Thursday, December 01, 2005

Sara Ostaz

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Today started off well, being my first “conversation class” with Ms. N from 10-11. This one went from 10:10-11:40am. The other English class isn’t suitable for her because she’s actually an English teacher herself and has an excellent grasp of English grammar. It’s more the speaking/pronunciation part she has issues with. In her school, she can’t really speak in English to her girls, and so even the English class is conducted in Farsi (unless they’re reading something or learning grammar.) So, despite having been an English teacher for 10 years, she feels her English has atrophied due to lack of use.

We read a page-long piece on Mozart’s life. It was interesting. Her pronunciation was mostly good. She had trouble with some of the German and Italian terms (Salzburg, concerto, Don Giovanni).

Then, I asked her to summarize what she’d read and she had a little more trouble conveying to me what the piece was about. She understood the basics, but said that in order to tell me about it, she would have to go home and prepare.
I told her that would be fine for now, but eventually, I would like her to be able to do a quick summary of a factual/historical read such as that one. It’s basically relating facts back.
I broke it up for her into two types of reading-related feedback. One is an immediate ability to synthesize major facts (perhaps a few supporting details) and be able to explain it in broad terms to someone else. The other would be what she wants to do, which is to go home and read it critically and analyze it and come back and discuss it in further depth. I’m sure there’s a lot more than this, but I’m no teacher or scholar, so I was struggling to compartmentalize the skills I feel would be crucial to the improvement of her English.

I told her certain types of texts are better for the analysis. Although we could take this Mozart piece and do some sort of critical analysis of it (Treatment of the poor? How do you define genius? Financial problems despite commercial success? Explain the irony of dying while writing a requiem that was never completed, having perhaps anticipated his own death? What can you infer about European attitudes towards music during his time, etc.), I think it’s better in this case to just be able to understand and talk about what we learned about Mozart’s life.

Anyway, she is an interesting lady. She wanted to be able to trade skills. She could teach me Farsi and I could help her with English. We both agreed we need to find good approaches to that end, but I actually told her I’d rather she help me with navigating Iranian culture than teaching me Farsi. I’m picking it up being immersed here, I’m going to try and do AliBobba’s software, and there are lots and lots of people who can supply me with tidbits. At this point, it’s more important for me to know how to clean our bathrooms and carpeting and rugs, where to buy precut chicken, how to cook Iranian dishes, where to find certain ingredients.

We talked about health insurance and epilepsy too. 20 years ago, she was diagnosed with epilepsy but has been on pretty strong drugs since then. While she hasn’t had any seizures since back then, the drug has taken a toll on her memory and on her bones. I’m assuming it means perhaps calcium is being leached from them? (Later on, she mentioned that her nephew has sent her calcium pills from the US and those are very good.) She feels her ability to retain stuff in English has also been greatly affected by the medication. She’s probably right, especially since her husband’s English has only improved with time as he picks up new things from CNN or BBC, and she hasn’t progressed as much.

Anyway, with that done, I decided to try and check email (mostly unsuccessful because the modem was too slow to actually connect with more than one page at a time, and then the time ran out and the University connection was even worse.)

Then, it was time to cook, so I took out the pot of kidney beans I had soaked yesterday, thinking they were ready to be cooked. BIG mistake. I sautéed onions and put in tomatoes and spices and fried it all up (I skipped the garlic/ginger this time) and dumped in the beans. I put in some extra water for them to cook and let it simmer. An hour later, they were still raw and hard. 2 hours later, they were still raw and hard. 1 hour after that, they were slightly softer, but the skins were still hard. Finally, at 6:30, I decided to check on them and they had burned and still were not completely squishy soft. This is after 4 hours of cooking and adding cups and cups of water. They were edible. It’s sad, because the spice in them actually turned out be just right and would have tasted pretty good except for the burn and the hardness.

It was annoying. Thank goodness we had some leftover rice and chicken and the eggplant and potato dish, which was just yummy!

I got online and it says you soak and then you BOIL the beans. A ha. Maybe most people know this and are laughing at my stupidity, but I clearly didn’t. I either use canned beans in the US, or I use beans that my dear mother has so kindly prepared for cooking beforehand and that I just pull out of the freezer and thaw and cook.



Blogger huma said...

i think you have to try and then you learn, you've got all the ingredients for cooking for dummies :)

9:57 PM  

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