Monday, 28 March 2011

English Class

In a country of whose language you really only have a very basic grasp, it's really nice to have the excuse to spend every Monday afternoon repeating "in English please!" Hence why teaching English is a great idea, for purely personal reasons and nothing at all to do with equipping local girls with an international language.

So for 90 minutes on a Monday afternoon between 8 and 14 11-15 year olds turn up at our house and get ready for a fun-filled afternoon! Or at least an opportunity to hang out with a native English speaker, which is apparently a winner in these parts.

Teaching English has been a bit of a challenge for me, teaching isn't one of my most natural giftings. But I am enjoying working out ways of introducing conversational English to a varied bunch of girls with varying levels of English. Some are really good and can rescue me from a pit of repetition and misunderstanding, some continue to look at me with eyes that say "I want to understand you, but really you are just making noise". I'm assuming that since they come back week after week, they are either learning something or just really enjoying watching me drown in a sea of grammar, nouns and adjectives.

Today, as you might have gathered, we were thinking about food. We did a couple of work sheets categorising food into fruits, veg, meat and sweets and developed our vocab to include sweet, sour, chewy, crunchy and more. It was good, I think most of the girls picked something up. I encouraged them to describe their dinner to their parents this evening, whether they did or not I suppose I'll never know.

Most of the girls who come are from the local(ish) area. They go to school during the morning, have some lunch and come to English class. I'm generally amazed by most of their grasp of the language, and continually apologetic for the crazy ways which we pronounce things. In a country where you pronounce every letter of the alphabet the same in every word, our continual mixing up of pronunciation is a bit mind boggling. Today we encountered "sausage" which from the Albanian mouth comes out something like sa-oo-ss-a-gg-eh. Which obviously isn't really correct. Apologies all round.

I'm really enjoying being able to get the know the girls, even through the language barrier. Teenage girls really are the same the world over and there is plenty of chat and giggling to move the afternoon along. Hopefully they are also learning something about the English language, and mostly are growing in confidence of their ability to speak it. As I'm learning, a second language is really a useful skill, as well as a real challenge. I'm excited that they'll be fluent in perfect conversational English by the time I leave in June, just as I am fluent in Kosova Albanian. I am certain of it.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Rules of the Road

One of my favourite past-times here in Kosovo is to observe general road/driving behaviours, and I have decided that it's time to share some of my observations with you. Fasten your seatbelts (ha, oh man, who saw that one coming??!)

Rule 1: The first rule of driving in Kosovo is there are no rules.
However, here are some general guidelines:

Guideline 1: do not feel obliged to use your indicator. The orange flashing light at the front and back of your car is only for use "should you feel like it". Do not in any way feel that this may help you or other drivers in understanding what is happening around you. Should you decide to use your indicator, do not feel that if you are indicating left, you should actually turn left. Indicating left and turning right is not a problem.

Guideline 2: overtake whenever you feel like it. Do not concern yourself with considering whether or not oncoming cars will be in your way should you wish to overtake a vehicle. You can cross that bridge when you come to it.

Guideline 3: driving the wrong way down a single lane track is perfectly acceptable should it allow you to reach your destination two or three seconds quicker than using the official alternate route. Again, please do not feel the need to take into account oncoming vehicles.

Guideline 4: if you do generally observe road guidelines, do feel free to take Sundays off.

That's just a little taster of the joy and privilege that it is to drive here. I am thoroughly enjoying the chance to drive in the dark down busy main roads with no street lights or pavements, the challenge of seeing the road ahead and missing pedestrians is really enhancing my driving skills. Also, I really enjoy the relaxed approach to road maintenance and the fact that a road does not need to be laid to be open. And my absolute favourite bit of the main road here into Pristina is the bit where instead of the outside lane of the road there is a man's front garden. Apparently he wouldn't sell the land so they just built the road around him. Why not?

And lastly, I would like to share a story with you from this last week. While driving around a busy roundabout, a car emerged from in front of a bus which was just to our right dropping off passengers. The car was indicating left so we slowed down to let the driver do whatever the driver was thinking he (further observation - very few women drivers around here. That's the reason people look at me while I'm driving, nothing else) would like to do, and we watched as the car drove round in front of us. And we watched and watched and watched until Eileen said "there's no driver in that car". And she was right, the car was in fact driverless. There was no driver. So the car continued to roll out into the middle of the roundabout causing mayhem and chaos and as we extracted ourselves and headed off down the road I looked back and watched a man running across the roundabout yelling and waving his arms. Bless. I wonder if he will begin to employ the handbrake any time soon?

