Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Second blog message

November 3, 2010

As I prepare to post this report, the mid-term election results in the US are on all of the on-line news outlets. It would appear that big changes are afoot in the make-up of Congress. Whether one likes the changes or not will depend a great deal on one’s political inclinations. I will avoid opining about my own inclinations, as this is not a political blog. We’ll see.

In the 2 ½ weeks since I last wrote, life has pretty much settled into a routine. I get to bed around 10:00 p.m., get up around 5:30 a.m., and go into the university on the 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. bus. In this part of the world, we do not change times to and from day light savings time, so there is no adjusting clocks. In fact, 12:00 noon pretty much cuts in half the number of hours of daylight – unlike Indiana where there are more hours of daylight after noon than before noon. It’s nice to have daylight at 6:30 a.m. but a bit depressing as the sun sets around 5:00 p.m. It only gets worse from now to December 21 as the days shorten.

I have one section of English 102, the second semester in the sequence of composition courses, and three sections of English 201, the third semester of the sequence. I notice that students show less interest in these courses than they appeared to show in history survey courses last year. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that they are weary of being instructed in English composition, one more time, as they have been engaged in these courses even before beginning as degree students. My observation is that they need continual practice in the use of the English language as they do not get this experience except on campus. Some students are really quite proficient in the writing of English; others struggle.

As students write, the assignments have asked them to reflect on important places and events in their past. They have fascinating stories to tell. With their permission and assistance, I would like to gather the best examples of writing and put them into a collection that can be shared with others. My appreciation of English composition teachers has deepened in this experience.

In terms of routine, I work pretty much all day and evening, either getting ready for classes, being in classes, and grading papers from classes. Even in the evening, I cannot relax too much as I will get behind in the marking of papers. I have committed to getting papers marked and back within a week. Less time, if possible. On Friday, the first day of the weekend, I do laundry and clean the apartment, at least as much as it can be cleaned. I am the first to live in the apartment since construction was finished, and I find on the ceramic tile floors that small blobs of silicone sealer are numerous. Even with a single edge razor blade, I cannot get this sealer up, and it is a place where dust settles and sticks. Thus, within a couple of days of mopping floors, there are brownish spots where the silicone sealer has collected dust. Nice. Fortunately, I am the only one who looks at the spots and I have become accustomed to them. On Saturday, I get myself off to the bazaar, walking of course, to get a weekly supply of food, and this past weekend, a haircut. The barber I used all last year welcomed me like a lost friend. He still cuts my hair too short, but he is good hearted and careful, even if he is a bit overzealous in how much he cuts.

This past weekend was Halloween. There was an expat faculty staff party on Friday evening. Costumes were optional. I dressed as an unimaginative American college professor – wearing khaki trousers, polo shirt and sandals. No one had trouble recognizing me. On Sunday evening, the children of faculty and staff came around to trick or treat. I had carved a face in one of the gourds made available to those who wanted one. See first picture below. As you can see, it is hanging from the door frame because it was too small to be seen if placed on the floor in front of my door. It took me an hour to design the string harness, and I had to put screws into the bottom of the gourd to hold it all in place. But it did not fall. I passed out homemade brownies, made from a box mix, and some spice drops and candy corn that I had brought from home.

When I took down the gourd, I decided to try to bake a piece of it for dinner. We bake squash, why not gourd? It looked good on my plate (See next picture), but it was stringy, even after baking for an hour. I threw the unbaked portion of the gourd away and went back to leftover bean soup.

It is no fun being separated from my wife and family, but we manage to stay in touch by Skype. The connection is good enough for clear voice transmission, but is not consistently good for voice and video. I will be flying home for two weeks in December/January for the winter break here at AUI-S. Although I do not look forward to the 12 hour flight from Istanbul to Chicago (and return two weeks later), it will be good to be home. Classes end on February 24.

As I close this message, I post below this paragraph a photo taken with the setting sun shining on the mountains west of Sulaimani. The combination of sun and hills is beautiful to observe. To all who read this blog, thanks. Feel free to write as you have time.


  1. Good to hear how things are going for you Carl. Sounds as though you are keeping yourself very busy with your classes and grading papers, etc. I imagine that should help the time pass more quickly. Does it? I didn't know that they celebrated Halloween in Iraq! Is it the case throughout the country? Or just in Kurdistan? How many students are you teaching right now - total? What are their ages? Do you notice a difference in motivation and writing talent between the boys and the girls? Have you met any parents? Probably enough questions for now. Write when you can.

    Tom S.

  2. Hi, Carl! Tom and I now realize the ex-pats were the ones celebrating Halloween. Did anyone else ask you about your gourd/pumpkin? -- Barbara Ann