On the bright side:
My TEFL class, unlike almost everything else so far, has been more or less just like I imagined it. On Monday I woke up just before 9am ready to meet the taxi by 9.45am… only for Rosie, the dorm mama, to come grab me at 9.30. Lo and behold, who should be waiting for me in the taxi but a fellow GIC-er from Chicago. At the TEFL International office, there were — hallelujah — more gringos just as overwhelmed as myself. There were 10 of us total, but a mother/son duo dropped after the 1st day. We range from ~21 through ~61, but the contingent of twentysomethings is obviously the majority. Three of us are Midwesterners, and all three of us live in the same student residence.
The office/school is about a 30-minute walk from our dorm, but I think we’re going to stick with taxis in the morning — because it’s ~$1/ea/day & only 10 minutos — and then walk home when we quit around 4.30 or 5pm. We start at 10am and lunch is from 1-2pm. I’ve discovered that GIC is basically an optional intermediary between prospective students & TEFL International — I’ve had zero contact with the former, but have found the latter nothing but professional. The classes have been suitably rigorous but not overbearingly difficult. Among our class I feel comfortably average: not the most educated or well-traveled, but not the least; not the best at Spanish, but not the worst; not the best teacher (so far), but not the worst, etc etc. All of us have some previous cross-cultural experience — some quite extensive — but only one of us isn’t a U.S. citizen (he’s British). I will post photos later because our school (just one floor of a perhaps 3-storied place) is really nice — I love the central patio/garden that all rooms encircle & look out upon.
Surprise-of-the-week has been our sessions learning Gaelige, the language mainly spoken on the far west coast of Ireland. One of our teachers is an ex-hitchhiking, globetrotting Irishman so over three days he’s modeling, via Gaelige, how we’re supposed to teach English to speakers of other languages. It’s intended to simultaneously (and perhaps this is the main goal) help us feel what it’s like to try to learn a language cold. So this builds empathy with our future students, demonstrates our school’s preferred teaching method/paradigm, embarrasses all of us… ie, a rollicking good time. Unbelievably frustrating though.
So far I’ve mostly laid low and done homework, etc but last night I went with a couple TEFLers + random expats to a La Bomba de Tiempo show at Ciudad Cultural Konex, a place that resembles (formerly was?) an enormous warehouse. The show was basically like a percussion rave, though occasionally with other instruments — last night featured a sick flautist. It was pretty crazy to see hundreds of BsAs hipsters dancing like mad to just drums + flute. Glad I went, even though I actually left after about 80 minutes or so in order to a) do my homework [LOL skool] and b) get to bed on time and c) preserve my hearing. God I’m old.
On the dark side:
There are lots of downers so far. Well, for starters… I had my iPod stolen this afternoon on my way home. Yesterday was the San Martin holiday so BsAs was very quiet — but in full swing today, the streets were so busy & crowded. I’m mostly super angry at the pickpocket, but also a bit angry at myself for putting the thing in my backpack pocket and a bit angry at the people who undoubtedly saw the thief unzip my bag & reach in. I mean, I’m happy he didn’t get to my wallet, keys, or laptop… but come on. GRRRRRRR
Secondly, I can’t take the emotional swings. I don’t know what’s culture shock, what’s “normal” worrying, and what’s rational advice that my mind is trying to get through to me. I love the weather here (50-60s), but it gets dark before 6.30pm and this does not help my moods. More fundamentally, I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t even know if I want to teach ESL, let alone in Argentina. I mean, I’m essentially terrible at living in North America (paying bills, doing errands, holding a job) so how the hell am I supposed to live in South America?
Thirdly, I feel like I’m hemorrhaging cash over here. Some of this is because rumors of BsAs’ cheap cost of living are very relative; if you’re a banker from Manhattan, yes you will find this place extremely reasonable. If you made blue-collar wages in Ohio and will likely make even less teaching English over here… then no, BsAs is not a bargain paradise. Furthermore, some of this money trouble is because I’m likely being cheated at times. I am not trying to be an ugly Yankee casting dispersions on the beautiful people of Argentina: this is just reality in a big city that’s foreign to me. Without prices on many store-bought things, I have no way of knowing what is or is not reasonable and whether the clerk is or is not ripping me off. And my Spanish is so bad (this is admittedly my fault) that I have no way to challenge anything.
I’m sorry for the emo rant, but I’m trying to present an honest picture of what life is like here so far. People thinking about TESOL and/or BsAs deserve an accurate sketch. That my little brother & sister both successfully taught ESL is amazing, and it sucks that I’m going to be the first one to bomb hard.