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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Ok, so I would just like to apologize to everyone who has been following my blog for the lack of blog posts in the past week, but I’ve been pretty busy trying to take in all the sights and sounds my little town has to offer and I also have hit a brick wall when it comes to teaching the Chilean students. More on that later in the post. Lets start with something positive.

Last week, I had the opportunity to see a parade and a carnival. While the parade was very simple, it was still great to see that the citizens of Porvenir show their appreciation for their town and all that it represents. Gatineau, are you taking notes? On a side note, it was very cold, so cold in fact that after the parade, I basically sprinted home and relearned what it feels like to be warm by cranking up the heater in my room to the max and staying there until once, which was like at 7 or 8 pm. (The parade was in the afternoon by the way). After the parade, I thought to myself how can this week get any better, oh that’s right, last Sunday was the Carnival and boy did it deliver. Let’s start off nice and easy with a bit of Nascar Porvenir style, with a bunch of derby cars burning rubber down the roads. Next came a float with Miss Porvenir, that’s right Miss Porvenir, like I said they really like their town here. Then came the samba drummers and dancers, who were dressed in very little. I still don’t know how that’s possible, I thought the day of the parade was cold but during the Carnival, it was so cold I thought I was going to get frost bitten. How those dancers managed to dance as if the cold was absent is beyond me. Then came all the students dressed in all sorts of costumes as if it was Halloween. Overall, it was awesome, despite the cold.

That same day, we celebrated my billet mom’s birthday, which included Spanish Karaoke and lots of wine and Piscokes. If you guys think that singing ‘Pinch Me’ by the Barenaked Ladies is tough, you’ve seen nothing yet. When trying to sing the Spanish karaoke songs, I felt like I was saying a tongue twister, I got tongue tied too many times to count. The content of the songs was also very much, well against men. The saving grace was being able to show my true Karaoke skills by singing ‘ Man I Feel Like a Woman’ by Shania Twain.

I want to finish on a positive note, so I’m bringing out all the negativity in this part of the post. So, while I am still trying to stay positive with regards my ability to teach, each day it becomes more difficult. This is the first week that I get to teach on my own and so far it’s been hit and miss. I’ve tried so many ways to make the learning more interesting and interactive for the students but without success. I must say before continuing, that while my CELTA training and the orientation in Santiago helped prepare me, it only provided me with a base. It seems that no matter what I try, I cannot get the students interested in what I’m teaching. It’s as if they are preconditioned to hate learning English. It could also be that I’m not a very good teacher, the jury is still out on that including myself. Obviously there are exceptions, I have some students who like my classes, but it might just be because they like me as a person. Some examples of teaching techniques include games, an interesting powerpoint presentation on Canadian culture (at least I thought it was interesting), the Great Big Moose Song as a way to learn about simple past and art projects including posters. Seriously, I’ve thrown everything at them except the kitchen sink. Two main problems I have are dealing with furniture students, the ones that don’t do anything to disrupt the class but don’t participate, so overall my class management is good, and the amount of Spanish I speak each class. I tried speaking zero Spanish but the students just freeze if I do that. However, now I’m speaking too much Spanish and I feel like I’ve opened up the flood gates to the point that, in my time here, I will learn more Spanish than they will learn English. Obviously my approach is not working, so while that is the case, I would say that my saving grace is the fact that I have another entire semester to get it right. It might just mean I will have to over-prepare my classes to the point where it makes it seem like I don’t think my students know anything.  I think that about covers it for my souring mood in relation to teaching.

To end on a positive note, I accidentally ran a five km race. Let me explain. Salvador, the youngest of the two kids, wanted to run the five km race. I decided that I was going to go watch the race. When we went to get him registered, the person told us that it would be better if all us raced since the alternative was waiting who knows how long for the one person to finish the race. So after getting registered, I basically decided I was going to do a sort of mind over matter and forget that I have asthma. This is a horrible application of mind or matter since it usually applies to a physical object and not something like the sensation that an elephant is sitting on your lungs. This ended up being a great good idea. For starters, it was my first physical activity in Porvenir, beyond walking everyday against the cold to get to school obviously. Secondly, I did so much better than  the first time I ran a 5 km race in which I had to stop multiple times during the race. This time, I didn’t stop once. Finally, as I was approaching the finish line, I decided that was going to go for broke and tried to beat all the runners that were immediately ahead of me. I started sprinting and with only a few meters to go, I started to feel that elephant pounding on my lungs. (Damn you asthma!) Ignoring the pain, I continued sprinting and raced past the remaining racers ahead me to the finish, I was sure I could hear Chariots of Fire in background, it was just one of those moments. It was such a good feeling just being able to show that I can run a five km race even with my asthma. Bring it on half marathon! As a bonus, I actually won a new tuque in a draw even though I never win anything.

