Thursday, August 16, 2012

My Adventures: Part Deux

A little insider's tip.....
Email me if you want to find out where the next phase takes us...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The End.

Holy crapping hell, I'm leaving Brazil TOMORROW.  Ah, where to start... what to even say!  My journey started nearly three years ago and for so long there was no end in sight.  Well, here we are.  How quickly you have arrived, End. 

Looking back on my first blog, my fears at that time were real and they eventually did come true.  Language barriers, sharing a house with parents, not making friends and so much more that I hadn't even expected... What was most surprising, though, was the joy I would find in overcoming all of those fears. Living with Ro's family for the first year of our life was tough - but without them I wouldn't ever have learned to speak Portuguese (at least at the level I speak it today). I'm so grateful for that experience because it brought me closer to my husband - I was able to understand his family, his upbringing... be an actual part of his family.  It's pretty amazing to have a true second family who think of you in that way too. 

I didn't expect the amazing relationships that would come after the bumpy part of my solitary life.  I needed to experience that time alone so I could appreciate even more when the friends eventually came.  I will miss those friendships incredibly.  Unlike any connection I've had - we bonded over our common experience of being a foreigner.  And then we bonded over deeper things.  We learned to be more open to different people in our lives.  We learned to explore our own cities, and each others' cities, together and venture outside of our comfort zones.  We learned that it's actually not so scary and it's 'cool' to be different. 

What I complained about so much I know is all part of Brazilian 'charm'.  How is it that what you once hate you grow to love? Even 'Brazilian honesty' just became a part of life and in the end, I appreciated it more than the alternative - silent opinions and insincerity.

Today I'm changed. I'm going home the same woman and an entirely different woman.  More love in my heart, eyes much more open to the differences in the world, an incredible appreciation for family and my 'home'.  The truth is I feel like we have two homes now.  I feel a deep need to keep the Brazilian connection strong once we arrive, just as I worked to keep my Canadian one alive during our time here. 

After all, I literally have something that is half Brazilian growing inside of me. 

I guess what I have ultimately learned at the end of this journey is about creating my own happiness.  There are moments (sometimes really really long moments) that seem to just drag you down and work against you.  We all have the strength to get the hard times and the other side is often so much brighter.  I've also learned that despite all of our worrying, things ALWAYS work out. 

Because as the saying goes,
"Everything works out in the end... and if it hasn't worked out yet, then it isn't the end."
Happy travels to you all!  Thank you for all of the love and support each of you has given me.  I couldn't have done it without you. 

.... stay tuned for my new blog 'After Brazil'...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Nobody Told Us to Fall in Love...

I just woke up from a distressing dream.  (I'm sick, which is why I'm sleeping at 2pm... just a side note).

In my dream,  I had arrived at home in Canada (without Ro - I think he was coming later) and my sister was going to meet me on a bridge to take me back to our old house (which was actually the first house I ever lived in).  I was really excited and anticipating the moment I would arrive.  When we arrived home we passed some relatives on the stairs on the way into the house.  My aunt commented that my face had changed so much, that she wouldn't have ever recognized me on the street.

After being in the house for a little, I realized I could hear this drilling.  This loud, brain rattling, drilling.  My mom said my dad was scraping something off the walls in the basement.  My first thought was why hasn't my dad stopped his drilling to come say hi to me?

I ran upstairs, trying to get away from this drilling sound.  I closed all the vents and windows, but I couldn't get away from the sound.  I realized it was snowing outside.  I remembered all the times I had said while I was in Brazil that I hated the hot weather and missed the cold winter so much.  As I looked at the snow I felt that deep coldness inside and I thought, but I don't like THIS winter... 

Later, I was in the kitchen with my sister and she brought out a box of desserts.  I said, 'oh great!  I can't wait to eat all of the desserts I couldn't eat while in Brazil!' but when I looked at the dessert in her hand I thought, but I don't like THIS dessert...

Suddenly I heard Ro talking on the phone.  He was talking to someone in Portuguese about the price of some item that we are selling at our house.  He gave the person on the other end our Brazilian address which caught my attention, because we weren't living at that address anymore.  Suddenly I realized that in my anticipation to get home to Canada, I hadn't even 'said goodbye' to our apartment in Brazil.  I felt a deep loss.

I began to feel really alone, really sad that we weren't in Brazil anymore.  I thought to myself We came to have the baby here and that's good.  If we aren't happy we can go back.  I asked Ro (who was suddenly, of course, there with me) 'Did we make a mistake?'

