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Monday, November 1, 2010

Seasons Abroad....

A Pumpkin Like Any Other

Well, the gauntlet of the American Holiday season has officially kicked off, starting with Halloween. The students are off from classes for 11 days, for fall break, so I decided to throw a Halloween party to break up the monotony a little bit, and because the time is quickly coming when I will be winging my way back home. Just last week my advanced students completed their first round of the competitive FLEX exams (the US State Department program that provides study abroad scholarships for Central Asian students) Five of mine passed to the second round, which I was proud of, as last year only two of my 10th graders made it in. To celebrate, I organized a Halloween party at my resource center, and invited Russ, my fellow PCV who lives in the village over from me, to bring his students into town to celebrate with us. Three of Russ’s kids also made it past the second round, which for a village school is a huge accomplishment. As luck would have it, a few days ago I was cleaning out my resource center in preparation for leaving, and I stumbled upon a huge box of unopened Halloween decorations and party favors that had been sent by a previous volunteer and never used. I went a little crazy and hung up plastic skeletons, and ghost streamers EVERYWHERE, bought a crap load of candy at the market, and baked cookies like there was no tomorrow. One of my 8th graders, who is also my neighbor, I made a journey to the Bazaar to hunt for pumpkins for 25 kids, which was an adventure in itself.
In America, pumpkins are basically used for decorative purposes. We stack them on porches or stuff them in cornucopias, and hollow them out for Jack o’ Lanterns, but other than showing the holiday spirit, they really have no other utilitarian purpose. Here however, they are one of the main staples of the Turkmen diet. The main type of pumpkin that can be found most everywhere are long oblong pumpkin-squashes, which are shaped more like thin eggplants, or those blow up toys you can punch and they pop back up again (don’t ask…) and are, I might add, ridiculously scrumptious. Sometimes they are so sweet, a plain steamed pumpkin might taste like someone has slow cooked it in brown sugar for a day. De-lish. Mainly, the pumpkins are steamed, or fried with onions and stuffed into baked somsas or steamed dumplings (which is by far my favorite Turkmen dish I have eaten here). For the last few Autumns I have waited in anticipation for when the pumpkins finally come into season, because I know that it means we get to eat Kady Manty (pumpkin dumplings) for a few months before winter sets in, and we are back to onion and goat meat. As crazy as it sounds, it’s one of the reasons that fall is my favorite season here. This particular Bazaar trip though, I wasn’t in search of a nice tasty orange squash for Manty: I was hunting for little deformed orange balls that would most closely resemble an American Jack o Lantern. After combing the bazaar, my student I managed to find a few sellers who had an assortment of deformed pumpkins that would suffice. After insisting several times that I only wanted the “’kichi-jek togoluk kadys’ (little round pumpkins), I got a good selection to choose from. We went from stall to stall and picked through truck beds full of hundreds of green and orange pumpkins to find the roundest, orangest ones they had, which seemed to amuse all of the sellers-as nobody picks pumpkins here by look-only by how thick the meat it, or how big the pumpkin is, and for sure nobody wants the scrawny under-grown ones. I ran into a woman I knew who explained to one little old lady seller that I was a foreign teacher and we often did strange things like this. That explanation seemed to appease her for the time being, and she forked over her round pumpkins. In a little under an hour, we managed to fill an entire car full of pumpkins, and a taxi driver hauled me, my student, and our pumpkins to my office in his old Russian Lada, where 20 some odd teenagers touting knives and wooden spoons were waiting to unload our bounty outside my office. We caused quite a stir, as nobody could quite figure why the hell we were hauling in scrawny little deformed pumpkins by the cartful into the Education Building on a Sunday afternoon, when everyone was supposed to be hanging out at home washing their laundry.
The party lasted a few hours, and was one of the best times I have had with my kids in a while. As my service is sweeping to a close in less than two weeks, I have been looking back on the last two years and trying to summarize up my service, over which I feel somewhat conflicted. Every volunteer has different accomplishments and experiences throughout their service, although the basic idea of Peace Corps is to do grass roots development projects executed in a sustainable manner. In Turkmenistan, one of our main goals has been to try and work with teachers and execute methodology training. This is meant to be a sustainable method for continuing to improve teaching quality and education effectiveness on a wide level to the population. However, what most volunteers have discovered is that the organization of the school system and the strict regulation of access to resources makes these changes a constant uphill battle, which is enough to make even the most diligent volunteer want to pull their hair out. Personally, though I have tried to do a far amount of methodology training, overall I don’t really see any change in the teachers or our classrooms since I have come to the school. So in this sense, I guess I have failed. But the work that I have instead found to be the most rewarding is working outside of school with my club kids. Though it may not be work on the level that we were trained towards, it is what has kept me going for the last two years, and I hope the impact that I have made on these 30 some kids will be sustainable, if on a different level. As hubris as it may sound, I hope that the memories that they have accumulated and the experiences they have had with me will somehow impact how they change as adults, and in turn impact the lives of the people around them as they grow older. I never really saw myself being a mother-hen type to a pack of rowdy teenagers, but I will honestly say as the day approaches when I am going to have to say goodbye to them all for good, I get more and more emotional about it. I have seen so many of them grow and change over the last two years, and it just hit me today, as I lined all them up together outside my office to take a group picture, that THIS, not the governments’ promise of sweeping global change, or the promise of adventure, or some propaganda pamphlet, was why I gave up two years of my life to fly halfway around the world. So, you ask, was it worth it?

