Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Skopje and Practicum

This past Saturday, the Lozovo group went to the capital city of Skopje for the day. We met my teacher, Dushko, there and he showed us around the city. Dushko took us around and showed us the many monuments (I now understand why there was a recent CNN article questioning where Skopje is becoming a theme park) and gave us a Macedonian history lesson.

Alexander the Great Monument in Skopje
Close-up of the Alexander the Great Monument in Skopje
Dushko, Shannon, Sara, Morgan, Kenzie, Julie, Anna, Amy, Claire, Andres
Street view in Skopje
The inside of one of the Orthodox Churches in Skopje
Mother Theresa's House
When I got home from Skopje on Saturday, my family had started the first step of making the traditional Macedonian dish of Ajvar, fire roasting the peppers. I sat in the garage with them helping. They let me attempt to de-stem/seed the peppers (a much harder task than I imagined) and then they even let me help roast them. Once the peppers are roasted, they place them in a bag overnight. Sunday morning I woke up, we ate breakfast (peppers stuffed with rice, meat, and assorted vegetables), and then we peeled peppers for three hours. I failed miserably at peeling the skin off of my first few peppers, but by the end, I wasn't half bad. I would even go as far as saying I was somewhat decent at it. Once the peppers were all peeled, my host brother and mother put them through a machine that ground them up into a spread. The final step in making the ajvar is cooking it over a wood fire with lots of sunflower oil and salt for 5-6 hours. While it is cooking, it must be stirred constantly. When it was finally done cooking, we canned it for the winter. It is quite the process to make it, but it is well worth it.

This week we have our TEFL Practicum. We were each assigned an English teacher in the area to shadow for the week and then we are to teach a lesson either on Thursday or Friday. Monday and Tuesday I shadowed an English teacher at the largest primary school in Macedonia. It is in Veles. Veles is a large city (43,716 people according to Wikipedia) about 20 minutes from Lozovo. Julie and Claire are also at the same school as me. We were told there are over 2000 students attending the school. Because of the large number, the school has two shifts (one from 7:00-11:45, and another from 1:00-5:45). The students and teachers switch which shift they are on, which I would find really confusing. There are around 15-20 students per class, which may make some of the American teachers reading this jealous of class size, however, the students I observed didn't listen one bit to the teachers, so it seemed like far more students. Classes are 40 minutes long and with all of the distractions going on in the classroom, I don't feel like a whole lot was accomplished. My teacher is young and told me right away she struggles with classroom management, but from what I saw, it wasn't just her, it was other teachers as well. Overall, I thought she did quite a nice job, despite the challenges with students. She said she has a deaf and mute student that she is supposed to teach English too, which she said is a huge challenge. I asked her how she does it and she said she gives the student pictures with words written on them for vocab and the student looks at them during class, however the student is pretty bored. She also has a student who grew up in Ohio, so he is clearly fluent in English, but she said she likes having him in class because he helps her with her English and challenges her to learn more. I have been able to observe 1st, 3rd, and 5th graders at that school and there is quite a difference. The first graders know "hello", numbers, and are learning family members and most of the lesson is in Macedonian. The third graders can read some simple sentences, but still a majority of the lesson is in Macedonian. The fifth graders are pretty good English speakers, so much more of the lesson is in English.

Today, we shadowed different teachers at different schools to see how another school works. I spent the morning in the Milino school (Milino is a nearby village) with their English teacher. It was quite a different experience. There are only eight students in the whole school (one student in 1st grade, two students in 2nd grade, three students in 3rd grade, zero students in 4th grade, and two students in 5th grade) with two regular teachers and an English teacher who is there two days a week. The students were split 1st and 3rd grade in one classroom and 2nd and 5th in another. The English teacher meets with students in the small teacher's lounge. There is no Director (Principal), no gym, no library, nothing really. From the outside, the school looks kinda like it is abandoned. There are some broken windows and doors, the road leading to the school is horrible, and the grounds do not look like they have been taken very good care of. The classrooms are quite large (especially with only 4 students per class) and they felt kind of empty. However, despite all of this, I loved Milino's school much more than I like the large city school I have been at in Veles. There were 0 discipline problems and the kids were so respectful. The teacher I shadowed was great. I feel like I know her much more than I know the teacher I am with in Veles. I think largely because the school day is so rushed in Veles with so much going on. Milino had a very relaxed atmosphere. The teacher in Milino let me help the students right away instead of me just sitting there and I had a chance to actually talk to her. I felt like if Milino were my permanent site, I would be needed there (something I think every Peace Corps Volunteer wants- the feeling of being useful), and I don't feel like I would be any benefit to the school in Veles. For all of these reasons (and others), I really hope I get placed in a village for my permanent site. I would be ok if it were larger than Milino (the whole village is around 350 people, which makes Lozovo look large with its 760 people).

The short and sweet:

1) I now drink coffee.... and I actually enjoy it. Most of us who came not drinking it now have acclimated ourselves to the local custom of lots of coffee.

2) On Monday Shannon and I на гостивме (visited) Kenzie's house since we keep being told how adorable his little (19 month) host brother is. Adorable is an understatement. Vadren was very shy at first and wanted to hide, but by the end, I was getting constant hugs and kisses. I think from now on I will на гости Vadren, rather than Kenzie because nothing can compare to an adorable child.
Kenzie and Vadren (*Photo courtesy of Morgan's Facebook!)
Again, Morgan's photo
3) I ate white pig lung last night at Julie's house. It was not enjoyable. When I told my host family I had tried it and didn't like it (I figured I should tell them to hopefully avoid being served it for dinner at my house), they said they would make the black version one night for me since it is better. I tried to explain I would be ok if I never ate pig lung again, no matter what the colour, but they were insistant I try the black.

4) We are going to Skopje again this weekend for what is called "Field Day". It is a volunteer put on PC event, where all of the volunteers in the country can meet the new trainees (I have heard it referred to as the PCTs's "coming out" event) and the COSing volunteers (in this case the MAK-14s) can sell their belongings that they don't want to bring back to America.

Ајде чао!

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