Friday, March 30, 2012

Two Months In, One Month Left.

"The world is an open book and those who do not travel only see one page."

I cannot believe that I have officially been living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for TWO MONTHS. Last Friday we went to the Copacabana vendor fair with Lacy, Jordan, and Ruth. As we were walking around Lacy asks " Are you ever walking around trying to live a normal life and then you realize that you are living in Rio de Janiero, Brazil?" Yes, yes I do. Almost every day.

I cannot believe that we have one month left. Exactly a month from now, at this time, I will be flying from Texas to Ohio. Or just about to land in Texas. I will have completed my adventure in Rio de Janeiro and will be headed back to good old Ashland, Ohio.

I have mixed feelings about that. Part of me is excited to go home and see my friends and family. I MISS everyone. I miss running across the hall to go talk to Tracy or Andrea. I miss seeing my ECE girls every day for eight hours a day. I miss hanging out in my apartment with my roommates and doing the most ridiculous things. I miss the 7:00-8:00pm hour watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. I miss seeing everyone in Convo every day. As much as I never thought I would say it, I miss Alpha Delta Pi. Lip Sync was last week and ADPi won-- I was soo excited for them, I can only imagine all of the hard work that went into it, but I was sad for me. I missed my last Lip Sync. Formal is tomorrow and I won't be there. Senior Retreat is coming up soon and I can't go. I miss everyone in the States.

But then another, maybe bigger, part of me is sad to leave. I am in love with this country, with this city, with my class. Every day my students say or do something that makes me laugh out loud. They are FUNNY, they have huge, vibrant personalities that shine through each and every day. Their imaginations run wild and they are more than willing to give me a glimpse into the workings of a first grade mind. They are wild and crazy and leave me totally exhausted, but I love them. I have never been in a more dynamic class and truly cannot imagine leaving them here.

I love this city. Never before have I lived in a city and I love all of the freedom and options that it provides me with. I love being able to catch a taxi or hop on a bus and going wherever I want. I can go to downtown Rio or I can go to the beach. Rio really does provide everything that you need. I love the welcoming atmosphere. I love the opportunity to expand my horizons-- meet new people, learn a new language, become a part of something that I hadn't realized existed outside of the States. On a totally superficial level, I also love the juice bars that I find on every single street corner. Life in the States isn't like life here in Rio at all. It's different; not better and not worse. I know that wherever I end up in life, I will not find another environment like that which exists in Rio.

I love Brazil. It's a wonderful country filled with beautiful people and breath-taking natural creations. It makes me so sad to think that I will be living this incredible country soon and not knowing when I will return. I have been able to go to the beach and a tropical forest all in the same day. This is NOT something that I am able to experience in the States. Throughout my time here, I have further solidified the idea that the best things in life are free. I haven't paid for a beach sunset, I haven't paid to hike up the Sugarloaf and feed a monkey.

Being in Rio has changed me. I am dying to see the rest of the world, to experience things that I would not be able to see while living in the States. The world has so much to offer and I would miss out on so many incredible places, people, and experiences if I do not go out and see them for myself.

I go back and forth on how I feel about going home. I am happy, yet I am sad. But in the end, I know that I will look back on this trip with nothing but fond memories. Rio pushed me farther outside of my comfort zone and proved to me that there are lots of things that I CAN do. I've met many wonderful people here and will leave with memories that will never leave me. I am happy to return to the people that I have known for years, but will be sad to leave these people who I have only know for three months yet have changed my life forever.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lapa. Conquered.

We finally did it. We finally conquered Lapa.

Everyone has always suggested to us that we should go out in Lapa. I've never been a "going out" sort of person, I've always been more of a "staying in" sort of person. But this weekend we were going out sort of people and headed straight to Lapa.

Jordan, Lacy, and Ruth came over to Botafogo and then we all hopped on the 410 to Lapa. We were supposed to meet John and Vania at Rio Scenarium which was voted one of the Top Ten Bars In The World. We didn't see them, and we were a little earlier than we had expected, so we sat outside at the restaurant next door.

At the restaurant.
We spent the all of dinner just hanging out and finally being with other people who were our age and spoke English as their primary language. We introduced Jordan, Lacy, and Ruth to pastels-- which ended up being a raging success. Around 10:30pm we decided to head on into Rio Scenarium even though we hadn't seen John or Vania yet.

Our signature dance move.
Man alive, we tore up that dance floor. Elbows thrown, fish caught, might have even done the limbo. We made a TON of new friends, even if it was only for a night. I was shocked at how many people spoke English there.

