Saturday, June 26, 2010
Chalk Dust and the Kindness of Strangers
Well, after several packets of mystery powders and tablets from the American Embassy in Bucharest, my intestinal state seems to be recovering--though I still think I could give credit to Felicia's mother's tea of locust blossoms. Anyway, it was a very rough week, feeling crappy (no pun intended) and having to carry on with full days of teaching in the morning and going to language classes in the afternoon. Last night our little group (6 of us, including the youngest (23) and the oldest (79)) celebrated survival with a dinner at our new favorite restaurant--San Marco's, which has very tasty Italian food and excellent service. After all the bland food for so long, it was heavenly. The first week of practicum was with 3rd graders. It turned out to be a successful 5 days with lots of pictures and gestures and games to communicate with kids who've had very little if any exposure to English. They were sweet, bright children who took our pictures with their cell phones and wrote us "love notes" both in Romanian and broken English. The school that opened its doors to us was clean and well managed with large, bright classrooms and thriving potted plants. The classrooms had black boards and chalk with felt erasers, which were washed and "pounded" respectively. We found precisely one electrical outlet high on the wall near the light switch. It seemed reminiscent in so many ways of schools in the US in the 50's and 60's. Still...I have to say that I didn't mind using chalk again--(lots of it! We filled the board many times over during the 3 hours each morning.) There's something pleasing about the slight friction on the matte finish and the control over soft or hard lines as you write. Modern white boards are slick and lack any degree of subtlety. Ah, well--this might be extremely boring to my readers. ;-) I must tell you about my encounter with Romanian generosity. Wednesday night I dropped my netbook--just a little tumble from the stacks of books I was trying to unload onto my bed, but enough to bend my "stick" device for access to internet. Kaput--it stopped working (though not my netbook--thank goodness). So the next afternoon after school, I went to my nearby "Orange" store to buy a new one, thinking it wouldn't be much since the original had been 4 lei. Imagine my surprise at hearing 250 de lei. (about $90). While dealing with the young woman at the front counter, a gentleman costumer in the rear of the store summoned her and she went over to talk with him and returned with a surprised smile. "He would like to give you a device," she said. "He has 7 accounts with us and is about to change over 2 and won't need the devices. He owns a carwash here in town." (Oana spoke excellent English though she apologized for her grammar.) After saying I couldn't possibly accept such generosity and thanking-but-no-thanking a few times, and after Cosmin, the kind computer-wiz agent who lived in Chicago a few years and took care of my phone and stick account convinced me that their customer was a "very good man," I accepted. As Blanche DuBoise would endorse, relying on the kindness of strangers is sometimes a good thing. Next week--the 2nd week of practicum with 9th graders, an oral evaluation of our language skills on Monday afternoon (I'm petrified), and my interview for site placement on Tuesday. Prayers, positive energy, good luck wishes are all appreciated.