Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Spring is finally here! After a few days of spring showers, the weather is hovering around 65° F. As I walk to work everyday, I find myself looking for longer routes so I can enjoy the weather a little bit longer. Another benefit of spring’s arrival is volunteers from the north are coming to visit and enjoy the warm weather. Yesterday I had two groups of volunteers come through Jalal Abad, one just passing through and the second group is to stay for a couple of days and see a little bit more of Jalal Abad. Last night we celebrated Fat Tuesday in my apartment and today as I went to work I sent them off to see the city of Uzgyn where their are some ancint relics from the Silk Road era. I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty jealous that they are out enjoying this amazing weather while I am at work!

Spring has also initiated the start of school. All of my English club students had over a month of winter vacation because the school buildings had such poor heating systems. Many schools had planned on school starting on the first of March but since this has been a particularly warm winter many schools have started early. With school open again, I have resumed my English clubs. I have decided to only have two English clubs this semester because I would like to have more time to work at my NGO and on secondary projects.

The first couple of lessons that I have had with my clubs was reading and writing letters. While school was not in session I received a package of 140 letters from 6th grade students in Houston, Texas through the World Wise School Program. This program allows a Peace Corps volunteer and a teacher in America to be matched up and to teach their students about the others culture through letters. My WWS counterpart is a social studies teacher and integrated Kyrgyzstan and Peace Corps into her curriculum so that her students could write to my students or me. About half of the letters had were written to me and half had were written to the students.

The letters from America contained more American culture than I could ever even list. The students wrote about their families, their hobbies, one boy even made a point of describing ding-dong ditching! Some of the letters were sprinkled with the southern “ya’ll,” which was an excellent opportunity to describe the different dialects in America. I even read one of the letters out to the students with a southern accent! Although they thought my monologue with a southern drawl was hilarious, my students connected with it because of the huge cultural and lingual differences between the north and south of Kyrgyzstan.

My students expressed a great interest in reading the letters and responding but I felt that one of the young women began to feel a bit defensive when some of the students asked if we had telvisions in Kyrgyzstan or video games. I tried to explain to her that the class had been learning about Kyrgyz traditions and had seen pictures of Kyrgyzstan's natural beauty rather than the major cities so it would be easy for the stuents to assume that there was a lack of technology. That prompted me to try and remember what misconceptions I had of Kyrgyzstan before I moved here. I had no idea what I was going into because most of the websites about Kyrgyzstan talked about a traditional culture and nomatic lifestlye. With this in mind, I encouraged her to explain her daily life in a way that the students would have a more realistic understanding of life here.

So far this has been one of my favorite activities that I have done with my Engish club for a number of reasons. First of all it is a chance for them to practice their Engish with someone other than myself. It gives them an opporunity to share who they are wih the world and just as importantly it allowed them to get a glimps of how they are precieved in the world. This is an activity that I would definatly do again!

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