Uno Más Día

Happy 09-09-09! At 09.09pm on 09.09.09 I was eating dinner with two friends and we actually noticed the clock in time. Salud! We were celebrating the completion of another day of lesson planning and teaching. I was celebrating with a copa de vino blanco… except they brought it warm, with ice. That’s a first for me. But we are all excited to be wrapping this class up since we have very little to do tomorrow except teach our last lesson and then just party on Friday.

I have to mention how awesome my “high intermediate” class was last night. These students are pretty close to fluency, so you can talk at a normal pace with natural language and we dispense with the endless repetition that’s so key to lower-level learning. They mostly need help with confusing phrases, idiomatic expressions, connotations, etc. The lesson was prostitution so I started my class by doing a “word web” eliciting words they’d expect to hear in a discussion:
“Bitch!”
“Whore!”
Which may be true, but I was more looking for “red light district.” I think the only phrase that was totally new was “curb crawler,” which I think is a pretty archaic expression for someone who prowls along looking for “street walkers.”

But then we also talked about how prostitution is a “complex” issue, also known as “tricky,” “muddy,” complicated,” “thorny,” or “gray” issues. As opposed to “straightforward” (this was a new word, surprisingly), “simple,” “black-and-white.” We then went over a sheet asking, “Should we legalize brothels?” with a pro/con perspective. I pulled out trouble words/expressions like “consensual,” “condone,” “plain fact,” “devil’s advocate,” and “abysmal” (which I had a lot of fun explaining). For a word nerd, getting to talk about connotations and natural usage was really interesting. Both the pro/con view approached the issue differently, so we discussed various angles on an issue: political, scientific, moral, practical, experiential, etc. With almost all the other classes we try to only teach such a limited number of words — tomorrow I’m introducing just four new vocab — so it was very refreshing to work with a very wide lexical set.

Oh, for what’s worth: 8/9 students — including all the old women — were fully in favor of legalizing brothels & prostitution. The last lady was a bit on the fence and just wanted to remind us to “keep the moral argument in mind too.”

Home Stretch Drag

Sorry for the lack of updates — I was in bed all weekend, knocked out by flu-like symptoms that appear to be a mild version of Swine ’09. Things were looking up a little yesterday, but today I’m feeling awful again. Unfortunately I have to keep lesson planning and keep on teaching. Tonight I’m working with “high intermediate” students, so it’ll be very different than what I’ve had so far. We’re discussing prostitution and various attitudes about the profession and the legalization of brothels. I’ve heard this class loves to talk since they’re basically fluent, so hopefully they’ll carry the hour and I can give my vocal chords a rest.

I should also mention that there’s been a major change in plans. My goal coming to Argentina was to get my TEFL Certificate and then teach ESL in South America. I was shooting for a $12k+ salary to cover living, food, and student debt repayment. Unfortunately I’ve discovered that teaching here is basically break-even, with a good salary being $700/mo… which is just not workable for me because of my loans.

So now I’m moving to Asia. The plan is to leave BsAs on Wednesday the 16th and arrive in Bangkok on Friday where I’ll stay with my parents until I can find my feet. Hopefully from that base in Thailand I can devote my efforts to finding a job in South Korea, where they’ll pay $2k/mo + benefits (like free housing). I’m disappointed that my grand South American adventure has to halt prematurely, but doing my teacher training here in Argentina has been a very valuable experience. Now that I have a plane ticket, however, it’s hard to focus on my remaining work here. I think really everyone in my class is dragging however. We’ve got three more classes to teach and one more lesson plan to do, and I think we’re all really looking forward to being done with this.

Thoughts on My First Two Lessons

I can’t believe I’ve already completed 2 out of my 6 lessons. The days have obviously been really long: leave here just before 10am, get home around 10pm — but it usually goes really fast. First part of the day is lesson planning for the next day + last minute prep for that night’s class; followed by 1 hour of teaching + 1 hour of peer observation; round it out with a session of instructor feedback; then of course everyone goes out for drinks to unwind and gossip about our students. (My god semi-colons are ugly)

First things first: I aced my grammar & phonology exam. This is obviously a relief, but to be clear, it was an open-note test so I would’ve been pretty shocked if I failed. Ok, full rundown on my first two classes: (more…)

Museo de Awesome

We finally got our lesson assignments for the next two weeks. The summary:

Tuesday –>  high beginners –> house chores
Wednesday –> low beginners –> talking about past vacations
Thursday –> basic beginners –> describing daily and weekly routines

Tuesday –> high intermediates –> compare & contrast dating customs
Wednesday –> basic beginners –> houses / our dream house
Thursday –> low beginners –> our future vacation plans

They also gave us the grammar points we need to teach with each (eg the “going to + verb” structure for that last class) but I won’t bother typing those all out now. I wish I had more high beginner & intermediate students but my schedule’s pretty decent otherwise. Monday we take our final exam over grammar & phonology then start prepping for Tuesday’s trial by fire.

