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Алексей Конобеев добавил запись в блоге в English for All - Алексей Конобеев's BlogТе, кто часто летают, некоторые вещи знают как азбучные истины. Например, демонстрацию спасательного оборудования (надувные жилеты, кислородные маски, расположение аварийных выходов) я вижу минимум 4 раза в месяц. Знаю и то, что пока самолет не остановился полностью, нет смысла вставать с кресел и доставать вещи с багажной полки, так как самолет еще может тряхнуть даже на земле и вещи могут просто упасть на стоящего под ними человека. Нет смысла вставать с кресла и стоять в проходе пока не открыт еще люк, так как в разных аэропортах трап подают по-разному, иногда приходится ждать довольно долго. И уж конечно требование выключать сотовые телефоны, так как они могут помешать работе навигационного оборудования, мне известно отлично. Известно и то, что около 70 % аварий происходит именно во время взлета или посадки. Вот цитата из одной статьи 2007 года: " ...ситуация была в Цюрихе в январе 2000 года, - рассказывает Александр МИРОШНИЧЕНКО, пилот-инструктор Аэробуса-320. - Одна из причин катастрофы - отказ системы спутниковой навигации (ориентация самолета. - Прим. ред.). И точно установлено, что во время посадки пришла SMS одному из пассажиров и сразу после этого был исходящий звонок от него."Впрочем по интернету активно гуляют рассказы о том, что влияние сотовых на оборудование самолетов - это миф. И большинство людей предпочитают верить в то, что делает их жизнь комфортнее, чем постараться позаботиться о безопасности своей и окружающих, выполняя требования экипажа самолета.Три дня назад я летел в Астрахань. Красивый полуторачасовой полет в безоблачном небе. Наконец идем на посадку. Стюард проходит по салону, смотрит все ли пристегнуты. Останавливается за мной и просит выключить компьютер. Не вижу кто там сидит, но компьютер выключает. Стюард идет дальше и уходит. Самолет идет вниз красиво, плавно, до земли еще километра полтора, если упадем, то даже мелких кусков не останется. И вдруг за спиной девичий голос: "Да, еще не приземлились. Но скоро буду. Это я телефон включила и решила вам позвонить." Голос раздается именно оттуда, где стюард требовал выключить все приборы. Девица замолкает. Слава богу, трубку повесила, - думаю я. Вдруг снова голос: "Привет, я почти дома. Нет, еще только приземляемся. Да нет, все хорошо, так весело, шоппинг еще ничего так...". Поворачиваюсь - девушка лет 22 отвернулась и прижалась к иллюминатору так, чтобы ее стюард не заметил, и весело болтает по сотовому. Пока я думаю как попросить ее выключить телефон, она уже говорит "Ну ладно, пока" и вешает трубку. Я снова отворачиваюсь. И вдруг опять сзади ее голос:"Алло! Ты что, не слышишь меня? Перезвони мне. Я еще в воздухе. Перезвони сейчас. Совсем плохо слышно!". Земля уже рядом, стюарда звать нет смысла. Приземлились благополучно. В автобусе, везшем нас от самолета к аэровокзалу, девица стояла рядом со мной и щебетала в трубку:"А почему ты не перезвонил? Я же просила... Ты цветы мне купил? Нет, такие мне не нравятся, я хочу белые, да. У тебя к десяти буду, поменяй."А во время обратного перелета сидевшая за мной женщина довольно громко выясняла у стюардессы: "А коньяк у вас есть? Такой, в маленьких бутылочках. Сколько? Четыреста рублей? А водка? Что, совсем водки никакой нет? А вино? Белое по 200 рублей? Ну давайте тогда вина" - и жаловалась соседям: "Три дня в поездке, кроме чая и выпить нечего!". В общем, в самолетах много чего запоминающегося происходит порой.
A taste of America
Алексей Конобеев добавил запись в блоге в English for All - Алексей Конобеев's BlogThere are people who believe that traditional American food is burgers and hotdogs. There are also those who say that there is no national cuisine in the USA. None of these people are actually right. True, burgers are popular in the USA as a convenient way of having a quick meal, just about as popular as sandwiches are in the UK. Still this is certainly not the only dish that the USA can offer. In fact, there are several distinctly different regional cuisines in the USA. While people in the South, particularly in Texas, are famous for their fried foods, high in fats, someone from the North will offer you a very light low-calorie breakfast. Also, you eat differently in the East and in the West of the USA. Also, immigrants from many countries bring their own traditional recipes and open their restaurants everywhere. Buffalo wings, tacos, nachos, Cesar salad, all sorts of dips, fajitas, caramel apples, pumpkin pies, meatloaf - there are lots and lots of dishes that have a distinctly American flavor. One of the easiest dishes to cook in Russia is meatloaf. There are many ways of cooking it and many families have lots of different recipes. Here's the one that I use: To make meatloaf you'll need the following ingredients: 700 gr Minced meat a can of sweet corn some soy or Worcestershire sauce some ketchup one large onion herbs (I use fresh parseley or dill, but dry herbs will do just fine) one egg breadcrumbs if the minced meat is too juicy Cooking method: Mix all the ingredients together to form a smooth substance that will keep its shape like a loaf of bread. Put it into a baking form and bake in the oven until ready. I sometimes line the form with rashers of bacon and cover the meatloaf with bacon too, but this is for those who like a crunchy meat crust on this dish. Tastes great with grilled vegetables or boiled new potatoes or just with boiled vegetables. Serve and enjoy.
