I arrived in Mandalay one week ago, after 4 weeks at home in Florida. The staff had moved my stuff into a new corner apartment so I spent most of Saturday and Sunday getting organized and preparing for work on Monday.
The work week went well. I'm teaching four classes of ESL for AIS staff. My first class is seven cleaning ladies. One knows some English. The rest do not. I do not speak or understand Myanmar (I'm starting lessons with a private tutor after the holiday). We are doing fine, even without a common language. They are eager to learn and are so much fun to work with.
My second class is a debate class with Montessori teachers. They speak English well and the goal is to help them fine tune their English and critical thinking skills. Each week we'll be debating a different topic.
The third class is for the electives teachers and school nurses. They worked with another teacher while I was in the US and complained that the text is too basic for them. I think that's true for most of them so plan to use the text and add additional, more challenging materials.
My last class each day is for a small group of teachers/admin staff who are studying writing. They are bright, enthusiastic and well educated.
I love teaching first grade but have to say it is nice to not spend my day saying things like "Stop licking his head!" and "Please don't chew on your chair."
After work on Friday I climbed the three flights to my apartment (why did they decide a four story apartment building didn't need an elevator?). As I was getting out my keys, I noticed a man and three boys walking down the street. I made a noise and they looked up and saw me. And waved. All of them, from the four year old to the dad. I waved back and for a good minute we just stood and waved and smiled at each other. The father finally started walking on and the boys followed, still looking back and waving.
Because Thingyan starts today, I had to stock up on groceries. Everyone (except me and a couple of other foreign teachers) is on vacation for the next week and a half. Stores and markets are closed. People are spending time either with family or getting drunk in the streets and spraying each other with water. I hope to venture out at least one day to experience it but don't know if any taxi drivers will be working.
Last night I went to the small grocery store across from Diamond Plaza. I was hoping they had some frozen naan but they didn't. When it came time for checking out, I was frustrated. Usually, people line up but last night at Orange, they just clustered and shoved in front of me. I was getting frustrated but was too hot and tired to get into the fray. Luckily, the security guard at the door was watching me and noticed my frustration. He came over, spoke to the cashier (a trainee, according to her badge) and pulled my cart over behind the cashier. I was checked out next, much to the chagrin of the dozen or so people who were trying to shove their way to the front of the counter. I was very grateful.
I'd finished my shopping quickly and considered going to Ocean to buy some bread but didn't want to carry everything (potatoes, rice, flour, sugar = a kilo each) into the other store. (I bought jasmine rice, by the way, for $.85 for a kilo. ) Nor did I want to face the crowds there. Instead, I bought a can of beer so I could make a loaf of beer bread this week.
I got back to the bus at 4:45 p.m., along with another teacher. Five minutes later two other bus riders showed up. Then we waited for the last teacher. He arrived at 5:25 p.m. By then we were all sweaty and a bit cranky.
When we arrived back at the school, the father and three sons were walking in front of the school. They saw me on the bus and we all waved, old friends now. Good to be home.