Carol Bontekoe

This blog has been keeping track of my adventures since 2004. The stories and the adventures have come from my college dorm room to Uganda, Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan, learning Dutch in the Netherlands to living in the wilds of Homer, Alaska. I went back to school in Amsterdam to study Theaterwetenschap (Theatre Science) at University of Amsterdam. And now my adventures as a Fruit Fly, a Sexy Unicorn, and creating a movement with Team Sparkle in Chicago.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Working on Christmas

In Peace Corps we are not given Christmas Day off. So, I still ahd to teach class. I was able to have some of the boy volunteers come and stay with me and give lectures to my kids and do activities to explain American Holidays.

One of the boys, Gino, was born and spent his childhood in Russia so he speaks fluent Russian. The other boys Brandon, Zach, and Justin don't speak any Russian. They learned Kygyz here in country. So, what we did is those boys talked in English and then Gino would translate into Russian. Then we did some activities with the kids. The lectures were, um... interesting to say the least.
Zach talked about Christmas in all of his lectures. He seems like a pretty good teacher. He was engaging and asking them questions and getting them to read what he wrote on the board. Even taught them what CAROL means. Great teasher I give him a 5(A in America).

Justin, well he is not a teacher. He is a business volunteer. It was a scandal and a half that he wrote with his left hand. For me it felt like he was trying to diagram how to get the GDP up for Halloween. His talk to my 5a class about Ground Hog's day made us look less than intelligent. Gino couldn't think of the word for Ground Hog so he said Large Rodent. Hearing about a day where a large rodent comes out and sees it's shadow was weird. My students looked perplexed, I could understand where they are coming from. It does sound like a pretty stupid idea.

The best talkes, for those of us who understand English at least, were my friend Brandon's. They were passionate and heartfelt. His first talk with my 6a was about Independence Day. He came out of the gate swinging, "We all know one thing: America is the GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD!" Gino looked at him, Brandon gave him the eyebrow raise to translate it. He did, with a little change. He translated it to, "America has many holidays." Myself and Gino were the only ones who knew what had just happened so Gino had to suppress and giggle while I bit my lip and started making squeeking noises as I tried not to laugh. Brandon then kept going between my world map; that is situationed under some bubble letters that say, "Life is calling, how far will you go?", and the front of the room. He went on about the vil empire of England and the Great nation that is America. He started writing on the board about 1776. My 6a is alreay generally confussed class, so I instructed them to take out their notebooks and copy down what he was writing on the board. He started ranting and raving about tea and the Bostonians dressed up as Native Americans. The thing about his rants is:
a. He was so passionate and loud
b. Gino was quite and none emotional while translating
c. Gino rarely actually translate what he said
Brandon also did a lecture for my 4a class about St. Patricks day. The day where we all become Irish, we get pinched if we don't wear green, the ADULTS drink green beer, and the city of Chicago dyes its river green. My students I was sitting by kept asking why to all these things and I wanted to just say, "It's an excuse to party." I instead kept telling them it is a tradition and aren't traditions fun, and asking them what they think about traditions. It really does sound stupid to the outside world.
The best of his talks and probably the one that actually had the most impact on my students was his talk on Independence day with my 5a. He started out this time with what is the most important thing in the world? My students answered: love, life, beauty... Brandon picked up the numb of chalk and wrote, "FREEDOM". He then turned around threw his hands into the air and yelled, "FREEDOM!!!!" My students giggled but didn't know what to do. Gino translated it into Russian very monotone. I then instructed my students in Russian to repeat what Brandon had just said. So, they all said freedom. I then again instructed them to repeat, and this time I participated myself all of us throwing our hands into the air and yelling "FREEDOM!!!" in unison. Then we started repeating it and I told them to be passionate. FREEDOM!!! The boys I was sitting next to pulled out their notebooks and wrote down freedom and the russian translation, if they didn't have a notebook they tore out a piece out of the other kids. They then kept practicing the rest of class and asking me if they were pronouncing it correctly. After the freedom chants were done Brandon said, "All men die, but few truely live." Gino actually translated it. He explained how the British treated us like dirt and how we had to break free from these oppressors of FREEDOM.
At the end of my 5a all the girls asked for "Very Beuatiful Zach" to autograph their notebooks. All the rest of the kids joined in and got autographs too from all the boys. These guys were super stars to my kids. Overall, it was great. I had a great time. The guys had a great time. My students got to learn about American Culture. But for me part of why I wanted those guys to come and talk to my kids was because I wanted them to see an example of great guys. They don't always get that where we live. And judging by my students treating them like rock stars I think they did just exactly what I wanted them to.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sledding and Ice Skating!

