B.I.F.F Day 4

I had a pretty mixed experience yesterday at the Bangkok International Film Festival. I only saw two movies, one shitty and one great, but mostly kept wishing I could re-watch I Killed My Mother. Tonight is my final film, Mammoth, which will probably play to a very packed house. It’s been really fun to attend a major film festival, and a cheap one at that (ended up being ~$2.60 per film).

Jamila and thre President - Poster4Jamila and the President / Jamila dan Sang Presiden

Country: Indonesia
Director: Ratna Sarumpaet
Length: 97 mins
Grade: D

Synopsis: “Jamila is a prostitute serving a life sentence behind bars. She surrenders herself to the authorities after admitting she killed a high-ranking minister, and refuses to be represented by any lawyer or request a plea to ease her sentence. The controversy spreads all over the nation, followed by a reaction from a militant group forcing the government to give the death penalty to Jamila. The prison slowly reveals Jamila’s story: she is a victim of child trafficking, a crime that has become a custom in many places. Jamila represents millions of children who has been sold in the name of poverty and the lack of education.”

Weighty, important subject matter does not necessarily mean a weighty, important film. Jamila and the President is overwrought, daytime soap opera material. Good production values can’t hide the fact that there’s nothing at its core except a poor script overacted by melodramatic people. Sarumpaet adapted the screenplay from her own theater play and this is very obvious in a few key scenes that don’t translate well to film at all. Most characters act illogically and unrealistically, and by the end I cared little about or for any of them. My bad experience with this movie was not helped by subtitles that were poorly translated and written in large, Comic Sans font.

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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.