Monthly Archives: May 2010

Patriotism, Jordanian Style

Americans put mini flag magnets on their bumpers, Jordanians put HUGE PICTURES of the King with a sniper rifle on their entire back windshield. Who wins the patriotism contest? Jordan.

It is a little unsettling sometimes, because it looks like there’s a dude in the backseat about to put a bullet between your eyes. I still want one though, to add to my mini Jordanian flag in the front seat. There’s another version with the Jordanian flag billowing in the background on the left and then a big HAWK face on the right, so when I find that I’m buying it and then will take a picture of my car pimped out, Jordanian patriotism style.

Tower of Carrots

As promised, here is a picture of one of the carrot towers beside the road to Amman. Despite their store location, they are absolutely delicious. I have been warned about possible sicknesses that could be contracted from said produce but don’t believe in germs and have never had any issues, so they are alright in my book.

Alternative Spring Break, King’s Edition

I knew that after graduating from college that I would really miss Alternative Spring Break (the organization I was a part of in college that sent UVa students on service trips all over the US and world during all of our breaks). I went on a total of 8 trips during spring breaks, winter breaks, summer breaks etc., so it’s strange to me to have gone so long without doing one. It’s really my favorite way to travel, and my favorite way to get to know other people and cultures (I guess it’s a bit like what I’m doing now, though this is certainly not community service…)

Well, it didn’t take me long to buddy up with the service folks here at King’s, and now I’m leading a large group of little people to INDIA this summer for a service trip! I’m incredibly pumped. We had originally planned the trip for Thailand, but then… Thanks Thailand.  I am a bit nervous, because leading a group of 18-22 year olds is very different from leading a group of 14-17 year olds, and my fellow chaperone is one of the other rare 23 year old teachers (seriously, who trusts a group of high school nutjobs with two 23 year olds?) but it will be an adventure for the books.

My summer plans if you’re interested, color coded for your reading pleasure:
-JUNE 17 – depart for the U.S. of A., spend time in Texas
-JUNE 25 – head up the Virginia area for a friend’s wedding, spend the next two weeks trolling around the east coast

-JULY 6 – depart from New York City for Berlin, Germany, to visit the Don-man as he studies abroad

-JULY 14 – glorious return to Jordan

-JULY 17 – Service trip to INDIA!

-AUGUST 2 – glorious return to Jordan, part 2.

-MID-AUGUST – chill in Syria possibly taking private Arabic lessons, no big deal-LATE AUGUST/EARLY SEPTEMBER – no plans, any ideas?
-EARLY SEPTEMBER – glorious return to Jordan, part 3.
-SEPTEMBER 15 – re-learn calculus
-SEPTEMBER 16 – first day of classes in year 2 with my new crop of Physics Phriends and my first crew of Calculus Comrades (I don’t actually call them that)

The Biggly Wiggly

Here’s a math equation that I never learned in college:

There’s this amazing hummus and falafel shop that is off of the highway on the way back to campus from Amman that I stop at almost every time I am coming back around dinner time, and it happens to be right next to the “Biggly Wiggly” convenience store (from which I obtained the bag above). It seems like this would be perhaps a rip off of “Piggly Wiggly”, the grocery store hailing from South Carolina, which is somewhat likely because there is a lack of distinction between the letters “p” and “b” in Arabic… but maybe that’s not what happened becuase the logo seems to be a rip off of the Vlasic pickle bird dude. And there is certainly a distinction between pigs and birds over here (you don’t eat one, and you eat the other with basically every meal). But maybe, since pigs are unclean, they would make a bad logo for a convenience store, so they changed it to a pickle bird (but just had to have that iggly-icious name)? Or maybe they thought that by violating two copyrights (if that concept existed here) at the same time it would be some sort of Double Jeopardy loophole and they would get off scot free?

Who knows the answers to these deep riddles. Maybe I will go in and ask where they got their name one day…

Last Day With the Seniors

Almost exactly one year from when I myself donned a cap and gown for my graduation from UVa (May 17, 2009, can’t believe it’s been a full year), I am bidding my first students farewell, the eight seniors in my class, who will be finishing class about 3 weeks before the rest of the school. I am incredibly sad to see them go. It will be very strange not to have them sitting in front of me for 45 minutes a day. I have spent a total of almost 150 hours with them in the classroom (almost 180 classes), and many more hours in and around school, during extra help, finals, school activities, the dorm, everywhere. This teaching thing is really an incredible gig – I don’t think I’d feel the same way about TPS reports that I spent the same amount of time with – but with these amazing relationships I’ve formed come some inevitable tough goodbyes. Cheers to my 8 seniors (MA, YS, FH, MS, ZK, ZA, MA, RA) good luck in all that you will do, and keep in touch.

