Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Mixed Herd Strategy

May 20, 2010

The political situation in southern K-stan has been giving me emotional whiplash (it's dangerous!—it's safe!--there's fighting!--no, just kidding!--so-and-so took control of the government!--nope, now it's so-and-so!--don't leave your house!--everything's fine!).

Although there has never been a moment when I have felt that my personal safety was at risk, all of this is still taking a toll on me. As I seem to always be reiterating in this journal, I NEVER HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT IS GOING ON. The biggest problem is that all these happenings are very seriously slowing down the progress of this camp that I am planning. Thankfully, my wonderful site mate and I have been able to spend several pleasant days hiding out in our village together, whereas if I had been alone I might have torn all my hair out in frustration.

Anyway, all seems well now (although things have seemed well and then gotten iffy a few times in the last few weeks, so who knows) so I'm happy.

In the meantime, the school year has been winding down. Today was the last day of tests for my English classes, and I feel bad that I didn't even show up because I was waiting for a call from Peace Corps to tell me that things were all clear after the last “situation.” But not too bad, considering my day yesterday:

Since its spring, as I was walking down the road I ran into a lot of livestock traffic being herded along the main road up into the mountains. Now, seeing lots of large animals being driven towards me at a slow jog pace still makes me nervous, but I've gotten used to it and developed a strategy of moving through the herd in a way that I would imagine that it would make sense to a scary cow with big horns to NOT run over me. Utilizing this strategy every morning for the last few weeks has decreased my nervousness considerably, as well as my tendency to shield myself with as many third graders as I can hold onto. Which is one of the many reasons that would contribute to my being promptly fired if I were a teacher in the States.

Anyway, I realized yesterday morning that my strategy has a weakness: mixed herds. It works great with cows and okay with sheep (I'm not quite as scared of them, just mostly concerned about getting brushed up against. Their wool is really gross.), but when it's a mixed herd of cows AND sheep; or, (God forbid) cows, sheep, goats, and horses, as was the case this morning, I get thrown off. The trick to the strategy is predicting where the animal will go. Cows move with a certain predictability, and so do sheep, but it's a different kind of movement for both. When you throw four species together in one big group, you have to predict four kinds of movement. And that's hard.

I'll bet you all thought I was going somewhere with that, but I wasn't. I'll save it in my analogy/metaphor arsenal. That seems to be another strange side effect of teaching, along with learning how to draw really good stick figures. Coming up with ridiculous analogies that draw blank looks from students.

Anyway, I started off my morning by wading through a very large mixed herd. Shortly thereafter, a car that had just made its way slowly through the same herd abruptly sped up and rudely drove though a puddle, spraying me with water and the wet remains of the traffic that had just passed.

So, I was 10 minutes late to give my 10th graders their test since I had to spend some time at the canal washing the spray of manure off the lower half of my left pant leg (it's a good thing I wore the green-ish colored khakis). Of course, the kids complained about the loss of time to no end. I tried to convince them that the test was super-easy, and that we had gone over all the correct answers in the last lesson, but they were still whiny. Unwilling to give up my status as the “nice” teacher (I may put children between myself and scary animals, but I don't smack kids with rulers like the other teachers), I agreed to cut down the number of sentences they had to write for number 8 from six to three. One boy thanked me by writing no sentences at all, but graciously handing in a drawing of a penis. Ah, the joys of teaching teenagers.

Oh, and some kymys got spilled on my feet in a taxi. That's that fermented mare's milk drink. Not pleasant.

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