Monday, February 27, 2012

This City Is My City. And I Love It, Yeah, I Love It.

Wow, homesickness hit hard and fast today. I haven't really been homesick for the States at all, I've been more homesick for Costa Rica, actually. It's not that I don't miss my wonderful family and my fantastic friends, but I'm just soaking up this incredible opportunity.

But today, on Februray 27, I have never felt more homesick in my life. If you had asked me around lunch time if I wanted to go home, I would have been packed and ready to go before you could blink your eye.

Geauga Theatre.
I was getting ready to go down to lunch when Amanda walked into my classroom. She asked me if I had ever heard of Chardon and, of course, I answered that I have once or twice because I live there. Her face went white and her eyes got wide, which is when my heart started to race a little bit. She goes "Oh, um, there was a shooting at the high school today." Heart. Stopped.

EVERYONE has been changing their Facebook picture.
I text mom, dad, Joey, Sarah, anyone and everyone that I knew. I read as many news reports as possible. Between various news reports and from talking to Joey, I found out that around 7:30am a student, who was in the cafeteria, began firing a gun before taking off down the hallway where he was chased by Mr. Hall. Four students were injured and one has been killed. My mind cannot fathom this at all.

Out of 130 picture changes, 126 were to a Chardon logo.
Luckily, my dear little brother who I pretend to hate, but actually really love, was in Sociology with Mr. Leikala. He's fine and safe which is a good feeling. Especially because I'm 5000 miles away and there is literally nothing that I would be able to do.

In the midst of this horrific tradgey, I am FLOORED by the love and support that has been shown to the community of Chardon and by Chardon. I have NEVER been more proud to have grown up in Chardon and attended Chardon High School. The support that has come from all over has absolutely blown me away. The way that Chardon has come together has floored me. This is what Chardon is all about. All about love, support, and community. Tragedy has struck, but Chardon has risen through it in ways that I could not have believed to be possible.

Claire and I went to the Marriott in Copacabana in hopes of buying a pool membership which would allow us unlimited access to the pool and fitness center. Unfortunately, those plans fell through. Obviously we don't exactly scream 'carioca' especially when we speak English to the people at the front desk. We were headed towards the elevator and an older American man was headed in the same direction. He asked us where we were from and when we replied "Ohio", he goes "Oh, you know there was a school shooting there today?" Of course, I told him that was my high school. He appeared to be a little started and kind of grossed out, like that sort of thing is contagious. I wanted to scream. I wanted to set him straight. Chardon is NOT defined by this shooting. Chardon is about the community that is built and the love that is shared between the people. Chardon has risen up and banded together in this time of tragedy. THAT is what Chardon is about, not this shooting.

Holla at my brother for being on national news.
Go ahead and click here for the news report that features the above tweet: MSNBC Report

Out of my 21 and a half years of life, I have never, ever been more proud to be a Hilltopper than I have been today. Proud of the love, proud of the sense of community, proud of the incredible teachers who work at Chardon High, proud to wear red and black.

Update: It's currently 4:08pm Brazil time on Tuesday, February 28 which translates to 2:08pm in my dear Chardon, Ohio. Since I originally posted, two other students have died. Which is horrendous. My heart stops each time I hear about another death. I still cannot emphasize how incredible it is to see everyone come together to support each other. The Facebook groups and profile pictures and statuses from everyone around the country blow me away. I cannot say it enough, I am so, so proud of my community.

Please go to this website to watch a video from the Candlelight Vigil that was held on February 28. It moved me to tears.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

"...and Carnaval Is Their Party."

"The beach is their playground, samba is their music, and Carnaval is their party."

Wow, oh wow. Saturday night Mónica and Katja picked us up around 6:30pm and took us downtown to watch the samba parade. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. Ever. There were six samba schools that performed, beginning with the school that finished in sixth place and ending with the champions. Each school performed for about an hour or so and just samba-ed down the street. The floats were huge, the costumes were intricate, and the dances were intense. The words I'm trying to find to describe the parade don't do the night justice, and neither do the pictures that we all took. But here's a glimpse of the once in a lifetime night we all had.

Claire, the make-up artist, made us look dashing for the night ahead.

Panoramic view from our seats.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Vacation From Our Vacation.

After the bloco in Ipanema, Vania drove Amanda, Claire, and I to her house in Niteroi. It was a gorgeous house with a pool and sunshine and seven poodles to keep us company. Vania and John introduced us to some Portuguese music and we picked up some Portuguese phrases, we had caipirinhas in the pool and just escaped from the hustle and bustle in Rio.
Rough life down here in Rio.
Their backyard. That pool was our saving grace.
On Wednesday, (after a long, hard day sipping caipirinhas in the pool) John and Vania took us to an Italian restaurant near their house. Our waiter was really awesome and we were actually able to understand most of what he was saying!! It's getting so much easier to understand Portuguese, but it's still difficult to respond back to people. We're working on that though, one step at a time.