I feel like I spent all of today taking public: taxi to class, bus home (my first time on a colectivo; cost me a whopping 30¢), then subway to and from the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires. I had a couple places to see tonight but lots of sites close at 6pm; MALBA was open til 8pm thankfully. It’s normally $4, but I got in for $1.30 as a student with my BAIS card. This museum was well worth the hassle of the subte and is a total bargain even at $4. Mostly 20th-century and contemporary art — which is my preference anyway — though I forgot to look for their Frida Kahlo stuff. As my guidebook points out, MALBA is the only BsAs museo built-for-function, ie it’s not a re-purposed mansion, warehouse, factory, etc. Thus the building itself is extremely interesting, a bit of which you can see in my recently-uploaded photoset. Indoor photos are forbidden so I could only sneak a couple. Unfortunately my shots of the world’s most amazing benches didn’t turn out (someone obviously beat me to it anyway).

Flickr Me Liquor

Today was our first chance to observe an actual ESL class in action. It was very eye-opening & helpful, but actually made me more nervous for my own classes. Tomorrow will be more lectures with another hour of in-class observation. Monday we start doing lesson plans for Tuesday; Tuesday we do lesson plans for Wednesday + actually teach our prepared lesson; Wednesday we do lesson plans for Thursday + teach Tuesday’s lesson; Thursday we do zero lesson plans but teach Wednesday’s lesson. Rinse & repeat for the last week. By the end I will have 6 hours in-class teaching + 8 hours in-class observation + 24-page portfolio. Scary.

A few of us went out to dinner afterwards: omelette con queso y papas fritas, complemented with a glass of wine that was only $1.30. Kazim & I attempted grocery shopping afterwards, but I only ended up buying pop & chocolate ice cream; ie a lot like my old grocery habits in Ohio.

As promised, photos from last weekend: (more…)

Gaeilge for Fun & Profit

Step 1: Learn Gaeilge
Step 2: Move to Ireland
Step 3: ????
Step 4: Profit!

Today we had our last session on Gaeilge (it was about 4 hours over 3 days), and I have to say how impressed I am with this pedagogical tool. It conclusively proved the effectiveness of the school’s methods, and it was very eye-opening to start learning a language from scratch (unlike Spanish, for example, which has a lot of overlap with English and bits of which — “adios” etc — are known by millions of non-speakers).

I like being able to walk most places, but today was rainy, about 50 °F, and kinda miserable. I’ve gone to the same confiteria for lunch the past two days: carne empanadas the first, and an enormous ham/cheese/egg/mayo/lettuce sandwich for today. The place is cheap and very close to the office so it’ll probably be a frequent stop. I went with Arbi, an Indian chap from Britain with a masters in applied linguistics. He’s spent the last 8 years teaching ESL in China and recommended I do TESOL in Asia if I want to pay off my student loans. We’ll see.

Yesterday we got BA International Student cards which should get me a few decent discounts in addition to a whole new support group with options for plenty of activities. They’re arranging a trip to Iguazu Falls next month which I’m definitely interested in. A few BAIS reps have been coming by to talk with us, and tomorrow they’re actually taking a few us apartment hunting. Dorm living is getting shittier by the day so moving out ASAP is a huge priority (if GIC will refund some monies, that is).

What a Sick Rollercoaster

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: (more…)

Strangelife: How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Become a Porteño

Tengo un aviso emocionante: Me estoy trasladando a Buenos Aires en agosto!

In other words, I’m starting a new life in Buenos Aires, Argentina starting mid-August. I received acceptance today into a TESOL certification course and after graduating in September I will hopefully get a job teaching English in Argentina or thereabouts.

This has happened very suddenly in one sense, yet in another I’ve been preparing for this kind of thing for awhile. I looked at a number of locations around the world, but when I stumbled upon Buenos Aires things kind of clicked mentally in a way they hadn’t for other spots and I’ve approached something resembling peace about this decision. I’ll be living in a student apartment with, I think, two others and the course itself runs four weeks for a combined 120+ hours of study.

Anyway, just thought I’d share my news. It hasn’t fully sunk in yet, and I’ll feel even more excited/terrified once I book my flight (IND -> EZE for ~$450 sounds amazing, right?). I’m already brushing up on my Spanish. Wish me luck.