ukhta’s dancing monkeys, part two

Every once in a while, Vickie and I have a week when it is very clear that we are the go-tos for all English language showcases in Ukhta, and also that we are mostly incapable of saying no. Last week was one of those weeks.

It all started when Svetlana (the director of the elementary school) asked us to perform a song in English at the end of their English Day program. Seemed simple enough. The song was technically a part of the fourth-graders’ skit, but they didn’t have enough time to learn it, and Vickie and I are the dancing monkeys, so… we agreed. We decided to ignore the fact that both of us were sick and sounded more like dying monkeys than dancing ones.

Then, three days before the performance, one of my fourth graders got sick. He would have to miss his debut as the Ass in the skit, “The Bremen-town Musicians.” This was a pity, as he is literally the most Nick Bottom-like child I have ever met, and the Shakespeare nerd in me was really tickled by the coincidence. This was also a pity as it meant that Svetlana needed to find a replacement for him. Do you see where this is going?

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“Woe is me! What am I to do? I am old, and weak. Where shall I go?”

I only got the script about 24 hours before the performance and failed to memorize it to my own satisfaction, so I ended up writing key words on my hand in blue pen right before I went onstage. These words remained on my hand for about four days, reminding me of the time my students got to call me “Ass” for a whole day.

Later that day, Vickie and I got to sit on the jury for a foreign-language scientific conference. It was interesting, because the purpose of the conference was not to discuss one topic/group of topics, but for students to present literally anything in English. So the presentations were widely varied, both in theme and in quality. The room was deathly hot, so we opened the window, despite cries from the teachers that this would result in us catching colds (we already had colds, we just wanted to breathe).

…This, however, means that when a day later I missed class to work on a last-minute conference presentation, the teachers all nodded their heads wisely to the effect of, “We knew she would get sick with all those open windows!” (Even though, again, the reason I missed class was to work on a paper, not because I was sick. That’s a silly reason to miss class.)

Oh right, did I mention I was invited to participate in USTU’s conference on educating international students? I heard about the conference on Monday. It was to happen on Thursday. It was to happen in Russian on Thursday. But what was I supposed to say, “no”? Ha! This word is not in my vocabulary!

Tuesday I chose a theme (flexible, conversational lessons as a means of motivating language students). Wednesday I chose a title (О развитии интереса учащихся к изучению иностранного языка). Wednesday night/Thursday morning I wrote my speech. Thursday afternoon I showed up to the conference, listened to several people talk well over their 5-7 minute limit, and finally gave my presentation (not reading the paper with my speech printed, because nobody else did… oops) in a different section, because we ran out of time in the first.

It ended up going well, and I think it gave some hope to the teachers I was talking to… that maybe, one day, their students too could get up and half-improv a last-minute conference presentation in Russian. Even if mine wasn’t super exciting, or my ideas weren’t totally new to them, the very fact that a fifth-year Russian student can actually speak Russian was encouraging. And for that I’m glad I said yes 🙂

Join me next time on “Katie Says Yes and Performs on Stage” for a discussion of her big-stage debut… a musical!

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The tension. The chemistry. The drama. (I’m a bad actress.) (But at least I have good posture.)
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