Our waiter at the Italian resturant we went to.
On the way back to Botafogo, we stopped at an ice cream shop that had 65 different flavors of ice cream. And you could pick as many as your wanted because you paid by weight. Let me reiterate-- SIXTY FIVE flavors! I couldn't decide if I wanted to go the fruity route and get a combination of grape, strawberry, and passion fruit (uva, morango, e maracuja, for you Portuguese speaking folk) or the chocolate-y route. I ended up deciding on the chocolate. Chocolate, toasted coconut, and cookies and cream with chocolate sprinkles. No regrets there.

Outside of the ice cream shop from heaven.
Flat Stanley got some ice cream too, I might add.
Besides stopping at the fabulous ice cream shop, John and Vania gave us the scenic tour of Niteroi and downtown Rio. This spaceship looking creation is a contemporary art museum which is some place that I would like to go back to, if the chance arises.

John and Vania were so hospitable and wonderful to us. It was quite possibly the best three days I've spent in Rio de Janeiro yet, there's a huge possibility that we'll be spending another weekend there soon.

The three of us with John and Vania in front of the Guanabara Bay.

Party Like a Brazilian.

"Come with happiness in your hearts and samba in your feet." -- John

This commercial for the Norwegian cruise line was on all the time before I left the States and headed for sunny Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Now that I am here, I am fully able to understand the phrase "party like a Brazilian". Brazilians sure do know how to have a good time-- usually until at least 2 or 3am. Which I am not cut out for, I'm more at the speed of "nap like a college student."

John is one of the high school teachers at OLM and him and his wife, Vania, invited us over to their house for a couple of days during Carnaval. Vania and a few of her friends came over to our house and then took us over to a bloco at Ipanema. Let me explain these blocos for a second. They are not just a couple of friends hanging out in their front lawns. These are HUGE street carnivals, which usually cover a whole block. Hence bloco. There are people in costume, bands, noise makers, drinks, and huge crowds. These blocos have been going on each weekend since we've arrived on various streets throughout Rio and then became an everyday occurance starting two weeks ago.

We'd attended a couple different blocos, but they had always been in the middle of the day which was always miserably hot and filled with people who are talking and singing in Portuguese. Don't get me wrong, they were fun, but they weren't great. And then we met Vania.

The bloco in Ipanema was at night time, so it was cooler and we were with a couple of people who spoke English and Portuguese, so they could let us know what was going on. We learned how to samba... kind of,  bought some Carnaval memorabilia, and lived life like the Brazilians. It was a late night filled with lots of energy, but also so many memories and laughs.

Monday, February 20, 2012

"Every Day With You Is My Favorite Day."

Yesterday morning the Scavarda family picked us up promptly at 9am and took us to downtown Rio to the Banco do Brasil to see an art exhibition of Tarsila do Amaral, a very famous Brazilian artist. I squished into the backseat of their car with Kadu and Juju and, let me tell you, it was quite an adventure. Kadu chattered on and on the entire way there. At one point he scrunched up his nose and crossed his fingers and goes "When I knew that you were all coming I went like this because I wanted you to sit in the back with us and I was happy because you did. Because every day with you is a happy day." Cue melting heart.

Kadu and I.
I snapped a couple of pictures at the museum, but the fact that we weren't allowed to take pictures in many exhibit coupled with a first grader who was pulling me around everywhere, I didn't get to document much. The art was interesting, but the best part was the collections of money from around the world. It was amazing to see the differences in each country's currency! And then to see how boring our money is compared to all the other countries, let's step it up USA.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Escadrias da Lapa.

When Ellen was here last semester, she met a girl named Marcia who is about our age, Brazilian, and speaks fluent English. We became friends with her (on Facebook, of course, this is the 21st century) and then finally got to meet her in person yesterday. She came over to our villa and then we hopped on a bus to Lapa. In one trip we were able to see the Arcos da Lapa (the Arches of Lapa) and the Escadarias da Lapa (stairs of Lapa). I wanted to see the arches so badly and kind of freaked out a little when we saw them. I think they are gorgeous, I could have taken pictures of them all day.

Acros da Lapa.
We walked down a couple of back streets that were so lively and filled with so many people and little bars before coming to the stairs. Which are also gorgeous. I don't know what I was expecting, but these steps just appeared. We were just wandering along down the street and then all of a sudden, there they were!

Me hanging out on the stairs.

This man, Selaron, is from Chile and decided to design these stairs. People from all over the world sent him different tiles with all sorts of pictures on them and then he placed them together in a giant mosaic staircase. They were breath-taking. I could not even believe how amazing and intricate they were.

