In this day and age, it is quite common to google a name when you want to know who somebody is. Thus a few months ago, I googled our language assistant’s name and found lots of information about him before meeting him in real life.
Similarly people use the Internet to find old friends and acquaintance and have reconnected with folks they though they’d never hear of again.
I have been there too and have found former classmates, college friends and foreign colleagues. Some have become Facebook friends and it is lovely to read their updates every now and again and exchange news via private messages.
However there are also people who seem to have completely disappeared from this planet and whose name never crops up when googled – or rather when information crops up it points to a totally different person.
This is something that really puzzles me. I try to protect my data as much as I can but if you google my name, you’ll still find a few things about me. Yet there are people my age with a college degree who have no Facebook account, no visible professional email addresses which include their names, whose name is not registered in any way for their jobs; in other words people who have no Internet visibility whatsoever. Am I the only one who finds it strange not to say worrying?
– 2 middle-sized raw beet, peeled
– 1 Greek yogurt or even better a French Fjørd, sour cream is possible
– lemon juice
– a handful of cashew nuts or walnuts
– 2 tsp of olive oil
– 1 tbsp parsley or drill
– salt and pepper
Grate the beets coarsely. Drizzle with lemon juice. Add back pepper to taste, and adjust salt. Stir the yogurt into the beets along with the parsley or dill. Drizzle with olive oil and add the chopped cashew nuts (or walnuts).
Astrid & Veronika by Linda Olsson– a Swedish author who lives in New Zealand – is a wonderful story about the unlikely friendship between two different women and how they share life stories and become friends told over a few months.
Veronika is in her early thirties. She rents a house in a small remote Swedish village to complete a book and recover from her recent past. Her nearest neighbor is Astrid, an 80-year-old recluse nicknamed the village witch.
While Veronika has traveled almost her entire life, Astrid has spent most of her life under the same roof. Yet both women are lonely and step by step they become friends.
As trust develops between them, each woman slowly starts sharing her own secrets and sorrows. The narrative focuses on Veronika and Astrid alternatively, thus inviting us to share the women’s feelings and perspectives. Eventually both characters come to terms with their pains and are able to move forward in their own ways.
The rhythm of the novel is slow reflecting the author’s love of poetry but it never becomes tedious. It is also deeply rooted in Swedish folk culture with frequent evocations of the country’s landscapes, flowers, berries as well as food.
Last but not least, the book contains numerous quotes from different poets and introduced me to the powerful poetry of Karin Boye.
For the past few years I have been a tutor and am therefore more or less used to having a stranger (my intern) in my classroom. It is always unsettling at first but you soon forget a grown-up is sitting at the back, making notes of what you are doing. Even if this person might be critical of what is going on he/she is here to learn and you feel protected by the authority of experience.
Things are completely different when the visitor is a colleague and has been teaching for longer than you have. Things are even more daunting when she comes from a country where practically everyone is fluent in English while some of our students can barely put two words together. This is precisely what happened to me last week.
When we go to Sweden with our language exchange, we are always welcomed by other colleagues who like to have a native in their classrooms so that they students can ask us questions and practice their French on us. Of course when the Swedes visit, we reciprocate and they come to our classes too. Not to speak Swedish but to see what school is like in France.
Being the worrier that I am, I had planned literally weeks in advance what I was going to be doing with the two classes concerned. There is no point in watching French students do grammatical exercises or correct a test. If you have guests, you don’t want them to get bored.
One group was going to prepare a role play – in an IT room – while the other was expected to understand how the book cover of a crime novel functions. I had planned both lessons carefully and prepared the necessary material (handouts, photocopies, pictures, etc). I felt the students would be fine:the first class is weak but vey nice while the other one is of made up of mixed-ability students with some really good ones.
Unfortunately a week before a colleague sent a note saying that three of my best students in that class would not be present as they had a German exam. There was nothing I could do I tried not to think about it.
In the end it all went well. The weaker students were their charming selves and even asked my colleague for help when I was busy with a group. As for the others they did their best, behaved themselves and a silent (but brilliant) girl was more active than she had ever been.
When the lesson was over, my colleague commented on how “very pedagogical” it had been, which sounded to my ears like the ultimate compliment.