Sunday, December 7, 2008

Barack Obama: A 5 Paragraph Essay

(On the left) Jessica and (on the right) Dana

This semester, my students were to write 2 5 paragraph essays. One was about a famous person. There other was about a country of the world. I am proud of all of my students because they gave a good effort and because they are learning how to compose an essay.

My favorite quote from the essays is from Jessica who drew a comparison of an aspect of her own culture to that of Italian culture: "Just like Mongolian airag, Italian wine is rated as a traditional and unique drink."

The best of the essays is below. I highlight this for two reasons: 1) the content and 2) the quality of her writing. Dana, the author, received a perfect score. I think you'll agree, she should be very proud of her work.

Name: Dana
Class: Grammar and Vocabulary English, ES306
Date: 05.Decemeber.2008
Assignment: About Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Great change is coming to America. Barack Hussien Obama overcame very difficult life when he was a child. Obama candidate Presidential election of the United States because he was honest and responsibility person. He elected 44th President of the US. He came in the world to change all Americans.

Barack Obama’s childhood was difficult. Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. When he was two years old, his parents divorced. His father died in an automobile accident. His mother died of ovarian cancer. Because of that he used marijuana, cocaine, and alcohol when he was high school. He obtained a lot of experiences when he studied in famous universities.

Using his abilities, he decided to candidate Presidential election of the United States. He stressed the issues such as ending the Iraq War, increasing energy independence and providing universal health care. His campaign held successfully. Supporter of Obama was still increasing. How did he find confident of supporter? That was incredible. Of course, his family helped him a lot. Soon, it was become evident that he absolutely win.

Barack Obama won Presidential election of the US. Obama became first black President. All Americans voted for their 44th President. He will live White House officially on 20, Jan, 2009. His victory will bring change for all Americans. They hope that he never repeat Bush’s mistakes again. That’s why all American voted for him.

Now he need to prove he can change all America. Although his childhood was a difficult, he overcame his life problems. His election campaign became successfully. President of America is Barack Hussien Obama. If somebody has true mind and ability, maybe, you can reach your great purposes and change the world.

Works cited: Jan, 14, 2008 July 10-24. 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Meet Cady's Counterparts! (Old and New!)

It's time to put some faces with the stories you hear-- and I thought you might enjoy seeing who I spend a majority of my time with here in Mongolia, my counterparts! My agency has undergone a lot of transition in the time I've been here, starting as CHF's GER Initiative, moving into a local NGO, Development Solutions (still implementing the GER Initiative), and in April, they'll start a NEW Mongolian Agrobusiness Support Program (MASP).

These are the friends and Mongolians who have made my work here so enjoyable and rewarding.

My current supervisor, Suvdjamts (Sugi) and I celebrating the beginning of the new Development Solutions NGO.

Peter with Bagana, my first supervisor in Darkhan, now the Deputy Director of the program and still my really good friend.

All the wonderful women I get to work with everyday enjoying some cold weather at our all staff meeting in October! Mooni, Aidya and Zolbo are three of my newest female counterparts.

My counterpart Ataraa, who along with Sugi, keeps us in stiches. He and I are always laughing, speaking MongLish.

Khulan, our current Administrative Officer and Translator, who makes sure I always understand what's happening and helps me with everything. I couldn't survive here without her!

Gereltzam, a former business advisor just left our office to start a new job. It's not the same without her!

Ulzii, our former Administrative Officer has also left recently to start a new job. She was amazing to work with, and Peter and I were very lucky to have her handle all of our housing and settling in! I miss her!

Amaraa, who left recently to study abroad was wonderful to work with! (We're making the standard Mongolian photo pose with the Peace sign!)

It's a great office, so much energy, motivated and hardworking! I know I'm a very lucky PCV!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Ninja Halloween

I’m generally not a fan of holidays, especially when I’m required to dress up, but this year I really did enjoy Halloween with my students. My 28th Halloween was their first.

The day before the class as a whole was sure they’d be unable to get costumes. They explained they’d never done Halloween before and that outside of the capital there simply weren’t any costumes for the finding. In their minds, a costume was a purchased item. Calming their fears, I told them they’d need only to be creative and paint their faces, use clothing from home. It’s more fun, I explained, when you’ve created your costume.

The next day, I showed up to class to discover a room full of pirates and mummies and gangsters and superheroes and masked ghouls and women of devilish dispositions. Faces were hidden behind paint, masks and ear to ear smiles. As I entered the classroom, they swarmed me, yelling: “Boo!” and “Wa ha ha!” I doubled over in laughter.