His response in true, logical, dream fashion, 'No, you're just sad that we are living in the suburbs now.'

I woke up suddenly still in my living room in Brazil and felt an enormous sense of relief.  I could still say goodbye to everything here.  But I started to cry when I told Ro about the dream.  I asked him, "Are we making a mistake? I'm worried about how it will be for you... I don't want you to have to 'deal with moving'."

His response in true, logical, Ro fashion, "Nobody told us to fall in love with someone from another country...."

Sigh. Somebody always has to 'deal'. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Too many changes happening in my life.  Combine that with the fact that Ro uses our only laptop for his work translating, finding the time to write blogs is rare if not non-existent.  But I do think I need to write SOMETHING, for god's sake.  I owe it to myself to document this very emotional and monumental time in our lives.

First, I am pregnant.

Second, we are leaving Brazil.

Third, we are going to re-assimilate back into North-American Culture. 

While I think about these three things OFTEN, I'm fairly calm and not overly worried about the uncertainty of the near future.  Uncertain simply because we are re-starting our lives once again (ie. finding jobs, finding housing, finding our social circle).  On a positive note, we're going back to a place we've been before.  On a terrifying note, nothing will be the same as it was when we left, 2 1/2 years ago. 

Maybe it's my style to go kind of numb to these changes until I'm actually experiencing them.  I'm so anxious to get them started.  Maybe it doesn't feel as terrifying as I think it should because it's not the first time we've done something big and life-altering.  I know everything always works out in the end. 

So, maybe it's really just the anticipation that's taking me over... To be honest, and no disrespect meant to any of my friends here in Brazil, I'm finding it very easy this time to cut ties.  Leaving Canada was so much more intense, so many tears, so much insecurity.  I'm in an infinitely different place in life this time and know how much I'm capable of... I think all who have made the move to another country can agree that we've been to the breaking point once or twice without actually breaking. 

But, what will my friendships be like once I'm back?  Will they change?  When they change, will there still be common ground?  Will I be able to balance my friendships, a new baby, a new/old life, as a different person? 

Now I'm overanalyzing... the whole main reason we're going back is to have our baby.  Neither of us have jobs that are keeping us tied to Brazil.  Healthcare is public and wonderful in Canada.  I can use a midwife that is also covered under the healthcare system.  I will be close to my mom.  We will have more security, more stability, great local programming... I'm really really looking forward to being back.

Do any of you have fears about moving back to your home countries?  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Next Chapter

Nothing to report lately - except obvious baby stuff but I don't want to fill this blog up with that.  That's what my Facebook is for ;)  Oh, and my English classes, Skype sessions with Mom and every waking second with my husband. 

Clearly I have baby on the mind and it's kind of taking over everything. 

But, well, I also have other things on my mind... like Canada.  So it's official.  We're moving back to Canada.  I'd say permanently, but seeing as our lives will be forever divided between two countries, I can't say that for sure.  I can say for sure that two months from now our bags will be packed and we will be on our way to the airport to close one chapter of our lives and open another one. 

While I'm completely certain that this is what I want, and feel like we're currently in a good place emotionally/spiritually/mentally in Brazil to say goodbye, what I'm having the hardest time with is the actual finality of this adventure. 

The first bit 20/29 months of my Brazilian life were really really really difficult.  I was not very happy, not in a great place, going through a lot of personal challenges... but after we moved (for the FOURTH time in 2 years!) things took an incredible turn for the better.  I actually started to see Brazil more clearly as my haze of hatred lifted.  There are many things I can credit (like our new neighbourhood, finally having friends close by, less travel time, and more culture - and don't forget, I started seeing an amazing psychologist).  But things really did get better.  I am happy now. 

Now after getting through almost two years that felt like they would NEVER END, I can't believe we only have two months left!  It's this bittersweet feeling that I've been grappling with lately.  There are a lot of things that are not ideal about Brazil, but there are a lot of awesome things that I'm going to miss as well. 

Portuguese is one of them. 

Also, farmer's markets.

Beautiful scenery.

Easy get-away weekend destinations.  (and I only just started getting into these!)

Friends who 'get' the difficulties. 

Being 'the foreigner'.  

Teaching English privately.

And especially, being close to Ro's family, and my second family. 

Two months is not long before we say goodbye to these things for a little while.  I think, however, I've become addicted to change so I'm really anxious and excited about starting anew.... As hard as things have been, I'm leaving this country more aware, accepting, patient and adaptable than when I started.  It's been a journey I wouldn't change for anything! 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Preferential Treatment

A new cultural experience I'm about to embark on is the 'Pregnant Lady in Brazil' experience.  In Canada, pregnant women exist (obviously) but, in my experience, they aren't fawned over nor do the seas part when a pregnant lady walks into a room.  Pregnant women, in turn, do not expect such treatment (at least I don't think they do).

