6:30am – My alarm goes off. I don’t bother snoozing and just set a new alarm for 7.
7am – Okay okay, I’m up! Tired of choking down overly sweet cafeteria coffee, I try to make my own out of instant stuff at home. It’s even worse and does nothing to wake me up for the day.
8am – I love that I live close enough to my university, Tashkent State University of Law, to enjoy a relaxing 20-minute walk there every morning. Wednesdays are particularly nice because I have class so early, and the streets are empty and quiet. The pale autumn sun is already shining, and golden leaves float down over me. Better than the acorns pelting my head when I first arrived! My walk takes me through the iconic Amir Temur Square, from which all major roads in Tashkent reach out like spokes on a wheel, and my department’s building is right next to the turquoise-domed Amir Temur Museum.
8:30am – I teach my first section of Academic Writing, to my Russian group. As always, I pick up and sign for my room key at the guard’s desk, unsure of how to write my last name in Cyrillic. According to how Americans pronounce it, or how Chinese people pronounce it? No matter, no one’s keeping track. Unfortunately, it takes us about 20 minutes to start class, as my entire lesson is on a flash drive, but the cabinet to the computer is locked, and the guard has no idea where they key is. He gives us the key to another classroom, but that room is already in use. Finally, one of my students strolls up to the cabinet, runs a pen along it to unstick the door, and opens it. Problem solved.
I had been teaching the students how to write research essays with thesis statements and in-text citations, but I realized I might have been going too fast. So we spend some time breaking down every part of the classic five-paragraph research essay and looking at bad and revised examples of each. Because I’ve received some poorly-worded emails since arriving here, I also have them read an email I made up and tell me how to make it appropriate for sending to me. They’re laughing as they tell me to remove some exclamation marks and change “ur” to “your.”
I then tell them about the historical origins of Thanksgiving, treatment of Native Americans, and how two Native American women just won seats in Congress! We discuss Thanksgiving foods and Black Friday, and some of the girls and I decide we’re going to buy apple pie for the whole class to celebrate a belated Thanksgiving next week.
10 am – Right after my class, I find out I have to pretend to teach someone else’s class because the news is coming to film me! I’m quite flustered. They were supposed to come yesterday, so I’d worn a cute outfit (by my standards – I threw on a ruffled cardigan but was still in black jeans) and done my hair (by my standards – just for once in my life ran a brush through it and tossed it half up, which I do often anyway). But their camera broke, so they didn’t come. I’m not expecting them today, my hair unwashed and my outfit about as plain as it gets. The class I teach for the sake of the camera is not my own, nor do they speak much English, so there is very little response to anything I say. Worried that the embassy will see me failing epically at engaging “my students” on national TV and about to burst into tears, I ask the anchorwoman if she can film me teaching my own students. She reassures me that there will be no sound clips except for my speaking Uzbek into the camera, the only part that matters. I breathe a sigh of relief. No tears today.
11:30am – I teach my second section of Academic Writing, to my Uzbek students. We do the same things, minus the technical difficulties. They’re very curious about the rights of Native Americans, what can be done for them, and how many of them are in Congress. As with my other students, I explain to them my new rules for the classroom, telling them that while I was lax before, I am going to keep track of attendance, participation, and homework from now on. I even show them the Excel sheet with all their names and let them watch as I mark a 0 for a classmate who is absent. When I get off my soapbox, one of my students asks, “Can I leave class for a sec?” Facepalm. But he returns quickly and bearing Pepsi for me.
I assign them a writing piece about an Uzbek holiday, and they ask if they can get into groups and do presentations instead. Even better! I give them the rest of the period to start working on their projects. Meanwhile, some students are also preparing a presentation for another class about the U.S. Constitution, so we have some great discussions about the different articles and amendments.
1pm – My biweekly Uzbek lesson. Because I didn’t have time for breakfast or lunch, I eat as my teacher and I work. Despite swearing I’d stop drinking the cloying cafeteria coffee, the cashiers there already know to give me instant ramen, coffee to go, and cold bottle of water specially stuck in the fridge and waiting for me, so I end up having the usual. We review possessives and postpositions, as well as adjectives describing physical appearance and colors. “Xunuk” (ugly) is a word I wield happily as I point to anything and anyone in the cafeteria, calling them xunuk. As I quickly learned from our chapter on present tense verbs describing daily routines, I memorize words better when I’m using them to gossip about my colleagues. (All jokingly, of course!!! Saida, I know you’re reading this!! Except I’m not joking when I gossip about you.)
3pm – I have a weekly speaking club at the Prosecutors’ Academy. My students are all teachers themselves, most of them established professionals in their field. Today I show them the graded assignments I did for my American Constitutional Law class, as they’re curious about how such courses are assessed in America. We then have a lively discussion about my university life and how classes were evaluated, what kinds of assignments and internships I did, and what classes I took for my political science major. Normally speaking club there can stall a little, or only a few people talk most of the time, but this time, everyone was curious and involved, even the shier people. After hearing about the studies and work I’ve done, they want to every week discuss the reading materials and assignments I had for each class I took. Up next week is U.S. Foreign Policy and counterterrorism. I can hardly wait!
4:30pm – One of the English teachers is at a conference, so I sub for her class. It is just seven boys and me, and we have a great time chatting and laughing about American and Uzbek culture, (swear words), and education systems. One of them was curious how much I pay my Uzbek tutor. When he heard the amount, he proclaimed, “I’m an Uzbek teacher too!”
6pm – Finally, the workday is over. I head to L’Olio, an Italian restaurant I go to way too often. I usually try to cook dinner, but I’m too tired today. The waiters all already know what to bring me as soon as I step foot inside, and I’ve gotten the numbers of a couple girls who work there who are as eager to practice their English as I am my Russian. We’re hoping to get coffee soon, as I’m sure they’re tired of watching me have spaghetti pomodoro and water bez gaza several times a week.
7pm – I have my favorite cafes, but I want to try the one next door to L’Olio, Chai Kofe. After watching too many baking videos, both the apple pie and chocolate chip cookies are tempting me. Which one to get? I end up with both.
8pm – It feels good to be back home. I send one of my students an IELTS speaking practice book he asked for the day before, binge read the blog of an FSO spouse I recently came across, scroll through the headlines on my Le Monde and El Pais apps, and catch up on my family’s group text. My brother said he learned how to make mashed potatoes because he knows how much I like them and wants to make them for me. Another Thanksgiving without me, but I’m determined to be home for the next one, my favorite holiday of the year.