Thursday, August 22, 2013

ESL Summer Session

We had a short 6 week session of ESL classes this summer. My original thought was that we should do an intensive GED class because I sometimes feel that the GED students do not get enough attention when they are mixed in with the English language students.  Unfortunately there were not enough GED students to make a full class but I was happy to see many of my ESL participants eager to come to summer school, along with a few new ones.  Above, Yumiko, Haroun and Ibrahim.
Class actually ended on July 30 but I have many Muslim students from Africa who were observing Ramadan so we decided to wait till Ramadan was over before having a party at my house as we usually do at the close of a session.  I commented that Alaska in the summer time is certainly not the best place to have to fast from sun up to sun down!  It stays light so late!  I didn't realize that they cannot have anything to eat OR drink, including water.  So they were all working very long days with not even a swig of water to help them through it.    Above, Ahmed, Baciliso, Sandra and Anita.
I had asked Rich several weeks ago if he would mind fixing food for us on the 15th, and, as usual,  he never says no when I ask him to help me out.  I knew that his sister would be leaving on the 13th but I didn't think it would be any big deal to then throw a dinner party two nights later!  What was I thinking?? Thankfully, the house was still fairly clean from preparing for Vesta's arrival, but Rich was pretty busy at work and then had a lot more to do once he got home.  I felt so guilty that I even made a cake myself so he wouldn't have to mess with dessert. LOL  We went with a little easier menu this time and everything turned out great.  Above, Mohamed, Aldouma, Thao and her husband Tom.
As I have said many times before, I absolutely love my students and they are the nicest people anyone could meet.  They are hard working, dedicated, kind, friendly, and lots of fun!  Juanita and Yumiko, above, have been with me for several sessions now and just get better and better with their skills.
 The required group shot with a few people missing.
 Ibrahim and Haroun in our yard on their way out
Arnoldo and Yumiko

We are on a little break and then will start a 12 week session in early September.  To be honest, some days I think I would like to have my evenings free again but once the new session gets going, I always have a blast.  It's been so rewarding to see my students grow in confidence and accomplish so much.  Living in Texas for so many years, I couldn't even pick up enough Spanish to get by! These lovely individuals are quite an inspiration.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

More Vesta's Visit

 We took Vesta on our favorite hike, the Ugadaga Bay Trail, which winds all the way down to the Pacific Ocean.

Crossing a little stream
 On the rocky beach at Beaver Inlet

Hiking back out is the hard part!
Taking a little rest
We ran into this cute little fox on the way back.  He was not bothered by us at all and just sat there while we took photos
 I showed Vesta around the radio studio and she and Rich recorded station IDs for KUCB
We had a very full and busy week with lots of sightseeing, conversation, laughter, reminiscing, and great food by Rich.
To continue with the full Aleutian flying experience, we got to the airport to check Vesta in and she'd been cancelled off all of her flights. Apparently when she had to go standby to get out here, the fact that she did not board her original flight set off a chain reaction and all her return flights fell away.  We were told "someone" should have protected the return flights and failed to do so.  And to top it off, her flight out of Unalaska was now full.  Luckily, our local folks were able to get her back on her flight from here and rebooked on flights from ANC to SEA and on to Fresno.  Whew.
 We're really glad she got to come and see us!
Boarding Pen Air
Up, up, and away! 

Vesta Comes to Visit

Rich's sister Vesta came to see us for a week.  We had a great time and enjoyed showing her around our island home.  She got to experience the full Aleutian travel experience when her flight got cancelled in Anchorage due to mechanical problems and she had to find a hotel at the height of the expensive summer season.  She had many frustrating moments trying to get rebooked, but luckily arrived only one day later than scheduled.  I was working most of the week since our Tundra Golf fundraiser was coming up on the weekend so Vesta and Rich got to hang out and take some photos in our gorgeous scenery.

We were fortunate that our friend Sharon was giving a tour of the Cathedral of the Holy Ascension, the historic Russian Orthodox Church,  and we were able to join in.  No photos are allowed inside the cathedral but we were happy that Vesta could see it and learn some of the history of the Russian Orthodox church in Unalaska.  Below is a photo of the grounds and cemetery outside.

Another day we took a four hour tour of the island with Bobbie Lekanoff, who has lived here for many years.  Although Rich and I have been here for awhile, we learned more about the island's history as well.  The day was a little overcast and drizzly but we still enjoyed ourselves.
 Looking out of the big bunker on Mt. Ballyhoo
 Looking out from Mt. Ballyhoo

I had to work at the Tundra Golf Classic so Rich and Vesta came by to say hi.

 It's always a crazy fun time playing golf in the tundra!
And I love the costumes!

Our news team, summer intern Audrey, newly promoted News Director Lauren, and departing News Director Stephanie, plus Stephanie's mom
 At home--look at all my fun stuff on the fridge.  :)
 Rich and Ajax

On Elephants and Empathy

I was summoned for jury duty a few weeks ago.  The jury selection process was interesting in itself--the prosecutor and defense attorney both asked questions to determine if we could be fair and impartial or if we had anything in our backgrounds that might make us biased for or against one side or the other.  I had to smile at some of the answers given by my fellow potential jurors,  wondering if they were purposely answering in such a way to get dismissed or if they were just being honest (if misinformed).  A few thought that they could vote "undecided" even at the end of jury deliberations, several almost proudly told of their own prior arrests, one or two recounted times that they or a friend had beaten someone up (this was an assault case).  Still, eventually, a jury was selected and we began.  The case involved one man hitting another man with a 2x4.  The defendant claimed self defense; the state claimed that the other person was hit, out of the blue,  for no reason.  Our job was to decide if the prosecution proved assault beyond a reasonable doubt. 

None of the witnesses saw the entire event.  Some heard noise and looked out the window to catch the middle of the altercation. Some saw the action as one man picked up a 2x4,  but not what prompted him to do so. Some saw what was happening on one side of the yard or the other; some saw the aftermath. No one could tell us exactly what happened from beginning to end.  In jury deliberations, I remarked that it reminded me of the story of the blind men and the elephant.  The short version goes like this: six blind men are told to examine an elephant and describe it.  Each of them feels a different part of the elephant so their descriptions vary wildly--it's a tree, a snake, a wall, a fan, a rope, a spear.  In the end, it's true that they are all partly correct in their descriptions but no one has the whole picture.  It's not that anyone is lying or purposely misleading anyone else, but all are speaking from their own perspectives and can't see what the others are experiencing.

It seems that many of us go through life this way. We reinforce our worldview based on our own visions and experiences and have a hard time seeing things through the eyes of others.  Although I try to be open minded, I know that I can be pretty stubborn when it comes to certain beliefs and opinions--my own little piece of the elephant is very important to me. Please don't tell me it's a rope when it is very clearly a fan!

In the courtroom, we were seeking truth and justice, deciding which version of the story was most likely to be true, or at least which was most believable. But in life we have the opportunity every day  to put ourselves in the experience of others and see what they see,  if we can only step away from our own vision for a moment. What kind of world would we create if we could all take the perspective of others once in awhile? Can we imagine the tree instead of the rope, trade the wall for a snake and see what it's like?

Check out this very cool video from Roman Krznaric (and RSA Animate) as he talks about empathy and "outrospection" as forces for social change.   He also has a website and blog here.     I think he's onto something.