Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The new face…

Have not been blogging have I? Well, the real reason for this is that I simply have not had the time or the energy to sit down and hash out the themes. I guess this also means that I am sagging as to the necessity of actually maintaining the blog. I don't want to make excuses but I have always been a "reluctant" blogger and the purpose of all of these words has always been to try and make my Polish case public. I hope this doesn't anger people to much if I say this (sarcasm, of course.) but that gif of the stick figure banging his head against the wall really does sort of sum it up for me. I mean, you have to really want to sit down and type out your thoughts; blogging is not like making a things to do list and 1500 word themes do not come out easily every time. And if you are looking at blogging for its potential as a personal success, well, you can see how the phrase (now) "even after now almost six years" might have me thinking of all of this as mental fitness these days. The newspapers have been on time though, in case you didn't notice, it is just that I myself have been a little busy.

About what I am doing is no secret however; I have been teaching English. I have regular classes these days, a growing number of students and, for all intents and purposes, it certainly seems as though I might just have a hit on my hands. I know that I never did really go too deeply into the ugly abyss of political entanglements I waded through to get here. I held back, of course, for political reasons, specifically wanting to leave those decision makers who were not making favorable decisions alone rather than setting myself up as a keyboard fascist with them. Not to say that this would have been speaking the language, it was just that I wanted to see the whole story before getting all public and angry over the level of obtuseness. I don't know if this was the right choice or not because my eventual landing was more despite the powers that be than because of any rationality or interest taken on behalf of the students on their part. But in any case, I am on the job and liking it quite a bit.

I should also add here that my face has remarkably improved since I started teaching in earnest several weeks ago. I knew this would be the case when I first came so don't wait for any revelations about the experience. I knew from the days of the bike shop that nobody gains a reasonable social status without some available and understandable social interaction (read this as: A trade) to go along with it. I know the counter argument that says it is the money you spend that makes you the man, but don't you believe it for a minute. No real friends have ever been made because of how much money you spend when you are shopping. It is and forever will be who and what you are before what you have. You don't believe me. This is of course always your right. But if you don't, you are probably not the sort of person I want to talk to anyway.

As I say though, the results of my newly minted "Oh, he teaches practical English here in Pinsk" face has meant a complete renewal of my enjoyment of actually living here. It is, except for my now 'scattered to the winds' former partners, exactly what I wanted from the very first. Now when people look at me there is something there for them to think about other than some emotional reaction to my being American or worse, a negative dismissal for being a stupid ass for even wanting to live here in the first place. But with purpose there is a bridge and with a bridge we have community. An old man sidles up to me at the market, "You are the American who gives lessons, right? I am going to New York to visit my son, can you help tune up a little?" Yes, I can. A lawyer comes to me, "My daughter wants to be in the English Olympics this summer, can you help her?" Yes, I can. The woman who sells me my popcorn asks: My son is getting terrible remarks. Can you help him?" Yes, I can. And so on and so on…

And it actually even gets better than this.

After coming back from giving some extra time on Sunday morning, we got a phone call from the theatre. "We have a photograph of you and also, uh, we are playing Mama Klava tonight if you are interested you can come over straight away." Mama Klava!? This was the show I saw when I first came here to Pinsk. This was one of the two shows that actually inspired Pod Kablukom! Yes, I have animosity for the theatre group, but look at this: They are calling me at home because they remember! Tanya of course starts in that there is probably no one there and they are just looking for tickets. But no! The new theatre is sold out but because it is me, when we show up they are more than happy to put a couple of chairs on the right isle (fire codes be damned) so Tanya, Anya and I can watch the show.

You tell me that face doesn't matter.

Mama Klava actually wasn't so bad by the way. The play is about a grandfather clock which produces incarnations of couple's sexual fantasies. Said couple is starting their day when all of a sudden an image of the husband's secretary, wearing an opaque negligee appears from the clock. Later, an image of a younger, sexier version of the next door neighbor's wife pops out as well and of course there is a lot of explaining to do. The show is played as absurdist comedy and I guess playing a show they did six years ago means that the theatre wants to redefine their own faces these days by reshaping old productions under new circumstances. In the case of Mama Klava, the theatre actually built a set and dressed the actors in an Indian motif and the two main actors wore silks and house coats which might be in fashion in an imaginary Calcutta. Give points for effort in any case.

After the show I went with Alexander, the theatre manager who phoned me, for a drink. Alexie had already started long before the end of the show and his going with me was much more about adding to his blood alcohol level than it was about Pod Kablukom, a deal he knew I am still sore about. But the issue was understood that if I still had interest in such things, the door to the theatre was open and there was a whole new group of actors who might be interested in having a part written for them. And, as the set and costume design was as I mentioned, I guess I had not been the only one waiting around for better times.

However, as we were getting our glasses of vodka at a bar near the old theatre, I had an interesting meeting. A woman came from behind the curtain of the bar and asked if I spoke English. I told her I did and after a few pleasantries it came out that she had lived in Idaho for ten years but had returned to Pinsk three years ago. The obvious question about why she had come back led to a story about a son who had gotten into narcotics, a situation which eventually led to her returning to the beautiful and interesting republic with her then 14-year-old daughter in tow. The problem was though that the daughter's life was being completely mishandled. When they had fist returned the girl's Russian had not been all that good- she had been four when the family immigrated. But rather than assigning her a tutor and allowing her a chance to try to cut it at her normal level, for some reason the school administration decided that they should better place her in a class with 11 and twelve year olds. The girl, Katya, is now seventeen and is not only three years older than her classmates, she is also still three years away from graduation. Interesting story.

So thinking that I might be able to do something to help, I invited her over to one of my classes. This was today. The class I invited her to has students who are about her age and my thinking is that she might possibly be able to help them with a little extra English speaking and maybe they might turn out to be a gateway back to a more rational peer group. As of the moment of course we don't know the whole story, but she was with us today and will come back next Thursday for the next session. And I will admit it is fun kind of fun speaking in Idaho English with her. I have a couple of cool Coeur d' Alane stories I like to reminisce about from time to time and for sure, Katya is from there.

Anyway, that's the news from Pinsk these days. I am trying to work it out about what I am going to do with this blog. I have become a bit ambivalent lately in a lot of ways and the reasons for this have been on my mind quite a lot. I know what I wanted in the beginning and it is not like I don't care or feel anything, but the situation and the passage of time has got me thinking hard. Of course I also need to finish the cake story and probably I really should go through it at least once about my road to this very good job I have now so it is not like I can just stop writing. But the truth is that as of the moment I really do have something better to do. And I do love what I am doing right now. You have to know this: I do love it. But in any case, let's take things one step at a time.

More soon…


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