Friday, March 2, 2007

A Slow Week

It’s been a slow week. Everyone has been taking turns getting sick. My turn was last week, but this week there were people with colds, the flu, chicken pox, etc. I did have some English lessons. Yesterday I went to one of my regular orphanages.

Some of you have asked about my “typical schedule,” so here is what yesterday’s visit went like:

Background: I arrive at the orphanage, and most kids have returned from school. They have a little free time before their study session begins. I usually go around to the different groups, either helping with homework or leading some English conversation practice. But I can’t lead a large group because it supposedly interferes with their other lessons.

Group 1: The counselor tells me that the girls are on a field trip. The boys are more interested in playing a board game. Okay, moving on…

Group 2: There’s one boy who is getting adopted soon. His English is really good already. We chatted casually and played a few games in a textbook I have for teenagers. We read a text about competitive eating contests. I was a little embarrassed by the topic but thought it would make for an interesting conversation. I began to ask comprehension questions… “How many hot dogs did the man eat in 12 minutes?” How many hot dogs can you eat?” Then I heard a voice from the other room imitating me “How many hot dogs…” A girl had overheard and thought it was amusing. She came to join our conversation.

Group 3: I helped one boy with his English homework for school. Last week I helped him and he did really well, but this time he seemed totally clueless, for some reason. Well that’s not true, he understood a lot but wasn’t able to answer basic grammar questions. He may have just been nervous. He’s new to the orphanage and also maybe at a new school, so that could cause some discrepancies in development. While I was still sitting there, one of the administrators came in. She’s really friendly and had been on vacation recently. She greeted me and gave me a hug. Then an older girl came in who had been in the hospital and I caught up with her too.

Group 4: I went up to the second floor to see if anyone wanted to do English. It used to be my favorite group, but the kids often get redistributed and sometimes the counselors say that the kids are too busy. So I went in and the kids all said they wanted to do English, and the counselor said they could after they finished their homework. So I sat down to wait.

Interlude: Suddenly my friend the music teacher rushed in and asked if I could help them down in the kitchen with a translation. So I said I was free and she led me down to meet one of the kitchen workers, who apparently through a relative has made contact with a famous actress in the U.S. who has promised some financial help and even offered to come visit. So the kitchen lady wanted me to look at the correspondence and see if it was for real or if she was being deceived. She said she was ashamed about asking a famous person in America for help. I didn’t really know how to react and said “Don’t worry about it” and said I could translate something, and I guess they’re going to bring it to me next time.

Back to Group 4: The kids were done with their homework and I went up and did some conversation practice/games with 5-6 of them. That was okay, although they got a little competitive during the game and one little girl became withdrawn and sat in the corner. Her name’s Leeza :) and she’s extremely shy, sometimes afraid to talk. I always pay special attention to shy kids. She perked up at the end.

Meanwhile, another girl had been in the U.S. on a hosting program, and her host family made her some flashcards for learning English.

So she was practicing:

Little girl: “Butterfly, flower, table, chair, Baby Cheez-us…”
Me: “JE-sus, not “cheez-us.”
Little girl: “My host mother said ‘cheezus.”
Me: “Where’s she from?”
Little girl: “Georgia.”
Me: “Okay, no further questions.”

No offense to Southerners. :)

After that I usually tutor one boy in the other building, but it was already getting late and evening activities were beginning, so I decided to go home.

So that was a “typical” day at the orphanage…not a lot of time spent on English lessons, but lots of good times with people who have become friends.

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