Shepherd's pie modified
Алексей Конобеев добавил запись в блоге в English for All - Алексей Конобеев's BlogI learned this recipe from a British friend. She was spending the winter in Russia together with her Russian husband and this dish, it seems, can be easily made to suit Russian tastes, although it may be slightly different from the origina;l British recipe. But since I'm only sharing my own experience, do bear in mind that it is all suited - and sometimes adapted to Russia. They say that years ago a shpeherd would spend the entire day in the fields, so he needed something to eat that would be nourishing and still taste good even several hours after it was cooked. I will give th eversion I tried in Russia first and then links to the original English recipe. To make shepher'd pie you'll need the following ijgredients: 400 grams of minced beef or fresh chicken. 500 grams of potatoes a glass of milk 50 grams of butter an onion pepper and salt to taste any other spices you use with meat (optional) 200 grams cheese 300 grams of green beans or any other vegetables (optional). Cooking method: If you're using chicken: boil the chicken until it's very soft. Take the meat off the bones and cut in very small bits. Do not mince to preserve the texture. If you're using minced meat, warm a frying pan, add some vegetable oil. Chop the onion. Fry the minced meat with the onion until golden brown. In the meantime peel and boil the potatoes. mash them with the milk and butter. Grate the cheese.Boil the vegetables. In an oven-proof dish put a layer of meat, then a layer of vegetables and mashed potatoes on top and cover with the grated cheese. Put into a hot oven and bake until the cheese is melted and golden on top. As Clauire told me, the dish is most delicious when each of the three layers is about the same size. Serve like you'd serve a pie or a cake. I've made this dish both with minced beef and with chicken, and I prefer chicken. The original English shepherd's pie would be cooked like this: http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1727,134184-248192,00.html or like this: http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/easy_shepherds_pie/
Cooking Italian-American style
Алексей Конобеев добавил запись в блоге в English for All - Алексей Конобеев's BlogThis is a recipe I've learned from a good American friend who has spent some time in Italy and has never hesitated to adopt and adapt Italian recipes for her own family. I quite like this dish and often make it in summer. Spaghetti Carbonara. A legend says that the recipe was made up during WWII. When American soldiers in Italy were hungry, they'd give whatever they had - some bacon and an onion and a few eggs - to Italian women, who made a dish for them, mixing the ingredients with traditional Italian foods. However, there're plenty of very different legends about this dish, which may, or may not be true. Anyway, to make spaghetti carbonara Italian-American style, you'll need: Ingredients: two eggs a large onion a few rashers of bacon (I use 4 or 5) about 80 grams of parmesan or any other hard cheese half a glass of milk half a glass of dry white table wine (if there's no wine, just use 1/2 glass of milk instead) some chopped parsley 200-300 g. spaghetti some salt to taste Cooking method: Chop the onion and the bacon. Stir-fry in a frying pan until slightly golden and soft, take off the fire. Boil the spaghetti for 5-7 minutes. Spaghetti should be "al dente" - a bit hard. Break the eggs into a bowl, add a pinch of salt (don't forget that the bacon is already salty), pour in the milk and the wine and beat with a fork to mix well. Grate the cheese. Add the cheese and the parsley, mix again. Sieve the spaghetti and put them into the frying pan together with the onion and the bacon. Put the frying pan back on fire, stir, then pour the cheese-eggs-wine-milk-parsley mixture on top, stir it in and turn the fire off. You will get a thick sauce, with a slightly meaty smell and it'll taste fresh and a bit cheesy. The wine adds a slighlty sour aftertaste. If you've used only milk, it won't taste sour at all. A great dish for a hot summer evening, to be served with a glass of cold dry white wine. And it takes about 20 minutes to cook.
Cooking British style
Алексей Конобеев добавил запись в блоге в English for All - Алексей Конобеев's BlogThis is something you can ask your children or students to make. Bread-and-butter pudding is a very traditional dish, it's cheap, easy to make and you don't have to supervise the entire process. I tried it in a small restaurant in Scotland and decided that this is a dessert I was going to make now and then. To make bread-and-butter pudding you'll need: White bread (what you call "baton" in Russian) - and if it's a couple of days old, it's the best Butter (surprise-surprise!) - about 50 grams Two eggs 1/2 litre of milk a handful of raisins sugar (brown sugar is traditionsl, although white would do too) some vanilla essence, either liquid or powder Procedure: Slice the bread. The bread should be a couple of days old as it will create teh right texture. Butter each slice thinly. Put the slices into an oven-proof dish in one layer. In a bowl mix together the milk and the eggs, whisk them with a fork or a mixer, add vanilla essence and half a glass of sugar (or more to taste). Sprinkle the buttered bread slices with raisins. Pour some sugar onto them. If your custard is already very sweet, do not put extra sugar on the bread. Pour the custard onto the bread. Sprinkle with sugar on top for icing. Put the dish into a preheated oven, bake at 180 C until golden on top but still soft and fluffy in the middle. Serve hot.
Cooking American style
Алексей Конобеев добавил запись в блоге в English for All - Алексей Конобеев's BlogHave you ever tried the famous Waldorf salad? It's just the right type of salad if you want a nice light meal. To make 2 servings you will need: 2 large red apples 2 sticks of celery a handful of shelled crushed walnuts a tablespoonful of mayonnaise Procedure: Core and dice the apples. Dice the celery. Add the crushed walnuts and the mayonnaise. Leave for ten minutes before serving. Yes, it's simple as that. Do not overdo the mayonnaise, you need it only to make the salad smooth. The taste is very fresh due to the celery, and the sweetness of apples makes it a nice meal on its own. Just right for summer.
Cooking Spanish style
Алексей Конобеев добавил запись в блоге в English for All - Алексей Конобеев's BlogAfter you've lived in different countries or shared the flat with people from other cultures you pick up ideas as you go. One of the aspects of our lives in which we remain very traditional is cooking. Recipes are passed down from generation to generation and we learn to think within a specific framework. Thinking outside the box while cooking takes either a very creative mind, or some experience, as my case is. Perhaps some of you will be interested in the recipes I am going to share in my blog. I've learnt most of them from my foreign friends or in cafes in other countries. Most of these recipes are cheap to make and easy to cook. So here we go. A Spanish omelette. This is good for breakfast as it is quite nutritious and at the same time doesn't take long to make. For 3 servings you will need: 3 large potatoes three eggs a pinch of salt a pinch of black pepper any vegetables (a couple of pepper cones, some green beans, onion, broccoli or similar will do just fine. If you're using aubergine or courgette, dice it). Oil for frying Preparation method: Peel and wash the potatoes, slice them into circles. Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan and put the potatoes there to fry. When each side is slightly golden, put the vegetables on top. Break the eggs into a separate bowl. Whisk them up with a mixer or a fork (for me a fork has always worked just fine), add the salt and pepper to the eggs, pour the mixture onto the vegetables. Leave until the eggs are set. What you get is a nice vegetarian dish, nutritious but not too heavy. Total preparation and cooking time is about 20 minutes. Bon appetit!
