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Apr. 20th, 2008

made in china

The Move

Apr. 19th, 2008

made in china

Typy Typy: Migration



Finally, time off. A much-deserved three-day weekend has been given to us and I'm spending that time in my kitty pajama pants (thanks Dyanne!) and working on this blog migration.
Yep, I'm moving this thing to amyadoyzie.wordpress.com or amyadoyzie.com. Either will URL will take you to my new home. Please update your bookmarks and such. There may be just a couple more entries at this address, but I'll be posting exclusively at the new place soon.

Robots can vacuum and replace your hip, but for whatever reason, I still have to essentially re-post every entry on its own. Fuh-un.
Technology: The Blessed Burden.
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Apr. 16th, 2008

mui be paradise

Big Bang: Paycheck

Maybe it's because I attended a Californian public school as a child, or it just wasn't mandated in my elementary school curriculum. Either way, I was never taught how to diagram a sentence and the lumbering ghost of grammar is haunting me now.
Even the most basic terms simple present, present progressive/continuous, past perfect progressive magic potion that makes unicorns fly. All of it is completely foreign to me, someone who writes and has been endowed with the ability to simply discern correct grammar usage based on whether it sounds right. Unfortunately, "that sounds wrong" isn't an adequate explanation and neither is "because I said so", which means that I am now forced to study grammar in order to teach it.
Lets cram that, shove it mercilessly, into my 15-hour work days along with lesson planning, teaching, Bangla class, lesson planning, grading assignments, creating assignments, lesson planning, researching lessons, breaking and fixing the copy machine. It's the type of schedule that leaves you out of breath, drowning in ticking minutes.
I'm constantly playing catch up, without enough time to even think of decompressing at the end of each day as I crash onto my overly firm mattress. My everything reaches a point of exhaustion where I can feel the synapses in my brain shut off and recoil.
I'm spent and frustrated with no release. Constantly climbing the steps of the the same six floors in our nine-storied building. Feeling trapped because of the workload and how I don't even have the energy to venture outside of the building to face beggar children who slap and kick me. I'm spent, like a worn single taka bill- limp, deteriorating and torn from age.
Even with the fatigue, anxiety, homesickness- even with the increasing burden of realizing that I am fully-responsible for providing a legitimate post-secondary school education on a volunteer's stipend and base training- even with feeling lost, alone and abandoned. Even when the only solace I have are those mere four to five hours of sleep inside of my droopy mosquito net. Even so, I love teaching.
Every morning I am in class 5A5 at least ten minutes before first period begins. It's 8:00 AM when I present the day's schedule to my first literature class, sipping on coffee sent by loved ones in between the daily announcements. As the caffeine begins to course its way through my body, it feels like the sun is shining brighter into my classroom. The lessons that I pored over, that I researched and compiled on my own, take shape in 5A5.
During their first week, I introduced the following poem:

Speech to the Young : Speech to the Progress-Toward
By Gwendolyn Brooks

Say to them,
say to the down-keepers,
the sun-slappers,
the self-soilers,
the harmony-hushers,
"even if you are not ready for day
it cannot always be night."
You will be right.
For that is the hard home-run.

Live not for battles won.
Live not for the-end-of-the-song.
Live in the along.

When I passed the poem out, they read it once and looked up from the photocopy with the type of dread reserved for dentist office waiting rooms.
"I know this is difficult to understand now," I said. "But we will learn it together. Don't worry, you will understand this poem soon."
From the title to the last word, we studied every line of Brooks's poem. I offered an interpretation and had a few students come up to me after class worried that their answers were different. It was a teachable moment that I used the next day to show them that poetry, and much of literature, can have many meanings and interpretations. They, students of rote education, were stunned to learn something that didn't have one clear answer.
There's some quiet magic in seeing these young women grapple, for the first time, with abstract concepts, creative and critical thinking. Goosebumps dotted my arm when, after almost a week of studying the poem, the classes read it out loud. Each student read a line, fully understanding the text and the theme and the purpose of this poem about determination and staying positive. There's a satisfaction in knowing that they were reading out loud, completely confident and sure of the words that were emerging from them. After the last student read the last line, "Live in the along," all of their eyes lifted from the poem on their desks and small smiles beamed at me. They got it.
This is my paycheck.
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Apr. 14th, 2008

pinata

Big Bang: New Year

It's the Bangla New Year!
Yippee! Shubho Naboborsho!
I spent the holiday lesson planning! Woohoo!

