Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

The English teachers are throwing a party for the high school students this evening, with skits, a "ghost dance," games, costumes, and candy, candy, candy. This will be followed by an afterparty for all teachers and staff, with even more candy.

It will be awesome. I will take photos, and post an update about how it goes soon.

For now, here is a Halloween story I wrote for my students to turn into a skit. They made a car out of cardboard and scotch tape, and are working on their costumes now.


A Halloween Story

On Halloween a man was driving home late at night. It was very dark, and the man was all alone. He wanted to get home soon to eat his dinner, but on the way he saw a young woman. She was wearing only a white dress even though it was very cold outside.
"I should stop and give her a ride in my car," the man said. He stopped the car and opened the door. The young woman sat down. "Where are you going?" he asked her. She said nothing. Some time passed. "Are you lost?" the man said. Again, the young woman said nothing. She just looked at the man sadly. Suddenly, the woman disappeared!

"The man was so surprised he drove the car off the road. "A ghost!" he shouted. As he drove across the grass, he almost hit a man standing nearby. He stopped the car quickly and rolled down the window. "I'm sorry," the driver said. "I didn't see you!" The strange man came closer. The driver saw that his body was covered in bandages. He was not a man; he was a mummy!
The mummy reached for the driver and groaned. He was reaching for the driver's neck! Fortunately, a car is faster than a mummy. The driver drove away, steering the car back onto the road.

"I'm almost home now," he said, and drove as fast as the car could go. A bat swooped past his window, but he did not stop. A black cat jumped on top of the car, scratching with its claws and howling. Still the driver did not stop. He heard the mummy following him. He heard its horrible groan! He drove faster and faster.

Finally, the man came to his home. His wife had made dinner, and he sat down to eat. "You'll never believe what happened to me tonight!" he said to her. He took a big bite of his food.

But outside his home, all the monsters were coming. Here comes the bat; here comes the cat. Here comes the ghost girl in her white dress. And, finally, here comes the mummy, his bandaged hands outstretched!

Here come all the monsters, right up to the man's front door!

The End


(I know, the height of literary achievement. Speaking of literature, don't forget that National Novel Writing Month starts tomorrow!)

Monday, October 17, 2011


My Ger with the Top Covering Taken Off
 A couple of weekends ago my counterparts and hashaa family came together to get my ger ready for winter. The Mongolian translates to "warming up" one's ger. I hovered around trying to be helpful, more or less like the four-year-old that wants to help in the kitchen, is given a pot to bang a wooden spoon on, and told it's a very important job. Eventually they just laughed every time I asked what I could do to help, and sent me to make milk tea.

Winterization takes an afternoon of work. First, the top layer of fabric covering my ger was removed. Thick pieces of felt were brought out of storage, and my counterparts stitched them up (while I hovered nearby saying "I can sew! Honestly! We do that in America, too!") and they were piled on top of my ger. A new, heavier flap was attached to the top for covering my skylight when it rains and snows. One of the children who lives in my hashaa climbed up on top of my ger to tie it on. Finally, a little fence is built and filled with dirt, so the base of my ger is now packed in nice and snug.

Quentin Enjoying the New Dirt Around My Ger
It's amazing how much of a difference these few things make! My ger is noticeably warmer, heats up faster when I start a fire, and I no longer have to break through ice on top of my water jug in the morning like I was doing the week before we winterized. (Although in a month or two everything will be freezing, no matter how well winterized I am! Good thing my sleeping bag is nice and warm!) Also, the whole ger smells rather pleasantly like a sheep thanks to my extra felt. Very cozy!

While I may not have been able to help much with winterizing, I did succeed in making milk tea. No one drank it except my hashaa "grandmother," maybe because they knew I'd never made it before and didn't want to risk it, haha. But hashaa-grandma said it had "a nice taste," which is high praise, and she is undoubtedly a milk tea expert.

So, in apology for not having blogged in a while, here is a milk tea recipe for you:

Mongolian Milk Tea Recipe

First, take some plain black tea in tea bags. Boil water with a tea bag or two (depending on how much you're making) until it becomes tea-colored. Add salt. Add milk, stirring, until the tea is white. Bring back to a boil. Taste. It should taste salty; if not, add more salt. Take the tea bags out. Remove from heat and enjoy!

Monday, October 03, 2011

My Classes

In case you've forgotten, I am actually working here, and not just having fun drinking fermented mare's milk and hanging out in my snazzy ger. I actually teach 25 hours of class a week. (Not counting grading and lesson planning, of course!) Four of those hours are team teaching together with my counterparts (my school's English teachers), and some are devoted to English clubs (three of them!) and loosely defined "extracurricular activities."

I teach two speaking electives, for 7th and 9th grade respectively. These have no set curriculum, no textbooks, and essentially consist of me trying to come up with ways to trick my students into speaking English. Fortunately, they are an enthusiastic bunch and seem to like me despite my often being reduced to flailing my arms around to try to get them to understand directions in English.

I also teach a Concourse Preparation class for 11th grade students. The concourse is an important Mongolia-wide English subject test. This class consists of even more flailing as I try to explain test taking strategies in English and am usually met with (justifiably) blank stares. However, we are marching our way through practice tests and hopefully by the summer exam they will all get A's. (Or else.)

I teach three mixed-level adult classes, two for my school's teachers and one for local government workers. These classes are harder because the adults won't spend half an hour playing games like the twelve-year-old kids will, haha. Also in the adult category is my class with my fellow English teachers, where I am working with them to prepare them for the teacher's Olympics exam, a competitive Mongolia-wide English test complete with essays and grammar questions.

As for extra-curricular activities, so far I've organized a Spelling Bee. (In which two of my ninth-graders placed!) This month, we're working on planning and celebrating a Halloween Party, hopefully complete with a scary poster contest, carved watermelons (no pumpkins in Mongolia!), a haunted house, and a dance. So you can look forward to a blog post about that!

That leaves the English clubs! There are three of them, divided by age level. So far we've baked an apple pie (no cinnamon but still delicious), learned the lyrics to Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You" (student's request), and played a lot of relay-style games.

In conclusion, I would like to say that I actually really like my students. When I found out my job was "Secondary English Teacher" and that "Secondary" in Mongolia includes middle schoolers, I began wishing with all my might that I would only have older students. I was a little apprehensive when I found out that in addition to a couple of classes with the older students and adults, I would also be teaching 7th and 9th graders by myself. I mean, I remember what I was like in 7th grade. (Poor, poor Mr. Monforte.) I also remember what some of you were like in 7th grade. I imagined horrible scenarios of rioting students, yelling in English and being ignored, fights breaking out, things being set on fire, and paper airplanes being thrown.

While I can't say my students are quiet when I want them to be (or ever), or never throw things or hit each other, I can say they're a lot of fun and enthusiastic about learning English. They are also incredibly nice to me, and patient with my inability to understand them when they speak Mongolian at warp speed. This sort of linguistic weakness in a teacher is the sort of thing I totally would have exploited at their age, and I am always surprised when they don't band together against me. They're a good bunch.