In Brazil, pregnant women are like Goddesses, carrying the Miracle of Life in their pouches.  The Law even bows to pregnant women, as it's actually the LAW that Preggos can move straight to the front of any line (name a line - the bank? Yes. A crowded 5-star restaurant? Yes. A food bank? You can count on it.)  They get the preferential seats on the bus and they also get to line up in the preferential lines at the grocery store (and probably move to the front of that line even! They can trump any line!)

The reason I've been thinking about this lately is because I just don't have this natural instinct in me, to finally take advantage of this special treatment.  I recently spent the weekend with a good friend who happens to be 7 months pregnant.  She fully pulled out her pregnancy card everywhere we went (btw, if you are with said pregnant woman, you ALSO get to butt the line!)  She even pulled out the "it's the law!" card.  She told me that since the beginning, she has carried her ultrasound photo around with her taking advantage of her right wherever she goes!

I find this shocking simply because I admire her guts!  I guess I've been a little conditioned to believe that pregnancy isn't an illness, and therefore shouldn't award you special treatment.  I had to come to terms with this change in perception after moving here but I can honestly say that I love this law.  I love the way Brazilian culture looks out for its citizens who are a little less-than-able (that goes for seniors as well as pregnant women).  For a culture that I perceive to be so "everyone for him or herself", Brazilians have really pulled together to respect this courtesy and make sure others respect it too.

It makes me a little sad to know that I won't be staying here to fully experience this huge gesture of kindness (we are moving back to Canada to have our baby -  more on that in another blog).  In fact, it was slightly distressing to me to speak to a Canadian friend who told me that she parks in the 'Expectant Mothers' reserved parking spots because "pregnancy isn't an illness."  News flash.  Neither is old age.  Should we take away their spots too?

I'm not taking one opinion and turning it into the opinion of an entire country - I trust my loveable Canadians that they wouldn't do that!  But I'm curious to know if other expats were surprised/annoyed/un-phased by this pretty strict law??  I did find it a little shocking since it's about the ONLY law that all Brazilians really abide by.... I mean, we all know that nobody respects traffic laws!  Similarly, have any Brazilians had any interesting experiences being pregnant outside of Brazil? 


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Breaking News

Sometimes things are so unbelievably new and exciting that I can't talk about them here.  Primarily, because it's important that I talk to my family about these novidades in person, so they don't have to find out about them in digital ink.  
So, two months since my last blog.  And in the last two months my life has taken on a completely new direction.  My apologies for anyone who was missing my blogs - I was! - but now that I've talked about everything with our families I can finally go back to putting my thoughts on this hypothetical page.

So, the big news is I'm pregnant!  Three months pregnant, to be exact.  Turns out that I was already pregnant during Carnaval (albeit only, like, a week - but still... whoops!) Went out with a bang there...

I find it strange that almost every Brazilian person I tell about my pregnancy follows up directly with "Was it planned?"  Pardon?  Was it planned?  What an oddly personal question that does not go against my expectations of Brazilian culture at all.  So, ok, yes it was planned.  And if it wasn't?  Would I get a look of pity??  I might start saying it wasn't, just as an experiment.

I also have to add an aside here:  I know NOTHING about babies, pregnancy, giving birth, normal reactions towards pregnant women, etc., etc.... so if I am slightly shocked by some of these 'oddities' but you think they are apparently normal, please feel free to enlighten me.  I'm really only basing things on how I would react to a pregnant woman.  Not that I have even personally known that many, so therein lies the problem (probably).

The next thing that people almost automatically do is touch my belly.  It's like being pregnant automatically removes your 'personal space shield' and it's a free-for-all for anyone who wants to touch you.  I'm not sure how I feel about this.  On one hand it's kind of comforting, on the other hand my inner conscious screams "STOP! THIS IS MY BODY! I AM MORE THAN A GIANT BELLY!"  But people would probably disagree with that so it's best to just let it happen.

So, as I said, I'm totally dumb about pregnancy.  I've never had a close friend have a baby, never even a family member whose pregnancy I got to experience.  I think the last time I even held a baby was when I was about 10 years old.  So, there are some things happening to me that I didn't know to expect...

