Thursday, 4 January 2007

Television, Inertia

Thursday 4th January 2007
I’m told that we’ve been having an exceptionally mild winter. There were only a handful of days it snowed through December, and the temperature usually remained above -20c during the day. It has snowed all day today - a very light and powdery snow, as previously, but the constant fall has led now to a little over a half inch on the ground; for what may be the first time in my month here there are irregular little gusts of wind. Winter may be coming on.

School continues fine, ups and downs, but continues, and behaviour has improved immensely. Sadly, the students are starting to make salient criticisms of my teaching methods and pertinent suggestions, forcing me to pay more attention to them and their needs. Sigh.

Today we had fish for lunch! Rather than adapting to the diet I’ve been getting fussier and fussier over my eating at school. I just can’t work up an appetite for a mound of meat and rice, in very much a natural gravy, accompanied by three or four slices of carrot - day in and day out. The dinner ladies don’t seem to be able to overcome the instinct to give me manly-sized servings - possibly because I always do my best to prevent them from seeing how much I am throwing away at the end of every lunch

I continue to face unanticipated requests to do additional work: this week, to produce 6 exam papers by Monday (so far managed to do about a quarter of one), which I agreed to without any thought about how difficult it is to write a balanced test paper. I suppose I will have to write six deeply unbalanced papers instead. What I did whinge about was being asked to teach 4 additional hours of lessons for a month to coach 6 leading students for an upcoming inter-school English ‘Olympiad’. A - I need those four hours to prepare for (and, more importantly, recover from) my scheduled lessons. B - If the students did a fraction of the work expected of them, maybe they wouldn’t need additional coaching? And if they do need coaching then why don’t their wealthy parents pay for it? Graciously, I agreed to do it.

Later in the day a Turkish part-time teacher asked whether I might be interested in any work at his English language school - so I’ll be meeting with him after school Monday. Which reminds me that I’d promised to volunteer my greatly-in-demand teaching abilities to the CNCF this week - must give them a call again tomorrow.

The question now is whether I can fit all these commitments into my busy schedule. I have become a bit of a TV addict since finding my way about the schedules. Other than The Simpsons, Arrested Development, The Office (American version - which, dare I say, is fresher and funnier than the original -sorry) and Seinfeld, the Korean KBS World channel usually has English subtitles has some great soap operas and historical dramas; there’s a Japanese channel which doesn’t have subtitles but an excellent sci-fi kung-fu series which seems to be on all the time, and is maybe about a group of hot young women and cool dudes half of whom have been brainwashed into hunting down the others (I think); Russian TV has a lot of slapstick comedy programs which are pretty easy to follow - the main comedian in a sketch show bears an uncanny resemblance to Vic Reeves, with blond hair and a tash. Sadly the dozens of Mongolian channels are less than compelling on the whole - although there’s always a music video worth catching on some time - I saw the ‘Beer Band’ on one channel recently, with my good friend Lhagvaa (or Ganko, I’m still unclear on the name) on vocals. Unfortunately I don’t get the Knowledge Channel - a Mongolian channel which shows BBC DVDs (‘Life of Plants’, ‘Walking With Dinosaurs’, etc) all day (at the end of the program a blue ‘DVD Eject’ screen comes up, followed by ‘DVD Loading’ and ‘Play’). I can always catch a Premiership game if I want to see the footy - pirated from Sky Sports or Setanta. I don’t think much attention is paid to international copyright here yet. It doesn’t appear to be possible anywhere in the country to buy CDs or DVDs that aren’t Chinese copies (and on the whole very high quality copies too, except of latest releases, which are usually video-cammed).

I am ashamed to admit that I have so far made no attempt to find out where I can catch some traditional Mongolian music, which I hope to rectify soon. Not that I’m not getting enough culture, as you can well see. Fortunately, I have run out of the delicious bubble-and-squeak type concoction that my cleaner knocked up for me from the odds and ends in my fridge, and which I’ve been living off for a week (supplemented by a more than adequate carrot and potato soup which I cooked myself) - so I may possibly be able to save ‘Snakes on a Plane’ for another evening, and to brave the elements and get myself out of my cosy apartment to a restaurant to eat this evening. Damn, Seinfeld’s started, and I’ve only seen this episode a few times before - I’ll head out to Los Bandidos curry house just as soon as it’s over. And if I’m not back in time for The Office, well, so be it. I can buy the whole season from the video store for about a fiver anyhow.