The other day I was having a spelling test with my kids where they have to write the word in English and the translation in Azerbaijani.
These kids are ridiculous and always ask “what’s this word?” ” what’s that word?” “is this word spelled like that?” and I told them I’m not giving them any of the answers, which was something they didn’t really… digest.
One kid asked me, “just tell us, what does this one word mean? i don’t remember.”
I replied “that’s too bad” (in Azerbaijani).
So on his test he wrote “that’s too bad” as the translation.
I accidentally did something really terrible (lol again, the literal millionth time of my service) and i feel really really terrible about it and I know if I talked about it to anyone (especially any american) they would make me feel better like “oh it was just an accident you didn’t do it on purpose” but the whole point is that i made the mistake because I wasn’t LISTENING correctly/fully and I feel even worse because I am clearly such a terrible listener and I have never been (such a) terrible listener before but it’s like my middle name here - Gemma terrible listener (last name) and how can I be this horrible all the time? Why am I such a bad listener? How can I listen better? How can I understand what people are trying to say? Why can’t I now? I don’t want to talk to anyone about it because I want to keep feeling bad, because this is something that I truly should feel bad about, and this time I really deserve the misery.
And even if I fix this specific problem I caused (which i will try to) it wont actually fix anything; similar problems will continue to happen because I am such a bad listener. What exactly do I mean by that? I mean that I take things so literally that I just can’t understand that there is another meaning beside the word for word meaning of people’s words.
For example, often people say “you should have done x” and they don’t mean like “you should have done x but now it’s too late so just continue what you’re doing and do x next time” which is the most literal understanding for me, but instead they mean “stop what you’re doing and do x right now”. Sometimes it’s not quite so formulaic though and sometimes I forget that this is the formula anyway, so even though I am in general intellectually aware that this discrepancy happens, often I still go through this misunderstanding and as a result, don’t “listen”…. like, I don’t stop what I’m doing and do x.
Another example is like, if I give someone a cup of tea and they’re like, “Oh, it’s cold,” for a long time I wouldn’t understand that they wanted me to change their tea for actual hot tea. I just thought they were commenting on the state of the tea. Like, how stupid am I? Unless they actually said, “go and change my tea”, I wouldn’t even get that that’s what they meant. Now I don’t do this exact thing, but with other things (like, not tea), I’m sure I still do.
And that sort of gives me hope that I will learn that when someone says “oh you should have done this” I should stop what I’m doing and do what they say, or if they say “so and so doesn’t do this” what they’re really saying is “don’t do this! Don’t do this!”
"Cemma milad bayramın mübarək. Mən Santa Klausdan Amerikaya qayıtığında sənə yaxşı bir iş tapmağı xahiş etmişəm."
—A Christmas text from one of my counterparts that İ just found and re-enjoyed - “Gemma, Merry Christmas. I asked Santa Claus to find you a good job when you go back to America.” hehehehe, how sweet is that? I definitely didn’t appreciate it enough when I got it.
do you ever see old people and ask their name and think “wow that’s a good name for an old person” and then wonder how they lived life as a young person with an old person name
omg when i was younger i had a step-cousin who was around my age, like 8 or so, and her name was an old person name and it was so difficult for me that i could never call her by her name. hahaha oh man…
My life is likely to last 10 to 15 years. Any separation from you will be painful: remember that before you get me.
Give me time to understand what you want of me.
Place your trust in me- it is crucial to my well being.
Do not be angry at me for long, and do not lock me up as punishment.
You have your work, your entertainment,and your friends. I only have you.
Talk to me sometimes. Even if I don’t understands your words, I understand your voice when it is speaking to me.
Be aware that how ever you treat me, I will never forget.
Remember before you hit me that I have teeth that could easily hurt you, but I choose not to bite you because I love you.
Before you scold me for being uncooperative, obstinate, or lazy, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I might not be getting the right food, or I have been out too long, or my heart is getting too old and weak.
Take care of me when I get old; you too will grow old. Go with me on difficult journeys. Never say: “I cannot bear to watch” or “Let it happen in my absence.” Everything is easier for me if you are there, even my death.
He smashed another kids head against the cement. Remember? This had me all sorts of torn up…
He’s this “wild” kid who is always getting into trouble, fighting with other kids, being rude to teachers and not listening to what they say even when he’s getting all sorts of hit and yelled at…
Well, I invited him to my conversation club because I felt bad for yelling at him, and I wanted to give him a chance…
and he was the most respectful student in the class! He listened to everything I said. He thanked me for the supplies I brought. He offered to go and get the tape and glue. He actively participated and paid attention. He helped out other kids. He spoke English! He said he wanted to come every day and didn’t want to go home!
Umm guys. I am floored by this alone, but what I’m also floored by is the idea that no one else has thought of doing what I did, or been in a position to do what I did… which was, quite simply, including him in something.
Like, is that possible? I can’t be the first person to be kind to him…
Another student of mine who I told you about, she started studying now and working in class… just on her own, without me doing anything special except for including her - or even just TRYING to include her.
And I told you about another student of mine last year, who was a massive brat but who I ignored when he was rude and paid attention when he was nice, and he 100% completely changed, too…
I know kindly bringing people to where they need to go doesn’t always work…. Sometimes you need tough love, it’s true. I also know these are only 3 small examples, but I think they speak loads about the power of love and treating all people kindly and with respect.
I haven’t done any large project in my service. I am failing in so many ways, making so many mistakes, and maybe not participating enough in my community, not interacting enough, not doing enough. But I know that there are 3 lives I have touched, 3 students who I maybe - just maybe - have given a chance… and looking back at myself before coming here, these are the things I wanted to do in my service. Exactly these things.
So no, I am not going to change the world. I am not going to have a huge impact on my community. But I have widened the worlds of the people who I have interacted with, and I have shown at least these 3 kids hope. Maybe I should be more ambitious, but this is how I am. And for me, this is enough.