1. INSANE EXHAUSTION.  Holy freaking hell.  I was so so tired during the first 3 months that I slept at every possible opportunity (and I'm talking for like 3-4 hours, and that was AFTER sleeping 8-10 hours at night).  Another reason I stopped blogging. 

2. INSANE HOT FLASHES.  Meaning the 'flash' lasted all day, everyday.  I was never not sweating like a fat, sweaty man and add to it that Rio has been going through a giant disgusting heat wave for the last 2 months.  I was in my own personal hell and thank god that part is over.  

3. HORRIBLE HEADACHES.  I am having what the doctor (and by doctor, I mean Internet) calls "tension headaches".  They squeeze my head on the sides and leave me feeling totally debilitated.  To make it worse, I can't take any medicine while preggers.  (Also didn't know that I couldn't take over-the-counter medicine... ugggh)

4. MY BODY IS LITERALLY WIDENING.  Yes, Danielle.  LITERALLY.  I noticed it about 3 weeks ago that the circumference of my hips was actually broader.  My husband noticed too (he was totally more excited that I was).  Oh, and thanks to that my pants don't fit anymore.

5. WILD, CRAZY DREAMS.  I repeat, wild, CRAZY, dreams.  Vivid.  Allllllllllll about pregnancy, giving birth, breast feeding, my relationship with my mom and my dad... and are we seeing a theme here? 

6. HAIR GROWTH.  Oh, yes.  We've heard the stories that pregnancy gives you a beautiful head of hair.  I guess they conveniently forgot to mention that the hair grows EVERYWHERE else too.  Even my eyebrows are growing faster than normal.  And where I could usually go 5-6 weeks between waxing, now I'm an every month kinda girl.  (Not that I am going anymore anyway!  It's waaaay too sensitive down there!)  (P.S. Before you say ok TMI Lindsey, I have vowed to give as much information about this pregnancy to spare others from being surprised like I have been!)

7. DOUBTS.  For me, there has also been some guilt because I started to doubt if I was really ready for a baby, ready to be a mother, etc etc.  I guess it's normal, but there is this expectation for women to be SO thrilled and overjoyed all the time at the idea of being pregnant.  Throw some raging hormones into the mix and you're not always so confident in your decision...

For now those have been the biggest mysteries unfolded.  I'm preeetty sure there will be many more fun surprises and I caannnn't wait! (there is a great need for a sarcasm font!)  The good news is, I'm back!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Crime in the Streets of Rio

We've all heard the warnings that Rio is a dangerous city, people will rob you at any opportunity, etc etc etc.  I don't know if it's just an exaggeration or if I've just been really fortunate, but I have never had a problem while living in this city.

Well, my bike was stolen, but my bike was also stolen twice and my husband's once while living in Toronto.  I don't count that one.

I've heard stories though, of course.  A friend of a friend of a friend.  A friend of a friend.  Even more worrisome, an actual friend.  But generally it's perfectly easy to get by with some general common sense and caution.

I always keep my bag close to me.  I always look around me while I'm standing at a stop light or while I have my iPhone out.  I always lock up my bike, even if I'm just going to sit down in the park with it beside me.  I always keep an eye out for weird looking people, people who appear to have a different reason than me for being in any given space.  It's just better to be extra cautious than to regret losing something you could have avoided losing.

Yesterday a friend and I went to do yoga in Parque do Flamengo, a kind of notorious place for having sketchy people.  I've done yoga there before though, I keep to myself, it's really peaceful.  We finished our fantastic podcasts and started on the walk home.  I had my bike with me, my iPhone in an arm band and my mat strapped to my back.

I was doing my usual talking and looking around and I saw about 5 weird-looking guys coming up the side of the path (coming from the rocks by the water on Praia de Botafogo).  Even though there were a lot of people around and it was daylight, they looked suspicious and yes, I already had my guard up.

Then, my worst fear became a reality as one came RIGHT up beside/behind me.  It felt like he was trying to corner me against my bike or something, as he started to grab at my mat (which he probably thought was a bag) and my phone strapped to my arm.  My automatic response was to push him as hard as I could and scream.  My friend started yelling too and I kept pushing him and there was this, like, scuffle where I later found out my shorts got ripped.

Luckily, my mat bag strap was super tight, and my arm band was wrapped in a way that he couldn't just rip it off and run.  UN-fortunately, the only name I could think of to call the guy in Portuguese was seu folgado, haha, probably one of the most unintimidating names possible.  It means something like "you ignoramus!"   Swearing in English was much more cathartic in that moment...

