Monday, November 26, 2012

Universe One, Two, Three (and Counting)

Being in a different country is like living in a parallel universe. The similarities and differences are felt but not always seen. They creep up on you sometimes and when they do, you start to see things very clearly. Things you never really noticed before. Things about America, my home sweet poem. I'll even remember strange things that I never actually said back home, but have now come into my life, like proverbs.

My last days in New York seem like this still image that I imagine staying the same until I get back, after the Peace Corps. Maybe this idea isn't too far from the truth. When I left in September, there was an old washing machine on my mom and dad's front lawn. When I talked to them a couple months later, it was still there, sinking into the grass. I was convinced that when I came home two years later, it would still be there, (or sunken halfway to China, at least). It has since been moved and my safe little sheltered still image has now become a motion film. For example: (1) my sister finished graduate school, passed her exam, and is now looking for a social work job; (2) Hurricane Sandy destroyed my Mom's car and she now has a new one; and (3) My younger siblings and cousins are growing up!

Because I am so far away, I thought that my old universe would be on pause until I return. Part of it is, since I'm living a different life. My new Ukrainian universe will hold me over until my triumphant return (bells, parades, tears, bottle clanks please). Sometimes, though, I peak back at my old self, and the family and friends that surrounded me, and in doing so, I have created another universe--one that is a combination of old and new, change and stagnation, knowing and unknowing. That's when I realize that even though they are thousands of miles away, life is still moving, even though I'm not there to witness it first hand. So, I've figured it out. I'm living in three universes at once: Home, as in my still life in New York; Home, as in where my body rests on my uncomfortable bed in Ukraine; and Home, in limbo, browsing the different worlds of my existence--whether it's via facebook or my own dreams.

I can definitely count more than three universes in my life...There's the one where I daydream about the real possibilities of me going to Mars to start a colony (check this out and you'll understand me better), the one where I don't leave my apartment for two days, the one where I can only go to sleep if I watch Star Trek: Next Generation, the one where I obsessively look up graduate school programs and wonder about my future, the one where I pinch myself for not being able to be completely in the moment (because of all the other universes pulling at my heart strings?!!?!?!).

Is this a disease? If it is, I've got it and I've been living with it my whole life. So, if you suffer from the constant attention that parallel universes demand, embrace it. It's an adventure.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What Would Benjamin Franklin Do?

This semester, I've been teaching an American Literature class using this really difficult text book. Not only do my students find it hard to understand, but I do. It's dense and boring and American Literature deserves more. So, I have to take matters into my own hands, tie a string around my finger, test some new ideas, and let the sparks fly. Well, maybe not sparks...

Last week I taught about Ben Franklin, which consisted of using a biography information gap activity and me drawing pictures of bifocals, flippers, and a kite on the board because I didn't know how to translate. Afterwards,  I had my students make posters about Franklin and present them in front of the class. Here's an uncanny goodie:

Tomorrow, I'm going to teach Franklin's 13 virtues. I've devised a short quiz for the students to take to see how virtuous they would be in the eyes of Ben Franklin. The quiz consists of thirteen questions based on each of his virtues: temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility. There are four possible options for each virtue and students must choose the one they agree with the most. I can't wait to see how virtuous my little Franklinsteins are!

For materials and lessons, go here. I started a teaching English blog to stay more organized.

Scoring system:
1-13: Ben Franklin incarnate
14-27: Lil' Franklin is your nickname
28-40: Virtuous smirtuous
41-52: You're in danger of being struck by lightning (and this doesn't bother you)

How virtuous are you? Take the quiz! Give your self one point for every (a), two for every (b), three for every (c), and four for every (d) and add them all up and post your score, if you dare.

What Would Benjamin Franklin Do? 
Look at the following virtues and choose the option that you agree with the most.
1.) Temperance a.) I don’t eat a lot. Only enough to survive b.) at a party, I try all of the food, but I don’t like to eat too much c.) If there is food on the table, I will eat it, even if I’m not very hungry  d.) I eat until I can’t move
2.) Silence a.) I never say anything bad about other people b.) I am generally quiet, but sometimes, I talk loudly to my good friends c.) People say that I am very loud d.) I say what I want, when I want, even I it makes someone upset
3.) Order a.) My bedroom is always neat and very organized b.) My bedroom is neat, but sometimes I forget to make the bed c.)My bedroom is messy and there are things on the floor  d.)I can’t even see the floor of my bedroom and I don’t remember the last time I cleaned it.
4.) Resolution a.) I always do what I say I’ll do b.) I usually do what I say I’ll do c.) I rarely do what I say I’ll do d.) I can’t remember what I said I’d do
5.) Frugality a.) If I have extra money, I save it  b.) If I have extra money, I save most of it and spend a little  c.) I ask my parents for money every week so I can buy snacks d.) I have trouble saving money. I love shopping!
6.) Industry a.) If I am not busy, I am not happy b.)When I finish all my work, I sometimes find something else to do  c.) When I finish all my work, I rest d.) I play computer games or surf the net instead of doing all my homework
7.) Sincerity a.) I always speak the truth, but I try to do it nicely b.)If I don’t like someone, I try not to show it c.) If I don’t like someone, I will tell them d.) If I don’t like someone, I will not be nice to them, and I will laugh at them
8.) Justice  If I was in court for a crime I committed: a.) I would tell the truth and confess with no fear b.) I would tell the truth but be scared c.) I would lie a little d.) I would lie and blame someone else
9.) Moderation  a.) I am a calm person and I don’t like extreme situations b.) If someone makes me angry, I will be upset, but I will stay calm  c.) If I like doing something, I will do it even if I don’t have time  d.) I like to walk on the wild side.
10.) Cleanliness a.) I always smell good and clean b.) I have a pretty clean room  c.) I am clean but sometimes I don’t shower after playing sports d.) I smell. Who cares?!
11.) Tranquility You caught your boyfriend or girlfriend kissing someone else: a.) It’s OK. Things happen. b.) I will be sad and calmly talk to them and ask what went wrong  c.) I will shout and cry and run away  d.) How scandalous! I’m going to give someone a knuckle sandwich!
12.) Chastity a.) I will only have sex to have a baby and raise a child b.) I should be married before having sex c.) I can have sex with anyone if I love them c.) d.) I’m a player, baby!
13.) Humility  a.) I don’t like to talk about myself b.) When I hear a compliment, I blush and say thanks 
c.) I think I’m pretty cool and my friends agree  d.) I am too cool for school