Family history and English lessons
Алексей Конобеев добавил запись в блоге в English for All - Алексей Конобеев's BlogAre your pupils interested in their family history? Probably very few of them are. However, family history may become a very good topic for a lesson or a series of lessons, as it is closely related to lots of other topics. For example, when we talk about the anniversary of victory in WWII, we could make a project (anything really, from posters to cards to presentations) "My family in WWII". I am sure many interesting things will come out of it. I am lucky to be able to trace the history of at least some of my ancestors at http://www.konobeev.narod.ru/index.html, but a student could create his or her own genealogical tree as part of school research. This may call for a joint lesson with a teacher of history, but it may raise the students' awareness of the fact that each and every one of them is not only a person, but also an heir to many generations of interesting people. This could even become the basis for a joint Local Studies project. What do you think?
Questions at seminars
Алексей Конобеев добавил запись в блоге в English for All - Алексей Конобеев's BlogSince I give seminars and workshops quite often, I have to be prepared for all sorts of questions. Most questions are related to ELT methodology and textbook features, but sometimes there are questions which do not seem to be connected with the topic of the seminar at all. Sometimes people need advice, sometimes theyt ask me if I could render assistance with something. Last week in Surgut a lady-participant asked me first how old I was, then why I was not wearing a wedding ring, and finally she proposed to find me a wife. It was really sweet of her to be taking such a personal interest in my well-being, even if it was hardly related to the topic of the workshop. Just as I said earlier: some questions are really unpredictable and I think I need to start collecting the most interesting or the funniest ones. So far the weirdest question asked was in Stavropol. Since it was asked in Russian, I'll write about it in Russian to preserve all the flavour of it. A very middle-aged lady stood up during the seminar and said: - Я не одобряю всех этих тестов в учебниках. Какая у них воспитательная ценность? Вот скажите мне, как может воспитывать тест на выбор ответа? Когда я пояснил, что задача тестов - контроль степени усвоения материала учениками или уровня сформированности знаний и умений у школьников, женщина осталась недовольна. "Нет!"- сказала она, - "тесты должны воспитывать! И еще у меня вопрос. А какая развивающая ценность у картинок в учебниках для 10 класса? Как они помогут развивать ученика?" И тут начался запланированный перерыв в программе семинара, и мы погрузились в дискуссию о том, что такое воспитание, что такое развивающее обучение и что именно нужно воспитывать и развивать в 10 классе. Интересно, а у кого-нибудь на заседаниях МО такие вопросы бывают? Я почему-то вспомнил, как защищалась моя первая диссертантка. После того, как она успешно и спокойно ответила на множество вопросов комиссии, поднялся один профессор из соседнего города и сказал: "Вот Вы являетесь соискателем степени кандидата педагогических наук. А каков лично Ваш вклад в педагогику как в науку?" Так что вопросы бывают разными, и вполне непредсказуемыми. И сразу же начинает работать русская поговорка: "Каков вопрос - таков ответ".
In a hotel
Алексей Конобеев добавил запись в блоге в English for All - Алексей Конобеев's BlogThis morning I had breakfast in the lobby bar and then went to the lift to go upstairs to my hotel room. Well, there was a small crowd waiting for the lifts. The first people standing next to the doors were 4 women. They were discussing something. Meanwhile, the lifts weren't coming. I looked at the indicator and realised that no one had bothered to press the button to call the lifts So I did that and almost immediately one of the lifts came. The women goty in, still chatting. They were discussing some man. I got in as well, and two more men I pressed the button for my floor, one of the men pressed the button for a lower flor. The women kept talking, never looking our way The lift stops, one of the men goes out. When the doors were already closing, one of the women said loudly: Oh, we're getting out! And they all rushed out. The doors closed, and when the lift was starting to go up, I heard one of the women say rather loudly outside: But where ARE we?
Алексей Конобеев добавил запись в блоге в English for All - Алексей Конобеев's BlogWitty mockery is where sometimes the flexibility of language shows best. It is not easy to tell what you think about someone without being rude, but when you can do it, your words go down in history. Here's a short collection of famous put-down phrases: "He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." —Winston Churchill "A modest little person, with much to be modest about." —Winston Churchill "I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." —Clarence Darrow "Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it." —Moses Hadas "He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know." —Abraham Lincoln "I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it." —Groucho Marx "I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." —Mark Twain "He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends." —Oscar Wilde "I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play. Bring a friend . . . if you have one." —George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill "Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second . . . if there is one." —Winston Churchill, in response "I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here." —Stephen Bishop "He is a self-made man and worships his creator." —John Bright "I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial." —Irvin S. Cobb "He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others." —Samuel Johnson "There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure." —Jack E. Leonard "He has the attention span of a lightning bolt." —Robert Redford "He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." —William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway) "Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?" —Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner) "He inherited some good instincts from his Quaker forebears, but by diligent hard work, he overcame them." —James Reston (about Richard Nixon) "In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily." —Charles, Count Talleyrand "He loves nature in spite of what it did to him." —Forrest Tucker "Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?" —Mark Twain "His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork." —Mae West "Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go." —Oscar Wilde "He has Van Gogh's ear for music." —Billy Wilder If you want me to read your mind, give me more to work with. —One of Eric Slinn's coworkers
A cold Christmas
