Beginning the school year was much harder than I anticipated. The high of a great summer wore off and my schedule was once again confined to early mornings and late nights as I fought to finish all of the lesson planning, material making, and grading that goes into teaching. We began the school with new, better books which will ultimately make both the teachers' lives and the students' lives much easier. However, year planning and getting accustomed to teaching with the new books took a lot of time and energy.
The newness of Miss Jennie wore off for some of the students and no longer worked to motivate them. My expectations are even higher than they were last year and some students are just not willing to work hard enough. I spent most of September worrying, wondering if my expectations were too high or if the students just didn't want it bad enough. I haven't been doing this long enough to be able to gauge how hard to push the students, but I refused to back down. I wanted the students to see what high expectations look like and how to work for them. I wanted them to see that I wasn't giving up on them and that I was pushing them because I believed in them so much. Some students got the message and responded, some have all but given up and I am trying to find a place where I am okay letting the uninterested students go. I have a stubborn natural instinct to push people to aspire to greatness, to follow the right path, to overachieve. My mom has always reminded me that their aspirations don't have to be the same as mine and I have to allow space for them to decide. I can't say I buy it, but I am trying to practice it. I can't force the kids to study, to do their best. It comes from within.
In other news, I have moved out of my host family and into a two bedroom apartment with my counterpart teacher, Gulshat. This apartment was the type of disaster parents hope their children never have to live in, but I am now proud of my first rented apartment! When we agreed to move in, nobody had lived here for 10 years. So why did you agree to move in, one might ask…The landlord/lady in this country has all of the power. There is a huge shortage of apartments for reasons I cannot fathom. Apparently a ton of people want to live in apartments, but there just aren't enough and it hasn't occurred to anyone that building new apartments might be a profitable business venture. That along with a huge road construction project put demand at an ultimate high and supply extremely low. We looked at several apartments that were absolutely repulsive and had finally waited so long that we took the next apartment no matter how repulsive. The whole place was covered in layers of dust that we are still scrubbing out, none of the sinks were even attached, there was no hot water, and there is still no heat. Luckily my down-to-earth, wise parents taught me to save and be money-wise so I had enough of my Peace Corps allowance to buy a hot water heater, new carpets and curtains, essential repairs in the kitchen and bathroom, a brand new toilet, and four months rent.
So we are settled in to our new place and it is such a relief. I had almost forgotten what free will was like and now thoroughly enjoy eating what I want when I want and feeling comfortable in my own place 100% of the time. It was just what I needed to make it through this fall. And man has it flown by! We are already finished with the first term at school with most of our students showing identifiable results. We have some new plans for our next term and if those don't work out, I have created a little benchmark system for myself to keep me trucking! The first benchmark was term break. Check. The next was my volunteer friends coming to visit me. Check. The next is Thanksgiving and we are only a couple weeks away!
I still enjoy my work here and am beginning to realize how much I will miss the kids when I leave, but I am also really thinking about home and am excited to start again next August. Life just has so many adventures possible, it amazes me! I am really looking forward to seeing all of you again. I have truly learned the value of friendship and its ability to transcend space and time. I hope all of you are well!
If you're curious, I think my new address is (though this has yet to be tested):
Microregion 1, Building 44A, Apartment 7
Turkestan, South Kazakhstan Oblast
Republic of Kazakhstan 161200