Also, I’ve started taking dance lessons and I must say, that learning Kweka may be tougher than getting a black belt in karate. While karate is a mental and physical challenge., Kweka combines all of these things plus adding a finesse element, not only do you have to do it properly, you also have make it look good. I’m really hoping I’ll be ready come Chilean day of Independence in September. Despite the fact that it is tough, I really do like it so at least there is that. Tomorrow night, I’m going to be giving a swing dancing class, we’ll see how that goes.

Lets go from the worst thing that happened to the the rest. So I don’t know if it’s the school system in Chile’s approach to teaching English, but the students know next to nothing. Whether it be grade 5 or 12, apart from knowing more vocabulary, they are pretty much at the same level. This means that while my training during orientation week helped, it’s only a base.  Basically I’ve come to the conclusion that the students are approaching learning English as if it was a mechanical process instead of a natural process. Teacher says say ‘the dog is red’, ok, I say the dog is red, happy? Good, I won’t remember it next class. This is why it is very difficult to get them to produce anything. Most of their knowledge of English comes from comprehension. Yesterday, it was very simple what the 6th grade class was supposed to do yet it turned super complicated. They had to do a listening comprehension and after listening to the recording five times without them getting it, the head teacher eventually took control of the activity and basically spoon-fed them the answers. Yeah, that I’ll help them learn. Then, in the 7th grade class, they were supposed to do a simple research project on regions in Chile. Apparently, it was really complicated since only one group actually did the project properly. Also, even when they try to produce something in written form, they basically use google translate. In the grade 10 class we had a test and because the desks are so close together, students can easily give each other the answers. This really discouraged me. The worst was yet to come unfortunately. In the 12th grade class, I basically made them do a crossword puzzle I created that utilized words they had already seen or could find in the unit of the text book they were working on. My instructions were apparently too complicated since they just froze when I started saying three word sentences in English. I also made the structure of the clues very simple. It was either a field of study or the person who studies in the field. The clues were also repetitive with one clue sentence corresponding to fields and the other to the person. After all that teaching, the highlight of the day was the name tags of the students. Let the fun begin, time to learn all their names. Today, teaching was better, I had the 5th graders and we did a family tree workshop which, while it didn’t work on productive skills, was an activity they really seemed to like and also still forced them to know how to say the names of the different members of the family. My faith in humanity and my ability to teach these students English is restored, a little.

Today marked the first day of the celebration of the 118th anniversary of Porvenir. I went with the students to the church to attend mass. I don’t know why but bible songs sound so much better in Spanish. Also, as usual, the only word I know when to say during the sermon is ‘amen’. After that, there was the parade, with the Chilean soldiers marching, a demo of the Kweka, with the dancers in hwaso costumes, Chilean cowboys, the students of all the different schools marching as well as the firefighters, the oldest couple in Porvenir and I guess the equivalent of the RCMP but on a smaller scale. My next challenge is to find a costume for Carnival on Sunday with the theme being Madagascar. I’m thinking either a penguin or a zebra  Yes, the fun has only begun.

So, I attended my first teachers’ meeting, was welcomed with open arms and ate a lot of food. I’m also participating in a Secret Santa, I picked the principal. Tread carefully here, Jeff.

So today was my billet mom’s birthday and after eating till I thought I would explode at the teachers’ meeting, I ate more including various spreads like egg, guacamole, tuna, pickled tuna and chicken and lets not forget the birthday cake, which was probably the best one I’ve eaten in a long time. Take that store-bought over sweet icing cake. After that,the round of Piscokes started. Such a dangerous drink, it’s pisco and coke, and you barely taste the pisco. I had two and I was done. Apparently this is a taste of what’s to come as my billet mom wants to party till Sunday. Why me?

