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Archive for April, 2009

New Adventures in an Old Word, Part One

It took 35 minutes to cross the gap between the two continents. The Old World as I know it, meaning Europe, just became older. I stepped off the ferry and breathed in the African air before rushing along to find a taxi to get to the bus station. The craziness that ensued after this brief moment of simplicity didn’t stop until getting off the boat again in Spain 4 days later.

Walking along a road outside the port without a map, unsure of where to go or what to do, a taxi finally stopped my friend Stephen and I and offered to do the 3 hour drive at 7pm at night to Chefchaouen for 700 dirham (70 euros/80 bucks more or less). Definitely out of the question, seeing as how the bus was about $3.75/ one-way! He kindly informs us that the last bus to Chefchaouen left (appropriately) at 6:30pm. However, we insist that he take us to the bus station anyways, just thinking, “Ok, if the last bus left, we’ll just stay the night and hop the first one in the morning, no biggie, but it’ll be a way to shake this guy…” So, the taxi driver agrees to take us to what he calls the “bus station,” except that when we arrive it is this tiny, deteriorating shack made of stucco very similar in style to the booths that precede parking lots where you have to get a ticket to pay for your spot. He gets out, makes some commotion about how we did not believe him about the bus, points at the yellowing paper claiming it is the bus schedule, but all the while my clever partner in crime is eyeing this brightly lit building about 300 meters away and saying, “I think that’s the bus station…” We eventually kindly excuse ourselves from the scene and head towards the brightly lit building, which indeed is the bus station.

Walking into the bus station was my first real taste of being in a completely different and predominantly male culture. We march up to buy our tickets, and then are heading outside to await the bus when we pass this huge room full of men looking in the same direction, eyes fixed on something towards the ceiling. We walk in thinking it might be a TV monitor with the bus schedule and promptly discover that it is just all men watching a soccer game. Well, then in walks me, this little blondie girl, in the middle of pure masculinity… hmm… you can imagine my extreme discomfort. I ducked out immediately and shyly covered my head with my scarf, partly wanting to blend in, but mostly wanting to hide my embarrassment.

The bus ride was a beautiful nocturnal journey winding through the Atlas Mountains. I almost fell out of my seat a few times when the driver took the turns a bit too hard. Getting off in Chefchaouen, we were greeted by a 30-minute climb completely uphill to get to the hostel. The room was beyond interesting, with an animal skin hanging on the wall and the bathroom with a shower curtain as a door. You could literally sit on the toilet and shower at the same time if you wanted…

Chefchaouen was beautiful and enchanting. Painted completely blue, it seems like a familiar wonderland; a place you encounter in your dream world. It was surreal, yet as I said, somehow familiar, provoking a distant sense of nostalgia. We were outsiders spying on the daily mundane activities of the townspeople. I liked the slow pace of life, even slower than that of Sevilla. And I loved seeing that on this new continent, humanity maintains the same basic characteristics; people enjoy the same simple pleasures and laugh and work and are humans. It was fascinating. After one day, it was time to move on to the bustle of the city once again.


Mala educación

Ok, the title to this blog actually has nothing to do with the intense Pedro Almodovar film of the same name. Nothing as melodramatic. I wanted to put down some favorite moments experienced in the classroom this year. Have fun!

In math class a couple months ago, while we were reviewing fractions, we were learning the correct pronunciation of fractions. I was teaching how to say one- half, one- quarter, two-fifths, etc. So, to get the students to practice this terminology, I would write a fraction on the board and have one of them tell me how to say it in English. Standing at the front of the class and looking at the students, this is what it was like from my perspective, going down the line of students pronouncing the fractions:

Carlos: “one- half”
Manuel: “two-fifs”
Javier: “tree-sevents”
Álvaro: “one-turd”
(No one else notices (obviously), but at this I start convulsing with chuckles while I try to continue with the exercise.)

Every time I’m with group A of the first years, if there is any possibility of reading, the moment I say “Does anyone want to volunteer to read?” about 15 hands shoot straight up like rockets. The view from the front of the room is spectacular! To see such enthusiasm at such a young age…. Why can’t all my classes be like that?!

This is not my story, but it makes me laugh hysterically every time I think about it:
My co-worker and dear friend Eva helps out with Natural Science classes. One day they were studying the cell and its parts. To learn the vocabulary, she says the word and the students repeat after her. They were going at a good rhythm such as the following:

Eva: “Nucleus.”
Students: “Nucleus!”
Eva: “Membrane.”
Students: “Membrane!”
Eva: “Vacuole.”
Students: “Vukyuall!”
Eva: “Hmm… let’s try that again, “Vacuole”.”
Students: “Vukyuall!”
Eva: “One more time… “Vaaa-cu-ole”.”
Students: “Vuuuk- yuu-alll!”

You can imagine her chuckling inside at the thought of some random English speaker walking by to hear a classroom of kids screaming something so inappropriate.

Yesterday in class we played a spin-off of “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”. It was a detective game using the atlas. The kids really enjoyed it and got into the mystery of it. So today in class, my favorite Javier says to me in a detective-like voice in Spanish:
“Ahli, (that’s how they pronounce my name), what were you doing yesterday after recess?”
And I said, a little perplexed because I didn’t know if I had done something stupid, like trip and fall, “Hmmm… I went out for breakfast…?”
Then Javier states, in a very matter of fact tone: “Because we saw you from the window of the high school, and you weren’t in the high school.”
Me (still perplexed) “Well, I…I….”
Then, before I could say anything else, he looks at me and does the “I’m watching you” motion with his hands pointing from his eyes to me. And he adds, “I’m the detective, now!”

I’ll keep adding moments as I remember them or as they occur in the next month. These were my favorites, so far. I’ll also add to this list all the random moments that they have made me laugh uncontrollably with the faces they make when they think the teacher (or me!) is not looking. I’ve had to hide behind papers or turn my back various times to compose myself!! It’s great fun, working with adolescents :).