Friday, September 17, 2010

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

Today, I had the first of my "real" lessons and I think it went pretty well.  Twice a week I'll be doing "optional" classes for students who want to improve their language where we speak in English and talk about different topics in American Culture.

Today was the first of these classes and a majority of the class time was spent doing my introduction (which I happened to think was well done as well as quite brilliant and witty) and the students introducing themselves, during which we played two truths and a lie.  It was pretty fun and the students seemed to enjoy it, though the varying levels of English provided different levels of discussion depending on who was speaking at the time.

Our next topic was Independence Day.  Saturday, September 18th is День Города (Day of the City) here in Elista, which is a celebration of the day the city was founded and as such we discussed, briefly due to time constraints, Independence Day in the US.  I explained to the students what Independence Day is, what it means to Americans, how it is celebrated, etc.  All around, it was a great time, but then came the best part of the lesson.

My task to the students (thanks Melanie!!!!!!!!) was to have them create a holiday of their own. The students were asked to create a new holiday, create 2-3 traditions associated with the holiday, the date that it is celebrated and why people celebrate it.   In order to get them started, I provided my students with my own example.  Here is mine (and the students' holidays):

My example holiday was "The National Day of New Socks", which is celebrated on December 4th of every year.  On this day, each person puts on a brand new pair of white socks.  People also go out and buy the ugliest pair of socks they can find and give them, as a gift, to a family member.  I decided that this holiday is celebrated due to the heroics of Alexander J. Sockerson who gave out millions of pairs of socks during the Great Depression so that with no money, food or jobs, Americans would not go sock-less and have cold, dirty feet.  So was my example.

The first group created the "National Ice Cream Day" which is celebrated the 1st of June in order to make sure everyone feels happy and gets a chance to meet new people.  On this day people are only allowed to eat ice cream, wear clothes that resemble ice cream and throw ice cream at a stranger's face.  There is also an ice cream eating contest!

The second group had "The Day of Extreme Luck" which is a day for students who hope for lots of luck as they prepare to take their exams.  This holiday is on January 6th, the traditional day when exams begin in Russia after fall semester.  Students offer a prayer of sorts before the test and hope they have amazing luck during the test and that the questions they are asked to answer are the ones to which they know the answers.

The third group created "The Eggs Day".  This day is on January 1st and is there to celebrate...well I'm not entirely what they were celebrating...sort of a celebration of the Egg and of life itself I think.  They described how Jan. 1st is the day when the first hen apparently laid the first egg; how eggs are prepared in many different ways and perhaps most importantly, how eggs are a sign of fertility.  To celebrate this holiday, people run around and throw eggs at each other and the more eggs you end up getting pelted with the happier you should be!

Finally, the last group presented and  were, above and beyond, my personal favorite.  I was worried this group wasn't going to create anything since they were falling far behind other groups and we were running out of time, but they surprised me, boy did they surprise me.  This group created the "Beer Bellies Day", a day celebrated the last Sunday of each June whereupon the people drink unfathomable amounts of beer, wear shirts that showcase their beer guts and have beer drinking contests.  As if this wasn't enough, the group created a legend around how the holiday began, I'll do my best to retell it:

Once upon a time (Жили были...), long ago, there was a village where the people loved to drink beer.  They loved it more than anything else in the world, it was their sustenance and their life support.  But one day, one most unfortunate day near the end of June, just as the weather was reaching its peak for the summer, the village ran out of beer.  The villagers were completely distressed.  They would not drink water, nor juice, nor kvas.  All they wanted was beer, but alas, they had none and they knew what to do not.

But luckily for them, there exists a man of extraordinary capabilities.  Did you know that Santa Clause has a brother?  Yes he does and his name is Santa Beerman and unlike his cheerful, good-natured brother, Santa Beerman hates winter and Christmas, but loves summer and beer.  So on this most ill-fated of days in the village, appeared a man, a man most glorious and a man loved to this day.  This man was Santa Beerman and to the villagers he came with tidings of kegs and beer (unlike comfort and joy...pshh) and restored the village to it's legendary beer-drinking status.  To this day, the city still celebrates the coming of Santa Beerman through its "Beer Bellies Day" the last Sunday of each June.

This was the gist of the story my students told (okay I added a few descriptive words of my own for emphasis, but whatever, the story was theirs and theirs alone).  I was absolutely shocked by this "legend" and so happy they came up with it.  It was, perhaps, the most creative thing I've seen students ever do and thoroughly enjoyable.

Overall, I believe my first "optional" class went quite well and I hope the students enjoyed themselves and that they return for more of them (fingers crossed).  One disturbing thing, however, is that I offered my students cookies, which they didn't seem to want.  I had cookies set out and all ready to go and I ended eating most of them myself.  I was disappointed with their cookie appetites; I thought university students loved cookies, but it seems I was mistaken.

So, Dear Readers, goes my first class.  While I won't be blogging about every class I hold, I found this particular one special because it was my first and I was terribly nervous about it and I do hope there will be more.  So until next time!


  1. Haha... That is awesome! Good lesson! I am so proud of you camdizzle!

  2. I'm Santa beerman.

  3. If you're Santa Beerman, please bring me some Guinness!