Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Day in the Life of an ELF

My new weights! And my less-new barbell in the background. Love them!
Teaching in the women's class.

...Not an ELF from the North Pole, an English Language Fellow in Afghanistan!

Tuesday was the kind of day that I never want to forget. I laughed, cried, was surprised, pushed out of my comfort zone, cooked, shopped, had a phone conversation in Dari, welcomed students home from their time as captives of the Taliban, talked about Martin Luther King, taught students very inappropriate slang, then listened to them use it, took a nap, had an allergic reaction to nuts, cooked again, and went to bed early . Yes, Tuesday was close to an ideal day for me; emotional, successful, challenging, relaxing...the only thing that was missing was the ocean and my friends back home!

Woke up earlier than usual to finish my lesson plan for class.
I had done a lesson on Martin Luther King Junior with the women's class the day before and wanted to change some things before I did it with the men's class (this winter I am teaching an American Culture class; I have about 85 students and have split them into two sections--one male and one female--so the female students will feel more comfortable talking).

Before the first call to prayer, I had already fried an egg, eaten a cucumber, then sat down and finished planning. I practiced reading MLK's "I have a dream" speech a couple of times. If I had to read it, I wanted to do him proud.

Off to school.
Morning traffic wasn't too bad, but I could see that all of the puddles were frozen into blocks of ice. Of course I wore inappropriately high heeled boots to school that morning. As soon as I got out of the car I slipped and skidded everywhere. Thanks to my coordination (yay crossfit!) I was able to make it to my office without breaking a hip.

Somehow, before getting to Martin Luther King Jr., I found myself in the most uncomfortable of conversations with the "boys" (I call the men's class the "boys" even though they are 18-45 years old because their questions are so adorable and innocent).

Student: "Miss, what does chicken head mean?"
Me: (surprise immediately followed by hysterical laughter)
Me: (deep breath, more laughter)
The boys: (laughing a little at first, then uncontrollably because I couldn't stop laughing)
Me: "It means...I am too embarrassed to say it!"
Boys: (laughter), "tell us PLEASE."
Me: "It means a couple of, a girl with bad hair. Two, a girl (or a boy) who has a lot of boyfriends (or girlfriends)."
Boys: (More laughter followed by many absurd attempts at using the word in a sentence, which I cannot bring myself to repeat here)

On the heels of the "chicken head" discussion, I had to gather my wits and read the, "I Have a Dream" speech to the boys. Turns out they loved it and clapped when I was finished as if I had written it myself.

I told them MLK did it much better than me.

Now they are working on their own, "I Have a Dream" speeches about Afghanistan.

One of my former students, who was kidnapped by the Taliban at the end of the fall semester, appeared beside me as I was walking out of class.

I almost forgot where I was (Kabul) and moved to hug him. But I didn't. I shook his hand (in the courtyard!) and stopped when I realized people were staring.

My student grinned widely and said, "Miss, I have returned from being captured!"

I swallowed my tears and told him to come to my office to chat. As I poured a bag of raisins and nuts on the table for him to snack on while we talked, I noticed how dark his skin had gotten and that he seemed a little skinnier. He quickly ate ALL of the raisins (about half a pound). My heart broke. But then it immediately sewed itself back together when he smiled so innocently and said, "It is nice to be back, I love raisins."

I called my driver to ask him where he was and to change my plans. In Dari. AND he understood me!

Finally, I was able to withdraw enough money from the bank to buy weight plates for my new barbell. I bought a few different sizes of plates, threw them in the back of the car and excitedly rode home while my driver bemusedly asked me what I was going to do with those weights. I tried to tell him that I was going to lift them, but I didn't know the verb "to lift" so I told him I was going "to put them in the gym and play with them." That seemed to satisfy his curiosity. I could barely wait until my workout a few hours later when I would be able to test them out...

...But first I ate and took a nap. I had an ordinary lunch, chicken, veggies, and a handful of nuts. I went to sleep pretty quickly, but distinctly remember itching my face as I drifted off.

Woke up an hour later with my eyes swollen shut. Did I suddenly become allergic to something?
Even though I could barely open my eyes, there was no way I was going to NOT do crossfit (with a new barbell and plates waiting, who could resist?!). I washed my face, took some Benadryl, put my glasses on, and rushed down to my gym.

The doorman was startled by the sight of my face.

He asked if I was okay. I told him I ate too many almonds. He laughed. I told him I was going to the gym now. He laughed even harder.

Baked some more chicken and veggies.
Listened to Garth Brooks.
The swelling subsided and I could open my eyes again.

Practiced Dari, worked on a lesson plan for the next day.

Went to bed in my new leg-warmers (thanks Heather!). Snuggled up with a good book, Eat, Pray, Love, thanked God for another fun-filled and (relatively) safe day in Kabul, then fell asleep reading and itching my eyes (I know this because I woke up for school the next morning with my book under the covers and my eyes swollen again!)

Another day in the life of an ELF.

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At 6:26 PM , Blogger Kat Buckly said...

chicken head!

At 1:42 AM , Blogger Jaala Thibault said...

my hair isn't that bad :)

At 9:58 AM , Blogger Luana Joslin-Lester said...

Thank God for Benadryl. Next is shell fish. Watch out! Wish I had a picture of your swollen eyes. Take care.Mom

At 11:36 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

i wanna see your swollen shut eyes haha


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