Monday, July 16, 2012
Ah, if only all life's problems could be solved with a bullet!
Only a moron thinks that, of course, or a mad-dog killer. It's true on the battlefield, maybe, nowhere else. But if so, I could solve them more easily now.
I just completed a five-day course in tactical pistol use. This was way beyond shooting at targets -- we were running around, using cover, firing from all kinds of positions, and even doing combative drills like hitting a heavy bag for thirty seconds and then backing off and shooting it.
We did "simmunition" training too -- like paintball -- and there I learned, in facing off against a Marine with combat experience, that it doesn't much matter about training and experience, if you have two guys in a narrow alley shooting at each other, they're both probably going to end up with holes in them. (To that end, we got a brief lesson on dealing with traumatic injuries, also -- how to apply a torniquet and pressure bandage, mainly.)
So I'm covered with bruises and my hands are cramped and cut up, but it was a really intense and interesting experience.
On the downside, I see that shooting is a tremendously expensive hobby, probably even more expensive than running around nightclubs. But hey, at least you won't catch herpes, and it could conceivably save your life in the worst-case scenario of waking up with a thrill-killing meth addict in your living room.
Since guns are somewhat off-topic in this blog, let me talk a little about this in the context of teaching.
Learner Based Activities
The instructors were all former army and police -- guys with big personalities and a lot of experience -- so they were pretty good at having teaching presence. They could perhaps have elicited a bit more, but they did, some, where possible. There wasn't much theory in this particular course anyway. Such pairwork as was possible to do in the context of physical practice with handguns, we did. And we spent most of the time shooting, not listening, so we're definitely talking learner-based activities here.
I recognized in the instructors that desire to walk the fine line -- to be friendly and approachable and yet not to be so friendly that your students start bugging you about personal stuff.
It seemed like most of the students were fairly intimidated by the instructors and the subject manner though, so they certainly didn't ask prying questions. In this case being "native speakers" means they used handguns in combat situations, and obviously that's not going to lead to students bothering the teacher about why he's not married.
I suppose in this case the equivalent would be "how many times have you shot at somebody?" and fortunately nobody asked that.
I'm still hacking away at Vodkaberg -- trimming the fat, clarifying the ambiguous, realigning the crooked -- but it's very, very close to being finished. It'll need another editing and then it'll be ready -- maybe a couple more weeks.
It's about 115,000 words, more than twice as long as my other books, and like any good Russian novel covers a long period of time and has tons of characters. It will be controversial, probably, and it's dark and complex, but I feel like it's actually a much more evocative and accurate portrait of my time abroad than my last memoir.
(By the way, TO TRAVEL HOPELESSLY, about my first five years of teaching, is still available for FREE on Smashwords and Amazon.)
Get it here on Smashwords
Get it here on Amazon