Not yet disguised, partly in dread fear of my own humiliation, they asked: “You do not wear costume, Mr. Gerlach! Why?”

“It’s okay. It’s okay. I have a costume. It’s in the teacher’s room next door, but I won’t wear it until later.”

You’d think I’d just told them that Chinggis Khan was Chinese. “NO! NO!” they roared. “NOW! YOU MUST PUT ON NOW!”

Caving in to peer pressure, I went across the hall and changed. When I re-entered, I was greeted by a roomful of uncontrolled laughter and flashing phone cameras. “What are you?” one student asked.

“I’m a ninja” I said, as I let fly my tinfoil-clad cardboard sword. Somehow I don’t think it was my weapon that caught their attention. It might rather have been the black, almost skin-tight long underwear get up covering me from head to toe.

I had to go with it. I got into character and attacked the pirates. The students loved it.

“Now what should we do?”

“We scare other classes!”

And with that, our dark army entered the hallway. We gathered and readied ourselves and then charged into a nearby classroom taught by one of my counterparts. Lightly pushing each other, we screamed them into confusion. I, on the other hand, knowing that if this was a one time deal, was going to make the most of it. As the students’ scares softened, I ran about the room swinging my sword, calling out: “Hee yah! Hee yah!” I went after sitting students. I chopped down my counterpart.

On our way out, we parted with: “Happy Halloween!”

That attack plan repeated until we’d scared all of the classes on the third floor. I couldn’t stop laughing.

Next was apple-bobbing. Seventeen of us, students and teachers alike, put our faces into the cold water to retrieve the apples. The event brought to their faces a genuine, childlike joy, a Halloween innocence that I’ll never take for granted again. I stood back and thought: now this is a great Peace Corps moment. I might have an undependable memory, but those smiles are going to be hard to forget.

After exchanging a little candy, we cleaned up the party and I went back to my office.

Twenty minutes later, as I was chatting with my counterpart about Halloween, there came a rap on the door. It was the students, sans costumes. “What’s up, everybody?” I asked. Instead of a reply, they all looked at each other and giggled. I lowered my head and continued whatever I was working on. I heard camera clicks. I looked up and gave a perplexed smiled. Arms extended, half of them were clicking away. I felt like a celebrity. Then, a few stood behind me. Cameras flashed again. Finally, they collectively gathered round me and asked Suvda, my counterpart, to take a group shot. I gave her my camera too.

To this day, the students haven’t explained to me the post-party photo shoot. Whatever their reasons, that picture is one of my favorites of me with them. I’m really going to miss them when I go back to America.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A World to Admire

At last I have finished the world map. A project I expected would take 4 days when we started, took a little over 40 hours in 6 days to complete. Due to the scale of the map and my own perfectionism, I grew quite familiar with that wall, spending days of 9, and even 11, straight hours drawing, painting and fixing mistakes. I look at it now and think about all the time and effort we put into it.

It stands 6.43 feet in height and stretches 12.86 feet in length along a well-chosen hallway in my school. It is in a spot where students pass by each day.

As far as I know, 3 other PCVs have done a similar map project in their former schools. Some are bigger, some smaller. Some are more accurate, others not so much. On over all aesthetic appeal, ours is hard to beat.

I, and the student and faculty general population, owe a lot to those who helped me with this project. 19 people, in a variety of roles, worked to complete what is now a beautiful and well-used map of the world, a gift to our school for students to use for decades to come.

Each of the four corners gives a little something extra to the map. In the top left, the school’s logo, and in the top right, the Peace Corps logo. In the bottom left we put a compass and in the bottom right the signatures of those who participated in the creation.

When it was all finished, I had a small opening ceremony. I gave my thanks to those who worked on the project, talking about the many stages and the long hours. Next, each person who helped me (including the cleaning ladies who put the first coat of light blue down and the security guard who helped edge the perimeter in black) signed the map. Finally, I played a slide show on my computer of the 50 plus pictures taken over the last 6 days set to R. Kelly’s “The World’s Greatest.” Sure, it’s Kraft cheesy, but everyone seemed to enjoy it.