In all honesty, Hell yes.

More pics

Pictures of some of my kids at the center, some co-workers and I in our resource center, and my counterpart with her new grandaughter at the pishme toy (baby shower).

September Blog

And, That’s Curtains Kids!!
Sept and Oct, 2010

Well, I have been completely horrendous over the last four months about updating this blog. Partly, it had to do with the fact that most of the internet places in T-stan have now censored many information sharing websites and to add to that, both my computer charger and my backup computer charger decided to fry out on me, and so I have been virtually computer-less for the last few months. Instead I have been fervently using the internet connection on my little Turkmen cell phone, though I am unable to download or upload anything (like a blog...ha) Luckily, a departing comrade who happened to have the same computer as me loaned me her charger on the promise that I pass it on to another volunteer within the month, so I am taking advantage of this small window and using it as much as I can before the times up. So I will recap, in brief, the last few months of my life here in ‘the distant sands’:

The Summer

The summer, as summers generally seem to do, flew by way to quickly. There were both ups and downs, some great times, and some moments that I literally wanted to throw in the towel and call it quits on the whole game and pack my bags for home. Some of my triumphs were seeing some of my students pass their entrance exams to study at foreign universities in Byelorussia, and Kazakhstan. Also it was amazing to see the progress that some of my intermediate students have made since last summer. Some of them have gone from barely speaking a word to chattering like little English-speaking monkeys!! I had some heartbreaking moments as well, like when one of my prize pupils who was selected for a study abroad program was told she couldn’t go on the day she was supposed to leave, because she was 5 months too young. She was 1 out of only 7 students chosen from the entire country of T-stan, and then on the morning her flight was leaving to Washington DC, she was told to pack up and go back home. It was upsetting to see her dreams (try 10 years of studying English for the opportunity to go to abroad) dashed just because of a stupid clerical error. Also in June, one of my closest friends I have made here, who was a fellow English teacher, was killed in a car accident along with her little sister on their way home from her sisters college graduation. Many of my close students were pupils of her, and it was heartbreaking to have to give them the news, as many had known her since they were little, and then go with my co-workers to visit her family, as it expected in Turkmen tradition to do on the 7th day, the 10th day, and the 40th day after a persons death. It was yet another reminder of how fragile life is, and how important it is to make the most out of the time we have. Because even though Jahan was only 27, she was well known throughout the entire community young and old, and it was amazing to see how many peoples lives she had affected in her short time as a teacher, and how much respect she had gained from so many of the teachers and students. She was one of the most active teachers in Tejen, and it is hard to imagine going back to school without her being there. It’s weird sometimes just how much empty space a single person can leave behind them. You don’t even realize it until after they are gone.

Keeping busy, however, is always a good salve for the soul, so for the remainder of the summer, I hunkered down into my summer clubs, rotating about 5 different groups throughout the week, and opening up some new classes. I opened up a Spanish Club, which I had been wanting to do for a while now, and I enjoyed teaching it almost more than my English Clubs! I hadn’t realized just how rusty my Spanish chops had gotten, so it was nice to begin practicing again, and crack open my grammar book to refresh myself. I opened up an elementary English Club, and had my hands full teaching a bunch of rowdy 5th graders (though half of the time was spent keeping my Turkmen kids, Russian and Uzbek kids from killing each other (I had almost forgotten about all the racial issues that exist here outside the little Turkmen bubble that I live in). So most of June, July and August I was pretty much AWAL from the PCV community, avoiding most of the volunteer social gatherings in the regions and in the capital in lui of trying to get some work done before my vacation, and also because I wasn’t in the greatest place emotionally. Nobody ever wants to be the Eore of the group.

