Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Apartment

Here's a video tour of my apartment! I said in the narration that the cat's name is Vasha--I can't remember his exact name, but it's something like that. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

'Tis the Night Before Eid

Tomorrow (September 21st) is the holiday of Eid-al-Fitr, or the end of the month of fasting for Muslims around the world. "Eid" means "festivity" in Arabic and "Fitr" means "to break the fast," (Wikipedia). Here in Tajikistan, people generally refer to the upcoming holiday as "Eid-i-Ramazan." Tomorrow, schools and offices are closed. I don't know about the markets, since this holiday involves a lot of eating. Those who have family in other cities or villages have traveled to visit them if they were able.

I know many people who observed the fast, and also many who didn't, either for specific health reasons or because it is too difficult. For those who fast, it means no food, drink or other indulgences (smoking is one) doing daylight hours. At the end of the day, families break the fast together with the Iftor meal (pronounced Iftar in some countries). I was invited to an Iftor meal combined with a birthday party for a coworker this week. The other guests and I were ushered into a room with a long table laden with food: salads, bread, tea, fruit, vegetables, sambusas, jam...and that was just the appetizer. Then we were served soup with dumplings and vegetables, foil packets with roasted meat and vegetables, and cake. My friend's mother and other women in the household had surely been cooking all day long. It was delicious. As we were leaving, her mother asked us to come again, and my friend walked us down to where we would take minibuses to our homes. Part of Tajik hospitality is making sure that the guests get all the way home safely. The next day, 4 different coworkers who were at the party asked me how my journey home was, and I live a 5 minute bus ride away!

Eid is celebrated for 3 days, though the only school holiday this year is the first day. People go from house to house, visiting friends and family and sampling their spreads of food. Tomorrow I will go to another Tajik friend's house to celebrate Eid-i-Ramazan. She invited me, telling me to come at 9:30 or 10:00 AM, because her mother would have the soup ready by then and she wants me to be their first guest! I think I will also visit my neighbor's apartment too. I borrowed a traditional Tajik outfit from an American friend and I will wear it for the festivities. I love the Tajik clothing. Pictures of that to come!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pedagogical Institute

This is my first week teaching at Tajik State Pedagogical University (aka Ped Institute or Teacher Training University). The first picture is not from the Ped Institute; it's a weekly discussion club at the Embassy-sponsored American Corner. I don't have pictures of my classes yet, but will post when I do. I'm working with 2 groups of 3rd year students, teaching grammar and "practice," which is a combination of reading, grammar, and other skills. There are 13,000 students in the university as a whole, and more than 1,000 in the English department, according to the department Dean. It doesn't seem like that many to me, but the classes are on 2 different floors, and 5th year students are gone on practicum.

The students are very friendly and generally eager to learn. When a teacher or administrator enters a classroom, the students stand until they are given permission to sit down. My classes are figuring out that this is not an American custom, so only some of them stand when I come into the room, which is fine with me. Women usually wear traditional Tajik clothing, and men almost always wear white shirts and ties. The students couldn't believe it when I told them that some American college students go to classes in their pajamas, basically--sweatshirts and sweatpants, and that male students almost never wear ties to class.

Though this is a teacher training university, most of the students I've talked to don't actually want to be teachers. They dream of careers as interpreters, translators, or local staff working for a foreign NGOs in Tajikistan. They see English as their ticket to the world--travel, studying abroad, etc. Students ask me how they can improve their English and beg me to visit their classes or help them individually. I tell them I can't be their individual tutor, but I will be helping to organize some discussion clubs they can participate in. If any of you want to come visit me, students would be THRILLED to meet more Americans. There are apparently direct flights to Dushanbe from Frankfurt and Riga, Latvia now...(hint, hint...)

I'm going camping with some new friends this weekend, so look forward to pictures of the mountains!! I can't wait.

The opinions in this blog are not the opinions of the US State Department or the English Language Fellowship Program.