Thursday, October 27, 2011

Are you ready for some football!?

Over here, that means something different, but since the great Tom Paulson’s care package arrived, it can mean what ol’ Hank Williams Jr. meant it to mean.

The past few weeks, like a fumble-happy college running back, I’ve been carrying with me an American football. Needless to say, it’s aroused some curiosity. I’ve gotten a few questions about the rules, but the more or less unanimous response is: I don’t understand.

I was mainly just itching to play catch with someone, but most people’s curiosity doesn’t dare exit the teacher’s lounge. I did force my group of tenis cu piciorul players to toss it around one night. After a few amusing attempts at trying to throw this strange, oblong object, they were fully content to toss it aside and get back to rounder, more familiar pursuits.

However, one of the charms of working with children who haven’t quite made it to high school is that they’re still grasping at least a small bit of their childhood eagerness to try something new and not care how it looks. So yesterday, Tulgheș’ first-ever English Club-American football game took place on a beautiful, sunny afternoon.

I explained things slowly, step by step, using a lot of motions. We were going to play two-hand touch with an all-time quarterback (me). Once we picked sides and kicked off – perhaps the part that came the most natural to them – what unfolded in the opening seconds was something that resembled a combination of one part rugby, two parts chaos.

The ballcarrier took off, then tossed it to someone else, who tossed it to someone else, who tossed it to someone else, who tossed it to someone else, until that person was finally tackled, stripped of the ball, then the whole process repeated itself, again, and again. All the while, I’m choking out “STOP!” while laughing.

Step by step, though, we got there, sort of. First they understood not to throw it to each other like in rugby. Then they understood that after an incomplete pass, the play is over. Then they finally got the two-hand touch thing (even though there was still a fair amount of tackling happening after the play). And last of all, they got the idea of four downs and a turnover on downs. All in all, for 45 minutes' worth of play, I was pleasantly surprised and thoroughly proud of them.

One of my fifth graders – a sweet kid who played in a suit – summed up the day in Romanian: “Are we going to play again next week? That was cool, really cool.”

Now, I know we can’t do this every week in English club, but I hope to figure out another afternoon to play, perhaps once a week. More on that later. But for now, let’s do a little “Tulgheș Bowl 2011: By the Numbers.”

·      18: total players
·      10: gametime temperature (in Celsius)
·      0-3: total crowd attendance at any given time
·      3-6: amount of times I had to yell “stop” each play to keep them from clotheslining the ball carrier after he or she had already been touched down
·      6-1: final score (didn’t feel it necessary to explain the real scoring)
·      0: amount of injuries (SUCCESS!)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Nu, nu sunt bolnav.

Vine iarnă.

It's October 14, and I saw snow in the mountains today. It’s October 14, and this is the third day in a row I’ve made a fire in the fireplace. It’s October 14, and three days ago, I’m pretty sure I saw my breath in the morning. While still in bed.

It doesn’t seem like that long ago that everything north of the pavement was sweating. But alas, seasons change. It tends to happen every year. Admittedly, I did expect fall to make a little more than a brief drive-by before winter shoved it out of the way.

But we’re a hearty folk in Minnesota, and if there’s one we like to cling to as much as our insistence on calling casseroles “hot dishes,” it’s the supreme nature of our winters. With that, I welcome Old Man Winter’s Eastern European cousin.

Well, besides the drastic change in temp, not much has happened that’s fit for print. School is in full swing, and my counterpart and I are really starting to get the hang of this split-classes thing. We had ample time to plan, but none of that really means much until you’re actually in a classroom setting, becoming familiar with your students’ personalities, levels and needs.

Originally, he was going to concentrate on grammar, and I was going to use the grammar points to create games and activities to encourage and improve speaking and fluency. Now that we have a few weeks under our belts, we’ve decided that he’s going to concentrate on grammar, and I’m going to use the grammar points to create games and activities to encourage and improve speaking and fluency. But at least we’re sure now.

To revive the winter theme, the inimitable Tom Paulson sent me the winter box I’d set aside before I left. Complete with my winter coat and enough fleece to equip Siberia, my first Romanian care package also included, by request, a 32-ounce bottle of Tapatio, sandwich baggies, an American football that’s aroused many-a-curiosity and, much to the delight of my 5-year-old neighbor who helped me carry it inside, A LOT of bubble wrap.

Besides receiving the package and its wonderful contents, and learning that bubble wrap is endlessly entertaining on all continents, my favorite tale of the day came in the midst of the 10 minutes it took to retrieve the package from the post office. (The time it took is notable because, from leaving my house in the morning to returning at night, the entire pilgrimage to the county seat took almost exactly 12 hours.)

Anyway, I was greeted with a smile by the kind woman. I thought she was just being nice, but once the conversation took the next turn, I realize now that it may have been spurred by something else.

“Psychiatric Hospital? (My residence that the package was addressed to.) What do you do in Tulgheș?”
Hurriedly: “I teach at the school. I live at the hospital.”
Somewhat disbelievingly: “Oh.”
“No, I just live there. I live with the nurses.”
Now laughing: “Oh, so you’re not crazy.”
“No, I’m not crazy.”

For some reason, things went swimmingly after that.

Well, I just put another log on the fire, opened a beer and tossed on a freshly arrived fleece. Right now it’s just Mr. Albacher and I, but I heard the gang from How I Met Your Mother will be stopping over later and perhaps even some friends from Scranton and Greendale CC. Looks like it’s gonna be a good one.