To finish off, I finally got my address:

Calle Chiloe 953, Porvenir, Region de Magallanes, Chile

Send me something.

Teaching Chileans English is tough. Not only do I feel like I’m in the movie Animal House with the kids running wild and chaos reigning supreme, I also have to deal with the fact that it’s really difficult to speak to them only in English, I already started speaking a bit of Spanish so I think I need to be more patient going forward. Motivating them is also very difficult. Even if I give them a really fun activity, because it’s in the context of learning English, they are not interested or think it’s fome.

Lets recap my day:

The first class went ok, a fifth grade class did a mini spelling bee with words related to family. I think I need to work on class management since while the activity ran smoothly, there was still too much talking and moving around.

The second class was a sixth grade class during which I worked on comparative adjectives with them using a Powerpoint that I am pretty proud of if I do say so myself. The activity ran really smoothly, they seemed to understand how to make comparative statements so I was able to elicit the adjective+er+ than structure from them. Again, classroom management needs to be better.

The last class was a mix a fifth and six grade and because of this, I thought it would be fun to do a comic strip workshop. Well, I probably had more fun than they did, judging by the fact that I had to tell them they would be graded on their comic to get them to do it at all. This is something I find very frustrating considering that if it was me doing the activity, I would have jumped for joy knowing I would get the opportunity to make a comic strip using my second language all the while learning new vocabulary in the form of sound words like ‘BAM!’ or ‘POW! Apparently, Chileans don’t think like me. Lets hope they are more receptive to games. I admit that while the instructions I gave were simple, they were not complete. I started off by showing a few comic strips to show them what a comic strip was and also to see if they knew the characters. Then I outlined and showed them the elements of a comic strip which are characters, sound words and a short dialogue. One thing that I should probably have done is give them some sentences to work with and also tell them that the comic strip needs to be in English and not Spanish.

Overall, I am happy with my first day of teaching, classroom management still needs work and I think that I might find it easier once I am alone instead of dual teaching with the head teacher.In order to work on classroom management, tomorrow I will try using a silence cue such as raising my hand to get them to calm down.

Have you heard the news, Porvenir is celebrating its 118th anniversary. It’s going to be a hell of a party with a carnival, basically Halloween with everyone getting dressed up, and Chilean folk music and dance among other things.

My blog not only lets you guys know what I’m doing, but also makes me feel good about what I’m doing and also catalogues positively the overall experience. Therefore, I think it is only fitting to end this post on a positive note which is that I am officially famous in Porvenir, check it out:

http://www.soberaniaradio.cl/site/noticia.php?id_not=2704#

I don’t think I’ve ever eaten such a good Father’s Day meal which may be why I’m calling this one the King’s Feast. Lets see, we started off nice and easy with a ceviche, basically a salmon cocktail with raw salmon, lemon juice and a few veggies. Then came the main course which was a king crab gratin. That was followed by the dessert which was a leche asada, sort of like a creme brulé if it wasn’t creamy, and more solid and eggy. So yeah, lets kick start Father’s Day with that. I also had mate, the Chilean brew tea, it’s good but only in moderation. I should have probably stopped there, but instead I proceeded to tackle the once feast which consisted of sushi, bread, palta, cheese, eggs, olives and jalapeno peppers. Safe to say I don’t want to eat until tomorrow and maybe even possibly the day after. I also played a very simple dice game that combines the mechanics of poker with guts and luck called Catcho. You have 5 dices, you roll them and you try to get the highest combination possible which is five 1s then going downwards and mostly following the hierarchy of poker. After your first roll,the next person tries to beat what you have. If they do, you get to roll again and try to beat what they have. If you don’t succeed on your second roll, you are out. If you do, the other person gets a second roll to beat you and if they can’t beat what you have then they are out. What makes this game interesting is the fact that probabilities increase on the second roll. For example, in order to get the highest roll possible you can either get all sixes, all ones, or three sixes and two ones and vice-versa. This is because if you get say sixes and ones you can either change one to the other since on the die they are numbers that follow each other. Despite the fact that the game mostly relies on luck, I managed to go on a small winning streak (4 games which is quite a bit considering it’s all based on luck) and sort of made a name for myself at the table, despite the fact that I was the gringo. One of the ballsiest moves I managed to pull-off was beat a four of kind, with a five dice straight, despite the fact that I needed to change two of my dices. Therefore, if I end up being a lousy teacher, at least I may be able to redeem myself by being the best gringo player of Catcho in Porvenir. Joke aside, it’s a really fun game.

