that's our james

Disclaimer: This is my blog. No one else's. This is what I think about stuff. If others think the same thing, it's up to them to express it. The sole purpose of my writings is to keep my friends and family informed. My opinions are just that, opinions so don't get to worked up if something offends you. Thanks.

30 March 2007

English Week 2

Tuesday: Fun with technology…
Tuesday was Technology Day. The original plan was to use the computer lab (some NGO donated 17 computers recently) at the school for a session on the basics of Word or Excel. After school the idea was to continue the fun with a session at a local internet café to work on the basics of searching and research. The school does not have internet.
However, we decided to keep it simple and just do an in-school session. Speaking of keep it simple, I taught Vocab session kids K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid). In honor of my father, I thought every English student should know this phrase.
Ray had a handout that taught the basics of Word. We decided to first give them the basic information about computers and then go into Word. We weren’t sure what we were getting into but we didn’t really have a lot of material or time to create any. We worked with two sessions lasting about an hour and a half with the seniors studying English.
When we began the first class, I had to still make copies of the handouts. I knew I could make them at the school for free, which is good because that is not always the case. I think since I am a foreigner, not regularly working there, and doing work for a special activity, I was able to make the copies I needed. I had a five page handout and wanted ten copies so we would have one for every two students. I didn’t know that the copier was circa Paul Williams working at Xerox (read mid 80’s). Perhaps my father even worked on this particular model. Turns out that a nearly ancient copier is not as fast as these new fangled ones. Plus they had to feed each page in separately, which would often jam at the end due to overheating. So while I took forever to make the copies, Ray covered the basic of computers.
At one point we asked how many had computers used computers to type a paper, a few hands. How many had used computers for email, internet, or chatting? Fewer hands. How many had computers or laptops? Maybe two hands. How many had never touched a computer? Way too many hands. We definitely had a lot of ground to cover.
Oh, I would like to say a special thanks to my mother. Teaching her how to use Windows, Word, and the mouse prepped me for teaching these kids the same things. Do remember learning how to use a mouse? Oh, and these kids don’t know how to type. They do the hunt-and-peck method. OMG.
We spent most of the time teaching how them how to minimize/maximize/resize windows and how to use a mouse. I had forgotten how unintuitive double-clicking with the left mouse button can be. The only Word stuff we covered was opening a new document and saving documents. An hour and a half to get to that point.
Obviously there is a great need for more computer instruction. The students do not have any open periods so I am going to teach computer basics after school. They so badly want and need this skill. Now I just have to figure out when I can do it. I am already doing after-school sessions on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Friday is out because many of the students live in dorms and go home to their villages on the weekends. I guess that leaves Thursday but I need to split up the sessions by skill level. I guess I need another day in the week. Do you know where I can find one?

English Week 2007: Tuesday = Success!!!

Monday: Crisis averted…

English Week 2007
From 26 March to 30 March, we are celebrating English Week at Katie’s school. Now don’t worry. You didn’t get your dates mixed up. This is NOT an internationally recognized week of English. It’s just a week where activities in English are planned for the English students. The project was started by Katie and her counterpart, with some limited brainstorming contributions from yours truly. However, when Katie had to leave suddenly, we agreed that I would take over for Katie and help organize and participate in a different activity every day.
From LtoR: Ray, Juliet, Katie's counterpart, guest from Mjaft, guest from Prefektur (former teacher)
Monday (go figure) was the kick-off of our English week. The focus was Life Skills. The plan was to have a panel of guest speakers talk about a variety of topics in English. The original plan was to have two guests from Mjaft, an Albanian youth activist group, Benedikt, a German who manages two local banks, David and his family, and one volunteers from the Peace Corps working in the Berat area. The goal was to expose the students to a wide variety of community members who use English daily. We also wanted to briefly introduce the students to the ideas of activism and debate, personal finance and money management, and volunteering and civil society. So that was the plan.

Glitch One: Wednesday David informs me that he is unable to attend due to an unexpected but important meeting with new regional director of his organization. This wasn’t a problem. We had too many speakers. One less just gave more time to the others.
Glitch Two: I didn’t want to be on the panel. Remember, I’m shy. Plus I had to take pictures, the specific request of Katie. I warned Juliet that she might be called upon to talk for about 5-10 minutes on the topic of volunteering.
Glitch Three: Sunday was Daylight Savings Time for us. Guess where this is going. I remembered to change my phone and everything went fine on Sunday. However, I failed to change my alarm clock. When I got up at 7:30 AM to be ready for the presentations at 10:00 AM, I actually got up at 8:30AM. Man I despise Daylight Savings. Ok, no worries. I was able ready in that amount of time.
Glitch Four: Just as I am about to start shaving (gotta look so fresh and so clean, clean), Benedikt calls at 9:00. He is unable to attend due to an unannounced inspection/audit at his bank. Plus he was unable to borrow a projector (which I wanted to use for Tuesday). I call David to double check his availability. No luck. I call Juliet and tell her that I do need her to present. I tried to call Katie’s counterpart but she was teaching and didn’t answer her phone.
Glitch Five: I arrive at the Cultural Center at 9:40. No one is there. It’s twenty minutes before show time and I am locked out of the room, standing alone, and short a main speaker. Mentally I wish that something major comes up and we have to scrap the whole thing.
Glitch Six: Katie’s counterpart arrives and informs me that one of the speakers from Mjaft isn’t able to come. I tell her that Benedikt cancelled too. A horrible sinking feeling starts to set in.
With about five minutes to the scheduled start time, I see Juliet get off the bus and jogging over to the Cultural Center. Now at least if the presentations are a bust, I have Juliet to share it with. As I am talking to Juliet, I see Ray walking from a café. I ask him if he would also be on the panel to discuss volunteering. At 10:15 everyone is in the meeting room ready to begin. The panel is comprised of Katie’s counterpart, one woman from Mjaft, one woman from regional government office who was a former English teacher at the school (she was added to the panel fifteen minutes before it started), Juliet (added to the panel forty-five minutes before) and Ray (added ten minutes before the start time).
The impromptu panel proved to be a huge success. The students were attentive and engaged. Several asked questions and reflected on the topics presented. The students were very intrigued by some of Juliet’s previous work and volunteering experience, especially working with convicted criminals.

