Friday, December 18, 2009

The Newest Arrival & Advent Begins - Sunday, 29 November 2009

On the bus to church we met the newest Filipino teacher. As far as I know, she had been accepted for the job at the same time as the others. She was supposed to arrive with them, but something had been messed up at the letter-of-invitation level, and she only now just arrived.

She will be in the other side of the school, with two of the Filipino teachers. This is the Kazakh-Turkish side, where classes are taught in Kazakh (I think). This side is much larger than ours, it goes through high school, and the English teachers are truly activity teachers. They teach various grades, from grade 1 through 12, and just a few lessons per grade per week. They have no room but rather go to the various classrooms to teach. The Filipinos are in charge of teaching communication, and local teachers who have some knowledge of English are in charge of grammar and vocabulary. Some English-teacher partnerships work out well, some don't. Some of the grammar-vocabulary teachers get rather angry if the communication teacher accidentally teaches grammar or vocabulary; others are a bit more understanding that you can't teach a child how to ask to go to the toilet without first teaching the vocabulary ("toilet")!

Anyways, this new teacher has been long awaited and will not be heading to our side of the school.

Her trip over was a tad shorter than the other Filipino teacher's--a flight from Almaty (former capital of Kazakhstan) rather than a 12-hour train ride. I was surprised, however, to see her on the bus on the way to church. She'd just arrived and now she was heading off to church!

All of the Filipino teachers had moved to new apartments. The guys moved to an apartment whose description sounds wonderful--large, brand new apartment, brand new appliances. But it is located rather far away from just about everything including grocery stores and bus stops. It took 2 buses to get to church. Considering how you pay every time you get on, this isn't good!

The female teachers bargained with the administration. They moved into a larger apartment, with 2 bedrooms plus a living room. They will share--two to a bedroom--and in exchange for saving the school money, and not each requesting their own bedroom or flat--they are asking for free Internet, utilities, etc. This sounds smart. They've gotten used to living with each other, and living with others sure provides a better atmosphere than living alone. It's too cold here to step out just to visit a neighbor. So now they have room, and will save money on other things. The school saves money too.

They live in the building next to mine, but I still miss them. The Turkish science teacher got their apartment, he was moved in before I had a chance to open my mouth and shout, "I want it!" Their former apartment was the same size as mine, but much cleaner. Plus, what does he need pink, sparkly walls for? And they had a bathtub (still do) which will be so nice for Sophia!

However, my apartment is nice, and on the third floor. Yes, they have an elevator key, but sometimes it doesn't work, and then they walk. That wouldn't be fun with a 7-year old.

Last Sunday, I had noticed a sign at church that was in Russian and German, advertising an Advent music service. My minimal Russian and German combined to help me understand the sign--very simply, an Advent concert on Sunday, 6 December, at 7:30 pm. Today Mass ended early, and since it was very cold and the latest teacher had only just arrived, the others went home. Sophia and I chased each other in the snow while waiting for 7:30. Meanwhile, people kept arriving, and I began to wonder how many people our church could fit!

Finally, we went inside. The small church was packed, but we managed to find a spot in the far back. The Kazakhstan National Choir, dressed in black evening wear, stood in a double line in front of the altar (men in the back, women in the front). The pianist came out to applause. Then they started singing. I know that Bach had been listed on the program, and the music was very good--classical, German Christmas music is the best way to describe the genre. The singing was in German. Sophia was bored!

I enjoyed it--a free concert--but it wasn't enough to entertain Sophia, and so after a while we crept out.

Advent has started!

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