Sunday, September 28, 2014

Turning the corner

On our way downtown Friday night.
We are getting into the flow here in Ljubljana.  I am (finally) starting to adjust to the stressful life of full-time teaching.  I missed some days of exercise, so my 5-year streak is over, but I'm getting back to daily exercise.  

The girls are getting into the flow of 'normal' life.  They are both taking piano.  Georgia is in a knitting class.  Dahlia starts tennis lessons tomorrow.  All offered on the school premises, which makes things easy.  Ben's classes start this week.  We've found a good place for Bobo to swim.  With life being a little more settled, we can truly enjoy Slovenia!  

'Exposing' ourselves to new things
Last weekend we visited Rogaska Slatina, a spa town about 1.5 hours from Ljubljana.  It's been a popular destination since the Hapsburg Empire, and now seems especially popular among Russian tourists.

View from our after-dinner walk near Rogaska Slatina.

A magical time, thanks to Maja Roy and her family hosting us.  We walked around the historic gardens, sipped the healing waters, then headed up to this amazing spa, Terme Olimia.  Oh my.  Beautiful pools, waterfalls, hot tubs, steam saunas, dry saunas, every kind of water feature you can imagine.  In most areas people wore swimsuits, but for several saunas and some pools, swimsuits were prohibited.  The girls were sort of freaked out about this, and fled to the snack bar after a brief encounter with a sauna full of nude people.  But Ben and I just rolled with it and it was no big deal.  People here are much more relaxed about their bodies.

Maja's grandmother hosted us for a lovely meal at her farm that evening.  Homegrown everything, including the wine and Jagermeister.  Best grapes I've ever tasted.  They also made an amazing GF strawberry walnut hazelnut cake for Ben, which was delicious.

Quick Trip to Istria (Croatia)
This weekend we were going to stay in Ljubljana, but a colleague of Ben's invited us to join them for a day in Istria.  How could we say no?  So we drove to the Istrian Coast in Croatia, about 2 hours from Ljubljana.  It was our first time crossing a border that required a passport.  Luckily they didn't ask for Bobo's papers!  Beautiful day with Ben's colleague Katja and her extended family.  Basically we just hung out, prepared a large meal, ate, hung out, swam in the sea, more hanging out.  Wine.  Gardens.

Our lunch.
Walking to the beach.

Ben & Georgia doing yoga, Istrian coast.
People definitely seem to live a slower, more mindful life.  Not so much rushing around, not so goal-oriented.  It's very foreign!

Not-so-nice foreignness
There are so many more fees, fines, regulations and laws here!  There are laws that you have to have your car lights on all the time, even on sunny days.  You have to change your car tires to snow tires by December 1st.  You have to pay fees to accept packages.  Paying for things like gas bills is a huge pain because the meters are inside, and if you don't let the meter reader inside on the random day he comes, they just estimate your usage!  Maybe they send a letter about it, but it's in Slovene, so no idea what it says.  People are used to the idea that most everything is owned by the state (or the church), and they are accustomed to lots of bureaucracy.  The big exception is our school, which is tiny and private, so practically no bureaucracy at all, which probably explains how I got hired...

Empathy for immigrants
I have much more empathy for immigrants these days.  Everything is 10 - 110% harder when you're foreign - and this is true even though we aren't that foreign and most people here speak at least some English.  And we have google translate.

Everything takes a lot more time and a lot more patience.  I'm not used to feeling so incompetent.  My newest Slovenian phrase: Ne govorim slovensko... [I don't speak Slovene].

I'm getting a little more used to the rhythm and flow of the classroom.  I still have lots of missteps and shortcomings, but I'm getting better at accepting them and moving on.  Of the 6 classes I teach, I most enjoy Writing and Cultural Studies.  I have a passion for those subjects, and that helps a lot.  Spanish is harder for me.  

I have really small classes, and generally pretty motivated well-behaved students, so that is a huge privilege.  Dahlia has me for 3 of her 8 classes, so I get lots of feedback from her.  I have Georgia for just one class, and she commends me for at least trying to establish some discipline with mischievous classmates.  I teach 5th graders up through high school seniors.  Well there's just one senior in the whole school, but he's in my Spanish II class.

Last week we did a dramatic reading of Gilgamesh with my middle schoolers.  The kids did so well, I'm thinking of taking them to a drama festival in December.  Could be fun, and I've always wanted to go to Bratislava!  This week we're tackling Hammurabi's Code.  Ancient Mesopotamia seems more relevant than ever these days.

I gave my 5th and 6th grade Cultural Studies class a very open-ended assignment on Ancient Egypt, and let them share what they learned to the entire class.  Their projects have been amazing!  I should let them teach more often.  We also did a formal debate on whether or not forced labor was a necessary evil in the course of human progress.  Some interesting dialogue, and they loved the format, so we'll be doing that again (good idea MCB!).

I learn so much from my students.  I have kids from France, Ukraine, Russia, USA, Canada, Mexico, Czech Republic, Japan, Albania, Slovenia, Croatia - it's very international.  My students speak many languages and are world travelers, and yet, under the surface, they seem pretty much like kids in Tennessee.

And now I hope my writing students don't read this post since I'm sure it's filled with the same mistakes I'm often accusing them of making!

Good night!


1 comment:

  1. Indya....Have just finished reading your blog twice and am too sleepy to do it justice. Will write more tomorrow, but for now can't help commenting on how much I love and depend on your directness, honesty, and insights. And you are your father's daughter: your wry humor (e.g. ... that's probably why I got the job!) Back soon... Love momb