Anyway, the dummies couldn't get what they wanted so they took off (the fools ran right INTO the traffic almost killing themselves along the way.... idiots).

Just to make it clear: I am ok.  I was actually pretty pumped that nothing got taken and also that I stood up for myself BUT I've also been reminded that I was lucky and that I/you should really be careful in how you handle this kind of situation.

This also isn't any kind of burn on Rio or Brazil - I know it could happen anywhere, and I've been fortunate that I've never had this kind of problem before.  A friend said to me, "It's not a matter of 'if', it's a matter of 'when'", and even though that's slightly cryptic and fear-mongering, it IS better to be safe than sorry (no matter what country you live in).

This is the reality of the world we live in.  Just don't tell my mom... 

As for me, I won't let this incident stop me from returning to that park.  I've been there so many times before without issue.  I know this is a one-off.  But maybe next time I'll leave my bike so I'm not such a distracted-looking target.  I don't know... I just hate the idea of vagabundo people infringing on my freedom to live! 

Anyone else have any stories of theft?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Where will you be from Feb 17-21?

If you live in Brazil, you know where you'll be... Carnaval!  It's not like you can escape it, so you better just buck up and enjoy.

You either "love it" or you "hate it" (I guess you could equate it to Tom's description of Marmite).  Well, I'm going to be devious and create a sub-category of "It's ok".

This will be my third attempt at Carnaval.  The first year, we stayed waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out in Recreio (where we used to live) for the entire 5 (+14 or so) days of Carnaval.  I was thoroughly disappointed.  Like, this is it???? The most exciting thing I saw was a make-shift 'funk' party on the beach, but even that wasn't much different from your average North-American nightclub.  Not a single bloco to be seen in Recreio.

I thought to myself, and out loud, "This is bullshit.  This can't be what all the hype is about???"

Then, last year, I stayed with a friend in her apartment in Ipanema (in the south zone).  It was a whoooooooooooooole different pile of crap.  A literal pile of crap, as there were, literally, piles of crap on the street.  Problem is, in the South Zone (where the big 5 (+14) day party happens, there aren't enough bathrooms.  And there is a lot of beer and fried food being eaten.  That equals a lot of doo-doo and tee-tee on the streets of Rio de Janeiro.

The music from the blocos (street parties) was blasting through the air DAY AND NIGHT.  It was difficult to get around, due to millions of people everywhere.  It was generally just non-stop and a liiiiiittle too much for me.

This year we live in Zona Sul, on a relatively quiet street.  I was expecting my Carnaval experience to be really good this year!  Close enough to the action but far enough away that I can escape it if I wanted to...

But alas, what did I see as I walked home today?

The Dance School next to my house.  I live 2 doors from Casa de Danca Carlinhos de Jesus.  They have a popular bloco called Dois pra lá, Dois pra cá.  The sign out front says they are moving the time of the bloco (which was in the afternoon) Now it starts at EIGHT.  IN THE MORNING.  Right outside my window.  All morning until noon!  **Shudder**
This many people outside of my house?!?
I guess I can't escape Carnaval no matter where I live!  Well, then as the old cliché goes... If you can't beat 'em.... Might as well smash yourself in the face with the sweet sounds of Samba!

This year in addition to waking up to a bloco in my bedroom, I am going going to spend the night at the Sambodromo to watch the actual Carnaval parade!  I know, I am such a Carnaval freak.  Thanks to this guy for hookin' me, and 7 of my friends up...

So it will be a totally new Carnaval experience for this girl.  I'm giving it another go, and we'll see if after this, my third Carnaval, I will finally emerge from the masses screaming "AMO O CARNAVAL!"  I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess probably not...

Either way,


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Friendships: Past vs. Present

So, I stumbled upon my old blog that I kept all throughout university.  I'm currently in the middle of reading the entire 3 year collection and all I can say is it's hilarious!!!!  First, because it's purely a diary.  Like "today so-and-so did this to me" and "I'm so mad I can barely see!"  While it's not all that much different from this blog, it's way more personal, and dare I say, risqué?  I go into a LOT of personal detail that I would NEVER share here.  Does that mean I've become more censored as a person or just that my audience is different?  

Haha, one thing that's kinda flipping my mind is that it appears that I used to have a very easy time talking to my friends and telling them EXACTLY how I felt about them.  I wasn't afraid to show my rage, my frustration, my sadness, or the pure elation I had from being friends with them.  I felt totally entitled to speak my mind.  