The kids in my village say they like sledding, yet we live in a FIELD!!! No where for kilometers and kilometers is there so much as an incline. I live in pretty much the flattest part of on of the most mountainous countries. When they say they like sledding they like having someone, normally me if I'm around, pull them on a sled. They also like ice skating. This includes holding onto the back of someone's coat while they walk along and they slide on the ice. Yesterday I had a line of 8 children latched on to my coat and they thought it was hillarous as I ran faster and faster on the ice. They thought I was playing but in reality I was just trying to shake 'em loose. Didn't work and my neighbors came out to watch the specticle and kept telling me they were impressed by how strong I was. "My, you'd let 8 children in a line be pulled be hind you that is impressive." I was too embarressed to admit that I was only pulling so many children cuz I wasn't strong enough to get away from them. So I smiled flexed my arm and kissed my bicep and went into my house to do some push-ups.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Dance for it!

Yesterday I went to an English speaking Church in the capital city. It had people from all over the world. India, China, New Zeeland, America. The pastor is Scottish. During the service he had us get up and make a conga line to celebrate the good news. :) It was pretty boss.I was told by another volunteer that maybe if there had been conga lines at his church growning up maybe he would have kept going to church. I do have to admit it was pretty fun.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Now we're talking about what I know

“Sit down; you’re not pulling anything that I haven’t already thought of!” I say this in English to one of my students who can’t understand one word that I just said. He gives me a smirk then takes a long leisurely stretch and makes as much nose as he can in the process. I smirk back thinking, ‘Honey, came up with that one in Mrs. Ladd’s 1st grade class!’ He slowly walks back to is chair and does as I suspected he would pulls the chair out so it scraps along the floor then turns it around so he is sitting backwards in the chair. This time I think, ‘Nothing that Mrs. French didn’t have to put up with in Excel in English in 5th grade.’ I’m not impressed. The things he just did are suppose to be a warm up to really agitating the teacher, to making sure not even the most studious of students can pay attention, to blatantly not doing the work. However, this is the best he has to offer. He sits down I stare at him and he turns the chair back around. Later he will hit one of his fellow classmates with a spit ball but that is easily ignored by the rest of the class. The next day when I ask where his homework his, he shrugs his shoulders and says he hasn’t done it. See, I’m not, not impressed, because he has disrupted class but for the lack of creativity the lack of flair. See I am an expert on how to really gnaw at a teacher’s goat, if you will. Let me give you a few examples:When I didn’t do homework I didn’t just say I didn’t do it. No, too simple, too expected from the talkative student in the front. (the front? Yes, back of the room disturbances are expected, being right in the front give an air that you might eventually crack down and study and forces all other students into disruptive behavior) No, I would hand write a paper in the class before, annoying that teacher, listing out all the reasons I did not bother to do the homework. It normally took as much if not more effort to do this than if I had just done the assignment. Then there were exams, particularly math exams. Where when knowing that I knew nothing for the exam I would proceed to write ten in for every answer. It was right once, but I only got partial credit because I didn’t show my work. Another time I wrote a very nice note about how I hate advanced algebra and it wasn’t going to help in life. Mrs. Erspamer wrote a big zero on the top with a smiley face in it. She liked my note Now a great way to disrupt the class and still get a good grade is to have actually studied and not just that but looked up background information. This is effective for actively interrupting the teacher with little nuggets you have found out, stopping other students from talking by correcting how what they think is right is actually wrong, and it helps for writing your tongue and cheek research paper. I’m still proud of my paper “Our Enemy to the North” in which I proved that beyond a doubt we should attack Canada. My presentation on it was top notch as I got sophomores to become passionate on the subject and kept them asking me questions about exactly how can we extract all their natural resources. That leads me to another good one for English class. Volunteer to read your paper you wrote. You have to make sure you have not actually read the book of which your paper is on, but be extremely critical about the author’s scholarship of this so-called “classic”. Yeah, I’m sure Dickens was great and all but I don’t need stories about crazy ladies in wedding dresses. If this is too much work learning show tunes and singing them on key trigger words is affective. Bringing in Varsity Blues and slipping it into the VCR while the teacher is gone for her cigarette break also works. When the teacher has you sit outside the classroom start to play wipe out on the lockers. Asking the weird lonely kid with the magic cards to please explain how awesome they are, and if that has not taken enough time move on to the pure awesomeness of Dungeons and Dragons. These are a bit of my tamer exploits into my past of being a disruptive student because I’m sure by now my mom is laying on the keyboard going where did I go wrong? However, then I get to point out I got into her alma mater, made Dean’s list, and graduated with Honors. Also, that all these exploits happened 4-16 years ago. Although, I could disrupt a college theatre class like no other for the simple fact that I can mimic mannerisms fairly accurately and Theatre Profs got some rockin’ mannerisms. Please, don’t think I say all this to brag. Not true. I just want to back up the fact that I am an expert in this field. There are lots of things I am not an expert on Napoleonic wars, Heisman Trophy Winners, Vegetarianism. But leading public school teachers and students alike, completely off topic. Oh, my friends I am an expert. I also know that from my time in excels and honors classes smart kids are the best ones at disrupting classes. Their creative little brains when turned towards the bad can be very powerful. And I could lead those kids in the disruptions. I’m not saying that makes me really smart, but does mean I could control the really smart kids. That is why when students show some caliber of excellence in the field of disrupting classes my inside urges want to nurture it but my roll as teacher has led me to trying to crush it. Examples of some of my better(disrupting) students:There is a second form boy who is shockingly disruptive with little effort. He touches everyone. All the time. Not fighting or hitting or being mean in any way. He just keeps touching them, the other children. I keep telling him to stop but it doesn’t happen and I can’t take him to the director for I would feel like an idiot explaining in my broken Russian that he touches the other kids, for no apparent reason. This is brilliant for it is a difficult issue to get under control for its lack of chaos. Then I have a third form boy that simply won’t sit down. When he doesn’t do his work he has this adorable and infectious giggle that says look how cute I am not doing my work. When he does do it, and I have written a 5 on his paper, he does a killer Michael Jackson impression. This stops all the kids and myself as we watch him spin, sing, dance, and moon walk. That is talent when even the teacher has to watch and can’t find the muster to say sit down. With my fifth form classes they have a lot of issues with cheating on exams (really quizzes, but we call them exams). On one exam I had the Russian word for flower as a bonus question and they had to write it in English. Only one girl got it but there were a bunch of boys with Violet written down. I couldn’t figure out where this came from but all the boys do sit together so I knew something was up. Then in the next class a boy Roma was talking to me and he pointed to alphabet chart next to “V” and said, “Violet (in Russian now) that means flower.” I looked at the chart looked back at him and smiled. Ah, that is where they got it. I called the boys out and was like you boys got caught coping off of this board and it isn’t even right the world for flower is flower. One boy Anatoli stands up, outraged that I could accuse him of cheating off of that board, “No! I copied off of Roma!” I suppressed my smile and told him to sit down because that was worse, I wasn’t actually mad about the coping off the board since it was my fault for not taking it down. I couldn’t be mad at him for coping off of Roma for is impromptu confession was too funny for me. Then there is Vallerii. My 6th former. A child after my own heart. He hardly comes to classes but when he does it is almost certain nothing can get done. He is actually pretty smart, but knows absolutely no words that I have taught him but can fluently repeat any rap line he has ever heard and anything I say in English not related to the lesson. He knows an abundance of curse words and how to properly use them. I have stifled that by looking at him blankly and asking if that is German. When he realized he is failing my classes he started pulling his chair up next to mine while they were suppose to be doing their writing exercises. Everyone was enticed to watch our dialogue instead. There is a sort of brilliant flair to his disruptions that I admire and would be co-collaborator if I were in sixth form with them. Only recently have I found a way to stop his antics. I made a deal that if EVERYONE, I had to keep reminding them that means Vallerii too, turns in all their homework and is very good for a week and a half we will play volleyball one day. This has lead to the other kids forcing Valerii to sit down, pleading with him to remain quit, and lending him paper and a pen to do his writing assignment. We’ll see how it works out. But again I gotta say I like his style, and trust me I’m an expert on these things.

