25 May 2012

Funnyquote Friday

Oh man, I almost forgot to post today!  And one of the best weeks I've had here on the island wouldn't be complete without a great new (code for old) quote from April's issue of Serious Ting.  As the reader knows, I was the Design Editor for the second issue running, solely responsible for designing the graphics and layout of the 40-page, full color magazine.  As the previous Editor-in-Chief was on board for the second issue to deliver a couple of articles, one of which was on the "Origins of Serious Ting" which were previously shrouded in mystery, I had worked closely with him and so was not unpleasantly surprised when I discovered a little Easter Egg of sorts in that article.  The line goes like this: "As with other past design editors, [Andy Montgomery's] work in the Ting was a prequel to a long career in graphic design...

"... (Are you reading this, Chris?)"

I nearly fell out of my seat with laughter when I proofread the article the first time.  So, yes, I am reading this and with the requisite amount of glee.  I ended up choosing to move the shout-out to the small comic box adjacent that section of the text, for more comedic framing; to see it for yourself, check out page 3 of Serious Ting Volume XXIII, Issue 1.

So what made this such a great week?  Well, I was primed for a very humbling Tuesday, wherein a nexus of four separate long-term demands had settled onto that same 12-hour period: a maths tutoring session with the Beach Allen Primary students, an change in my status on a very important job application, a first interaction with my contact at the ICT Department, and a Team Trivia Quiz that I was co-leading that evening.  Curiously, in the end, the only thing that did go down as planned was the last of the four.  It was raining Persians and Poodles that morning, so I could not justify the half-hour walk to the school.  And after the debacle there last week, who knows? – maybe it was for the best.  I never did hear from anyone with regards to the ICT Department and their help in preparing server space to host our new website, so I made sure and followed up on that Wednesday.  And as for the job application, I received an e-mail notice at 12:15 the following morning stating that the company had, for the second time, delayed the decision to narrow down its candidate pool.  In unrelated news, I'm getting better every day at dealing with or else ignoring the fears and anxieties of ambiguity in a job search.  So I had most of the day to, instead, prepare a kick-ass quiz for the 18 people that showed up that night.  *sigh*

But then, out of nowhere, a very uplifting Thursday sprung upon me like a swift feline predator.  I spent the better part of the morning untangling the cobwebs in the part of my brain where my HTML and CSS knowledge resides, and managed to crank out the navigation frame of the website I am designing for The Ripple Institute.  ... LOL – the link – it didn't work, did it?  You know why it doesn't work?  'Cause I'm still working on the website! Anyway, even a basic framework is better than nothing, and I'm confident that the project will flesh itself out nicely over the next few weeks, but it won't go live until I am actually able to meet and discuss the specs with a representative from the ICT Department.  Once that happens, of course I'll make the new pages available here.

After this, I did the grocery shopping for tonight's dinner of stir-fried Barbecue/Teriyaki Chicken and Veggies on Rice and prepped for my interview at 1:00 with an organization looking for a Graphic Arts Designer.  It went very well; so well, in fact, that I was late leaving my house to go to the airport and join my friend in picking up her parents at the airport.   But! I ran into Karl, a fellow Hasher (that's a runner in the running club of the same name, btw) who gave me a lift out of the hot, hot sun all the way to the airport.  Finally, with the day's duties fulfilled, I relaxed and agreed to meet up with everyone at Sprat Net to welcome the island's newest guests.  A perfect day!  What could possibly go wrong... barring, perhaps, getting locked out of the car I was hoping to ride home in.  Oh well – another adventure, another excuse to ride the bus home.

18 May 2012

Funnyquote Friday

The reception to my work on-island lately has been as variable as the weather this time of year.   In just the past week, I have been met with both extremes: at once I am praised and thanked for work I have not had a chance to do yet, and then again I am openly criticized for work that is proceeding on-schedule and showing great promise.  Fortunately I've managed to avoid becoming discouraged, or allowing my emotions to become equally mercurial.  Instead, I've managed to keep things in perspective here and maintain an even affect, though this was not particularly easy on Tuesday, when it wasn't just the students who were out to challenge my authority (although this happened in good measure) – it was a teacher as well.  Apparently responsible for the lowest-performing students in the sixth grade, she regularly sends three of her students for maths tutoring, which is two more than the median amount of all the classes.  When I went to pull out the three students as usual, she stopped me and casually informed me that she didn't believe her students were learning anything from me.  Stunned, I simply and politely responded, "Oh?"  She repeated, "I don't think my students are learning anything from you.  Do you think they are learning anything from you?"  I pointed out that, while the progress is slow, particularly for some students, that I believed that the work I was doing was indeed helping.  She requested proof: she asked to see the evidence of the work we were doing on paper for that day.  Since we have been reviewing for the Test of Standards (end-of-course testing) the last few weeks and have been working example problems on paper and in composition books, I obliged, though I was astounded at the gall and impertinence of this woman.  Shaken, I escorted the kids to the classroom, where they were no less unruly than the others had been that day.  We finished the session with less progress than I had hoped to achieve "under the gun," but since the work is largely cumulative, I presented the teacher afterwards with the notes sheet from our previous sessions.  She proceeded to quiz one of her students right there with the notes on the paper, at the entrance to her classroom, in front of me.  At this point I had had enough, so I walked away to collect my final gaggle of sixth graders.  She called after me, "Do you want to keep this sheet?"  To which I replied, "Yes I do.  I'll come back for it."