Алексей Конобеев добавил запись в блоге в English for All - Алексей Конобеев's BlogI have a friend who lives in Portugal. He is still at school and this year he is very upset that Portugal has not been getting any snow at all. After I talked with him several days ago I thought of what it must be like to not have any snow when you want some, and I wrote this story. Of course, the character in this story has only a few things in common with the prototype: the real Ricardo is much older, although he also loves birds and takes beautiful pictures of insects and plants in his garden. When I was writing this story I rather had a younger audience in mind, my thought only spinned off a real person. That's why the language is fairly simple here, except for the couple of conditionals I've had to use. So here it goes: A cold Christmas In a very warm country in the south of Europe there lived a boy who was very fond of birds, insects and plants. He dreamed of becoming a biologist when he grew up, but now he was still at school. There was a small garden near the house where the boy lived with his father, mother and younger brother, and every morning he would go into the garden to look at the flowers and take pictures of some of the butterflies and other creatures who lived there. The herbs and the flowers were much the same as those in the neighbours’ gardens, but for some reason butterflies preferred to spend days in the boy’s garden, and in spring thrushes and nightingales would come there too. The garden stood bright and green until winter, but in winter all was brown and bare. In winter the birds would fly away to warm African countries, the insects would hide under the ground for their long sleep and only the trees would stretch their leafless branches above the dry grass. In winter the garden looked almost uninteresting, and when the frosts came, even the trees and flowers would go to sleep. However, the boy knew that the sleep wouldn’t last long and that very soon, in a couple of months, the garden will be full of life again. Sometimes the boy felt worried about his plants in the garden. He knew that if real frosts came, many plants could freeze to death. His was a warm country and had no snow in winter, but now and then cold winds blew and brought biting frosts with them. Frosts without snow would just kill the garden. So winter was not a very welcome season for him. But the boy loved snow! He saw it on TV so many times! He watched films where children made snowmen and played snowballs, where the first soft snow would fall ever so quietly and stay on the grass, and cover everything in a warm, white, sparkling and fluffy blanket. But he lived in a warm and dry country and no snow ever fell there. Sometimes he despaired that he would ever see snow before he grew up and started travelling. But when he grew it wouldn’t be the same then, would it? One December evening the boy was sitting in his room doing homework. The TV was on, and the news presenter was telling about strong winds coming fast from the Arctic. It seemed that the neighbouring countries were getting their share of snow already. The boy looked out of the window, but there was not a cloud to be seen in the pale evening sky. It didn’t look like snowing at all. He sighed, shook his head sadly and returned to his textbooks. On the next day the air grew cold. It was not freezing yet, but the chilly wind kept getting under the boy’s jacket and his hands felt so cold when he touched the rosebush in the garden. It looked like they were going to have an unusually cold day and a frosty night. And, same as yesterday, the sky was clear with no clouds in sight. When the boy returned from school, it had already got very cold, maybe even too cold for some of the flowers. The bushes could be covered with plastic sheets or even with old newspapers, like first flowers are covered sometimes in early spring to keep the morning chills off. But there was no way the entire garden could be covered. If it got any colder, the sap would freeze in the trees, and the ice it would turn into would break the trunks from the inside. The seeds and the flower bulbs would die too, and so would many of the hibernating insects. And in spring, when the birds fly back, they’ll find only bare lifeless trees instead of their green blooming garden. The boy looked up. The sky was still clear. The sun looked dim and distant, and the cold wind was getting stronger. In fact, it had already got so strong that it began wistling sadly in the branches. While helping his father decorate the Christmas tree, the boy was listening to the news. There were pictures of every single neighbouring country covered with snow. The longest spells of cold weather in 29 years were reported in Britain. Snowdrifts were causing traffic congestion in France and Germany, and Spain was shivering with cold, while children there were playing snowballs. Even Italy had some snow falling, and some schools were closed much to the joy of the children there. Flights were delayed, cars couldn’t run, only the big buses connected the cities everywhere but in the boy’s country. The temperature was still going down as more cold air kept streaming in from the distant ocean in the North. The next day was Christmas Eve, so there was no school. Instead of sleeping through half of the morning as he normally would, the boy got up even earlier than usual. He looked out and saw the car the windows of which were covered in ice. The river that he could catch a glimpse of, didn’t look as dark as yesterday. Instead it sent up white sparkles. In the night it had frozen over and the ice, although still very thin, covered it from the one bank to the other. The boy got dressed quickly and went out. The ground was unusually hard and he could hear his footsteps as he walked. The air was biting cold now, but still there was not a snowflake in the air. It looked like a fair, sunny, beautiful and entirely snowless morning. One more day like that, the boy thought, and his garden would die. While his parents were doing their last-minute Christmas shopping and his little brother was watching cartoons, the boy spent the afternoon covering the bushes with plastic sheets. But he knew that that was not enough as it was growing colder and colder every minute. Only snow could save his garden now. It was already growing darker as winter days are so short, and the sky was red and clear in the west. His younger brother spent the evening chatting about the presents he wanted to receive. AT dinner parents looked at their children and smiled, but when they asked the boy what he wanted for Christmas he said nothing. All the autumn he dreamed of a new camerato take pictures of his flowers and insects, but all he wanted now was snow for his garden. After all, if the plants and insects died, there’d be nothing to take pictures of in the first place, and what’s the use of a camera, he thought, if all you can photograph is people and landscapes? That night, while the wind was howling outside, shaking the house