It got me wondering if friendships like that are still possible, in our adult lives?  I have met some incredible people living in Brazil (especially incredible because they are multiple nationalities who share a common experience - wild!).  I would even say I have some very good friends here.  But are friendships nowadays the friendships of our past?  Is that even possible?  I don't know if I would feel comfortable laying it all out on the table for my friend, because I wouldn't want to risk too much conflict or fighting.

Maybe it's the nature of friendships here... they all feel temporary.  At least because we know that one day someone will leave.  Or maybe it's because we are all just guests in this country, and don't have the same roots and histories of our home countries.  Maybe now, as adults, we have the capacity to see what the future 'means', and that things don't last forever as we once thought in our naive adolescences. 

Or maybe it's even simpler than that, and this is just growing up.  We develop nuclear families that satisfy our need for close, intimate relationships and our friendships become like the Clinique Bonus Gift (gotta say though - I always LOVE that bonus gift!).

Anyway, just curious to know how anyone else would evaluate friendships in the past vs friendships today.  Do you think you've become less 'intimate' with your friends?  How do you maintain intimacy if you have it??  So curious about this.... 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

My Guide to Being a Good Teacher

After I wrote my last post (about my *ahem* PORTUGUESE-TEACHING HUSBAND *ahem*), I obviously started thinking about ways I could help him optimize his teaching career.  I started thinking about teaching in general, and about what makes someone a 'good' teacher.

A lot of people assume that   
Moving to another country = Teaching *insert native language*.
A lot of speakers of said native language (let's be honest, the native language is often English) believe the following mathematical equation.
I speak English ∴ I can teach English. 

Many disgruntled, certified teachers of English would disagree with this, including myself to an extent.  Problem is that many people don't even like teaching and can't really teach!  But my latest epiphany might suggest otherwise (or at least suggest that you don't necessarily have to be certified to enjoy and be a good teacher).   

Ok, I agree that you need to have knowledge of your language (and it's certainly helpful to have knowledge of the student's native language, but not totally necessary).  English speakers united know that we didn't learn grammar in school in the same way that, let's say, Brazilians learned it.  That means that when you suddenly try to teach-up some English grammar to a non-English speaker, you're gonna get served.

Understanding your own language is key, but there are also other ways to be a great ESL teacher, even without the years of formacão, or even without a CELTA certificate (neither of which I have and my crappy 40 hour TESL Certificate was completed about 6 years before I started teaching).  P.S. I would consider myself a good teacher because a) I love teaching and b) My students told me I am.  That's proof enough for me!

So some tips, if I may.....

Tip #1:  PREPARE.  Research as much online about parts of a sentence, tenses and forms, conditionals, modals etc etc as you can.  You don't wanna look like a dummy.
**Side Note I knew none of these terms prior to teaching English.  At least I'd forgotten ALL of them, except for maybe adjective, adverb and noun, but that's because I used to play hella MadLibs as a kid. 

Tip #2:  NEEDS, GOALS, TIMEFRAME.  Always do a Needs Analysis with your students to find out why they need English, in what contexts they will use English, and what they are interested in.  Then follow through with subjects and topics that are interesting to them.

Tip #3:  STRUCTURE.  Ok, some people want conversation classes.  Great.  But I can guarantee they will learn less by ONLY having conversation classes than they would learn if they used a book.  Books are your friends.  Teachers (especially un-certified ones) are not lesson writers, they are not syllabus creators, and you are doing your students a disservice by not following an order in which they learn grammar.  A trained and qualified person has already created an awesome way to present a lesson, why not use it??  (I love Oxford books, Danielle uses Cambridge - you get to choose!)

Tip #4:  BE A PERSON.  This is a biggie - While I realize that being structured is important (your students pay you to learn English) they also don't want a classroom setting (or they'd go to Cultural Inglesa).  Be a person, people!  Be fun.  Be funny!  Talk about your weeks together.  Talk about your plans.  Share with them and let them share with you.  Care about your students.  Recent feedback from a couple of my students is that this is one of the best parts about learning private English.  

Tip #5: NOW BREAK THE STRUCTURE.  Break the structure once in a while (ooo que taboo!) and learn music and songs that THEY like (the temptation to give them music that YOU like is strong, but it's their class, not yours).  Here's a website to give you some ideas.  Have a conversation class that lets them vent about their boss or their job.  Make sure you always write down their mistakes, though, and give corrective feedback.  This is still a class.

Tip #6:  GIVE CORRECTIVE FEEDBACK.  Another reason they're paying you.  I divide a sheet of paper into three sections:  Vocabulary; Pronunciation; Grammar.  I use the phonemic chart to illustrate proper pronunciation.  You can download a super app to your iPhone called Sounds.  I write their mistake (the way they say it) and ask them to try to understand the mistake before correcting it for them.