In my mind that day, I went through a dozen different ways I could have responded more assertively, esprit d'escalier that would have really stuck it to that careless teacher just looking for a scapegoat or someone to bully.  But I'm glad I handled it the way I did – I reminded myself of the support I have from virtually every other adult at the institution, and the positive strides several of the students have made in the handful of months we've been working together.  In this way I got over it in a few days, but I also don't plan to subject myself to that kind of unnecessary harassment again.  So believe me, if she abuses me once again, I will report her to the principal for unprofessional behavior.

My brother told me about a similar incident that happened to him at work recently, where a superior, tragically mistaken, alleged a lack of faith in his abilities.  I commiserated with him on the thoughtlessness of people no matter where you go.  I should have told him then that we have a saying for this down here, though I suspect it's not exclusive:

"Same s**t, different dialect."

Alternatively, I also have good news rife with positive life-changing potential.  I have recently made the acquaintance of a Dr. Izben Williams, former SKN Ambassador to the U.S., who lives on-island and who is involved in starting a youth development NGO in Basseterre.  His organization, picturesquely dubbed The Ripple Institute, has not yet launched and is looking for assistance in starting a website and online presence.  I received word of the need from a fellow PCV, and said I could help.  I've already begun work on ideas for logos, though I am waiting on the SKN Department of Information, Communications and Technology to identify and cordon the server space and domain for the organization's use.  There is no telling how long the turnaround on this largely simple task could take; fortunately, I can begin work of designing a simple website on my local drive.

As with everything I do here, the new work did not go unnoticed, and I have already received one proposition for website design assistance in the efforts of another volunteer.  This is fine; I welcome the sense of busy-ness that comes from having a full schedule, though I hope I can continue to create and problem-solve for as many groups as I can without sacrificing on potency.

Work at the AWANA chapter on-island is also going well.  A missionary couple from Indianapolis (this is their SKN blog) have set up the program at a church in Middle Island, and I go there on Saturday afternoons to be a team leader.  I never really got into AWANA in Hiawassee, even enough to be a Listener, despite my parents' diehard commitment to it.  But here and now, necessity almost demands that I be a Team Leader (Blue Team, so far) every week.  Though I must confess, I enjoy the Book Time with the children far more than either Council Time or Game Time.  I find it very inspiring to listen for the handful of kids that take the verses and activities in their books seriously enough to participate week in and week out.  Sure, there are the majority of the kids who didn't even remember to bring their study book, who are just there for the Game Time or the social aspect or for no other reason than their parents made them.  But every night I've gone, I've been able to find at least one boy or girl who was sharp enough and dedicated enough to have learned at least one section's worth of verses over the previous week, usually coupled with a willingness to study the next section for the half-hour we have devoted to Book Time.  These moments of successfully challenging the children and discussing the meaning of the verses with them has been more rewarding than I expected, and significantly more meaningful than simply watching our team outrun the other three teams around a big circle.

In other news, I received my first invitation for an interview, a mere 2 months after beginning my most recent job search.  Paired with this positive if dubious revelation is the fact that today is, by my understanding, the final day to hear back from the company I applied to last month, the one that I had devoted my entire April's free time to completing the largely abstract deliverable assignments.  Since I have not been scheduled for a telephone interview with that organization yet, I wouldn't be surprised to find out very soon that I have been passed over once again.  Despite these inauspicious results, I'm doing my best to stay positive, and haven't lost steam in continuing to seek out opportunities.

I wasn't exaggerating before: we really have had back-and-forth weather the past few weeks.  After the warmest March in recent memory, and an April that reintroduced rainstorms to the dry island, May has enjoyed equal shares of both phenomena, and seemingly on alternating days.  It's that time of year (again) when one has to pack both an umbrella and a pair of sunglasses, in the event that both are needed in the same short period.

04 May 2012

Funnyquote Friday

As you know, I tutor about 18 students at Beach Allen Primary in remedial maths.  On Tuesday, when I was reviewing previous Test of Standards questions with my tutees, I came across the particularly salient topic of fraction arithmetic.  At random I chose a sixth grade boy to tell me what the sum of 1/4 and 2/4 was.  But the correct answer of 3/4 came from a different source, and the boy quickly agreed.  Unsatisfied, I asked him why the answer was not 3/8.  I wonder if he thought the question was rhetorical, because he retorted:

"I can't change the laws of math!"

Well, it seems I didn't get around to posting until Friday once again.  I'm sure one of these days something worth posting will converge on a time when I also have a solid internet connection.  Until then, I don't have a whole lot else to add.  Ty the puppy returns to his owner(s) this weekend, but it has been a pleasant run with him as my guest for the last couple of weeks.  Now that I've had occasion to watch over a pair of cats and a puppy in my little 328 sq. ft. corner of this world, I have a better feel for what would be involved in taking in a pet when I finally move Stateside.  Since I'll be moving into the next phase of my life, I foresee myself taking in a cat and proving to all prospective romantic interests that I am responsible enough to take care of a pet.

We EC82 Volunteers were just notified of the due date of our 5th Trimesterly Report, signifying our time is nearly 83.33% complete.  Though the ramifications of moving on in less than six months has hardly scratched the surface of my subconscious awareness, I have already become accustomed to telling people I have a mere five months remaining.  This seems co-synchronously like a suitably long time (to accomplish any other pursuits of mine here on the island) and an alarmingly short time (to find a new job).  I'm hoping that due to some stroke of fortune I can find a happy medium between the two, and the perfect way to do this would be to secure a job of my own before I run out of time here.

Hey, look, it's a glimpse from my perspective.