[And at the same time, I still have 3 weeks left with my insane juniors – AH, THAT’S WAY TOO MUCH! But I guess come 2.8 weeks from now, I’m going to be feeling the same way about them too…]

Mr. Bowman, did you ever try absinthe in college?

I spent about 5 minutes on Thursday trying to steer the class back to reality when one students asked “Mr. Bowman, did you ever try absinthe in college?” (and no, we aren’t studying the physics of hallucinogenic alcohols at the moment).

 I’ll add that to the list of questions-that-were-completely-inappropriate-but-I-secretly-laughed-about with

  • “Mr. Bowman, what girls at the school do you think are good looking?” (you seriously thought it was okay to ask that, and you seriously thought that I might give you an answer?) and 
  • “Mr. Bowman, is that a hickey?” (nope, I am just bad a shaving).

If I end up teaching until late in my life, I hope that students will continue to ask these gems to my old, dried up self, then they will be even funnier.

AP Madness

We are just starting week number two of AP tests, and it has been complete hysteria at the school, I’ve been really blown away at how crazy it has been. I guess that I went to a high school that didn’t really emphasize the APs, and that they seem to matter a bit more here because of this certificate that all the Jordanian’s must get as their high school equivalency which includes results from your APs, but still, I think it’s been a bit ridiculous…

First, our school policy is that if you have an afternoon exam you are excused from morning classes and if you have an morning exam, you are excused from the afternoon the day before. I have felt like a crazy person because it seems like other people here don’t think that this is absolutely ridiculous – I would love to hear your comments as to what your schools have done in the past or if you agree with me. This whole week, I am at about 75% for all of my classes (I’ll be at 50% on one day), and I haven’t been able to assign really any homework for a while now without a slew of complaints – all of us non-AP teachers have lost so much quality time from our classes because of this. I wouldn’t really care if my students weren’t taking the SAT at the end of the year, but I am already so crunched for time as it is, I didn’t plan on having two useless weeks.

On top of that, students are even tak MORE time off to study for APs. Our attendance report today was EIGHTEEN PAGES long. I have students in my class who are only in one AP class, but are taking Sunday and Monday COMPLETELY OFF to study for their one test. It’s madness! I tried to institute a policy where I am docking grades for skipping class like that to try to keep at least some semblance of a class happening, but it’s been fairly unsuccessful.

All of this has made me (further) question the educational value of these standardized tests, and the AP curriculum. Next year, I think I will be teaching physics again, but then I will also pick up two sections of math, and those might end up being regular Calculus (for all the students who don’t want to take AP). The idea of this is actually exciting to me. A class that doesn’t cater to a test, and doesn’t have another one that follows after (most of these students won’t be taking much further math I assume) means that we can go at a comfortable pace and not experience the hype and fear that these big (somewhat meaningless) tests create.

I’ll be excited when the week is over.

Parents Weekend, Take 2

This past weekend was our Spring Parents’ Weekend, and many more parents showed up than the one in the fall (because that one was marred with swine flu hysteria). It was actually a very encouraging day, one that helped give me a bit of perspective as to how much has happened in the past eight months, how close I have gotten with my physics buddies, and how meaningful this teaching gig can be. One mom came in and said “I kept asking my son if I was going to get to meet you today, because he talks about you all the time!” (and her son rocks, he’s the bomb – glad he likes me as much as I like him). Another one, the mother of a very troubled little man, told me how great of an experience that their family has had with me and how she wants her other child to have me too. As rock hard stone cold as you think I am, I was very touched.

And even the ones that I thought went badly, because I had to inform parents that their son or daughter needs a bit of a kick in the pants, weren’t as bad as I thought. One of my students’ father kept remarking to his son (who was in the room) about how disappointed he was with him throughout the entire conference, and I felt so bad that I semi-apologized to him when we all got back to school – he said “oh no, don’t worry – all my teachers said the same exact thing.” And even more surprising, I told another boy’s father that he was operating in his own little world (I may have used the phrase “la-la land”) and needs to come back to planet earth, and then he told me later that mine was his best one.

Gotta love this job.

Goodbye Carrots, Hello Strawberries and Watermelons

One of the coolest things about living in this incredibly dry country is that despite the lack of water (or perhaps because of it?) Jordan produces unbelievable produce. I’m always shocked at flavor packed in carrots or the juiciness of the strawberries. Instead of buying the local produce in grocery stores, there are always tons of stands right off the side of the highway, with a 5 foot high stack of bright orange carrots, or cartons and cartons of brilliantly red strawberries or a big pile of small green fuzzy things (I haven’t figured out what they are yet).

The other cool part is that these stands are slaves to the season in which they can grow certain crops, which makes a cool rotating cycle of fresh things to buy. The good news is that, although the carrots are really tasty and delicious, carrot season (and green fuzzy thing season) is drawing to a close and strawberry/watermelon season is starting up, which means fresh roadside tasty delights for months to come. I’ll post a picture when I take one, because they really are beautiful.