Today, I also met quite a few people including the extended family of my billet family which includes seven kids (when was the last time you heard of a family with seven kids?) and like I said previously, one thing I like about Porvenir is the community spirit that exists in this town. Everyone is welcoming whether you are a stranger or not and everyone loves to play Catcho.

I finally have my own room and I must say I’m pretty happy. I’ve got my own heater and a confortable bed, and my own washroom and I’m very near the kitchen. Midnight snacking will happen.

I’m also pretty excited for this week, I’m going to start the process of getting my residency visa, and I’m also going to start teaching. I’ve got plenty of interactive and fun activities planned so we shall see how they turn out as well my attempt at learning all my students names. I’m happy that I’m coming in almost at the end of the term since this gives me some flexibility when it comes to teaching. I can try something and if it doesn’t work, no biggy, I have the entire next semester to adapt my teaching style.

I think I’ll leave it at that for now since I think the only way I will ever have the desire to eat again is if I  go to bed and start mentally preparing for this week and thinking positively. In the famous words of the Little Engine that could:  ‘I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…’

Ok, so I’ve only been in Porvenir for less than a week and yet it somehow feels so much longer.  In the  time I’ve been here,  some good things and some bad things have happened. Back when I was in Katimavik, a youth volunteer program, we would do something called apples and onions in order to highlight the good and the bad moments of our week. When doing this exercise, the important thing was always to finish with a positive. In the wise words of Mario:’Here we go!’

Onion: Teaching English to Chileans is going to be tough, and not just a little, a lot. In fact, I now know how Hercules felt when he had to slay the many-headed hydra, helpless and unprepared. I wasn’t expecting Chileans to speak a lot of English but at the same time I wasn’t expecting them to speak so little English. For example, students in the 12th grade class are still extremely dependent on Spanish. They are unable to even understand the meaning of words which are cognates. For example, type is a cognate of tipo, but when I asked them the question ‘ What other types of energy are there?’ They were frozen in time until I said ‘tipo’, then it was as if they had a linguistic epiphany, is that a thing? Anyways, it means that I may not be able to pretend that I don’t speak Spanish and I may have to set less ambitious goals with regards to them speaking English. Apple: Porvenir is so beautiful especially just before sunrise, pictures are coming. Onion: My inability to find the mailing address for my home in Porvenir. I know my address and yet google maps can’t find my postal code, fail. I’ll have it soon though and then postcards and packages will follow. Apple: I might be able to do karate in Porvenir, apparently classes are given at the high school every Friday at 7.  Keeping my fingers crossed! What I can wear to do karate, now that’s a whole different story. Onion: Planning and learning students’ names will be a lot of work. At first, I thought to myself ‘ sweet, I only need to plan listening and speaking activities’. However, I was not expecting to be teaching grades five, six, seven, eight,  nine, ten and twelfth. Also, because I have so many classes, the task of learning the students’ names will also be tough. Name tags are coming. Apple: This weekend I am having an eggplant lasagna and my room might finally be complete. Onion (sort of an apple): Young Chilean girls love me. Especially at the high school level ,so much so that I feel like the next step is for them is to stalk me. Oh why could I not be a few years younger? Awkward moments would be avoided, Apple: I may end up being famous in Puntas Arenas, I just finished translating a document about a hostel. Hope it’s well translated and who knows, I might be able to visit that hostel and take picture of my translation. Apple: I have no regrets choosing Porvenir over another place in Chile. I am ready for the challenges that await me and again I just have to take it one day at  the time and make the most of the time I am here. So far so good I must say.

Comme titre, c’est un peu dramatique. Cependant, ce que je veux c’est qu’apprendre l’anglais aux Chiliens va être très difficile pour la simple et unique raison qu’ils ne parlent pas beaucoup en anglais. Je leur est aussi dit que je ne parle pas en espagnol, mais que je comprends ce qu’ils me disent parfaitement. On verra bien combien temps je vais pouvoir les convaincre que c’est vrais. En dépit de ceci, je crois que je suis prêt à relever le défi.