Jordan, Lacy, and Ruth must've brought out the best in Claire and I because we did more in the last week than we had the entire trip. Thank goodness for getting on the wrong bus, that's all I have to say.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cheers to the Freakin' Weekend

"They're reading books in English. And have towels. And their bathing suits cover their whole butts. Yeah, they must be American."

The weekends here are never long enough. And that's what I have to say about that.

Friday night we went to Carol's birthday party. We didn't get to stay very long, but we did get to hang out with Carol and her family, bust a few dance moves on the tiny dance floor, and eat some Brazilian deliciousness which happened to include liver. After school we went with John to his apartment, met Vania and her friends, and then drove to Carol's party which was downtown.

Claire and I seem to have the best luck with taxi drivers. On the way to the party, our taxi driver would not stop laughing at us for singing this popular Brazilian hit. If his radio hadn't been stolen, we wouldn't have had to sing the chorus (which is the only part we know) fifty million times.

The same taxi driver also told us that we were very funny and smelled good. All right, buddy, keep those compliments coming, that's what I like to hear. Honestly though, it's getting a lot easier  to communicate with the people here in Brazil, even with our terribly broken Portuguese. 90% of the time we can get our point across with very little problems.

Vania's friends were visiting from another part of Brazil and the one lady brought her two year old daughter, Annarita. Cutest little two year old ever. We were in the car telling Vania about our previously mentioned experiences with the taxi driver and little Annarita starts singing "Delicia. Delicia." Which is part of that song I posted, if you didn't check it out. She had me, hook, line, and sinker.

Claire and I took over babysitting for the night and spent the rest of the evening dancing, clapping, and blowing "beijos" (or kisses) with Annarita. Apparently we really wore her out because John said she was asleep after minutes in the car, but then woke up the next morning asking where we were. Too. Cute.

Saturday was spent lesson planning, applying for jobs, and doing lots of clerical work. I guess that's the real reason we are here though, so I suppose that I shouldn't complain too much.

Sunday started out much the same as Saturday, but in the early afternoon Claire and I decided to go do some shopping at the Hippie Fair in Ipanema and then go to the beach. Apparently we took the wrong bus and ended up in Leblon. No problem, we'll just make this a beach day. Which is exactly what we did.

And it's a good thing too! We met some Americans from Knoxville, Tennessee who we are hoping to hang out with this week. And, small world. The one girl taught in Siguatepeque, Honduras and knows some of the friends that I made there.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

"All Of You Would Get Kicked Out Of A Yoga Class."

Yoga as desrcibed by a six year old. "I know what yoga is! It's where you sit criss-cross like this and put your fingers in an okay sign like this, close your eyes and go 'hummm.'"

I did a lesson earlier this week on muscles. All right, they help us move, they protect our bones. First graders don't want to hear that. So we did a little yoga. If I have to miss every single yoga class at the Rec Center this semester, then you can bet your bottom dollar that I'm incorportating it into my lessons.

I wish that I could have videotaped and posted these kiddos doing yoga. Tree, Child's, Cobra, Chain, Eagle-- these poor kids thought that I was taking them to hell and back. Just wait until I have them do King Dancer.

Anyways, the hardest part about yoga wasn't even the poses. These kids could not, or would not, stop talking. It was fine for this lesson, but I told them that they would get kicked out of any yoga class that they ever go to because not all yoga instructors are as nice as me.

Unfortunately, I could only post pictures where you couldn't see the students faces, so you can only take a look at them doing a little pre-yoga stretching.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Oh Wait, I'm Here To Teach?

With all the fun activities that have been going on down here in Rio, it's easy to forget that I'm here to teach. These past few weeks in first grade have been full of hands-on activities that the students have responded to quite well.

For my unit, I am covering the human body. So each week we are learning about some aspect of the human body. The first week we made these flowers that show the growth of the students. On the first petal they wrote about something that was different about them when they were babies. Things such as "I was fat", "I didn't have teeth", "I wore diapers". On the second petal, they wrote about something that they can do now such as "I can color", "I can get dressed", "I can play Beyblades". Whatever they can do right now. In the top of the flower they wrote about something that they cannot do yet, but will be able to do when they get older. The students really loved this activity and didn't seem to realize that they were learning.

Flowers about how we've grown and changed.
Last week we learned about the teeth and how important it is to brush your teeth and keep them clean. We did an experiment-- which the students LOVED! We set up the experiment on Wednesday as a whole class and then on Thursday we worked in small groups to finish up the experiment.

An egg that had been sitting in Coca-Cola overnight.
We took five hard-boiled eggs and soaked them in Coca-Cola overnight. We set up the experiment in the morning and the students were asking me all Wednesday if they could check the eggs. They were so into this! Thursday morning they could hardly sit through homework they were SO excited to check the eggs.