I will say though, there was a pretty awesome dance party last night in the dining hall. A couple hours of reprieve from the ax-grindingness of the never-ending work that is lesson planning. Pictures and more whining to come.
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Apr. 13th, 2008

made in china

Big Bang: GLAD

Apr. 12th, 2008

swiffer

Big Bang: First Days

Our first days of teaching have been crossed off the calendar, now we have sixteen and a half more months to go. Since this is a brand new program, a complete blank slate, the responsibility of creating the meat and bones of the curriculum rested on our tired shoulders. We worked our respective booties off and the first week went off with very minor hitches. Except with the copy machine, it's being a total jerk.

Day One
- Four and a half hours of sleep and a cup of strong black coffee before my first class. (This was the beginning of a slippery slope into incomprehensible mental exhaustion for the next few days.)
- My schedule: five periods a day, five days a week. A few meals throughout the day and all other hours are devoted to lesson planning or putting off sleep.
- From all over: 7 Nepalese, 5 Sri Lankans, 11 Bangladeshis, 5 Indians and 1 Pakistani student. I don't have any Cambodian students at the time, but I'm hoping I'll teach them some of them during this next year and a half. I have the luxury of only seeing the same 29 students daily. Smallest class size: 6. Largest class size: 12.
- The south Asian head waggle is another gesture that I have to file into my body language vocabulary. It's a side to side, almost bobble-head like motion to signify yes or okay, but to my untrained western eyes it looks more like huh? I have no idea what you're talking about. When I ask a class if they understand what I just said and all I see is a stream of waggling heads, I feel like I've failed until they all verbalize yes, Ms. Amy.
- Renu, an Indian, doesn't smile as freely as the other students. I have yet to see her laugh and was concerned that she wasn't comprehending anything I've said in class. I asked her if there was something I could do to make class better for her. She said, "No, Miss. I do not know how to smile or laugh very much in class. In my education we do not do that. My education was different." I vowed to myself that by the end of her time here, I will have her choking on the type of laughter where you throw your head back and joy gushes out of your opened-mouth smile. I didn't tell Renu that specifically, but it's a quiet mission I've taken on.
- There are two chatty Nepalese girls in my Lit and Homeroom classes. Anu and Prabi. I'm a terrible disciplinarian, but felt some type of odd authoritative redemption when I asked them to not talk while others were speaking. They apologized and haven't interrupted class since. I was telling friends from home about my first day of classes and how I had two chatty Nepalese girls and realized what an incredible sentence that was. I can't think of another job where I would have the honor of griping about my Nepalese students.
- I was doing an introduction activity where my students have to guess questions to answers that I wrote up about me. One of them was Razorcake and some students guessed that it was my favorite food! Ha!
- My left eye is zonking out. There is a small splotch of grey blurriness that is popping up in the middle of the lower half of my visual field. It's like pixels have gone out in my eyeball. I believe this is a physical manifestation of stress and not a sign that I'm losing my vision. Cause if I go blind while I'm in Bangladesh, my mom's gonna be super bummed at me.

Day Two
- Getting up just an hour after the sun has risen was more difficult today. Especially since I only managed about five hours of sleep.
- I posted the question "What is Literature?" to my Lit classes. The students wrote their definitions on the white board and when they referred to literature as a means for one to write about their emotions, they would invariably write "he" or "his" like "Literature is a way for someone to express his feelings. He can show his ideas through literature." As we went over their responses, I presented the idea of replacing generic general pronouns from the standard he/his to she/her.
"I know you are all used to using the he/his," mostly because in a lot of their native languages their they pronoun is not gendered, "but for this class we will only use she/her."
They smiled and waggled their heads. Some eyes widened at this new notion of making the woman the normative. I felt like I could literally physically see their minds expanding, their brains thumping inside their heads. It's only the second day and I've already earned one of my most favorite teaching moments.
- When asked about their goals and expectations for my class and the school, Uma, from Sri Lanka, said that she wanted to learn to think critically and to be more creative. I said I would try to help them with these skills, but what I really meant to say was that they all had it in them and all they need is a place to practice. I'm just a facilitator, a middle-man for change.
- At the end of day two I came to two conclusions: 1) The next sixteen and a half months is going to be grueling, hard, hard work. 2) The next sixteen months is going to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my lifetime.