Also, recently in the last few months, I welcomed a new volunteer to Tejen. Her name is Karla, and she is an older woman from Oregon, who is assigned to the Tejen Hospital to work as a Health Volunteer. She is extremely energetic and exited about her new home, and I was amazed to find out that we had more in common than we realized. It turns out that she used to live in Whitefish, and summer in Glacier Park!! She was part of the Glacier Mountaineering Society, and even knows some of the same people as I do!! Once again, it’s funny to realize that sometimes the world isn’t as big as you think it is. So as she began to settle into her work schedule and figure her way around Tejen, my sitemate Russ and I, along with another volunteer friend of ours, decided to use the last of our vacation days to take a trip to Cambodia towards the end of summer, so mid August I once again bid my students and my host family adieu, packed my trusty backpack, and along with Russ and Collin, hightailed it for the airport. The boys and I spent about 2 1/2 weeks gallivanting around Cambodia, checking out temples, eating our weight in Seafood BBQ and Cambodian beer, meeting new and interesting people, and haggling in the markets, spending all our well-saved travel money (I put pictures up on my facebook page for anyone who’s curious). After we had run out of both money and clean clothes, the three of us dragged ourselves back to Ashgabat just in time to hop on another plane to go to our last conference as volunteers: our Close of Service Conference!!

The Beginning of the End: Conference

Most of the volunteers, myself included, were marking the weeks-months even- to this particular conference, as it is the last milestone that we have in our service. Officially, it marked the completion of our service as volunteers, and from that point on, we were to begin our transition away from our host communities back into the “real world”. It was surreal sitting around the table with all these people, who 2 years ago were nothing more than 43 strangers to me, and realizing how much I am going to miss all of them, and miss being a part of the little community that we have all created over the last couple of years. Two of our fellow volunteers recently got engaged, so we had a celebratory engagement party-Volunteer style-with a duel vodka-pong tournament and an appropriately themed ‘future’ costume party, to end our service with a bang. It was both a really good time, and a little sad, because it was weird to think that it was the last time I will probably see a lot of them (and/or nurse hangovers with them) ever again. Although who knows, life is funny sometimes, you never know what the future holds. We received our exit dates, and I was placed in the third group, slotted to leave my work site the second week of November.

To wrap up the conference, we had a Cultural Olympiad, which basically consisted of the five regions competing in relay events that focused on the “important skills” we have learned during our service, such as “Turkmen Cola Chugging” ,“Toilet Squatting” ,“Chiggit (sunflower seed) Speed Eating”, “Manat Currency Conversions”, and “Turkmen Party Toasts”. I was appointed the currency conversion competitor for my region (Which was a stupid mistake on their part-they were doomed as soon as they gave me the pen. In high school, I was the girl who COPIED off the delinquents in my math classes. Needless to say, we did NOT win that event). All in all, it was good end to a mind blowing two years, and it was the last little push needed as we began the sprint to the end, and now can start thinking about life beyond the next school semester/harvest season. Though the thought of having to pay for car insurance, rent, utilities, a phone plan, and health coverage without a job is already enough to give me night sweats. In some ways, being a poor government volunteer is great, as we don’t have to think about any of that nonsense that exists out there in the ‘real world’. So, as the last few months funnel down to the end, I will begin the dreaded gauntlet of bag-packing-goodbye-party-hand-shaking craziness.

The Final Semester; Work and Farewells

Our Last semester is now coming to a close. At the end of October, work for most of us ends, as a 11 day Fall holiday/ Independence day break from school begins and immediately following it, many of us will begin migrating to the capital to finish the last of our paperwork, evaluations, and meetings which allow us to tie our two years of service into a nice little bow. For most of us, it is the lull when we can begin ‘cutting the apron’ strings from our students, and begin to transition our coworkers into continuing our work without us. I’m already dreading the day I have to say goodbye to my kids, as I have become really attached to a lot of them, and I can already tell I will be an emotional spaz when the time comes to bid them the final farewell. After 2 years of working with them everyday, helping them with their problems, and encouraging them through their failures and triumphs, a lot of them feel a little like my like my own kids (though as I am only 11 years older than most of them, logistically this is definitely NOT the case).

