My weekdays are always filled with classes and conversation clubs. Occasionally I also lead workshops, such as the two that I led recently here in Cherkasy and up in Kyiv. The first one was for teachers at my university; it was the first of the workshops that I will lead every other month. For the topic, I was told to choose something I am good at, so I decided to recycle a presentation I gave earlier this year at a CATESOL (California Teachers of ESL) Conference on “Multi-Mode Practice.” It explored how to teach to various modes of learning (visual, oral/aural, kinesthetic), engaging multiple intelligences. Sounds high-level, doesn’t it? Actually, I just gave examples of how to use different types of activities to reinforce material. Due to the need for kinesthetic involvement and interpersonal engagement, it was quite active. Here are some photos of the event:
As you can see, I was in one of the biggest rooms, with a large chalkboard (and some nice plants in the back!). I was surprised and honored by the fact that all of the instructors in my department (English Phonetics and Grammar) came, as well as the Assistant Director of our larger department, Ludmila, and a teacher from the English Philology Dept, Nastya. They were all great participants and seemed to enjoy it, which was quite a relief! My next one will be in December, and the chair has suggested the topic of academic writing. Gulp.
A few days later, I gave a workshop at America House in Kyiv. I had decided to go to Kyiv for the weekend before it got any colder and darker, so Kevin and Lilya at the embassy pressed me into service. (Actually, I was given an out, but I wanted to do it.) This was especially fun because at America House they encourage doing presentations on whatever you like. I came up with “Travel Around the U.S. by Song,” where we traveled across a map of the US by listening to classic songs and determining what they told us about certain areas. Ok, before we go on, can you guess some of the songs I chose? They are ones that talk about famous places and often have a musical style that corresponds to the area as well. I also had to choose songs that had fairly simple lyrics. They were: “New York, New York”; “Take Me Home, Country Roads”; “Chicago, Chicago”; “Deep in the Heart of Texas”; and “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” Did you get any right? There was not much time for advance publicity, and I was told Saturday morning is not a high-turnout time, so my small group of about 10 people was fine.
This is why I was sent here, folks: to bring these important pieces of our language and culture to this country in need. Ukraine has long been languishing without those willing to come here to shed knowledge on who John Denver is, and how to clap in the right places in “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” I can only hope that this will bear fruit some day, and bring them into closer community with the Western World.
Besides the musical fun, I had a great time getting to know Kyiv better. Well — that is, after the initial unpleasant welcome of a metro ride that smooshed me on all sides and left me without a wallet afterwards. Yes, once I arrived at Kyiv-Mohyla University, where I was meeting my fellow Fellow Seneca, I discovered that my wallet was now in someone else’s possession. It was unfortunate, to be sure, especially since I had more money in it at that point than any point previously, seeing as how I was hoping to buy a number of items in the city. However, I found good help in Seneca, with whom I stayed for the weekend, and Kevin (my “handler” at the embassy), who gave me enough cash to tide me over until my replacement debit card would arrive. I also thought about whoever got it, opening it up and seeing what a windfall he had gotten (since in Ukrainian terms it was really a lot of money), and then giving it to his poor mother who bought some much-needed medicine and a feast for the family.
I did not let the sudden lack of money put a damper on the trip, and even bought a number of souvenirs and gifts with the money from Kevin. Seneca and I had a great time walking the city, eating out a lot, and talking the whole time about our experiences here. There is great comradery in living abroad and in sharing such a unique situation.
If anyone is encouraged by these pictures to come visit, please let me know; I have a comfortable bed available for you!