Afterward, Ray, Juliet, and I went to lunch. Ray and I discussed Tuesday’s Technology Day, crafting a plan to teach basic computer instruction to the senior English students. Juliet then accompanied me to Monday’s usual Vocab session at the school. The students didn’t have their handouts so we worked on whatever came to my head. We also talked about the topics presented in the Life Skills discussion. Again, the students were responsive and receptive. We even talked about some activities for Earth Day.

At the end of the day Monday, I was exhausted. Despite our best efforts, many things went wrong. However, through the efforts and willingness of others, the day was saved.

English Week: Monday = Success!!!

16 March 2007

new news...

Let's see. What's been going on in my neck of the woods?

I've been busy and the weather has been good. My initial projects have yet to work out but I am now helping with the organization and implementation of English Week at Katie's School.

Katie is in DC right now for medical reasons. Though treatable, the time needed is a bit of an issue. Please keep her in your thoughts and pray for a speedy treatment and recovery. I am sure she would appreciate. As would I, her friends, her co-workers, her Albanian friends, and all the people she comes into contact regularly in Berat.

A new hobby is filling my evenings. Mona and I will be travelling around in the month of June. We plan to hit up Albania (of course), Dubrovnik, Zagreb (due to transportation routes), Ljubljana, and whatever else we can squeeze in. I have been reading my freshly delivered, by Evan, Lonely Planet Guide to the Western Balkans. Trying to figure out where to go, when to go, where to sleep, and how to get there is quite a chore. But I am loving every minute of it.
It's funny to read about Albania in guide books. I especially love the mistakes. Included are two words for greetings that I have never heard of. Lonely Planet did get most of it right though. The book recommends Tirana and Berat as the key places to see. I must say that I thoroughly agree. Oddly enough there was no mention of having coffee with James, the American. He can be found hanging out at the Bashkia in Berat. A simple oversight I am sure.

In anticipation of the coming summer social season, I bought a dart board the other day. It was relatively cheap, around $12. I was doubting its quality but so far I am pleased, though I have yet to hang it at the end of my lengthy corridor. That's this weekend's project.

Oh, and my tummy troubles are improved now. I still have a week's worth of medication to take. I am almost used to having to take a pill four times a day. I hope this treatment sticks.

The sun is shining and I need some caffine. I am going for a coffee.

Speaking of coffee. Please recall the waiter/cafe owner who has no butt. Again Axhem and I were having coffee at his establisment. Axhem asked him if he knew how to say gezuar (cheers) in English. He thought for a moment, turned to me and said, I Love You. I just laughed. When I translated, all laughed. Next time you want to say cheers, just turn to the person next to you and say, "I love you."

06 March 2007

snail mail...

My day just turned awesome.

I am now the proud possessor of the Colts vs. Patriots game (thanks Jane) and several dvd's (thanks Kirk&Casey). Plus I got some postcards which will be promptly displayed on the walls of my cavernous corridor (thanks Jessica). I also think I have a small package from Mona coming but I am trying not to think about that. I like the surprise. The movies are well timed. As I am trying to stay in Berat more, I need more things to watch and I just finished watching a friend's season 1 & 2 of West Wing.

On the downside, I am still having "tummy troubles." I could go into details but I'll assume you don't want to read them. Suffice to say, this has been an ongoing battle. The truly annoying part is that I am constantly tired. The current theory is that the antibiotics I took for the pneumonia did a number on me and things still aren't back to the balanced levels. Avosh (Turkish term for slowly).

And back to the upside. The weather here is AWESOME! It's been sunny and warm since Saturday. I am loving it. I hear some people still have snow. Nanna nanna boo boo :P
Yesterday I sat on the terrazzo reading and relaxing in the sun. Terrazzo is what I decided to call my roof which is flat concrete slab with 4' high wall around it. Apparently it's a good idea to know the meaning of words before you use them. Terrazzo has something to do with either mosaic or polished marble. Neither of which are present on my roof top terrace, though I do have an abundance of extra clay roofing tiles for some reason. Oh and a bathtub. Don't ask me. Now I'm gonna have to come up with another term for my terrace.

Yesterday I taught an after-school vocab session. Last week we covered food but yesterday I brought in pictures of the foods because a lot of them are not available in Albania. I taught at least 4 girls the difference between pumpkin and squash (they use the same word kungull for both). I also taught them about vs. and explained the definition of versus.
I have my Homework Help club later today and again tomorrow.

My audio project is still on hold. I will keep you posted. Thanks again everyone.