Also, throughout October, for us T-17 volunteers it was a bit of a roller coaster. Every 12 months, pcvs must re-apply to the T-stan government for work visas, and this year we lost our Peace Corps securities director, so consequently the process didn’t go as smoothly as anticipated as the staff was so overworked. We were given temporary extensions at the last minute, and were told we might be immediately evacuated if the paperwork wasn’t approved because they were submitted too late, and it was only this week, three weeks after our previous visas expired, that we were granted permanent visas until December. Which doesn’t seem like a big deal, except in this post-Soviet system where documentation and protocol is followed before anything else, and any little slip up will land you a one-way ticket to who knows where. But in the end no harm was caused, except for a few more gray hairs on the staff’s part, a lot of document shuffling and taxi rides, and lots of phone calls to appease frantic migration officers and disgruntled school directors. Sometimes it’s hard to concentrate on lesson plans when you’re not sure if you will deported within the next few days. In the end we get to stay a total of…. wait for it….four more weeks! All that stress for a few more weeks. Sheesh.

Besides all that nonsense, these last few weeks, I have begun preparing a lot of my students for (my last!! Ahh!!) Olympiad and the FLEX test, which I should hopefully be here for before I leave Tejen. If some of my girls pass the FLEX exam, they might be in America in the same hemisphere as me next year! THAT would be a trip. They have been working their tails off, and so I’m crossing my fingers that, for at least a few of them, their hard work will be rewarded with this amazing experience. Besides that, I am preparing two final seminars to train the new Volunteers that arrived in October. We got a fresh new group in at the beginning of the month, although a lot of us were holding our breaths after the disaster of Oct 2009 (where the new volunteers got stopped at the airport, and nobody made it over) But they made it in, our program wasn’t shut down (which would have been the case had they not come) and they are now in the whirlwind of PST training in Ashgabat, learning the language and receiving technical training for the next 2 years. It’s weird to think that was me 2 years ago. Crazy how time flies... So in November I and a fellow pcv will be presenting on “Teacher Training Seminars” and “Teaching Advanced Students”, which should hopefully be interesting and helpful to them as they begin their own services (well, at least I think so…says the inner nerd in me…).
So all that remains will be a few last work parties (including a big Halloween bash for my kids!) and packing my room. It’s amazing how much stuff I have accumulated in 2 years. I am crossing my fingers in hopes that I finish everything in time, and that all my crap is going to fit back into my bloody suitcase. It is, how you say, curtains baby. It’s been a crazy two years. Until soon, as now it’s America or Bust! Peace.

Some Summer Pics

Here are some snapshots from over the summer. The first two are from our Fourth of July celebration at the American Embassy in the capital (the theme was national parks. p.s Glacier was NOT represented!) Then another picture of a Turkmen wedding I went to with a friend, then a picture from laundry day at our house that I thought was cute, and also a picture of me and the boys from our Cambodia trip.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ignorance is Bliss

