Thursday, December 3, 2009

Good Morning, Mongolia!

Every monring I wake up thankful for several things in particular: my apartment with running water, health and happiness and the fact that I don't have to be at work until 10. Some of the other Hovd Volunteers drag themselves to school around 7...not me! I get to roll in around 10:05is after morning coffee, a little pilates, washing dishes and sometimes Skype. But when I finally make it to work one of the most interesting parts of my day begins. I always teach in the afternoon but the hours between 10 and 12 are filled with random activities that change almost daily- one of the perks of working here is that there's always a new morning crises or task. It wasn't always this way, in the time of Swine Flu, not so very long ago, the library was closed and parents were too paraniod to let their kids out of their hasha (the mud wall around the family compound). So even though no one came to the American Center all morning, I still had to go hold down the fort. On those mornings, I would hunker down in my comfy chair with my back to the sun and flip through the library's poetry anthologies. One of the greatest women I've known is Mrs. Kathleen McMannus, a Georgria Shakepeare Festival staple at whose knee I spent hours learning the ins and outs of Shakespeare. She taught me that the best way to read Shakespeare's cannon by just opening to any page and delving in. Now it's the only way I've ever been able to read poetry. So on those cold mornings, with my down coat slung over my lap, I paged though volumes upon volumes of random poetry books, bathing in the words. I like being busy again but there's a part of me that misses the peace of those mornings. Now that life has sort of gotten back to normal, I have been tutoring the Director of the Library in English for an hour in the mornings. Joined by my counterpart (who, I think, just wants to bask in his presnce and giggle coyly at his English butchering), we started from scratch. Today he bursted into the room with "Hi!Hello!Howareyou?What'sup?I'mfine!Thankyou!", a rather exciting development. Apparently all that work has been paying off. I have also begun tutoring a young Mongolian woman about my age. She is very sweet and doesn't speak a single word of English. I agreed to her request because so many people ask me for lessons, I say yes and then they never come. I figured this would be the same. But so far she's shown up, even on time to boot, and up to now we've worked on the English sounds. Before, I never really realized what a cruel joke the "th" sound is (as in there) or how difficult "rrrr" (as in are) can be. Bless her heart she keeps showing up, even though I can see that she concentrates so hard it visibly pains her when she tries to pronounce some of the English words. But as long as she keeps coming, I'll keep teaching. There's also always a random assortment of things in the mornings that pop up- editing friends papers (yesterday someone brought in one about otter migration), making tests for library hiring, trekking to the post office to retrieve a new and thrilling package, last minute lesson planning, catching up on my People magazine reading, teaching the tots who live in the ger behind the library the finer points of Playdough, etc...So when 12 comes around and I go for my lunch break, it's almost like I've had a full day already, even though I have the luxury of getting to work at 10am.


Mummer said...

Great teaching stories! Remember to use the 'tongue on the lollipop (or pretzel)' trick for the 'th' sound!

Linda said...

I love hearing about your mornings.