by the roof, he did not dream of Santa Clause, Christmas trees or presents. Instead he saw dark forests, trees, lying on the ground with their roots in the air, dead flowers, carried by wind, and finally, when he felt he did not want to have those dreams any more, he saw a big snowman that was wearing Santa’s red hat. The snowman had a carrot for his nose and two large black coals for eyes. The snowman turned to the boy and seemed to wink at him encouragingly. For some reason this last dream was so peaceful and full of joy that he smiled and woke up. All was quiet outside. The wind had ceased in the night. The boy pulled the curtains and saw that the ground was not black any more. It looked very soft and white as if covered with seagulls’ feathers. The sky was light-blue like yesterday, but now it seemed very deep and the rays of the rising sun were golden. The boy put on his sweater and ran outside without looking at the heap of presents underneath the Christmas tree. In the garden it was cold but the frost seemed quite mild. The snow seemed soft to the touch and felt almost warm. The rosebushes looked like small white hills and there was not a blade of grass left above the snow. The boy smiled and looked around. There was smoke coming directly up from their neighbours’ chimney. All was incredibly quiet and the boy stood there, taking in the calm, for nearly ten minutes before he suddenly felt how cold it was. He turned back and slowly walked towards the house. After all, there WERE presents underneath the Christmas tree, and who knows, perhaps there was a camera waiting for him. A camera he could use right that afternoon when he went out to play snowballs with friends. January 7, 2010
A wooden house
Алексей Конобеев добавил запись в блоге в English for All - Алексей Конобеев's BlogIt was somewhere in between late morning and early afternoon, and I didn’t have much to do, when I wandered into the Colonial Village, a part of Ames, Iowa, full of old-style wooden buildings, and suddenly stopped before a house there. There were thick trees around, and the sunny spots shone on the wooden walls, mingled with the deep shades of green and black from the leaves. I stood there, smiling, staring and felt almost like crying. I often feel like it when I see a small wooden house, because there are so many memories… I remember playing in the garden that my grandmother didn’t really care for. It was a sunny day, and the flowers were tall among the tree-trunks. I must have been four years old or so, and the warm smell of the soil made me happy. Two years later the same garden looked so tiny to me, and grandmother said it had always been that way. “It’s high time your father cut down those trees” – she said, - “before they fall down one windy night”. I looked at the trees, wondering why someone would ever want to destroy their majesty, and astonished at how small the place seemed all of a sudden. She was a very kind woman, my grandmother. I remember how one day I broke her favourite old plate, and there I was, expected to be told off for having done that. My mother would certainly tell me some home truths! But granny just looked at the pieces of glass and said: “It’s OK, it’s OK”. Next week, when I broke yet another plate, I came up to her, patted her on the arm and said “It’s OK” in the same reassuring tone. And she only smiled back at me. I was too young to go to school, both my parents worked and I spent days with her. I needed to sleep in the afternoons, and she would lull me to sleep telling stories or just doing some housework. But she would always tell me that if she was not there when I wake I only needed to knock on the glass of the front door, and she would come. She always came. Her house was about a mile away from ours, and there was a railway between. I was not allowed to cross it as sometimes people were run down by the trains. But one day, when I was about six, I left home and walked all the way, crossing the railway and coming into the small garden. “I’ve brought you some matches for the Russian oven”, I said, and grandmother was both worried and happy to see me come on my own. She had just baked my favourite cake that day. Near the house she kept a kitchen garden where she grew potatoes. We all hated the weeding and the digging which we had to do, because she was growing too old for that. And we all enjoyed baking new potatoes in the ashes of an autumn bonfire. When we decided not to grow potatoes any more, grandmother could not understand how someone could leave the land waste. But there was nothing to be done about it. When I was ten, my father died. My mother worked even more to keep the family together. Those were hard times for Russia, with little food in the stores, and few things that our money could buy. I still cannot understand how grandmother managed to save some money from her tiny pension to give it to me and my elder brother. I changed a lot then, being unhappy most of the time, and sometimes I wanted to be left alone. I refused to speak with anyone, and now I know how much it must have hurt her. She never mentioned it though. I grew, and more and more often I would come round to help with the housework. There was snow to be cleaned off the path, the wood to be chopped for the oven, the chicken to be fed. She asked me sometimes who I loved more, her, or my other grandmother. How can anyone answer such a question? The older I grew, the more I liked the small wooden house, with its smell of some old perfume, the leaves above my head in the yard, the already practically non-existent flowers and the gaggle of geese from the neighbours’ barn. Soon after grandmother turned seventy-nine she started to plan her eightieth party. She did not want to invite many people, but she would be so happy to celebrate. It was then that my mother, who is my granny’s daughter and a doctor, told me that granny had cancer, and that an operation would be pointless and would only prolong the suffering. On my twentieth birthday she was already very weak. She could hardly speak, and when I came into her room (of course she was staying with us then!) and told her it was my birthday she only managed to say “How… what…” and I knew she was worried because she had no present for me. I asked her to say “Happy birthday”, which she did. Next morning I went back to the university, and five days later, when I was getting ready to go back home, mother phoned and said that granny was dead. I did not cry. I was too old for that, and there were too many things to be done for the funeral. But I have never seen her house ever since. I don’t have the courage. It is owned by other people now, and I cannot believe that if I knock on the glass of the front door she will not hurry to me. She always did. The morning was turning into the afternoon, and the sun was crawling higher into the sky. I did have a meeting later on, so I turned and slowly went away. But even on this continent, thousands of miles away from my home, I can not see a small wooden house and remain calm.