Tip #7:  IF YOU DON'T KNOW, SAY THAT.  Don't give false information.  Just say you're not sure and that you'll find out.  And then do it and follow up.

Tip #8:  BE ORGANIZED AND PROFESSIONAL.  Decide on your goals.  I give everyone a FREE experimental class to talk about information and rates.  I give them a copy of the information and rates.
Do you care about a consistent income and schedule?  I do.  I schedule my students at a regular time.  They have the chance to reschedule (not cancel) only one class per month.  I charge a monthly price (depending on # of hours per week).  I calculate # of hours/week x 52 weeks/year ÷ 12 months/year = avg monthly price.  My students pay their monthly rates up in their first class of the month.  

I will stop there, because those are what I consider to be the basics.  Everyone has a different teaching style, and you'll definitely learn through trial and error.  You'll look back at when you started and realize how little you knew.  That's ok.  Everyone has to learn somewhere.  

Not everyone is certified, or a linguistics master, or even loves the language.  Sometimes it's your best option in a foreign country.  The point of this post was to encourage people who are teaching, or thinking about teaching, to give English the respect it deserves by being a responsible teacher.  We are lucky to have our language and are in powerful positions to share it!  

Now I know you will all have some additional tips to offer, so post them in the comments!  If you're a student of English, post your ideas about great teachers too!  The other beauty of teaching is the sharing.  Everyone has something different that works for them, and I'm always looking for new innovative ways to do what I do!

Happy Teaching and Peace Out!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Learn Portuguese with a Brazilian

One of the hardest parts of blending in and feeling happiness in Rio was not speaking Portuguese and my quest to learn the language.  Until you have the experience of being 'without words' to communicate, it's difficult to understand the feeling of loneliness, of exclusion and the lack of connection.

I always, ALWAYS, encourage people to learn at least a little bit of a language before moving to any country.  You will have so much more freedom if you do.

I took a Portuguese class before I came to Brazil, but it was nothing compared to the Portuguese I have learned while living here, learning with Brazilians.  Learning with a Brazilian is the best way to 'speak Brazilian' - to understand the slang, the cultural references, the double entendres, the rules of society...

Whether you are moving to Brazil or already living here, language is the key to your freedom and independence.  It's what will paralyze you on your weaker days, and give you the biggest sense of accomplishment on your strong ones.

If Brazil is in your present or your future, LEARN PORTUGUESE.

"But Lindsey, I don't know how to find a Portuguese teacher!"

Let me make your life easier and proudly plug someone very near and dear to my heart.  His name is Rodrigo and yes, he is my husband.

Rodrigo is a Brazilian native and my best Portuguese teacher of all time.  He can help you too.  Please visit the page at the top of my blog that says "Learn Portuguese with a Brazilian" if you need Portuguese in your life (or if you need Rodrigo in your life, but if that's the case maybe we should talk first! *wink*)

But I don't mind sharing, if it helps you communicate better.  It's true, without language you get really good at hand gestures and really, miming becomes a skill you didn't know you had.  But miming only gets you so far when you're trying to understand social references, like Michel Telo's uberly popular song "Ai, Se Eu Te Pego" (Actually, I take it back.  Miming is just fine for this song.)

Point is, if you need Brazil you need Portuguese.  Rodrigo can help you.

P.S. He's cute too so you'll be getting a two for one deal, lucky you!

Thanks everyone!
Happy Learning!

Friday, January 27, 2012

And the Winner Is....

Did you hear?  The Oscar Nominees have been released, for our viewing pleasure!  This year the Oscars will be shown on February 26 at 10pm Brazilian Time.

Just a little tip, you CAN watch the Oscars without the horrible horrible dubbing.  If you're watching on cable, you just have to press the SAP button (we have Net, so it's the green audio button).

Why am I so excited about the Oscars?  Why, because I am planning my umpteenth annual Oscars party, that's why!  In Brazil, it will be the second annual, but many an Oscars party I have attended in my life.  This year however, is the first year I've been so ahead of the game.

My goal this year is to watch every single nominated film before the Oscars.  That way I'll even be able to participate in the crappy categories, like Best Sound Mixing or Best Short Film - Live Action (what the hell is that??)  Point is, I want to make this a good party and that means you gotta know your product.

