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Curiouser     

Posted by Katherine Putnam on April 25th, 2010


“Curiouser and curiouser,” cried Alice (she was so much surprised that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English)…

Every time I get ready to post I remind myself to post some of the tidbits and oddments (and not just the cultural adjustment tidbits either) that have either baffled me or to which I’m adjusting. However, each and every time I’ve quite forgotten. So, for your (yes, all one or two of you out there) viewing pleasure, I give you the incomplete list of things that bemuse, amuse or frustrate me:

1) Always kissing people on the cheek when I/they arrive or leave. (True, this is not the first time I’ve had to adjust to that practice, but as someone who likes to carefully monitor and guard her personal space…it’s still not the most comfortable custom on the planet.)

2) Purchasing my favorite dinner (two trancapechos and a soda) for less than three dollars. Beat THAT dollar menu!

3) Young ‘uns obsessing over my relationship with Chris. I kid you not. I’d name names, let’s offer a bit of grace to the guilty, shall we?

4) The driving down here! Turn signals are barely used (and when they are it’s generally the wrong signal…because the other light is out), red lights are sometimes obeyed, and it doesn’t matter how many lanes of traffic are marked because people will “add” one or two more lanes. (And then drive in two lanes at once.) It’s crazy, it seems like it would cause thousands of accidents a second…but it’s oddly efficient.

5) Speaking of driving: I miss it. A lot. I forget (until I’m in a situation where I can’t drive for a prolonged period of time) that I really enjoy driving. Not just the act of driving, but the ability to get behind the wheel and take myself wherever I want to go. True, there’s always a trufi or a taxi or the Lindquists to get me where I need to be, but it’s just not the same as having the option to drive yourself.

6) Cramming onto micros (buses) or trufis (sedan to mini-van sized public transport that travel set routes). Both forms of transport pack as many people in as possible. So I practically sit on Chris’s lap for some trufi rides and I’ve stood in the open doorway to a micro on more than one occasion. (On those occasions I prayed fervently that my meager upper body strength would be enough to keep me inside the rapidly moving vehicle.)

7) Teaching. Some of you (again, the one or two of you out there who are reading this) know that for two and a half years my major wasn’t just English Lit, it was English with a teaching certification. However, midway through the second semester of my junior year I dropped the education aspect, convinced that teaching was not for me. I just couldn’t see myself figuring out lesson plans and units and objectives and whatever other lingo you can think of. Perhaps teaching still isn’t for me…but I’m doing it anyway. CCS has administrative evaluations of all its teachers and mine is scheduled for May 7th. I’m actually looking forward to getting an outside perspective on my teaching and classroom management. (Actually, I already had one positive perspective during peer evaluations, but I’m never one to readily believe compliments.)

8) Speaking of compliments: I’ve been singing in chapel every three weeks or so (with the teacher team). Last week I was complimented on my “beautiful alto voice,” to which I gave a mental “yippee!” since I always wanted to be an alto and never truly believed that I was a soprano. I was also complimented on the harmonies I sang to a few songs. To that I can only laugh and give the credit to God, because He knows that I can’t figure out/come up with/invent/remember a harmony to save my life. One of the songs in question (“In the Light” by dcTalk…which I love, by the way) was simply in a bad key for me so I just kind of…winged it. I knew I wasn’t singing melody and I hoped and prayed that it was, in fact, harmony (perhaps one that I had subconsciously remembered from listening to the track). And, mentioned earlier, it was. God’s cool like that.

9) The way students are all but incapable of listening to and retaining information/instructions. Even writing their assignments on the board for them doesn’t work. I could write up “Read chapter four of Lord of the Flies for Thursday,” announce it to them on a Tuesday and remind them on a Wednesday and I would still get asked: “Do we have any homework?” Or: “When do we have to have chapter four read by?” Or on Thursday hear the cries of: “But we didn’t know that we had homework!” People say that there is no such thing as a stupid question. Well those people are the stupid ones. I get at least ten stupid questions a week.

10) The remarkably piercing, unique whine the students at CCS have developed. It all starts with the phrase “ya pues” (which translates to “come on”) and generally end in “Miss” or “Mister,” depending on the gender of the teacher who dared assign work/not give in to a rabbit trail/call a student on bad behavior, etc. Of course, simply reading the phrase “ya pues, Mister!” does not give you the full picture (or sound, in this case); there is just no substitute for hearing it in person. No worries, the CCS Whine thoroughly amuses me and I’m more than willing to demonstrate it for anyone who asks (or doesn’t ask).

11) City living. While I may not be a farmer, or even particularly outdoorsy, I am (and likely always will be) a country girl. After growing up surrounded by woods and corn and tobacco fields, with very few neighbors, little traffic aside from horse and buggies, and far fewer noises (saving a few obnoxious cows), living in a large city is really, really strange. Instead of woods I see buildings crammed together helter skelter, instead of fields of crops I see trash littered sidewalks, instead of buggies I see countless taxis and trufis and micros, and instead of a few cows I hear (near constant) car alarms and dogs barking. I know I can do city living (especially if I have to); I thought I fared fine in Cheltenham (England), however that was a much smaller city (town, technically, since it doesn’t have a cathedral). Watch, now that I’ve said all this I’ll end up being a city-dweller for years and years.

12) Spanish. I used to think I had some affinity or ability when it came to languages. I’ve since learned that I was horribly, horribly wrong. I feel as though I’m making very little progress in my language learning (of course, teaching at an English-speaking school doesn’t exactly help) and every time I think I know something it either: turns out I’m wrong or flies out of my head the moment I need to speak to someone.

13) Trees growing in the middle of the road. Or large tree branches stuffed into an open manhole. Either are extremely strange.

14) Street dogs. Dozens and dozens of street dogs. Some are rabid. Some are timid. Some are almost friendly. Some are insanely territorial. As my natural instinct is to pet any dog or cat or horse (etc) I see, not petting an animal is an extremely difficult task. So is picking up a rock and throwing it at the animal when it starts to growl and/or move aggressively towards me.

15) The opening night of the play is this Thursday. Yikes! By the time I next post it will be over, and hopefully I’ll have more pictures to show for it. Of course, that means I have to remember to take my camera to our dress rehearsals. (I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…)

Incomplete and completely random list? Yes. But these are all things that have struck me–in some way–in between posts and up until now I’ve forgotten to note them.

Until next time I ask that you please keep the play in your prayers. Please, please pray for health: at least a quarter of my cast has been sick in the last week and a half. Also, please pray for all the general play needs: that the last two or three costume pieces come in, that the program gets finished on time, that lighting and sound come together well, and that students don’t blank on their lines. Also also, pray that I don’t have a complete and total nervous breakdown!

Cheers,

Katherine Elyse


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