Алексей Конобеев добавил запись в блоге в English for All - Алексей Конобеев's BlogAll in all, I spent only 3 days and a half in Krasnoyarsk, and it is not at all enough to fully enjoy the city and see everything there is to see. The airport is some 40 km away from the city, so as you fly in in the evening, it is already getting dark and all you can see is the mountains. The mountains are not very tall, they look more like tallish hills, but these are the famous Sayany that go through Hakassia and to Tibet. The famous "poles" ("stolby") - very tall stones - can be seen from the city too. The river Yenisey runs through the city. The Yenisey was the only one of the great rivers of Russia that I had not seen before, so it was especially interesting to see its leaden-grey waters and the lots of ducks that stay there all winter as the river does not freeze over in Krasnoyarsk. The city lies on both sides of tyhe river, one bank being more business/trading/university/administrative area and the other one a more industrial/residential one. One of the most beautiful streets in Krasnoyarsk is Prospekt Mira. As you walk along it, you feel like you are travelling in time. The end of the street which is closest to the Yenisey starts with a monument to Ryazanov and a concert hall, and as you walk through a tall arch, you find yourself in between two rows of wonderfully preserved late 19-th - early 20th century buildings. Most of these buildings were owned by local merchants, so they are large and built and decorated according to the fashions of St Petersburgh. On every such building you can now see a plaque which tells you whose house it used to be, who the architect was and whether this was a house in which someone lived or whether it was built as a school. Uncharacteristically of Russia of those times, many buildings in this street belonged no to men, but to women, who ran their businesses themselves. The old houses go about halfway along the street, and then, afte a few more steps, you reach Stalin-era architecture. Massive Empire-style buildings with columns and Soviet symbols look stunningly different from what you have seen just a few minutes ago. Some of the buildings look gloomy, if imposing, but the people of Krasnoyarsk have found a wonderful solution to fight the darkness and gloom. Many of those period pieces are painted in bright colours. You will see a bright-green hospital with white columns which does not look like a typical hospital at all. The Federal Railway has several huge office buildings there too. The street ends with some of the 1980-s and 1990-s buildings which hardly fit the overall looks and atmosphere of ythe street, but fortunately, there are not so many such buildings there. Next to this street you can see several beautiful old churches, so when you are still in the 19-th centruy part, you feel like you are visiting a different era. But what makes the streets of Krasnoyarsk special, is not the architecture, no matter how beautiful it is. What really stands out in the streets is a multitude of fountains, sculptures, artificial trees and small clock towers. Of course, the fountains are now covered for the winter, but as you walk past them, you can imagine how great they must look in the summer when it is hot. The sculptures are very diverse: you can see Alexander pushkin reading poems to Natalie Goncharova, a statue of a local artist in a battered sweater with his study album, figures of a nude woman and man, holding hands, and many other things. All the clock mini-towers are not tall, they seem to be about 2 meters tall at best. They all look a bit like Big ben, but in fact they resemble the clock tower on the city administration building. Apart from those towers you can also see a couple of very special clocks, with huge round faces with a lot of dials that show time, holidays and jubilees of historic events. And probably the most special thing about the streets of Krasnoyarsk is the artificial trees. They look like sakura trees, bonsai trees or laurels and cherries. For leaves and blossom they have tiny lightbulbs and in the evenings, when all is dark, they shine with different colours: green, yellow, violet, purple... They really make you feel as if it was Christmas. I was in Krasnoyarsk only last week, but they already had snow. Last Friday was a sunny day, a bit chilly because of the wind, but the snow was shining brightly in the day, and in the evening everything was filled witht hlight of the trees. And if you have a chance to go to Krasnoyarsk, a walk along its streets in the evening is a must if you want to enjoy the city as much as it deserves.
22nd International Book Fair in Moscow
Алексей Конобеев добавил запись в блоге в English for All - Алексей Конобеев's BlogI've just spent two days at the Russian Exhibition center in moscow, attending the 22nd International Book Fair. I go there every year just for this event because this is where you can listen to popular authors, buy books at publishers' prices and on the whole see what new books and textbooks have appeared. This Book fair is also a good place to see some well-known people among the audience. usually there are many actors, singers, TV presenters etc walking along the rows. This year there are over 800 publishers from many countries present. The Guest of honour is India, and there is a large Indian section where you can have a look at all kinds of books from India and listen to some live music performances. Bukgaria is another guest of honour, with many books present. Surprisingly, this year it is next to impossible to find any English language textbooks at the fair. There was a number of university textbooks, some very specialised, like English for Hospitality Industry, English for medicine etc. At the huge stand of Logosphera trading company you can find plenty of fiction in English, a lot of excellent arts albums and only a few well-known books like "Pronunciation in Use", "Vocabulary in Use" and other "In Use" series. This year the only federal English language textbooks for schools at the fair can be found at Titul Publishers stand. Yesterday Klara and Marianna Kaufman appeared there briefly, but some people managed to get their textbooks signed by the authors, today Merem Z. Biboletova is at the stand for a while. Other publishers did not present any federal English language textbooks for schools, the only non-Titul Russian textbook I saw was the textbook by N.A. Bonk. I also looked at multimedia disks, but all I could find were some learning programmes by Random House and disks like Oxford Platinum and Oxford DeLuxe - something that I had known for years. Pity, because I was really looking forward to buying some discs for myself. This year the fair is happening in a new pavilion, Pavilion 75, and it looks and feels much better than previous years. The pavilion is large, the rows between the stands are wide, the ventilation system is excellent, the speakers are great so you can easily hear each and every anouncement, and the coffe bars and food stalls are easy to locate. Actually, the fair lasts till Sunday, so if you have a chance to get there, do - it is interesting.
The Tube, Subway, Underground, Metro... where is it better?
Алексей Конобеев добавил запись в блоге в English for All - Алексей Конобеев's BlogI do not remember the first time I travelled on the metro in Moscow, but I've always thought that this is what an underground train system should be like. My opinion changed only when I got to travel on underground transport in other countries. The Tube in London is the oldest in the world, the first trains ran there in January 1863 and the first electric trains ran there in 1890. With this long history, it still looks a lot like it used to a hundred years ago. Many lines go long distances on the ground, and very often you can see trains going along different lines on one and the same platform. For someone who is used to the Moscow system of having one platform for one line, it can be quite confusing. even more confusing is the fact that some trains do not go to the end of the line, or if they do and the line splits into two different directions (anyone who went to Heathrow by the Tube knows that), you have to be very careful and read what the sign on the train says, otherwise you may end up somewhere totally different from your destination point. Trains are comfortable, however. The seats are soft and there is enough standing room for the rush hour. By the end of the day the seats are often littered with the free newspapers you can get at the station entrances. While in Moscow each station is individually designed, and many of them are decorated with marble, granite, bronze and mosaics, Tube stations in London look rather unimpressive. The walls are tiled at Victoria Station, you can pictures of Sherlock Holmes at Baker Street station, but many other stations have just red brick walls and look gloomy. Not every station has an escalator. For example, in Covent Garden you have to use a huge lift, but when there are many people travelling, it if very far from being efficient and comfortable. You can also walk up the emergency steps, but there staircase is somewhat narrow and winding and all in all there are 193 steps. A walk up takes time and a lot of effort, so if you are at Covent Garden and want to go up, use the lifts by all means. Lifts are often used to go up from the underground in the UK. I remember using a lift in Liverpool underground, although I do not remember which station that was. Sometimes trains stop between stations. I've seen that happen in London and once I missed the bus to Liverpool from Newcastle-upon-Tyne because of the train. It stopped between two stations in Newcastle Underground and stayed there for about 15 minutes. When I arrived at the coach station, I saw the back of my bus and had to buy another ticket. Underground (or Subway) in the USA is much more modern-looking that that in the UK. Escalators take you down to the station in Washington DC, there is plenty of information about everything on the electronic panels and on the walls, air conditioning is just fine, trains are comfortable, but the light at the stations is not as bright as in Moscow. If you do not like darkish spaces, then you feel better on the train than at the station. As I said, I used to think that Moscow metro is nothing special, just something what it should be. But now I realise that underground train systems can be very diffferent. The Metro in Moscow is not as hi-tech as that in Washington DC, it is not as old as that in London, the trains are not as comfortable, but it is often more reliable than in some countries and the stations are more like underground palaces and are far more beautiful than what you would normally see under ground. All said, there is something to enjoy everywhere, and my advice is to keep looking for it, because it is always there.