Ignorance is Bliss
June 5th

A common topic of conversation between volunteers is the good and bad sides about being able to understand the local language. As 2 years closes in on us, most of us have gotten to the point where we are generally comfortable with speaking our new tongue. We can chat on the bus, barter at the market, and argue with the neighbor women about the best treatment for a cold. Although our grammar may be far from perfect, and mix-ups are still a pretty normal occurrence (I ironically continue to mispronounce the verb ‘to get married’ with ‘to die,’ per one example), and for most of us the linguistic hurdles are far fewer than they were a year ago. However, it has been brought up in conversations between us that there are also downfalls of understanding most of what’s happening around us, and as one of my fellow volunteers recently put it “sometimes it’s just honestly better for your sanity to be blissfully ignorant of what’s going on.” This usually pertains to moments when the conversation concerns the wedding plans of a various relative for about the BAJILLIONTH time and you feel like your head is about to explode, or when your host aunt is complaining YET AGAIN about the effect the wind is having on her arthritis and blood pressure, and you really just wish she would shut up already. Moments like these often bring back the teary-eyed days of nostalgia when, as new volunteers arriving to a party, we would sit and be blissfully ignorant for the next few hours, tuning out to our rice palov and only taking our cue to leave when we would notice the shift towards the door, and thus guestimat that the gathering was wrapping up.
I was thinking about these moments the other day while babysitting my host siblings. They quickly tired of the television and playing with an assortment of cups that I had laid out for them, and so decided to fall back on their old favorite pastime: using my body as their personal jungle gym while I tried to read a book/ write a letter. Most of the time I generally tune out their constant babbling unless it pertains to either immediate danger or tears, or if of their toes accidentally ends up lodged in my ears while they climb over me. But during this particular instance, as my host 5 yr old host brother practiced somersaulting across my knees and my host sister demonstrated her capability of wrapping an entire braid of hair around my ears, it was a little harder to tune them out. Their kindergarten chatter gradually turned to what they would do if their mother didn’t come home that evening, and somehow my sweet little siblings came to the morbid conclusion that they were going to go Donor Party on me, and feed on my carcass to survive.
“I suppose we could eat pretty much everything except her bones”. Malik concluded, poking at my arm. My host sister agreed, then added, pulling on my braid,
“I guess, but what will we do with her hair?”
“We could sell it at the Bazaar! I bet we’d make a lot of money!”
“Yeah, or we could give it to grandma. She’s always saying she wants more hair anyway. And it would be really fashionable” Malik concurred, and added.
“Ok. But, I don’t want to eat her skin. What will we do with that?” My little host sister thought about that for a minute.
“Mom always peels the potatoes before she cooks them, so we’d probably have to peel her too.”
“Really?!? Oh man, that’s a lot of work!” As I lay there on the couch beneath a mound of squirming children, the Salman Rushdie book in my hands temporarily forgotten, I begin to wonder where this conversation might be leading. But just then, my host brother found a particular flexible position by doing an upside-down backward bend over my tops of my knees, and my host sister screeched at him,
“Holy cow Malik, you look JUST like a monkey!!!”
"No, I don’t! Don’t lie!”
“Yes you do! Do you want a banana, Monkey? Here monkey boy, take the ban-naaaa-naaaa!” This was followed by one of those high pitched screeches you generally hear from spoiled kids while being dragged from the toy aisle at Wal-Mart, and thus the next fifteen minutes consisted of them arguing over his resemblance to Curious George, and insulting and taunting each other with various animal names and offers of fruit. The conversation concerning cannibalism was thus abandoned, leaving me perplexed and thinking, “Man those were the good old days when I couldn’t understand anything.” Which leads to me conclude, it’s not called ignorant bliss for nothing.

An Update of Summer
June 15th

With just a few weeks in, I’m already having a more interesting summer than I have had the last few months of school-where I was basically on autopilot-zombie-mode until the last bell rang. After our All-volunteer conference in the capital, which was a well-needed break for everyone and a good chance to catch up with people that I haven’t seen in months, I went back to my work site to gear up for some extra curricular craziness. As my assigned school is a bit of a slacker, and I really didn’t feel like pulling teeth to organize another camp, I agreed to help the Russian school with a health camp.
Our funding however, fell through at the last minute, so we decided to do just a regular English camp-this year with a Space theme. We planned a five-day camp, and it worked out pretty nicely, with about 25 students, and 2 assistant students. Lots of arts and crafts like paper machete, pop up cards, and solar system mobiles. I had a good time, got to stretch my creative muscles cutting about a billion pieces of construction paper for the kids, managed to get coated in paper machete, and had fun dumping a bunch of squirmy kids in water-all in all good times. Then the following week turned more serious- a five day long teacher conference; organized, written and presented by yours truly. Although I have already presented at numerous seminars over the last year or so, a five day long program was pretty daunting, and left me frantically pouring over all my teacher training materials into the wee hours of the morning to scrape up enough material to teach them that wouldn’t bore them to death. Luckily a few teachers helped out giving short presentations so I was able to write a pretty decent lesson plan of themes we could cover over the course of the week. All in all, it was pretty successful, and I enjoyed working with all the teachers-and I even learned some new techniques and ideas myself from some of the other women! So with that finished, and the center and my time freer, I’ve added some new summer classes to my schedule (including a TEOFL prep class and a Spanish class! Whoop!) and I am ready to cruise until July-when our Fourth of July party (as well as the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps) will be held at the embassy. And everyone knows what that means: Imported wine and an open bar. Let the summer
madness begin!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Documenting the Slow and Eventual Death of my Beloved Mother Tongue

Documenting the Slow and Eventual Death of my Beloved Mother Tongue
April 15th, 2010

It’s inevitable, when you live abroad long enough, that the way you speak tends to change. In addition to getting accustomed to speaking like a five-year old in your new language, you must also- as an Language teacher- learn how to speak your own language using grammar and vocabulary at levels that your co-workers and students will understand. And as most students have the grammatical understanding equivalent of 7 year olds-this results in that between the two languages you end up having the linguistic flexibility of a oversized toddler, complete with bad pronunciation (just think of David Sedaris “Me Talk Pretty One Day”, SO true Sally). And as all the textbooks here use British grammar, and people don’t understand a lot of American idioms or vocabulary, I often find myself saying things like “Yes, Aman is a clever pupil, he should go in for football.” or “Why, what lovely trousers you have today Begench!”, without a single trace of irony.