En visitant les écoles, je me suis senti un peux comme Justin Bieber face aux paparazzis parce que, dans toutes les classes, il y avait plein d’étudiants qui m’ont encerclé et qui m’ont posés des questions. Il va falloir que je fasse attention. Je sens que j’ai des ‘fans’ du côté des filles. 

Une caractéristique que j’aime beaucoup de l’espagnol chilien, c’est le fait qu’ils prononcent les ‘s’ à la fin d’un mot ou d’une syllable comme un ‘h’. Donc, au lieu de dire ‘Vamos a hacer un ejercicio’ (Nous allons faire un exercice) ils vont dire ‘Vamoh a hacer un ejercicio’.

J’ai hâte à la fin de semaine car on va manger une lasagne à l’aubergine! La semaine prochaine, je commence le processus pour obtenir ma visa de résidence.

J’ai aussi découvert que je vais pouvoir faire du karaté ici car les cours se donnent à l’école secondaire.

On verra comment ça se passera!

 

So I finally made it to Porvenir, the ferry ride was intense. I got to see two things that make Chileans go crazy, an exciting futbul game between Spain and Italy and violent waves crashing against the ferry. I should also mention that I stayed in the ferry since I did not dare venture outside for fear of the cold and getting seasick. I did not ,thank god. As stated by Helen, a volunteer who lived with the family I am living with now, I am really blessed. My family is great, especially the kids Amanda and Salvador, but also the parents Maria Andrea and Hugo. What more could I ask for, I live in a spacious house, I will soon have my own room once Hugo finishes building it, I have had many opportunities to practice my Spanish and learn about my family as have they, and I may have stumbled on one of the few families in Chile that is not pro meat and potatoes, veggies rule. Today for lunch, there was a lentil dish with cheese and veggies. The house is heated and therefore it makes the constant cold seem less so, the wi-fi connection is consistent and is not dial-up like I was expecting, the shower does not require the use of a calefont, manual heater, I actually have access to a washer and dryer and there is a wii. (Someone pinch me, this can’t be real) My first impressions of living here  is that it is basically like the winter in the Prairies, little snow and violent winds all day and all night. The sun rises at 9 am and sets at 3 pm, oh yeah. I also gave my host family gifts which they were really happy to receive especially the parents who were very curious about the beaver decoration (honestly I don’t know if they actually like or not, I mean, it’s pretty ugly) and the maple syrup. They will get to taste it tomorrow when we have pancakes during once (supper). I must say I am really liking the fact that for Chileans, lunch is the most important meal of the day and not breakfast or supper. Get your act together North America.

People in Porvenir are very nice, yesterday I went to visit Courtney’s host family, the other volunteer who’s here, and we had once. Chileans think I’m weird because I don’t take sugar or milk with my tea.

As for my first day of teaching, instead of teaching at one school, I’ll be teaching at two, the high school and the elementary school. The teacher I will be working with is Ms Graciela, she’s young but very nice. I think my biggest challenge will be creating an English only environment since when she teaches she speaks both. Oh well, if I wasn’t up to the challenge I would probably be back in Santiago drinking and partying till I’m broke. I will be teaching grades 5, 6,7,8 and sec. 2 and 4. Today I visited the schools and did the regional orientation. One thing that will take some getting use to is the kissing of every new person I meet (I also find it makes it tough to remember their names) and the use of ‘permiso’. I don’t need to use it in the household even though you are suppose to when entering the house, passing someone, asking someone to pass something to you when eating and when leaving the table. However, other than that everything is going great.

In fact, I think what made my day today was talking music with the kids, the top 40s have landed in Chile. They know Justin Bieber, One Direction, the Wanted, Carly Rae Jepsen and even Rebecca Black. I also taught a few things to Amanda who finds the English courses ‘fome’ (boring). She’s extremely smart so it’s really easy to teach her.

Even though Porvenir is small, I got lost while going to the school, good thing it’s easy to backtrack. I have a feeling I’ll be good by the end of the week, but it might take a bit of time.

Also, I’ll try to get my address and postal code so you guys can send me stuff if you really want to, and I also discovered that I am a noob at creating blogs. I apparently chose a type of blog which does not allow me to add pictures. If you want to follow my adventure through my pictures, just look me up on facebook ,under the album I heart Chile.

Well, that’s all for now, tomorrow is another day as they say. I’m pretty excited actually, let the good times roll!