Communication across cultures - why misunderstandinghs happen and how we can help our students
Алексей Конобеев добавил запись в блоге в English for All - Алексей Конобеев's BlogA frequent problem in communication with people from different countries is that we can misunderstand each other by misinterpreting gestures, attitudes and each other's expectations. many people learn the cross-cultural differences the hard way, by trial and error method. However, there are certain lines along which cultures differ, and if we help our students to realise these differences, this will enable them to be more successful in reaching their communicative aims while dealing with people from different countries. So how exactly do cultures differ? 1. One of the greatest differences is whether a culture is explicit (or low-context) or implicit (high-context) one. In low-context 9explicit) countries you will find a nlot of information about everything. If you're driving along an American road, a sign signalling a turn will be repeated three times, so you can't really miss it. It's difficult to lose your way in the USA because there are so many signs that tell you much more than you want to know about each and every direction. In Russia... well, have you ever tried to find a specific building in the street? Does every building has its number written clearly so that it's easy to see from the street? The answer is 'no" - in most cases. The implication of this 'implicitness-explicitness" difference is that for someone from an implicit culture the abundance of signs may seem like an intrusion into private life bordering with insanity, and the absence of so many important pices of information will be absolutely maddening for a person from an explicit culture. 2. Degree of formality-familiarity, or formal vs egalitarian cultures. In a formal culture you have to address someone as "Mr. Jones" as oposed to "Tim". Again, in an egalitarian culture it is normal to be on first-name terms with your boss or going jogging with the boss, while calling someone by their first name after you've just met would be an insult in some other country. Compare it with the use of Вы and ты in Russia, vous and tu in France etc. An student who is unaware of these cross-cultural features may seem stand-offish and too formal while he/she is just trying to be polite, and vice versa, while using only first names with people from the 'wrong" culture, may seem too familiar and impudent. 3. Some cultures are monochronic (doing one thing at a time), while others are polychronic (many things may be going on simultaneously). Order is the top priority in a monochronic culture, so if you're paying attention to something else during an important talk or a lecture, this will be taken as a sign of your not being interested or not working hard. In a polychronic culture someone can excuse themselves to answer a phonecall during a meeting, or be signing some papers while listening to a colleague, and this is considered to be a good working attitude. When a person from a monochronic culture gets into a polychronic one he/she may feel slighted that the entire attention is not given to him/her, while for a representative of a polychronis culture such a claim for undivided attention may seem way over the top. 4. Attitude to time:"time is money" (time-precise) vs "you can wait" (time-loose) policy. People from some countries tend to be very pragmatic. "time is money" they say,. and your attempt to take up more of their time than is absolutely necessary will be regarded as an attempt to rob them of some very important and precious resource. For example, if you say to some Americans right before a lunch break "Why don't we have lunch together", they will take out their diary to check when they are free. In a more time-loose culture someone can be quite insulted by such attitude. Just the other way round, in a time-loose culture you will be expected to wait as people come late to meetings, they keep you waiting and they sincerely do not understand your frustration. Just imagine two people from these cultures trying to arrange a meeting! 5. Individualism vs. collectivism. In some cultures the individual is the utmost value, and the common belief is that you are personally responsible for everything that is happening in your life. Just think of the saying "A man is his own army". In other cultures the society is much more important than the individual, and everyone is expected to give up some of their privacy/money/resources for the sake of the 'common cause" (Один в поле не воин"). In an individualist country there is always a single person who is supervising a business and is responsible for it, while in the collectivist cultures there is shared responsibility. In collectivist cultures (for example in Japan) loyalty is more important that a person's professional qualities. 6. Attitude to past-present-future. In some cultures past is not really important. Past is way behind, and all effort is going into shaping up the future. People from such cultures just do not understand the store some other people set by tradition or history of relations and past offences and treachery. Other countries are very traditional, and among such countries you will find not only China, for example, but also Britain where you still have separate taps for cold and hot water not because this is convenient or comfortable, but because "that's how things are done here". A relatively small number of countries copncern themselves with the present day and think of short-term profits rather than long-term relationships. All these differences may lead to severe cases of culture shock in students when they only begin to communicate with people from different cultures and do not really see any difference between British people and Americans on the grounds that they all speak the English language (well, sort of, you know). Some excellent insights into culture shock and ways of overcoming it, as well as very practical exercises can be found in "Enjoy English" book Grade 10, Unit 4 Section 4. In fact, you may use this information as a starting point for a project work to enlarge upon that section.