Day Three
- My eyeball is still doing that weird gray blurry thing.
- I frightened my Homeroom class when I told them that after they've mastered English they might want to start practicing Chinese because of their rising power and influence. They were not amused.
- My students wrote short essays about why they are here at the Access Academy, Marzi's answer exemplified the general sentiment:
I come to this academy to achieve something special in my life. Not only for study but also for knowing different kinds of people, different cultures. I want to learn how to face challenges easily. Here I will be have to adjust with the people of different cultures so in future I will have not any problem to adjusting in any part of this world. Access academy can improve my everything; whole as a person and it can help me to be a well human being. That's why I am here.

- The minute classes ended it at 3:00, I retreated back to my bedroom and promptly fell asleep until it was dinner time.
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Apr. 8th, 2008

made in china

Big Bang: Plan to Plan

It's these moments of sheer exhaustion from just being up, of thinking this is the rest of my life for the next 17 months, of actually teaching students and meeting them and knowing their stories, of sitting in the office meticulously combing through text books trying to find activities and exercises that are teachable and won't make me fall asleep while teaching it. It's these moments where its realer than the dirt beneath my toes as I walk through dusty alleyways. Where I finally feel that I am solidly here, with a purpose.
It's also these moments where I'm still functioning on four hours of sleep and a couple cups of coffee.
The task at hand is so overwhelming and demanding where I just want to crawl back to Portland and slide back into being a dishwasher. Yearning for the simplicity of hauling oversized bus bins into the confines of a greasy dishpit- spray, rinse, load, wash, repeat. I never lost sleep because I was too bogged down with planning on how I would wash dishes the next day.
Don't worry. It's just the fatigue talking. I don't really want to trade Chittagong for steel wool scrubbies.
- -


The school held it's Welcoming Ceremony this past Saturday and all of the teachers donned saris and looked our south Asian best. My personal goal was to look like a Malaysian princess and I felt I succeeded in my plum blue, violet and gold accented sari. The event ended by early afternoon and the lot of us, all dressed up with nowhere to go, decided a trip to Baskin-Robbins was in order. When our gang showed up to the Sugar Buns plaza, where B-R is on the third floor, we created a stir comparable to the a gaggle of young women dressed in gaudy prom dresses hanging out Home Depot.
- -


I really like that our students call us ma'am.
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Apr. 2nd, 2008

i like how

Big Bang: Potential Greatness

"How do you assess future greatness?" Kamal asked us, a dozen teachers sitting around him after another day of student testing. He, the Chairman and CEO of the Asian University for Women, gently slung the rhetorical question into the center of the classroom, it floated slowly to the ground as we all looked at each other and shrugged in our heads.
We're knee deep, wading through layers of photocopied tests, in an attempt to assess the English and math capabilities of our bright young students. They're exhausted from the multiple daily examinations. We're trudging through trying to grade them in between seemingly endless meetings. After they're all marked, the scores tallied next to student ID numbers, then what?
How do we assess potential? Leadership? Courage? Through a couple 300-word English essays written within an hour?
They've passed a first test by showing up here. Doesn't it take courage to move to a foreign country, away from comfort and security, to invest the next year and a half of your life into an untested program, hoping its rewards will outweigh its sacrifices?
I ought to ask my colleagues that question.


These are students from one of the best public high schools in Chittagong. Some of our Bangladeshi students were plucked from schools just like this, which looked alarmingly similar to my classrooms in Huarong, Hunan, crammed with about a hundred students and a single teacher.


No one likes tests, they're fallacious gauges of one's complete and true ability. How does one say: I am from a remote area of Pakistan where my father is a potato farmer. Girls like me never leave. But I have. on a multiple choice exam?
Thankfully, they're only being tested for English comprehension and writing ability- to place them in the best possible classes to further their studies.
Thankfully, we're not grading them on potential, because there isn't a mark high enough to do them justice.

Apr. 1st, 2008

made in china

Time Killer: Free Rice

As the rising cost of rice is freakin' out all the Azns who live by it, here's a site that will bring rice to folks who don't have any and improve your vocabulary! Win-win!
FreeRice!

Mar. 31st, 2008

magnum handgun

Big Bang: Bed Rest


It's happened.
A fever, restless sleep plagued with nightmares about trying hard to remember difficult-to-pronounce names of students from five different countries, and, of course, the poops. I won't get into the details of the latter, it ain't pretty.
Today was the first day of assessment exams where I was supposed to proctor three tests, but I stayed in bed all day nursing "the rumblies."
Insult to injury? The ties to one of the corners of the mosquito net frayed and now it rests limply against a wall instead of protecting me from malaria carriers.
And I need to wash my feet before I get into bed tonight. Our floors are so dusty.

Alright, that's the end of my stupid whining session.
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