Monday, September 03, 2007

Blackboard jungle...

Not much writing from me last week. Sorry to all of you have been following faithfully but didn't choose to ask what was up. The answer was "not a whole hell of a lot" but in any case I didn't write anything new for a while.

I seem to be in some sort of transition period right now. Not that it wasn't planned but there is a lot of new stuff going on and most of it is not without a lot of extra tensions attached. And when I say a lot of tension, I mean a lot. This is not to say that I am no good under pressure. I think I handle myself when the hammer is down as well as anybody. But there are a lot of factors at play here and most all of them are to me so ugly I am starting to feel sorry that I ever got involved with them in the first place. Stupidity perhaps on my part or simply that my situation seemed to need something and I allowed for open doors in places I normally would never have done. I guess you get retrospective when you are sitting and waiting for something to happen and it is not happening. But as I mentioned last week, there had been a number of things happening in conjunction with my dad's coming for a visit and with what I have planned for my future here. All of these things have been either coming to a head or exploding in my face as of late and most probably this is how I got disconnected from my normal writing routine. I would like to say that I am astonished and shocked at these developments but of course, if you have been reading me you know, all of this is probably par for the course. No, it never does get any easier.

I guess the first and foremost issue right now seems to be money. Money of course is always a problem out here in the beautiful and interesting Republic of Belarus but my late summer issues are much worse than it has been in a while. The problems stem from a combination of an extended outgo coupled with sparse and newly inconsistent and unreliable incoming. Along with this, we invested in this fall in several places hoping for a more dependable and reasonable way of life. Probably we over extended or at the least, got out of good Belarusian habits (not spending a penny if you can help it) and into bad (expecting that there would be enough.). The biggest investment was made in a teaching credential which, if you decided to believe what the heads of the schools had been saying for years, had been all that had separated me from upgrading the level of conversational English in this provincial little town of mine. This teaching business started of course way back on the first day of freedom from the Polish judicial system. As I no longer had the funds or the face to build that bike shop, I at least had it in mind to be of good use to the community and all things considered, English is a necessary evil in our vast, modern world. When I walked into Loenid Fioderovich's office at the bank college and declared my eligibility though, any openness expressed on his part there on that first day soon gave way to a smiling negativism which both hinged, as he explained, on my lack of a teaching document and his disbelief that anything I told him was the truth. This attitude precluded me from actually giving any official classes over the last four years and though I did manage to do a lot of talking and lecturing and advising over at the bank college, and quite popularly apparently, I still never got to do anything but teach at my desk here in the house. Useful perhaps but not enough to improve things face wise.

But this last summer, despite not being offered a penny toward this end by the Jewish community (though part of my getting involved with them hinged on the fact that they promised that they would help in exactly this way) I managed to find the money to get myself into the Norwood English distance learning program and, after passing the course, received the needed piece of paper. I have been to the local lower schools and after a rather rudely abrupt rejection by the new head of the schools, one rather attractive if ambivalently discourteous Ms Luba Petrovna, at least seemed to be back on track with her (and Tanya's) suggestion that I go and visit with Edward Nicolaiovich, the former head of the school who has currently been moved laterally to the head desk at Gymnasium #1. Edward Nikolaivich was previously the head of the schools and it was to his office that I went before beginning my Norwood classes to make sure that this teaching document would be sufficient to work at the schools. After giving my plan the green light though he promptly got himself tossed from the directorship which is how he ended up at Gymnasium number 1. Apparently Luba Petrovna felt no compunction to either honor Edward Nilolaivich's word or to believe that a native speaker might be of any help to the young students of English of Pinsk. And of course, she couldn't have cared less about those five hundred bones I had to pull out of the old mattress to pay for the course have now left me pretty close to flat and stony.

Or perhaps this was only outwardly. Maybe this is true all over but for sure the educational system in Pinsk seems to be a seething hotbed of political drama, power struggles and intrigue. Edward Nickolaiovich seemed happy to see me when I showed up at Linyeka (the opening school bell) yesterday morning and gave me a few minutes in his office to make my case later in the afternoon. Not knowing what else to say I simply rattled off my story again: Without the money to make the business I wanted when I first came, the most useful thing I could think to do is to help the students learn to communicate with the outside world a little better. I have experience; I have already been in the schools and have been received well. The level of English in the community is awful and several times I have met students with even 10 years of training who still cannot get much further than "what is your name?". Of course the reason for this is that there is no exposure to the language as it is really used. There is some dated literature of course but neither the movie theatres nor the television shows allow for original language with Russian subtitles and everything is dubbed. And of course with relations between east and west being what they are, and have been, there are not so many foreigners coming through as there are in Europe. So basically, to me it doesn't matter whether Belarus eventually goes to Europe or to Russia, you have got to know English if you wish to be in the world. Hell, even Putin agrees with this as he proved when he gave his speech to the Olympic committee concerning Sochi's host bid in English. Yes, we all thought he used crib notes but this is not the point. With that we shook hands and he told me he would call today. As of the moment, I am still waiting for that call.

So this is what is going on. To me, it would be nice to be doing something I felt I believed in for a change. This is not to say that I do not believe in keeping BEING HAD alive on at least a semi daily basis; I am still interested in getting my story out to the world that there needs to be some movement from the Poles or the American embassy people. And I will get this one of these days. But for the moment it is just that some actual and legitimate community involvement would be a real chin lifter for me. It has been a long hard road for me here and philosophical prohibitions and unproductive and unnecessary social involvements have made things worse and worse. Hope may spring eternal but being torn down and torn down and torn down, and never for a real or even decent reason will drive a man to distraction no matter how hard he fights against it. So of course I have my grudges and issues, (who among us doesn't?) but I intend on continuing away anyway. I mean why not? It is not like I have anything better to do, right?

More soon…


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep your chin up Adam, I am trying to train a 17 year old office worker how to file documents in date order......So she puts June 07 after August 07 in the file.......... in English and she also does not know her alphabet, and she is English.

If brains were dynamite she would not have enough to part her hair! Roll on retirement! Jenny

Monday, September 03, 2007  

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