Алексей Конобеев добавил запись в блоге в English for All - Алексей Конобеев's BlogI was recently searching for some interesting material to use in class when we talk about professional qualities and future jobs, and came across a number of jobs that are really strange. Here's a short list which you may want to use too: 1. Elephant tender - someone who takes care of elephants in the zoo 2. Hot Walker - a person that walks the racehorses around after a race. 3. Dinosaur hunter - a person who searches for fossilized dinosaurs 4. Cereal box author - the author of advertising on cereal boxes 5. Dog walker - someone who walks dogs professionally 6. Odor Tester - someone who checks if deodorants and anti-perspirants really work as planned 7. Citrus Fruit Dyer - a person who dyes (colours) citrus fruits to make them look better in shops 8. Fortune Cookie Writer - someone who writes predictions to be put inside fortune cookies 9. Fountain Pen Repairer - someone who, well, repairs fountain pens 9some of those pens are very expensive) 10. Wrinkle Chasers - someone who makes sure that new leather shoes have no wrinkles 11. Chicken Sexer - someone who sorts baby chicken into male and female ones 12. Oyster Floater - a person who floats oysters on a barge in running water until they are completely free of impurities. 13. Dog Food Tester - in some countries testing dog food on dogs is prohibited, so there is a professional dog food tester who actually inspects dog food to see if it is good. 14. Whiskey Ambassador - someone who is responsible for choosing only the finest whiskeys and teaching clients the proper way to taste and admire them. 15. Weed Farmer - someone who grows weeds to sell them to horticulture schools and labs so various people can do research and studies in them. And, talking about weird job titles: in the 19th century there was a position in Royal palaces in the UK that was called a Necessary woman. Can you guess what job it was and what it is called now? the first person to guess correctly will get an audiobook and tasks for it from me via e-mail. The audiobook is in public domain, but I've designed the tasks myself so hopefully you'll be able to use it directly as a listening exercise for your pupils.
Culture shock around the world
Алексей Конобеев добавил запись в блоге в English for All - Алексей Конобеев's BlogProbably the most unexpected aspect of travelling abroad is culture shock. even when th eculture of the country you're travelling to is rather familiar to you, the chances still are that you are going to have a bit of a culture shock. And the less familiar the country is, the stronger the shock will be. There are 4 stages(some people say there're 5) in any culture shock: the honeymoon stage, when you enjoy the difference and love every single moment of it. This stage normally lasts from several days to a couple of weeks, but then the excitement begins to subside. This is when the honeymoon stage gives way to rejection/withdrawal stage. What you loved at first - the different foods, the gestures, the customs - now begins to irritate you, because you now feel a bit like an outsider. The differences become more noticeable and less intriguing, whereas since you are not an insider, you are more likely to do something which will be offensive to insiders of the local culture or something which will be ineffective at best. This may lead to frustration and, in severe cases, a self-isolation from the frustrating experience. If the rejcetion and misunderstanding is too strong, you can enter the next stage of the culture shock. At this stage (the depression and isolation stage) some people get so depressed that they decide to leave the country. Fortunately, for those who do overcome the rejection stage, a new stage arrives sooner or later. This is the adjustment stage when you learn the intrinsic cultural issues and cease making blunders, and gradually begin to feel like at home in this new country. In a way it is a bit like the honeymoon stage because you enjoy the new culture again, but this time the enjoyment is not because the culture is new and different, but because you are becoming an insider, you do not make mistakes and you know your way about. Ideally, while teaching a foreign language AND culture we should be able to help our students learn to adjust, help them to see deeper and not judge a culture by only external, outward appearances, but rather understand why people do things in the way they do them. When I was spending a year at an American university, I had excellent opportunities to observe culture shock and the adjustment process in different people. Since this was not my first time in the USA and I had had a lot of experience of daily communication with representatives of that culture, I was relatively free of culture shock. made quite a few friends among both the teachers and the students and could compare the first-time experience of my fellow-grantees without having to get distracted by myt own cultural struggles. The two people I observed on a daily business was a young Russian woman from Uzbekistan and a young Azeri man from Azerbaidjan. To cut an otherwise long story short, I'll tell about the cultural shock and problems that the Azeri guy went through during that year. I will not name him to protect his provacy, though, and will refer to him as "the Azeri guy". Personally, we were friends and rented a flat together, but I have lost contact with him since that time and therefore cannot obtain his permission to give out his name in a comparative 'study". 1. Proxemics. The distance at which you stand from another person is culturally-dependent and differes in different countries. While Americans in smaller cities prefer to stand at least approximately 1.5 metres aways from each other while talking, the comfortable distance for Azeri guy was much shorter. He tried to stand closer, people would step back, so conversations often turned into a sort of a slow tango. Consequently, before he learned about distances and proxemics in general, Americans seemed very remote and cold to him. He, on the other hand, seemed to be constantly intruding on their personal space. 2. Dress code. Large university campuses are probably the most democratic and diverse places you can find when it comes to clothes. People wear what they like. I had a professor who is a big name in language testing, he used to wear shorts and a T-shirt to most of his classes, whereas some other professors would try to dress more elegantly than most of their students. An indispensable rule, however, is to wear something different every day, for example, if you're wearing jeans and a T-shirt one day, the next day you ought to wear a different T-shirt or different jeans/trousers/whatever. The Azeri guy, on the contrary, was used to dressing very conservatively and with little variation, so he wore the same suit and shirt for three or more days, although he did have enough other clothes. 3. Attitude to children. At a very early stage the Azeri guy was told to never touch other people's children. He was indignant, because in Azerbaidjan, according to him, when a man shows that he cares for children, it means that he is a sensitive and kind person. So in Azerbaidjan a man can pat someone else's child on the head or even give the child a kiss on the head, and this wins the man respect. In the USA such actions can lead to legal prosecution. 4. Visiting people. Once the Azeri guy was invited to an American family to Thanksgiving dinner. He asked me what would be a good present to take along, so I suggested he should take a bottle of wine or even some national dish that he could make himself so that the host family would be able to try something new and unusual. He made some dolma and when he returned, he was amazed and even shocked at how well the dish was received and how much attention was drawn to it. He explained to me, that in his country bringing food to other people's home can be taken as an insult to their hospitality, and if a man cooks something, this can be taken as an insult to his gender role. The Azeri guy's honeymoon stage last for approximately two weeks, the frustration and adjustment stages took about 9 months and the "feeling at home" stage last only 2 months, which was way too short for such a long stay. At the end of the year he told me that he had only began enjoying himself and really learning something, because he had been struggling with culture shock all the time, seeing how people reacted in totally different ways from what he expected and how his best intentions were often misinterpreted. Therefore I believe that having the potential culture shock in view while teaching, telling students how to overcome it can be an important part of language teaching and can help propel students' progress on their trips abroad, while culture shock can hamper it greatly. If you're interested, I could tell in more detail about some causes of culture shock in different cultures.