This was literally twenty feet off the ground. Amazing.

At the stairs in Lapaaa!

All of us with the man who designed the stairs!

Marcia and I acting Brazilian.

Reppin' our home state.

Oh yeah, Flat Stanley came too.

A Not So Typical Week at OLM

It has been such a busy, crazy, fun week here at OLM! On Tuesday we celebrated Valentine's Day AND the 100th day of school, then on Thursday we celebrated the Carnaval Ball AND Ms. Cruz's birthday. The students have been so wound up and wild, but so excited about being at school.

The students exchanged the valentines that they had made with me and the valentines that they had made with Ms. Souza. The students randomly picked the name of the friend who would be receiving their valetine to avoid people being fiesty about who they were sending their card to. "You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit." The students are all at the point in their lives where the girls think that the boys are gross and the boys think that the girls have cooties. So it was super funny to watch the some of the kids exchange valentines and squirm when they had to give each other a hug.

In the afternoon, the students had a "100 Day Exhibition". They had brought in a collection of 100 something-- balloons, stamps, coins, whatever, and then counted them out on their desks for everyone to see. We brought various teachers into the classroom to ooh and ahh over the kids' collections. They also made 100 day hats which had ten rows of ten different items on them. Some of them really hated it, but some didn't really want to take them off.

They also had to bring in 100 of a certain food, so we had 100 Bis, 100 brigadero, 100 jelly beans, 100 chips, 100 of some sort of Argentinian candy. 100 stomachaches. But seriously, it was so fun. The kids and the teachers all loved it.

Yesterday was the Carnaval ball, and wow, let me tell you. That was crazy. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. The kids brought in costumes and changed after lunch. It was basically just a wild Halloween party. They dressed up as princesses, superheroes, Jasmine, Woody, soccer players, hula girls, anything. Each kid got a GIANT bag of confetti to throw down in the cafeteria.
Brittany, Vivi, and I at the Carnaval Ball.
We marched on downstairs and into the cafeteria. They had a sound system hooked up and played music really loudly while everyone danced around and threw confetti. It was SO FUN! It's so awesome to see the kids out of their "typical" element, just letting loose and having fun. It's been moments like this that have really allowed me to connect with my students so well, so quickly.

That ended in a nice faceful of confetti. Thanks, love.
After the Carnaval Ball, we trekked back upstairs (bringing loads of confetti with us, which I'm sure the cleaning ladies loved) for Ms. Cruz's birthday. The kids all thought that it was a surprise, but Ms. Cruz actually knew it was happening and just acted surprised. Again, SOOO much food! More brigadero, cake, ice cream, cookies, chips, candy. A child's heaven.

Carnaval Ball.
This week was wild and crazy and hectic, but so much fun. It's been a good experience in how a change in the daily schedule can affect the students and what the teacher wants to teach. It's also been fantastic experiencing another culture and how to teach the students about their own culture-- especially when Carnaval is such a huge part of Brazilian culture.

Clip Up Or Down? YOU Choose!

I am getting so much more comfortable in my classroom, and in Brazil, every day! Time is FLYING by-- I cannot believe that it's been three weeks already! THREE!

This week I started taking over a little bit more in my classroom. I lead homeroom every morning as well as administering the dictation (which is their spelling test). We celebrated the 100th day of school on Tuesday, so they had a 100 day math packet to complete which included 100 spelling words. The students have completed between 10 and 20 words a day and have done fantastic with it. I am so impressed!!

Not only have I began teaching and working a little bit more in the classroom, but I also introduced a clip chart for behavior. I loved the color wheel at Crestview Elementary, but kind of wanted to be able to recognize the students who were going above and beyond my expectations. I saw the following clip chart on Pinterest and re-created it for my student teaching experience.

Each day the students start out on green (Ready to Learn). Throughout the day, based on their behavior, their clip can be moved up or down. The students all try SO hard to get their clip moved up and do NOT like it when they get their clip moved down. If Ms. Souza wasn't in the room or wasn't looking when I moved their clip, the students make sure to tell her right away. It's pretty adorable.

I explained to the students that they have all day to move their clip around. So if they get their clip moved down to "Consequences" or "Parent Contact" during homeroom, they should work harder throughout the day to get their clip up higher. The students here HATE getting notes written home to their parents, so I did not want them to freak out if they got on red. As a class, we decided that you would get an actual reward or punishment based on where your clip is when the agendas are placed on the floor at the end of the day.

I am so thankful that the students are responding so well to this behavior clip chart! They are so excited about it and it makes me excited about it as well!

Monday, February 13, 2012

One Zillion Valentines

As everyone knows, tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Which means that preparations for the festivities began today.

