Saturday, January 10, 2015

Back to the Grindstone


7am or 7pm- You’ll get the answer at the end of the post


            So it’s back to work after a nice three week break, or at least that is the plan.  Since the vast majority of my teaching experience has been in private schools, a few missing students on the first day back wasn't that much of a surprise.  The surprise was the number of students missing, and the duration, I've got some that still aren't back yet.  I bring this up because there was an article in an education publication recently, written by a teacher, complaining about students taking extra-long vacations.  While I agree with her that it can be problematic for all parties involved, there really isn't anything that we as teachers can do about it.  Parents are going to do, what parents are going to do, especially involving vacations.  I just wait for the student to return and give them their missing work, with instructions to come see me if they need extra help.  What I have discovered here in Mongolia is that some of the parents take their kids out of the country from time to time during the winter months, to avoid some of the pollution.

            This actually makes some degree of sense from a medical perspective given the number of ways it can affect a person.  Educational time and deficits can be made up, long lasting health effects not so much.  These effects include asthma, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), irregular heartbeats, heart attacks, vision problems, reduced immune system, reproductive issues and a shortened lifespan.  The individual effects are determined by the specific compounds that the person is exposed to, the amount of compound the person is exposed to, and the duration the person is exposed to.  Not all pollution is created equal and in the case of UB most of the pollution is particulate matter, coming from the power plants, and coal burning stoves in the Ger’s found around the city.  In the case of particulate matter the main health effects involve the cardio-respiratory system.

            I don’t know what the case is here in Mongolia yet, but high amounts of particulate matter can have an effect on the atmosphere.  This is dependent on the type of particles and the surrounding climate, but I will try and give you the simple version below.

            1- More particles in the air, reflects sunlight cooling the area

            2- More particles in the air absorb sunlight heating the area

            3- More particles in the air cause an increase in cloud formation, and increases                                     precipitation

            4- More particles in the air cause a reduction in cloud formation, which decreases rain.

            This last one is important to my friends living back in New Jersey, given the recent spate of Hurricanes (Irene, Sandy) that we have had.  There is some thought that the more recent and very powerful Hurricanes, might be more normal than previously thought in certain scientific circles.  In the older historical records there are reports of very strong storms frequently moving through the Atlantic, and Eastern Seaboard of the United States.  Storms of this nature have not been observed since the scientific recording of such events began during the last 100-150 years.  There is a subset of scientists who think part of the reason for the increasing strength of such storms is due to the cleaner air we now have as compared to what it was during the height and aftermath of the industrial revolution.  The reduction in particulates has allowed for more, heat, evaporation, and cloud formation leading to stronger storms.

Back in the Classroom

            Anyway enough about pollution, my little midgets got to experience a very rare almost unheard of event, that the odd of occurring during their years in schooling is around 1 in 3,720.  Yes the students got the chance to throw things at their teacher and not get in trouble.  Yes, there was a valid educational reason for this.  The students are now studying electricity, and I was explaining the electrostatic series, (basically how much an object gives or receives electrons).

            Me- I’m positive and these are my electrons so I am currently neutral.

            Me- If I am at the top of the series do I like electrons

            Students- No

            Me- So what do I do with them

            Students- Get rid of them

            Me- Ok, toss the tennis balls away making sure one bounces near the midget dozing in the                   back of the room

            Me- So am I positive negative or neutral

            Students- Positive

            Me- So now I am a new object at the bottom of the series, am I positive negative or neutral

            Students- Neutral

            Me- So do I like electrons or not like electrons

            Students- Like …… stares at the ball ….. Throws it at me

            Me- Good …….. Wait I’m standing in front of the projector and can’t see due to the light…..             I didn't think this through ……. Ouch

            So yes several of them did bounce off my head.  There was a reason I was a lineman when I played American football, beyond the reason I liked the smashy, smashy.  So yeah my students got a lesson they will never forget about electricity, and all I got for it was a bump on the head, a rather fair trade in my opinion.


            You guys are awesome, thanks for the best birthday in a long, long, long time (Mark, Kathleen, Kelvin, Kassia, Diane)  Oh, and TSM it was a Chocolate cake and coke, Airag is out of season, and well sheep’s head cake isn't really a thing here unless you want something like this.

            Sadly, we came in second at quiz night, but we did get a nice bottle of champagne (Californian) out of it, and enough cash to cover the taxi ride.  We’ll get them (The team that is about to win) next time.  Kudos to Mark for some challenging questions.

Mongolian Folk Remedies

            Now as it is that time of year here are some Mongolian folk remedies.

Animal ailments- this is for you Joy.  Meg you can probably use these on John to because we all know how he gets.

            If your Bactrian camel rejects its baby: When the female camel does not suckle its baby, blow a flute, play a fiddle, or whine a dog. The mare camel softens and starts suckling its baby when it listens to these joyful and sorrowful melodies.

            If your cow has lice, burn vermilion, wormwood, fat, grain, boar’s fat and sulfur, then fumigate the animal with the burning smoke.

            If your horse suffers from its jaws jamming together, it is helpful to put a leather-sack on the horse’s head and cause it to choke. Or, you can drench the suffering horse with cold water.

For the rest of us- Dad I’m not sure if any of these would pass muster with the AMA

            Afflicted with scurvy? Drink the mixture of the juice of the blooms of a wild rose with its stem’s sap.

            Toothache: There is no pain if you rinse your mouth with the stale milk of a ewe when your teeth ache.

            This remedy for snake-bite might, however, prove less successful: It can help to compress the bite with camel’s milk and also to drink the boiled milk of a mare-camel.

            Lastly, want to divine the sex of an unborn child? Try this: Take the sum of the numbers of both ages of the parents, multiply by four and divide by three. If the remainder is two or zero, the child is a boy. If the remainder is one, it is a girl.

Answer- 7 am, yes going to work in the dark is not fun, but it’s still not as bad as teaching freshmen in the dark at 5 pm at night.