Published: November 9th 2011November 9th 2011
Hello friends and family! I know its been a little while since our last blog entry but hopefully thats given the slow readers group a chance to catch up with our last three mega-entries. If you´d have sat me down before I left and said that I would write one blog entry of nearly four-thousand words, I would have given you a gentle slap on the face before wiping away the tears of laughter rolling down my cheeks. Anyway I diverge from the subject...where are we, what have we been doing and (probably my biggest question) what the hell are we doing here? The answers are simple;
1) Posadas, north-east Argentina
2) Trying to teach something resembling English to a mixture of 10, 11, 12 and 13 year olds,
3) I have know idea, and apparently neither does the school we´re working for.
Before I start telling you about how the teaching is going, I´ll set a little bit of the background staight. Em is considering teaching as a genuine career path when we get back home. Despite being completely mortified by the idea of having to spend every holiday with thousands of screaming kids, being the supportive and generous
boyfriend I am, I booked us onto a one month volunteering program to teach English in one of the poorer corners of South America. Bordering Paraguay to the west, and surrounded by pretty much nothing but ruined Jesuit missions from 200 years ago, Posadas fits the bill perfectly. Its as laid back as a city gets with average temperatures of around 30 degrees and a four hour siesta from 1pm till 5pm pretty much eliminating the chance of anyone actually doing a solid days work. Don´t get me wrong - the siestas great - but the general lack of anythingness also defines what their is to do here. A cinema, a lovely river front promenade, shops, restaurants, cafes and a bizare amount of pharmacies is fine, but there´s no parks, no grassy areas to sunbathe and they dont open any of the outdoor swimming pools until December when the kids break up for summer holidays. Its crazy. I´ve never been so sweaty without having a pool / the sea within collapsing distance. We´ve been here for 2 and a half weeks now and were longing to get those backpacks back on and start moving again.
Thankfully, the biggest higlight
has been the teaching. Again this hasn´t gone swimmingly, but as our bottle carrying friend from Boca Juniors said ´its South America guys´. We turned up expecting to help out an English teacher and maybe by the 3rd or 4th week be pretty much running the classes ourselves, using the teacher as a bit of a translator for our Spanglish. There is no English teacher. Its us, and only us. The teachers who do turn up to teach are constantly going on strike without telling us so seemingly every other day we turn up to an empty school. When we do get a class sat down in front of us we have no idea what they have been taught before or what we should teach them. The 60 hour online TEFL (teach English as a foreign language) course that we painstakingly completed is rendered utterly useless when the class start shouting at you in Spanish to translate everything from their name to well - I´m sure you can guess! Despite all this most of the lessons that we´ve done have been great fun. We´ve stuck to a winning formula of teach vocab, play a game based on the vocab, teach
a sentence using the vocab, then play games until the class gets tired and we send them on their way. The year 5 classes dont speak any English, so we´ve taught them numbers, colours and animlas (with a two pound purchase of Uno cards proving invaluable). The year 6ers have been doing household objects, and the year 7s (most of whom couldn´t care less) have been doing places around town and directions. I´m sure this is bringing back memories of years gone by sitting in French and German classes, thinking, this is boring, when does P.E start (maybe that one´s just me) but it has genuinely been good fun. The girls (and one slightly strange year 5 boy) love Emma and she has had two ´Te Amo´ cards this week. I´m obviously more of a mans man (not in a gay way) as most of the boys want to high-five me, wrestle me or stick weird animal tatoos on my arms.
Ok, Olie´s got pissed off with this 1st generation computer, so I´ve tagged in (Rich, you´re birthday presents are on their way). Olie has pretty much summed up the teaching chaos. The good thing is that I’ve found
out that I prefer teaching younger kids, so secondary geography may be out the window. Although I’m sure I remember my fellow classmates being a lot more enthusiastic about geography than our older students are about English! I think we also both now appreciate the routine, discipline and comparative efficiency within the British education system. Text books and wall displays are also now fully valued. We´ve been stuggling with a blackboard and a scrap bit of chalk if we´re lucky. We´ve also been helping out at 2 private English language institutes in the evening. The contrast with the school is striking. They have air con, white boards, text books and enthusiastic students/teachers! Highlights have included running a Halloween party for 7 year olds and chatting in ´proper´ English with some 17 year olds. Anyway, enough about the teaching….
“Pilar, Pilar, Pilar” – in the words of our crazy homestay lady. She shrieks out her own name about 4 times a day, serves up typical Argentinian culinary treats such as frozen hamburgers with plain spaghetti, plastic ham and cheese with lettuce and stale cake for breakfast. We´ve been in a near three week battle to just have cereal for breakfast.
Oh and the kitchen table seems to be the home to an extended family of ravenous mosquitoes who feed on our blood 3 times a day.
“Oooohhhh My Goooood!! or Reeeeeeeally Emma!!!” are the typical exclamations we hear from Agi, our Hungarian housemate and fellow volunteer. Olie has helped her sort out the rest of her South American trip so she´s excited to be moving on. She is lovely - very bubbly and hilarious to listen to. Last night we heard screams accompanied by bashing sounds…we knocked on her door and were told that she´d seen a giant cockroach-like creature and was scared it would crawl into her ear. Olie suggested putting earphones on . She liked it… “Ahhh, very good Olie”. We went out to ´Power´ for her birthday…the 12th biggest club in Argentina according to Marcelo (one of our project reps). Despite being fuelled with champagne throughout the night, we struggled to keep our eyes open and by 4am we were finally ´allowed´ to go home!
Agi has been working in the local orphanage and due to the strikes we accompanied her to the refuge one morning. It´s a pretty grim establishment – concrete floors, stinking
mattresses, broken toilets and food scraps all over the floor (you get the picture). A lot of the kids have been placed their as their parents are either drug addicts or have been caught beating up their kids. One of the women that worked there walks round with a belt. We both felt pretty awful there and can´t believe Agi has managed it for 7 weeks. She takes them out to the park every day, just so that she can get them out of there! A tiny 2 week old baby had been brought in a few days before we visited. She slept in a basket on top of the broken fridge in the kitchen. It´s very, very sad.
Spanish lessons are going ok. Olie is better than me!! For a start, he has a memory and not a sieve for a brain. We´re both getting the gist of it and it´s definitely helped at school. Just a shame we´re going to Brazil next…I´ll probably forget it all. Rosetta stone has worked wonders though…most of the stuff I remember is from that course. Definitely a visual learner!
Ok, what else…other than reading, listening to podcasts and eating ice
cream we haven’t done a lot. Last weekend we visited San Ignacio Jesuit missions. It´s barely worth mentioning. Apparently the light and sound show in the evening is meant to be ´incredible´ but it was cancelled due to rain. Oh well! Saved ourselves 100 pesos!
Hope everyone´s ok. 5 weeks and we´re back home…it´s gone so quickly. Next instalment should be a bit more exciting. We´re off to Iguazu Falls and then into Brazil for the final leg of our trip. Chao chao chicos. xxx