Monday, December 4, 2006

I want you to appreciate what you have

If you live in America there is one thing I can pretty much guarantee you take advantage of and don’t even really appreciate it for how awesome it is. You especially don’t appreciate that it is in side. The Toilet.Yes, The Porcelain God. See I have learned how awesome they are, especially since the cold snap that started a few weeks ago.I have also built up a tolerance. I can go very long periods of time without using the “toilet”.Some volunteers here have toilets. I am not so lucky. However, most everyone I know that lives with a Kyrgyz family has a pit toilet (read whole in the ground). I have pretty much a standard issue outhouse. Now when I want to go to the outhouse I will sit and debate how long I think I can wait. When the time comes that I can’t wait anymore the process begins. I put on a pair of tight track pants, and snow pants (more like rain pants but the best I got). Then I put on two or three layers and my coat (a rain coat, again the best I can do). Then I have to debate whether I think it will be a quick trip or a long trip. If it is a long trip I put on a hat, coat, and scarf. Short, I skip all that. Although the other day I thought it would be a short trip and my hands went numb in the process and I couldn’t feel the toilet paper and accidently dropped it down the whole. That is like a mortal sin here, you HAVE to throw it in the trash. Then I have to walk from my room in the back of the house down the hallway through the kitchen. I turn on the lights to the outside. I gently walk down the stairs trying to avoid slipping on the ice. I get down the stairs and try a brisk pace, but still needing to be careful because of ice, so the wind doesn’t blow the snow off the haystack on to me. I walk past the pig pen, then through the cow barn and try to avoid their toilet area. Then I gently shuffle down an icy slope. Get hit by the stabbing cold wind in the open area. Have the dog try and attack me and I’m there! I do my business then have to do everything in reverse. We do have German magazines in there if I am so inclined to read them…. I don’t read German. So, I want you to make sure and fully appreciate everything you have. Even if it is in your least favorite room to clean.