The eggs once they had been brushed.
After soaking the eggs in Coca-Cola overnight, the egg shells were dyed brown. We talked about how the egg represents the tooth and how the Coca-Cola represents the sweets that are okay for us to eat sometimes, but not all of the time. Each student took turns brushing the eggs and watching the eggs turn white again. Once the eggs were brushed, we examined the shells to see how there were still some brown spots left on the shells that we couldn't brush off no matter how hard we tried. This was a good representation for the students of how important it is to brush their teeth every day.

And a close-up.
I hadn't planned on using the hygenie time that occurs after lunch as an assessment for this lesson, but it kind of ended up being that way. While the students were brushing their teeth many of them were telling me about how they were brushing their teeth properly and how they didn't want their teeth to turn brown like the egg.

A little unsure as to why I can't rotate these.
In Social Studies we talked about the seven different continents and learned different facts about each one. Unfortunately, I had to do this lesson in two parts as the first day I tried to teach in the afternoon the Tuesday after the shooting at Chardon. I was mentally exhausted and the students have a really short attention span at the end of the day; two strikes against us. Luckily, Ms. Souza stepped in and helped with the students.
Note the girl holding the Brazilian flag.
On the first day, we covered South America, North America, and Europe. The students then went to their desks and had to try to draw their favorite continent and recall some of the pictures (either of native animals or famous landmarks) I had showed them about that continent and draw those as well. Some of the students rushed through their work, but others actually put a lot of time into them.

Best drawing of the Mexican flag I've ever seen.
The students really never cease to amaze me. Sometimes I really feel like the students are not paying attention to anything that I am saying, but then spout of these awesome answers that totally blow me away. Apparently these first graders are really good at multi-tasking.

England in a nutshell.
Case in point, this little buddy. When talking about Europe, I showed a picture of Big Ben. This kid went to his desk and drew out this whole drawing. Big Ben "cling", a map of London, the queen with the guards, and the Buckingham Palace. Seriously, blew me out of the water. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

If You Wanted Things To Be The Same As The States, You Should Have Stayed In The States.

OLM is an educational environment that I have never experienced before. I think I got a little taste of it while teaching in Costa Rica, but I don't think that I was there long enough to understand the in's and out's of everything.

After being at OLM for four weeks, I finally have a grasp about how things work there as opposed to any other school that I have been at. I don't think that anything at OLD is bad, I just think that a lot of things are different from what I am used to. Again, not bad, just different. In fact, I think that I like the environment here better than the school I have been in in the States.

The copy room at OLM is manned by one individual. You hand him the things that you need copied along with a count and a due date. Then he copies them and returns them to you. This is also where you go if you need markers, erasers, construction paper, things laminated, whatever. You fill out a request form and then he gets it for you. I need hard-boiled eggs for my lesson this week, so I requested that the school buys it for me. I have never experienced anything like this in my life. I'm used to going up to the IRC laminating what I need, copying what I need, grabbing extra markers if I need them. Having the copy room definitely makes me more resourceful in my lesson. It also makes me plan ahead because I have to have worksheets and lessons ready well in advance.

As far as being resourceful goes, I never realized how much I relied on having 24 hour access to a computer and printer before coming here. I have my laptop, but I don't have my own printer. We are able to print to the office, but I don't want to be printing 19 copies of various activites as well as all my paperwork for Ashland every day. Because of this, I've started creating a lot of things by hand. I may go back to the States an artist. I've created hundreds of medallions due to the behavior chart, I traced, cut out, and assembled 20 flowers for a science units, I've drawn many English posters. It's time consuming and tedious, but way more rewarding than just having print-outs to give the students. I don't want to be limited in my activities due to my resources, so I have found that I am way more resourceful in what I use. In the States I would automatically go to my computer to create something, but now I am finding that I almost enjoy creating my own manipulatives instead.

Not only are the avaliablity of resources and the copy room big changes for me, but the students themselves are different from any students I have ever had. First of all, they are Brazilian. English isn't their first language. Second of all, there's a huge economic difference between the students at OLM and the students that I taught at Mansfield or Crestview.

At the core, kids are kids. There are many things that are the same. But at the same time, these students have been given a lot more opportunites than I had while growing up or of any students I have had before. The majority of these students have traveled to the United States and a large handful have traveled to Europe. I have three or four students in my class grew up in a different country and then moved to Brazil.

The classroom management in my current classroom is a lot more relaxed than any classroom that I have been in before. The students are wild because they are first graders, not because they have poor behavior. They love their friends and they love to talk. I definitely have to think out of the box to keep them engaged long enough to finish a lesson and share important information. Which is awesome, but also exhausting.