The only real chance for us to speak English with other native speakers occurs when volunteers get together on weekends in the cities, or during conferences in the capital. However, this can be anywhere from once a week, to once a month, or even longer for the more hermitic amongst our ranks. When the latter occurs, and a lot of time has passed without seeing another English Speaking person, what usually results is what one fellow volunteer here diplomatically titled (pardon the vulgarity) “explosive verbal diarrhea”. Even the most private of volunteers might find themselves rattling on and on about the most mundane or personal things, which can range from expressing our deepest darkest fears about the future to a person we haven’t seen in 6 months and who just happens to be sitting in front of us, to launching into a detailed hour-long monologue of the latest gross thing our Turkmen host brother did with a cow head (oblivious to whether or not the story is actually even remotely interesting to anybody besides ourselves). And because of our superior understanding of English, we find ourselves talking at breakneck speeds with the patience of drunken sailors so that a simple sentence might go something like this, and be completed in about 2.5 seconds flat:

Previously, there had been a running competition amongst pcv’s to see which volunteer would crack most under the pressure and say the most outrageous things, which would be published in the volunteer newsletter. After some pretty hilarious results though, this competition gradually petered out, perhaps because it has been realized that each and every one of us have reached our moments of verbal desperation at some point or another during the last year and a half (mine was last summer when after nearly 2 months of not seeing another volunteer, I managed a nearly 30 minute monologue about my deeply violent feelings towards “The Mosquito”. Let it be known that EVERYBODY has his or her breaking point).
Added to the hilarity of us speaking like Ritilin-deprived drunken Sailors, over the last year and a half, most volunteers have all acquired certain vocabulary words from the Turkmen language that have become ingrained into our way of life, and thus do not need any translating in casual conversations amongst each other, but which would baffle anyone who didn’t have at least a general grasp of both languages (much like Spanglish, as it were). A typical conversation between two volunteers might consist of something like this:

“Hey Dave, gowumi?”

“Yeah, you?”

“Ehh, boljak. Yesterday my eje decided she wanted to go to our gonshy’s toyy, but my gelneje didn’t want to go because
everybody says he’s like a Narcoman, but we went anyway, and then I got sick cause the chorba had some serious yag in it. But I’m ok now. What’s new with you?”

“Not too much, we’re doing some remont at our school, so my bashlyk wants to close some classes for a month. So my kids don’t have anywhere to meet for clubs.”

“Bummer, can you meet somewhere else?”

“Ehh, bolonok. They only have permission for the school, because there was some problem with the Hakimlik before.”

“Bah!? That’s just samsak.”

“I know man, seriously. Give me a break already!”

Speed this conversation up, and toss in some Russian terminology conjugated with one of the five regional dialects, and you might have a dialogue that even the most hardened linguist would find difficult to crack. I have often thought the army should consider employing ex-volunteers to write military code. The era of Navaho is over my friends-try cracking a partially Russian-Uzbek-Turkmen-English code. THAT will keep you busy for a few days.

It wasn’t until I went to Nepal, where English speakers are a dime a dozen in the cities, due to the proximity to India, and also as a result of the tourism trade, that I realized how pathetic my control of the mother tongue’ has gotten. This occurred when someone asked me what my native language was WHILE I was speaking English to them, thinking that I was a Eastern European on vacation and English was my second language (Kia dear, you will understand that one). And imagine his surprise when I told him I was an ENGLISH teacher. Hah. THAT was a fun conversation.
So, as the months pass here, I continue to fear the slow and eventual death of my Beloved Mother Tongue, and I can only hope that in the time that remains here, it will not completely disintegrate into useless babble. And if that is the case- to be as dramatic as I possibly can- then perhaps I may consider a life in silent religious contemplation, or a career as a professional mime. We’ll see how it goes.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010