Friday, 11 March 2011

End of Term

For you avid readers of my blog, you will know a bit about the school for children with special needs that Eileen and Carol (that's Carol in the picture) run from the basement of our house. I mentioned last time that I think they are amazing and that the work they do is beyond brilliant, so I thought it was time for a better description of what they get up to.
For children with very severe disabilities school like this is pretty much unheard of over here. Most will be completely uneducated and will spend most of their time at home, some never even leaving the house. For Eileen and Carol to come here with all their training and skill is a real blessing and they provide a very unique learning environment for these children.

I am continually amazed at the way they are able to teach and encourage development. This picture is of a science lesson Eileen taught about taste. It's really science like you've never seen it before but the kids seemed to like it. They tasted various types of food to learn about sweet, sour,
bitter etc. It was good!

They have also put together a sensory area which the kids retreat to during most lessons. There are music and lights, and various programmes which have been developed to encourage sensory awareness. One programme Carol uses includes (gentle) patting with spatulas, scrunching with pot scourers and flicking with mops. To the unitiated like me this seems very weird, but it's good especially for children who spend a lot of their time lying on their backs or in one position. There's probably a lot more technical stuff to it than that, but that's my limit of expertise! I just trust the experts.

Carol is going back to England in the middle of April and Eileen is going back to Scotland at the beginning of May. They have established a really good work here and while they have been looking for a replacement, nothing has been found to carry this work after they leave. They have been working really hard to establish some kind of provision for the future and are working with the parents of the children to try and put in place things that they may be able to do amongst themselves. Carol and Eileen are beginning to work out how to engage the education system here in their duty to educate these children, but it's a bit of an uphill battle. While by law these children have a right to education, the training and resources are limited.

God has used Eileen and Carol mightily in this field but their time here is now almost over. If you like to pray, please pray that the work that has been started here would be just the groundwork for something much greater. I think that it is important for the parents to begin to demand and fight for the education that their children have been promised by the state and it may be that with this school leaving, and with the support of Carol and Eileen while they are still here, they will begin to establish contacts and networks and will flourish in their goal of getting their children into school.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Testing Times

I had a test today, an Albanian test. My first language milestone. I was genuinely quite tense about it. We went out visiting a local family during the afternoon and all I could think about was the simple past conjugation of "to work". And when I got home it turned out I had it wrong anyway. But I have a very kind, extremely and stunningly beautiful teacher who was nice and didn't try to catch me out. Except on my vocab, which is poor. How could I think that pen was karrige when it is clearly kimik and karrige is chair. Ridonculous. As it was I did alright, check out the photographic evidenced. Signed by my teacher and everything.

The other thing that I know you're all wondering about it how the knitting is coming on. Well, I would like to introduce to my superb handywork. Or at least the gloves I made and the jumper I mentioned before.
This is the sorry excuse for the jumper. I just got round to sewing it up and have discovered (inevitably) that hardly any of the seams actually match up properly and so it's not really that wearable. I hoping Knitting Surgery with Mum will sort it. But it may be beyond repair. I'll keep you updated.
And here are the gloves. They look that weird in real life. But they fit people alright, some 10-12 year old girl will have warm hands soon enough!

Other recent excitment includes the visit of Carol's mum and sister last week. It was nice to have visitors and we got to do interesting things like day trips to Peja. The only problem I have found with being a tourist here is that I spend most of my time trying not to fall over in the snow/ice instead of looking at all the interesting things around me. But during our day in Peja we visited the 14th century monastery which really did look lovely in the snow. It was nice to experience snow as its supposed to be - beautiful and white, rather than town snow which just goes black and causes chaos.
The monastery is really old, and as it's Serbian it's protected by international troops. When we arrived Eileen asked the nice Italian soldier if we could visit it and he said "Speak English". She had, just Scottish English. Turns out they don't teach that to Italian soldiers.

And finally, today I discovered that, courtesy of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, I can listen to the cricket!! I spent this morning watching the snow and listening to Aggers extol the virtues of the England team. Happily the power went out during the afternoon which meant I didn't have to listen to the Irish turn up and win. Embarrassing. I've had a few conversations with the Americans here about cricket - they really do struggle with a game that can be played for hours and hours (or days and days) and end in a draw. It's clearly a refined art cricket, best left to the Commonwealth.

So you are brought neatly up to date with my world this week. Jolly good.

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