30 September 2007

Teenagers and textbook authors think differently

I laughed so hard a tear slid down the right side of my nose after one of my eleventh grade students read this question from a listening exercise in our Upstream Upper Intermediate B2+ textbook (p. 12) a little bit differently:

7. You hear a couple talking in a cafe. How does the man feel about what the woman is showing him?

  1. He is convinced he needs it.
  2. He doesn't understand it.
  3. He think's it's too expensive.

The correct answer is he thought is was too expensive!

I think I miss going to meetings

The beginning of this article by Rod Liddle in The Spectator (18 August 2007), which I picked up from a corner market near the Hendon Central tube station in London, made me surprisingly nostalgic for those 7:30 a.m. and those 1.00 and 4:00 p.m. meetings we used to have back at the YMCA. I remembered the Association's own belt-tightening and selective ban on box breakfasts and meat platters for most of its meetings. Yet, while we saw fewer and fewer granola cookies in meetings, we indeed heard more and more outside consultants.

"A short while after becoming director-general of the BBC, Greg Dyke gathered a whole bunch of staff together at some warehouse near the City Airport to thrash things out and to deliver unto them his vision for the corporation. There was an air of trepidation among those gathered; Greg had very recently flexed his muscles at Television Centre by banning biscuits. These biscuits were the sort you have at meetings and which, incidentally, I have never seen anywhere except in meetings - three or four different kinds of biscuit waiting balefully on a white plate alongside a screw-top jar of stewed, rubbery coffee, telling you that you were in for an hour or two's concerted misery, probably with a PowerPoint presentation on an overhead projector and maybe even a professional facilitator."

03 September 2007

Summer days driftin' away....

I really don't want to throw these things away without a little reminiscence:

  • a bus ticket from Vilnius (Vilniaus miesto, vienkartinis bilietas). Even though it was 10 o'clock at night (and dark), I opted to take the regular city bus instead of a taxi from the airport. And even though the guesthouse had told me which bus stop to get off at, I took my own route with the map I had in hand, walking through a little bit of the real Vilnius as well as the Old Town. As I stood up to get off the bus, the elderly man who was sitting next to me was kind enough to point me in the direction of Old Town.
  • a bus ticket from Tapa to Aegviidu (sõidupilet nr. 0101, liin nr. 020-02) and a ticket for the electric train from Aegviidu to Ülemiste (Pilet säilitada reisi lõpuni!). It was a dog day of August and even hotter inside the train, which barely had any ventilation, let alone air conditioning. I got on the train just a few minutes before it left, and so the seats in the shade and near the open windows (about the size of a loaf pan) had already been taken. I had a 20.25 flight to Vilnius, and I would have arrived after the gate was closed had I taken the 18.39 train from Tapa. So I put the bus and trains schedules together and discovered that I could get to the electric train (and thus the airport) on a mid-afternoon bus from Tapa. Well, the bus driver really has no idea where anyone is getting off (short of the last stop in Tallinn), let alone any real enthusiasm for making a timely connection with the train.
  • a credit card receipt for the excess baggage fee I paid on easyJet. Boy, have they got a racket there. The measurements for the size of carry-ons are much smaller than the size of the Airbus's overhead compartments. My carry-on would have fit in the overhead, but I could not make it fit in that "Is your bag this big?" thing they have at the check-in desk. So I had to check my bag, along with another bag I had for nine days in Berlin. easyJet is like Southwest in that there is no assigned seating onboard. Yet, easyJet does not have roped-off areas for the A, B, and C groups like Southwest does. Well, they did in Berlin, but they didn't mean anything. In Berlin, London, and Tallinn, we boarded like cattle being herded into the slaughterhouse.
  • a credit card receipt for the $115 worth of pizza (with tip) 18 of us ate in Tallinn at the beginning of my summer English camp with teens from Tapa and Dobeles, Latvia.
  • a receipt for the 4 Lithuanian litas I paid to get to the top (literally) of the castle in Vilnius, which was in addition to the 2 litas I paid to ride the funicular up the hill.
  • my London Transport 3 Day Travelcard. Except for a 15-minute delay Sunday morning in getting a train at Hendon Central going south to Embankment, we really had no complaints about the tube. Well, other than the fact it stops running before 00.30 a.m. on Sundays!
  • a credit card receipt for eight tickets to the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall, which a BBC commentator said during the last prom, must surely be one of the greatest musical festivals on earth.

02 September 2007


"This looks familiar, vaguely familiar, almost unreal yet, it's too soon to feel yet, close to my soul and yet so far away...." Can it already be my second year at Tapa Gümnaasium?

In the picture on the right, that tree with the reddish-orange berries is a pihlakas in Estonian, sorbus aucuparia in Latin, and rowan or mountain ash in English. It is found in temperate European countries. The American variety is simply the American mountain ash, or sorbus americana in Latin. It generally grows east of the Rockies.

I don't believe it is a freak of nature that the tree grows in front of the school. I have been told that Estonian teachers hate the mountain ash trees because those berries, which ripen in August, are a sign that their summer vacations are coming to an end.