29 May 2009

"The Ghosts of Armenia"

My Tita Mara forwarded this piece from the New York Times to me a few hours ago. It is a black and white photo essay (with an accompanying article) on the subject of the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath.

21 May 2009

Dust off your Beach Boys albums...

Summer is definitely approaching here in Yerevan as the weather gets warmer every day. There's no air conditioning in our school building, so we've brought the oscillating fans out of the closet and are putting them to good use. The last day of school is so close we can taste it, and all the students (and teachers) are itching for freedom! Alla is once again hanging our clothes to dry out on the balcony (as opposed to in the second bathroom with the heater on), where the view, by the way, is more lush and green than ever. The roses in our yard are in full bloom, and the snow is melting from all but the highest mountain peaks. Nathan enjoys a sunblock-slathered hour at the playground each morning, followed by a Grand Candy ice cream treat after lunch. Pretty soon, it'll be almost unbearably hot -- thank goodness it's a dry heat.

Jarred wanted to participate in the 2nd annual Lake Sevan Triathalon this summer, but it will be held on July 26th, and we'll be in the States then. Maybe next year. However, I will be taking my students to Lake Sevan for a field trip next week, and I'm excited about that. (You know I'll take plenty of photos!)

In other news, Nathan finally figured out how to say "Mabel" instead of "Mey-mey," and today he made pee-pee in the potty 5 times! Apres!

14 May 2009

Update on Jarred

I have a huge load lifted. We got our evaluations and mine was very very good. Our director said that if I keep doing what I am doing, he sees no reason to not keep me around for at least another 2 years.

I am working out regularly at Golds Gym. I know I am putting on muscle, but my weight is exactly the same as it was when I arrived here. I like to think that the muscle gained is offsetting the fat loss. there is just so much to burn internally that I am seeing little results on the outside.

I am facilitating the Cultural Fair which is this weekend. I designed the afternoon around students' tri-fold presentations about their home country and the sample foods they bring and a second half of entertainment. I have 15 performances ranging from skits reenacting historic battles, general daily life, and singing and dancing, to reading excerpts of literature and poetry in their language. I think it will be a lot of fun!

QSI requires teachers to teach a Success Orientation each month. This month is my assigned month of Group Interaction. Spring is the perfect time for Field Day. Every Friday at recess, we will have 1 field day game which my students will coordinate. They also wrote poems to advertise the game the day of. They go around and read their poem/rap that explains the game, and how to interact as a group to succeed in the game. Last week, we ran a game that is a take on the 3 legged race, but 4 people walk together. They all stand on boards, like skis and slip their foot into a loop, and walk like cross-country skiing. Ill tell you, its hard! Turns out, the younger you are, the easier it is. The older they got, the more they yelled, cursed, hit the guy in front of them and didn't want to work together. This week is a water-in-cup passing game. Pour your water into your team mate's cup and run to the next guy and pour and pass. Fill the bucket the most you can and whoever has the most in 4 minutes, wins. They are making ribbons for all the participants and posting them under the week's heading on a bulletin board. The winning class will get a Pizza Party. This incentive got the high schoolers out to play. Next week is a relay race with kicking a soccer goal, shooting a basket, running a lap, spinning on bat, jumping rope, and climbing a rope ladder. The last week will be the Tug of War. First the kids will pull against each other and then they will challenge the staff.

I am looking forward to the end of the year, but not to losing my kids. They are the best students a teacher could ask for. One student scored in the 99th percentile on the ITBS. Thats gifted!

This summer we will have some house guests. Our fellow teacher friend and his wife and newborn will be staying with us as they finish the final touches on their new apartment and have moved from their current place in June. He has had to do about 90% of the work after the commercial crew poured the concrete. Thats all there was. He and his father in law have done the rest one step at a time by hand. I have been helping on most weekends with the raw labor. They dont use cement mixers, so we do it all by hand, on the 3rd floor. We carry cement up, pour the bags, mix the concrete and spread it over all the floors over the re barred concrete. Oh, one detail i missed, we have to go out of the building, with buckets, ask a man next door to use a water fountain and fill buckets of water, carry them up the 3 floors, and fill the 60 Gal drum. We use that to mix by hand the cement. Good hard work! Last weekend we coated all the walls with a paint sealer and I think we have to do the bathroom and closet next. None of the walls are flat enough to put tiles on, so we need to chisel all the bumps and curves to the point we can spread some glue to make a smooth surface. It is a different deal building in concrete instead of particle board and plaster.

I am beginning a certification program in the fall through University of Missouri which after completion, if I follow the guidelines of the provisional certificate, I will be certified to teach in almost all states. I may have to attend some extra in-service or take a praxis, but no coursework will be required. It is an equivalent to the National Board certification. After that, I am planning to continue my degree advancement in Sociology. Some career goals seem to be working out.

Teachers are also required to host a few ECAs throughout the year. This year I taught golf, drums, after-school math help, and the student-led band. Next year I will host the Cross Country team. Since we will meet Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays, that will be all I need to do. It will be a great way to get a pre-workout before I go to the gym. At some point, I can coordinate with some other schools in the region e.g., Baku, Azerbaijan, Tbilisi, Georgia, Almaty, Kazakhstan, or some others around the Caucasus and arrange a Cross Country Meet. We would get to travel and compete against other QSIs. The kids would really love that!

I am looking forward to Orlando. For the party, I am planning to prepare a bunch of traditional and very common Armenian foods. Although, without the very pungent and salty cheese, some dishes might not have the exact same flavor. The cheese is very unique here. Take a very herby and strong blue cheese, the absolute sharpest cheddar in Wisconsin, and mix it with any variety of farmer's cheese, and salt it up, and youve got yourself some Lori or Suluguni Paneer. A popular dish in cafes here is called Khatchapouri. It is a small deep dish pizza-like crust with some cheese on bottom, baked with the bread, and then topped with some fresh parsley and two eggs which cook slowly and partially on the finished baked bread. I have a good list of other favorites which you can find on any Armenian party table that I plan to share.

Thats about it for now.

06 May 2009

Good Family Fun

I have some favorite pictures from April and May to share, so I thought I'd make another big photo post. Remember, you can always see more pictures in our Photobucket albums -- see the links on the right side of this page.

Back in April, QSIY held the school talent show at the State Puppet Theatre downtown. Nathan definitely enjoyed playing in the lobby more than watching the student performances. (What? He didn't enjoy having to sit still without talking for over an hour in a dark theatre?) Well, I enjoyed the show.

Beautiful puppets on display in a glass case.Nathan liked standing in the center of the lobby couches. The other toddler is Emanuel, an Armenian friend visiting from Greece...to clarify, his mother is Armenian; she moved to Greece for school and got a job there, where she met and married her husband, an Australian...so you could say Emanuel is an Armenian-Australian-Greek! One of my students came to the theatre on Rollerblades. Nathan loved that she had wheels on her feet!
Enjoying some coin-operated rides in the lobby.

In full bloom: the tree in our front yard.

Nathan's first "fort" in the living room.
Playing house under the blankets.

On the first of May, we attended a small party at the home of another teacher who is moving to Thailand at the end of this school year. Nathan had a great time playing with the other kids, while the grownups enjoyed dinner, drinks, and a bocce ball tournament in the yard.

Even Batman and the Princesses joined the game for a while.