I often stand at a distance and watch students point to countries in all corners of the planet. Each time I stop by, it’s a different group of students whose faces read the gamete of expressions: excitement, confusion and pride. Its accessibility and easy-to-use nature makes the educational value more than apparent. Yeah, I’d say the 20 bucks and week’s work was well worth it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Countryside Wedding

As I walked home after work, I thought about what I might be getting myself into. Only weeks earlier had I told my counterparts that I really wanted to see a real Mongolian wedding, a countryside affair. Jokingly, I had told the only single female of the group, Uyangaa that she has only 10 months to wed before time was up, before I’d be on my way back to America. Now one of my students was getting married. What luck! And Khugjmaa, a sort of surrogate mother figure to me, made, on my behalf, unbeknownst to me, a request for invitation to the nuptials. How fortuitous! I could not help but wonder, though, what does a traditional countryside Mongolian wedding look like? What part would I take in it? I knew that many Mongolians were now getting married at wedding palaces, either in Darkhan, or, more likely, in Ulaanbaatar (UB). That, however, was an option generally reserved for those with money and an interest in celebrating in a more “western” style, an option I guessed Dulamsuren’s (Allie’s) family never once considered. The only thing that I was sure of was that the wedding I would be attending tomorrow morning would likely be nothing like my own and that my living in Mongolia only opened the limitlessness of possibilities. As for the rest, I’d just have to wait and see.

Click here to read more!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Healthy and Happy!

Cady and Peter at Empire!
(This one's for the moms!)

Cady working at the 2008 Darkhan Harvest Trade Fair

Peter teaching General English students

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The First 3 Weeks

The first 3 weeks of this semester have been…a familiar sort of strange. I am no longer surprised at each turn like I was a year ago. Sure, I still often pause in disbelief. I still question the logic of…well, too many things to list. I’m just thankful it’s now and not a year ago. In many ways, Mongolia, Darkhan, my school, is more “normal” than what I imagine America being like.

So far, it has gone like this:

My school again declared that the first day of classes would be one week before the generally accepted day of the opening of all Mongolian schools, 1 September.

The opening day ceremony was held one week after classes were supposed to start. I gave a speech in Mongolian. Of the 2,000 students our school has, 100 or so came.

I taught my first class 2 weeks after classes were supposed to start. Half of the students were there.

Many students have not shown up for classes, citing various reasons for their absence. Even more have not finished registering for their classes, citing various reasons for their indolence.

My teaching schedule has changed 5 times.

We have 3 new English teachers this semester. One is Malaysian. She is part-time. She started last week. One is Mongolian. She is part-time. She started last week. One is Russian. She is full-time. She hasn’t come yet.

I am now team teaching. This is new for us all. I am teaching 3 different classes with my 3 main counterparts: Technical English with Khugjmaa, Grammar and Vocabulary with Suvda, and General English with Uyangaa. The first 2 are with the above-mentioned seniors. The 3rd class is one section of (dare I say) upper level general English students. The planning sessions were great. The actual teaching together has been great.

I am learning how to teach English to an entire class of very beginner English students. Surprisingly, I haven’t had to do that yet. It’s like being back at host site during training. It’s been a lot of fun.

After one week of classes, all the 4th course (senior) Interpreter Engineering students (the group of 15 that I taught the most last year), are now on a two-week break. With no preparation, they are doing Teaching Practice. They will be teaching English to various schools around Darkhan. 1 student has very limited teaching experience. The others...well...

I put a new sign on the door above which reads: “please knock on the door before you enter” on our English office. I also switched desks with one of my counterparts. I was getting really annoyed by all the students opening our office door, peeking in for no apparent reason and closing the door again. How many times can a person say “khaalag togshoroi” (please knock on the door)? It’s one of the few things I still haven’t gotten used to. The project has had mixed results.

I have found a new way to commute to school. It’s a great 15 minute trek. While I walk, I read and listen to music. With the way some Mongolians look at me, you’d think I’d just stepped out of a space ship. He’s not looking ahead while he’s walking. He’s reading…a book. Crazy white man.

I have been “interviewing” students starting for an English club that will begin on 1 October. The club will be for good speakers looking for an outlet to improve their abilities. About half of the interested students have been stumped by: “Please talk about yourself for 1 minute.” Many, though, have been rather impressive.

I met a new and fascinating Mongolian. His name is Buren Scharaw. He lives and works in Germany. He has been there for the last 34 years. He speaks amazing English (and Mongolian and German)…with a thick German accent. Many Mongolians I talked to think he is very un-Mongolian. He manages a water supply and treatment project in the UB/Darkhan area. He comes to Mongolia every month or 2. On his next visit to Darkhan, in mid-November, he has promised to bring bratwurst and perhaps even sauerkraut for a grill-out at our place. Pardon me as I drool.

I am an English teacher in Mongolia. By my calculations, since school “began” 22 (well, 16, if you don’t count weekends) days ago, I have taught 10 classes. I “should have” taught 33 by now.

I wonder what the next 3 weeks will (or won’t) bring. Hmm…