Wednesday 6th December 2006
Was entirely capable of getting up this morning at 7am, head clearer by far than I’d feared, eyes perhaps a trifle ringed. Had slept well. There seemed, however, to be no hot water in the pipes so I washed my hair with cold water and swallowed half a cup of tea, before bolting out to work. Extremely thankful to live just 5 minutes brisk walk from work. Have noticed that noone ever seems to be in much of a hurry walking about here, which loitering frankly does not seem to be good for the health.
School, was a much more equable affair today. I put my pupils through the paces in their spoken examination, throughout the whole day. They did fairly well, and I managed to keep order from breaking down in class. Spent far too long agonising over awarding them their scores. For most of today I had the company of the department head: she is from, I later learned, a town in the Gobi desert, has been in UB only 2 years and lives with her daughter who, as with other teacher’s kids, is a student at the school. Next week she's going to China to buy furnishings for her apartment. Anything not produced in Mongolia is generally pretty expensive here, especially compared to the price of food and clothing and, presumably, people's wages. There's a floor of the State Department Store devoted to electronic goods and it is not impressively well-stocked, nor are goods flying off the shelves.
The department head has been very flattering about my Englishness. The course books the kids study are British and there is a bit of snobbery against American English from some of the teachers, which I am politely playing along with at present. The teachers here have by and large come from the States (and unfortunately, from some of the expressions used I detect evidence of antipodean involvement at the school too) so someone who speaks 'real' English is a novelty.
I had suspected that I was xpected to teach one of the lower grades, and indeed I was. Without any warning I was suddenly dumped on a class of ten or so 9 year olds. The kids were very much enjoying themselves chatting and getting into little fights. A few of them welcomed me cheerily with calls like "Hello teacher! Are we going to be playing games today?" I suppose in a manner of speaking, we were.
Their English, really, was just as good as the higher grades but the boys were even more incapable of sitting still for a moment. I was pleased to rise to the discipline problem rather than teach and make the most troublesome boys sit to their horror next to girls; gave them lines when they repeatedly disobeyed instructions (“I will not talk in class” "I will sit still in class" "I will listen to teacher"). All of which had some effect on the stunned little mites. However, they still did not quite get it, so after one interruption to many I was forced to unleash the "Oi!" - which has been known to stop stone-throwers and car-vandals dead in their tracks in Liverpool - and demand to know in a bellow whether they had been listening to me or not. The remaining five minutes of class were very orderly indeed. How long this all lasts, of course, we shall see. The boys were pretty sheepish when they left class. In a later class an older student referred to me as Mr Grouch and I felt a thrill of pride that I might have already earned such a teacherly nick-name.
I had a very disappointed look at the school’s library. Several Harry Potters, a lot of Hardy Boys books, a couple of airport thrillers; leaving maybe half a dozen books that I could face reading. I have borrowed ‘The Wind in the Willows’ to which I will now return - the god of the pipes willing - in the bath.