Not only famous, but popular too!

I’m on the Top Ten Most Popular Diaries list!

Copied from DD’s front page this morning (just in case my fame is fleeting!):

Top Ten Most Popular Diaries
30 Jan 2007 – 12:30:04 AM

My Life Through Your Eyes DowntownMom
My Heart a Compass waterspriteflying
The Soap Opera of My Life saucygirl
Lady Hawk’s Lover Hellcat
Diary of a Kiwi Bookcross… FutureCat
confessions of a slacker andrew61
I Run With Scissors LeyLeySmiles
ªü¬Kªººô¤W¤é°Oï TammyLee
My life, my opinion Jimmybear

Look! That’s me in that list! With all those big names of DD!

I’d like to thank the Academy, and my agent, and… actually, I think who I’ve got to thank are all the Bookcrossers on LiveJournal who’ve been clicking through to see what I’ve been up to.

Don’t worry, I won’t let all this fame and popularity go to my head. And if you want an autograph, I’ll be making a public appearance in Wellington in a couple of weeks 😉

In other news, I had my first training session as an ESOL Home Tutor last night. There were a lot more people in the class than I expected – about 30. Apparently they’ve had a big recruiting drive lately, which is why there is such a big group, but they’re still lagging way behind the number of tutors they need – there’s about 180 learners on the waiting list to get a tutor.

Most of our first lesson was just introductory stuff about how the service works and who the learners are – mostly refugees, plus a large number of immigrants who have come to NZ on family reunification visas after a family member has immigrated here (either as a refugee or as another sort of migrant), and who are often elderly and find assimilation difficult. Apparently the cultural mix of refugees is different in each city, because the refugee resettlement service try to place refugees in areas where there is already a community from that culture to help support them, and the majority of people using the service in Christchurch are of Chinese, Afghan or Russian origin.

We did a few group exercises to help us understand what it’s like to be a refugee – we had to imagine a war or some other event forcing us to flee NZ to another (imaginary) country where no English is spoken and we don’t speak a word of the local language, where Kiwis are looked down on (popular opinion says that the problems back in NZ are all our own fault because we’re all lazy), our culture and religion isn’t understood (the common view is that in our churches cannibalism is encouraged, because we pretend to eat human flesh and drink blood). We are given some assistance from the government of our new country, but not much – just somewhere temporary to live and a minimum living allowance – but this will be cut off within a few months, by which time we’re expected to get on our feet. Our group then had to work out how we could survive in this new country. Needless to say, we found it very difficult! We quickly realised that almost everything you take for granted is impossible when you don’t speak the language – you definitely can’t get a job, you can’t go to the doctor, you can’t assert your rights (or even find out what they are!), you can’t find out what assistance is available to you. It really makes you appreciate how difficult and frightening life as a refugee must be.

For the next exercise, we had to imagine that as refugees we were offered the help of the ESOLHT scheme, and had to decide what language skills we would want to learn most urgently. Again, it didn’t take us long to realise that our priorities weren’t going to be complicated stuff, it was going to be the really basic things like being able to fill out forms (how to spell your name in the local alphabet!), deal with money, use public transport, buy food…

Other exercises we did dealt with what sort of help you can give as a tutor, and how to set boundaries. Naturally, our learners will be looking to us as “experts” on life in NZ, so the chances are they’ll ask us for help with all sorts of things, from finding a doctor to sorting out their problems with WINZ (NZ’s benefits agency). The ESOLHT service has no official rules about what you can and can’t help with (it’s up to the individual tutor where you want your boundaries to be), but you do have to be careful about privacy (e.g. not going to an agency to get help for your learner without their permission), and they encourage you to wherever possible empower the learner to help themselves rather than you directly helping them (so for example, rather than ringing the doctor yourself to make an appointment for them, you turn it into a language lesson, and talk about how to make an appointment and what to say, and role play the call, then let them do it themselves).

Oh, and one weird thing about the training course (well, it seemed weird when they first told us, but made sense once they explained it): we’re not allowed to tell anyone else on the course what our job is, or talk about work at all. Partly that’s to put us all on an equal footing, so nobody feels intimidated or inferior just because they don’t have as “important” a job as someone else, but it’s also because the chances are our learners won’t have jobs, or even the possibility of finding work for a long time, so it wouldn’t exactly be sensitive to sit and talk to them about what your day at work was like! So to get us used to the idea of leaving work out of our conversations, and finding other things to talk about instead, discussing work is banned from the course. And it’s amazingly difficult to do – you don’t realise just how much of your life revolves around work until you can’t talk about it. During the tea break we were sitting chatting, and the guy sitting next to me turned to me and said “I’ve got no idea how to start an conversation without asking what you do!” Of course, we did find other conversation starters, but even then it was difficult – every topic seems to lead back to work. I’m sure we’ll get used to it soon enough, but it did feel weird to start with.

MrPloppy got to see the comet last night! It was a very clear night, so when it got dark I went out in the back garden (which is pretty dark, because it has high fences around to block the light of surrounding houses, and our house blocks the streetlight) and tried to find it. It helped that I’d seen it so clearly the other night, so I knew exactly where in the sky to look. I identified the stars I knew had been nearby, and eventually, after a lot of searching, found a very faint blob which was the head of the comet. The light pollution in the city is so bad that it was only just visible to the naked eye (I’d never have seen it if I hadn’t known where to look), and there was only a tiny bit of the tail visible, even through the binoculars, but at least you could see it. So I called MrPloppy out, and once his eyes had adjusted to the dark he managed to find it too.

We’re still hoping the weather and lytteltonwitch’s car will cooperate so that we can
go out of the city and he can see it properly (and I can try a photo – there was absolutely no point in trying last night, it was way too faint), but at least he has had the chance to see it if things don’t work out.

Currently reading: Four Ways to be a Woman by Sue Reidy
Currently listening to: Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller

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  1. It sounds like your ESOL training is a good refresher in comunication too! Its amazing the difference something simple like not being able to talk about work can make to the way you relate to others and what you have to say about your day.

    I actually found an ESOL training course in the nightschool listing (right next to an actual ESOL class for those learning English!)and gave it some thought but in the end decided to finally take the plunge and learn sign language this year instead. Who knows, maybe that will help me out if I do ESOL next year. My french, Italian and spanish aren’t much use to me with the refugees that usually land in Auckland but sign language might be!

    Congrats on your top 10 placing.


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