Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I just had my first complete conversation! I’m so excited. It went like this. We got a delicious salmon and rice salad for lunch today, but a lot of the girls don’t like fish. I loved every bite of mine, and really wanted to take theirs home for later, but didn’t know what to say. I went up to the lunch lady and showed her the plate piled with it and said “doma,” which means home. She didn’t hear me and started to take the plate and put it in the dishwasher. I held it tight though, and word by word managed to get out my first spontaneous complete sentence. It went like this: “I want…to eat…at home.” And the best part…she understood! Then she asked if I wanted more. I didn’t understand the first time. All I got was the word big. But then I figured out what she meant when she put another scoop on the plate. She gave me a little plate to put on top, I said thank you, and I was on my way, plate of salmon salad in hand. I’m pretty proud of myself. I wish I had more opportunity to practice Russian. I’m mostly around English speakers or the kids all day, and that doesn’t help much.

I guess I should talk about our teaching day. We have two groups of kids. From 11-1:00 we have what we call the pre-language group. They’re about three years old, and our main goal with them is to give them exposure to hearing the language, and a little bit of the structure of ILP (International Language Programs—the company we’re working with). We’re supposed to have 12 kids in that class, but I don’t think we’ve ever had more than 8, which is a good thing. Most of them are very well-behaved, but there are a couple that are most definitely not. And disciplining them when they can’t understand a word you’re saying is, in the least, challenging.

Since we usually don’t have very many in that class we keep them together and sing songs and play some circle games. Then we do a simple version of the art project we prepared for the older kids, followed by story time. Then we just play with them with blocks or other toys until 12:00 when we get them ready for recess. Getting them ready for recess is very entertaining. It is already cold outside. I have no idea what the temperature is, but it’s long-sleeve shirt and sweatshirt weather. But in Russia they don’t mess around. We’re expected to help the kids dress in full-blown snow clothes. I had to use every muscle in my body to keep from laughing very hard the first day we did this. Each child has a locker where his/her parents leave thermals, boots, snow pants, a heavy winter coat, gloves and a hat. We help them take off their regular clothes and then get dressed in their winter wear. Then we all go outside and play.

We have lunch after playtime, and then we teach the older kids from 3-5pm. They’re 5 and 6 years old. This program has only been at this school for one semester, so they don’t know a lot of English, but they can get by pretty well. We have stations for them where we teach drama, art and games/PE. The kids think they’re just doing a fun activity, but we get them to speak as much English as we can, and give them little tokens when they say our grammatical concept of the day. Then at the end of the day they can redeem their tokens for prizes. It actually works pretty well. When they’re well-behaved. We had some behavior problems yesterday, and it was really hard to get the kids speaking when they were constantly being distracted. Hopefully today will go better.

later... Today did get better, but I don't have time to write much more. I promise I'll have more time later, and the pictures are coming!


Justin said...

Nic, I just read the stuff you're writing and laugh! I can just imagine it all, and needless to say it makes me miss it. Granted, Russia is different than Ukraine as a country, but the Slavic people are very similar. As soon as it gets even a little cold, they think it's time to pull out the snow clothes. I remember once being outside on a cool day without our suit coats and being scolded by a babushka because we were going to catch cold (it really wasn't that cold)...on the marshrutka (the little mini buses) once, in the middle of July, a babushka closed the window she was sitting next to because of the cool breeze. That's a big superstition, if you're cold you'll get sick. I never was, but I know missionaries who were given tea after ice cream to warm them up. And then there's the superstition about sitting on cold cement...

Michal said...

salmon and rice salad? i'm still not convinced you are in russia. if it wasn't for the premature snow clothes . . . that does sound very russian. hmmm.

Nicole said...

I know Michal. I don't feel like I'm in Russia either most of the time. I just feel like I'm in a very weathy boarding school in the US, but the people speak Russian for some strange reason. But don't worry, the internet people came today so I'll have pictures soon! :)