
  • Various Green & Black's items that are intended as presents. Also, marshmallows.
You can take inner-suburbanite out the city, but you can't take the foodie pretensions out of the inner-suburbanite. Or something like that. Anyway, both of those lists go some way to explaining why packing my bags is going to take some serious thought.

These material and relational blessings are great indeed. I hope, when I get home to Bishkek, that I have the emotional capacities to reflect on them that I am lacking right now. Reverse culture shock has really knocked me down. Perhaps, when I have regained my balance, I shall write about it, because it's profound enough to deserve a good exploration. In the meantime, it's been a good lesson about future forays into the western world.