My students made a valentine with Ms. Souza to exchange with anyone outside of school such as their mom, dad, grandparents, nanny, or maid. (Yes, that's right, I said nanny or maid. It's affordable and very common for the people of Brazil to have nannies and maids. It's actually strange to NOT have one, which is so different from how it is in the States.)

I worked with the students in making a valentine to exchange with their classmates. We traced their hands and used the sign language "I love you" as the idea. I had to explain what sign language was used for as many of them had never heard of it. When I showed the "I love you" sign, one boy goes "ROCK ON!" Close little buddy, close.

 I worked with the students four at a time and each student actually had time to make the valentine today. Ms. Souza said to just assign who they would be giving their valentines to or else some students would receive a lot and some would receive none at all. I had each student close their eyes and draw a name of one of their classmates as their recipient. Some were very happy with who they chose, others were less than pleased. It was a good lesson in being friends with everybody though.

The students had a close to impossible time keeping their valentines a secret. Whether they were telling the person directly or sneaking a peak at other students valentines and going to that person, they could NOT keep it a secret. I had to tell multiple students that it's a really big secret that we want to be a surprise tomorrow. It wasn't that it really was a huge secret, but some students who were upset about who they had chosen were quite obviously more upset when their classmates laughed at them or rubbed in it. This is what I was trying to curb, hopefully it worked.

It was a good self-esteem boost to see the students all so excited about what I was doing with them. They all responded pretty well and kept asking if they were next to come work with me. Some of them enjoyed it a little too much and kept standing near the table as their classmates were working. That'll have to be something to work on for my next lesson.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Checking Things Off Our Bucket List!

As you may or may not know, the police in Rio are on strike. They get paid incredibly low wages each month and are sick and tired of it. So they're striking for higher wages and using the upcoming Carnaval as leverage. I'm not good at summarzing details, but you can easily Google it and find out the information for yourself.

[By suggestion of the wonderful Mrs. Kasych, I would like to add that there ARE national police here in Rio to keep the peace and keep up with general police duties. There are just less national police than there are local police. The local police have also worked out some sort of agreement where some of them are still going in to work to protect the city. I think that's how it's working out. So the city isn't completely police-less.]

Due to the strike, many people in Rio think that it is too dangerous to go outside and way too dangerous for us to go outside. We stayed in Friday night, but then decided that we absolutely could not sit in the house any longer. We've played it very safe the past couple of days while going out to explore the city. [Again, the city has police here. We aren't going out into the snarling teeth of hoodlums. We're sticking to safe, well-policed areas and avoiding sketchy areas. If anything ever felt unsafe, we'd hightail it back to our little apartment, pronto.]

Saturday afternoon-ish Amanda, Brittany, and I hopped in a cab down to Hotel Sofitel in Copacabana. Melania had mentioned that there was an antique fair there every Saturday and that it might be something to check out. We wanted something safe and something cheap, so it seemed like a good bet. It was interesting enough to look at, but antiques aren't really my thing, so it wasn't necessarily something that I would be dying to do again.

The antique fair-- so many floors!
The best part was when we stopped at the souvenir shop right outside the antique fair. We said hello to the person working in Portuguese and then continued talking to each other in English. After a few minutes, the man asks us where we are from. We said Ohio, of course, and he goes "Really?! I'm from Ohio, too! A little town called Painesville, you've probably never heard of it." As a matter of fact, sir,  I HAVE heard of it. Such a small world.

After going to the antique fair, we crossed the street to go to Forte de Copacabana, or the military fort at Copacabana. We paid R$4 to get in and spent a couple of HOURS walking around. The views were gorgeous and the whole place was very educational. There was a little cafe and a restaurant inside the fort that overlooks the Sugarloaf and Copacabana, so we're hoping to go back soon.

Forte de Copacabana.
Notice the flowers made out of bullets.
Later that night, Amanda, Brittany, and I went to this little store called "Americano Express" that sells DVDs for cheap. I know, I know, why spend my money on American DVDs? But we were cooped up inside and Claire didn't feel well, so we had to get something. I ended up buying 'Transformers 3' for only $7.50. Which is a huge steal, if you ask me. Sure, the menu screen is all in Portuguese, but I can figure out how to change the language, no problem.

We had a lazy morning this morning, just hanging around the house working on lesson plans. I was flipping through one of the thousand travel books that we have sitting around the house when I landed on the page about the Jardim Botânico. It was 2:30pm when I was reading the book and the garden closed at 5pm. I gave everyone half an hour and told them to hurry up and get ready because we were leaving at 3pm. And we did.

Claire and I by the incredible trees.
The gardens were breath-taking! We could see the Christ Statue every time we turned around, the plants were incredible, and the weather turned out to be fantastic. We left before seeing the whole thing, but agreed that we will definitely be coming back!

Christ Statue.