The First Day of School and Drinking with the Boss

Naxcivan Travel Blog

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   Friday was my first day of school, but Friday was considered a holiday.  It is the first day of school, so there are many parties  in celebration of another year of education.  I was running a little late for work that morning, but it was still neat to see al of the student dressed up.
     My schedule at Naxchivan State seems to change on almost a daily basis.  At first, I was only going to work with all of the English students on listening and speaking.  Now, I have been given the level 3 students along with listening and speaking classes for the rest of the students.  It is not a big deal.
    On the other hand, the Assistant Dean and I are butting heads about what I should teach.  He has given me an old book from Russia on how to learn English.  About half of the exercises are merely translating to and from English and Russian.  I am not saying that there are not things that could be useful to learn from the book, but most of the materials are extremely dated and very boring.  Right now, i am planning to use the book as a guide for my level 3 students but pointing out how the language has changed over the past 70 years since these books were originally published.  Most of the language used is British English from the 1880s-1920s.  While the structure of the language would be ok if someone was to study the literature from that era, in modern terms it is not practical.  I was reading one of the stories and there were phrases that I did not even know.  What in the world is a "slap-up supper"?  Is that where you think you are a bear, go to a river, stick your face in, catch a big trout and the trout "slaps up" your face?
    I feel a little hoodwinked as I asked several months ago about the level that i would be teaching while i am here and I did not get a straight answer.  I need to find a decent textbook for my students. 
    One of the problems is that some of the teachers are using a series called Headway.  When I asked the Assistant Dean about getting a copy so that I can support the other teachers by doing things that will extend their lessons, this set off the huge lecture which went all of the way to the Recktor.
    I really like the Recktor.  He is a very large man who I think can talk about anything for hours.  He took a look at the book the Assistant Dean gave me and asked me if I could read Russian and when I said no, he said the books would not be practical.  Then the Recktor invited me to dinner.  He is not only the boss at the university but has several other roles in the government in Naxcivan and Azerbaijan, including being a member of Parliment.  He gets saluted by the soldiers in the city.  How could I say no?
    His driver drove me, him, 2 assistant recktors and one of the nation's leading theorists on sub-atomic physics (no lie) to an outdoor resturaunt.  It had a view of the mountains.  The ones in the front were in Azerbaijan and the ones behind are in ArmeniaAzerbaijan and Armenia have had a long standing war over territory.  In fact, there are parts of the mainlands of Azerbaijan that are currently occupied by Armenia.  Several of my level 2 students are originally from one of the cities that Armenia currently occupies.  By all definitions, these students are war refugees but living in ther own country.  They tend to make me extremely humble when they talk about running out of their homes with only the clothes on their backs.   My life is not so bad.
    While at the resturaunt I thought about the fact that I could easily drive to 5 or 6 countries in a day there -- Armenia, Azerbaiajan, Iran, Turkey, Georgia and Russia.  The Recktor would like to take me to the the villages close to the border.  While it would have a certain degree of danger to go there, at the same time, how can I come close to understanding the plague of human suffering unless I see it for myself. 
    There was so much food at this dinner.  There were fruits, vegetables, nuts (and I do not mean me), fish, beef, lamb and it seemed to never end.  Everytime my plate was emptied, they gave me more food.  One time i did not finish what was given me to eat and I thought to myself that this should stop them from giving me more food - nope, that did not work either,  It was by far the best meal I have had here.
    The Recktor really likes to toast everybody and everythng.  He toasted me for 10 minutes.  I was amazed he knew as much as he did about me, but I am sure that he probably knows more about me than I know about myself.  The thing is here they toast with vodka.  I think that vodka here is less expensive than water.   It is also an all purpose liquid.  They say that if you have a sore throat, drink some vodka with some peeper in it.  I was always told to use whiskey.  It is also used as a disinfectant. 
    The Recktor was toasting everyone and had everyone toast someone or something.  I toasted my parents, UNLV, the staff at the US Embassy, the President of Azerbaijan, the father of the Azerbaijani president, Naxcivan, Naxcivan State University, the Recktor and the driver who drove us to the place.  While we were not drinking from the jumbo economical bottle of vodka, these bottles were not really that small either.  We went through five of them, I think.  It might have been six.  I did not have a hangover this morning, so it was not too bad. 
    I like the Recktor. he is a nice guy with a lot of personality.  While he speaks very little English, he is so expressive with his facial expressions and his vocal intonations that I can get an idea of what he is saying when I do not know Azerbaijani.  He is planning on taking me on several trips throughout the Naxchivan region.  He is also going to send one of the staff members to Turkey and is trying to ensure that I go along too.  I do have a Turkish visa, so I can go.

    Several of the neighborhood kids have taken a big interest in me.  they try to speak to me in english and we all get a big laugh.  One of the teenagers here merely repeats everything I say, it is like having a parrot.  Several of the girls can only say hi, but i always try to say hi to them anytime I see them.  At the cleaners, I met a 15 year old girl who acted as a translator for me while I was there.  Liela (I think that is how you spell it) told me that she was going to be computer engineer and no one could pay her enough to be a teacher.  Hmmm...maybe I did chose the wrong career path.
eejot says:
We still have slap-up suppers ..slap-up breakfasts.. slap-up anything you can eat.. ..btw, Headway is quite popular in Australia for EFL
Posted on: Apr 28, 2008
IceTea says:
U get to know a lot of very interesting, important and unique people there. People who move and change. This is amazing. This experience will enrich ur life. It already enriches mine just by reading it. Thank you.
Posted on: Apr 08, 2008
ehancy says:
In Italy, if you eat everything on your plate, it means that you are still hungry, so you will automatically get more food without asking. Is this the same in Azerbaijan?
Posted on: Jan 04, 2008
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