Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hi again, and happy spring!

I can tell that spring is in the air at school because the students have started "twitterpatering." For those of you who aren't great Bambi aficionados, that's when animals begin their mating dance in the spring. I've noticed it with my eighth graders, who were segregated by gender a month ago, but as of late have been "fighting" more and chasing each other around the room. One boy was brave enough to ask to be placed in the girls' group during an in-class exercise.

This month has so far been busy with a conference to plan a project proposal and try to secure funding for more science materials at my school. You'll see a photo of me with my Bulgarian counterpart who has been very helpful to me so far in the process of integrating and managing the everyday life in Bulgaria. She went with me to the conference and on our way home, we passed through a historic city, Plovdiv, and stumbled upon a casting for the Bulgarian version of American Idol, Music Idol. If you get the chance, you should YouTube Ken Lee, a Music Idol favorite and international sensation. The singer was trying to sing "Can't Live, if living is without you", by Mariah Carey, but it came out "Ken Lee, di bu di bu dout yu..."

February was an interesting month because I had the opportunity to play the host for the first time in Bulgaria. My school is involved in a Comenius Project, an exchange with schools from Poland, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, and Romania. The schools all came to visit us this time and I got to host a Romanian student. She was very polite, beautiful, and kind, and it was a pleasure hosting her. My house became the hangout for her, her Romanian friend, and the Bulgarian teen hosting him. We worked on the ecumenical calendar between all the groups, went on a tour of some museums in town, learned how to make Turkish water paintings, and went to Varna, the town on the seaside to see the plantarium, mall, and dolphinarium. At the dolphinarium show they asked for a volunteer, and wouldn't you know it- they picked me! I got to play the lost American who floats in the middle of the tank in a rubber raft, but here's the shocking end- the dolphins come to my rescue and push me to safety!

All in all the exchange is great for my students English skills and interesting for all of us. I directed our school choir (ok only 5 girls) and we recorded the project hymn. We were all pretty nervous, but it was overall a success. The only minor hiccup along the way was that the Bulgarian students were giving their presentation about holidays and mentioned a holiday when Bulgarians were freed from Turkish slavery. Now this really upset the Turkish teacher who claimed that Bulgarians had never been slaves to the Turks. The tense moment passed, but later my collegues pointed out to me at the museum numerous captions reading "while under Turkish slavery..."

History is a funny thing. I had a conversation with my students the other day while reading Huck Finn about the word "nigger" and why so many rappers use it and why it is still considered a bad word in America. I wish that some of the people who use the word could come to Bulgaria to see what it leads people to think here. It also made me think about American race sensitivity. How we talk to each other and what we believe about one another can be very contradictory. I guess that shows that every country still has to work on the issue, but America still seems like a beacon of racial tolerance (especially this year after the elections) in the world to me.

Happy Valentines Day, Martin Luther King Day, St. Patricks Day, and beginning of Spring!!!

Attached are photos from a semester break trip to Plovdiv, a city in southcentral Bulgaria, and pictures with my Romanian guests. Oh and the dolphins.