It's easy for me to start to feel fed up in my classroom. Fed up that I don't have the resources avaliable that I'm used to, fed up that I can't be lazy and just print out activities, fed up that the students are draining my engery and aren't paying attention to what I am saying.

But then I realize that this is the reason that I am in Brazil. I'm in Brazil to be challenged. If it was easy, I shouldn't be a teacher. If it was easy, it wouldn't be helping me grow. If it was easy, I am wasting my time. Not having the resources at my disposal is helping me become more creative and hands-on with my teaching. Having to plan ahead for copies forces me to not be a procrastinator. Teaching a class full of energetic six and seven year olds has pushed me to plan more engaging and entertaining lessons as well as attention grabbers that work for them.

Then I realize something else. Yes, this is hard for me. Yes, I experienced some culture shock and have noticed differences between a Brazilian classroom and one in the States. But at the same time it is just as difficult for my students. A new person who doesn't speak Portuguese and has a funny English accent is in their classroom. This new person is expecting them to do more and act differenly than their Brazilian teacher. The expectations that I have for them are different than their own teachers have had in the past. It IS hard for me to be here. It IS hard to be working in a classroom full of English Language Learners. But it is equally difficult for them to have me here.

I cannot sit here and put all the blame on my class. I cannot sit here and say that I am the one who is right and they are the ones who are wrong. I entered THEIR country and came into THEIR classroom. We are al learning. The students are learning from me and I from them. It's not easy for any of us, we all get frustrated with each other from time to time. But we are all learning so much about each other and other cultures as well as the educational content. Yes, it is difficult, but I there's no place that I would rather be than here.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Cristo Redentor.

We FINALLY went to the Christ Statue! Amanda, Claire, and I woke up around 6:30 this morning and left our apartment about an hour later to catch the 8:30 train up Corcovado. We happened to be in luck because there was an 8am train that we were able to take. No wait.

The ride up was maybe...fifteen mintues. It reminded me of the drive to Conversa in Costa Rica SO much. Straight through the forests, up to the top of a mountain. I was almost expecting to see Gata waiting for us and those fantastic hammocks blowing in the wind. Instead we saw clouds. Lots and lots of clouds. And no Christ Statue. Awesome.

We were legitimately in the middle of a cloud which really made it difficult to see the statue. We were all kind of milling around waiting for a break in the clouds so we could snap a good picture. Then we waited about five minutes for another break and took another picture. And so on.

Thankfully, we decided to stay and maybe wait out the clouds, which never fully lifted, but did lift enough for us to get some good pictures. We were able to see the statue quite well, but had no view of Rio de Janeiro. We were kind of disappointed, but very happy that we were able to get good statue pictures. We've kind of tossed around the idea of hiking up Corcovado sometime, so hopefully that would prove to be an awesome time to see the views of the city.

"One Heartbeat. <3 and prayers for Rio de Janeiro."
I had myself a little photo shoot up there on Corcovado Mountain. TOMS flag, Flat Stanley, my freshly made "One Heartbeat" sign. Thank goodness Claire is such a good sport and puts up with these shenanigans.

We wanted to get a picture of all three of us, so we asked these two random guys to take it for us. We don't know how to say "Will you please take our picture?" in Portuguese, but it's a fairly easy thing to communicate with hand motions. These men were NOT understanding what we were asking them. Luckily some lady next to us spoke English and understood, so she took it. And then the two guys hopped in to get a picture with us. Sure buddy, come on in.

We were kind of just hanging around looking at the view and these same guys came up AGAIN. Amanda was off taking pictures, so it was just the two of us. They asked where we were from and where we were staying in Rio. Then at the end of the conversation they go "Keees? Keees?" Claire and I had absolutely no idea what they were getting at. Keys? Quiche? Then we realized they meant kiss. Seriously, a language barrier can really impede conversation sometimes.

No pit stains for the big guy.

7th New Wonder of the World? Seen it.

Ihla de Paquetá

Marcia's aunt suggested that we go to the Ihla de Paquetá in the Guanabara Bay. So last Sunday we hopped on a couple buses and then the ferry which took us over to the island. Unfortunately, we only had about three hours to spend before we had to catch the ferry back. We were all starving so a large chunk of that time was devoted to eating lunch.

After our yummy lunch, we strolled around a little and came across swan boat rides. R$20 for 40 minutes? I think yes. Unfortunately that took us right up to the time that we had to get the ferry back, so we didn't get to explore much of the island. Luckily it isn't a far or expensive trip, so we can easily go back!

13 km to Niteroi