I usually like to make voting cards so that everyone can vote for who they think will win.  This year I'm even gonna take it up a notch and bring betting into the mix.  That, or I"ll make it a drinking game.  Depends on how broke we are.

It is also necessary to dress up for an Oscars' party, in your best Oscars attire.  In grade 9 I wore my middle school prom dress, for example.  This year, I'll prob go with a short dress but maybe add some gloves or feathers?  Feathers always mean fancy.  (or tacky, but at your do-it-yourself Oscars party you can afford to be a little tacky!)

So, anyone else like to participate in these award shows?  Or having theme parties in general?  If you read my blog, you already know I'm a fan of themed parties.  They make me happy, and that's what it's all about, folks.

Happy movie watching!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Here's to Hoping the World Doesn't End!

Well, almost a month has gone by since my last post and so much has happened.  It's not fair for me to keep it all to myself.

Side note** I imagined that moving to Botafogo would have given me more time - more time for blogging, class prep, and all of the indoor activities I was used to doing.  Our move has done the exact opposite (not complaining) but more time outside and spent with friends means less time for blogging.

In the past month since my birthday I've:

Had 4 visitors
Taken the train to the Cristo
Rode the bondinho  to Pao de Acucar
Taken 1 trip to the Tenda Espirita de Umbanda
Read 2 books
Done 5 consecutive days of yoga (dotted with several other days)
Gone to the beach 3 times
Bought a ticket to the Carnaval Parade

That's of course not even everything but that's what has taken up the majority of my time for the last few weeks!  So far 2012 is off to a great start, with no apocalypse in sight!  

My first two visitors were my mom and sister.  It had been a year since I'd seen them and while the year went fast, so much can change in that time.  I notice the changes in myself so much more when I am reunited by my family and friends from home.  You might say I've become more 'Brazilian' - I don't know if that's necessarily true but I guess we are all a product of our environments.  I certainly like to shower more and clean my house more, wink wink (but I still ALWAYS take my shoes off when I enter the house, because shoes in the house is just gross to me!)

I wouldn't say I'm becoming more 'Brazilian' because there are so many things about Brazilian culture that I still don't identify with, and probably never will, since I didn't grow up with the same understanding of the world from Brazilian eyes.  Now my eyes are broader (in terms of cultural experiences) than those of my (my specific) Canadian peeps and of my Brazilian peeps.  That makes me neither more Canadian nor more Brazilian, it just makes me 'me'.  A combination of experiences that could relate with both sides, but at times makes me feel very removed.

I have big fears of our inevitable move back to Canada.  It's taken a long time to 'assimilate' into Brazilian culture.  To learn the language, the general rules of society, how to get around, what the prices of a pineapple should be.  A lot of blood, sweat (a freakin' LOT of sweat) and tears (also, a BUTT LOAD of tears) have gone into getting myself to the point I'm at today - a point where I feel I'm actually growing as a person: not standing still, or worse, moving backwards.

I feel like it will be difficult to find common ground with people once I'm back home since this huge period of constant adjustment has been the centre of my life for so long.  It's the first time in my life that work, money, clothes and 'things' have played so little importance to who I am.  

I know these things are very important to Canadians (whether they like to believe that or not).  

They were very important to me, too.  They are still important to me, to my happiness.  But they aren't the centre of my happiness, like I always felt was the true race to life.  To work as much as possible, to make as much as possible, to have a big house, to buy a lot of things, to have a car, to travel everywhere... I feel like I can see things with clearer eyes now.
Maybe I can say that because I've found my true calling with English teaching - my job doesn't feel like I'm torturing my soul, like it used to.  My true love of language, of teaching others, of sharing information, connecting with people, seeing the product of my work... What if I can't find that again when we move back to Canada?

Living in another country is like being on a permanent holiday.  Everything is different and new every day, even if you're doing it for the 100th time - it's not the way you grew up doings things.  No matter what level of Portuguese you are, you are always hearing a foreign language on the street.  Drinking coconut water at the beach still feels like a special event.
There is something very exciting about living life this way.  Even when nothing really happens, so much is happening every day. 

I think that's why my husband would prefer to live in Canada.  If it gave him the same feelings it gives me living in Brazil, I can't blame him.  Although for him, it's a much different sensation, I'm sure.

The reality is Canada is easier.  Canada is more organized.  Canadians are polite and they look out for each other, in general.  In Brazil, you're fighting the fight alone, give or take a few specific situations that bring the community out in people (Danielle and I talked about this exact topic while at the Farmer's Market by my house - the Market is a place I see a lot of community, but step outside the streets of the market and a car is sure to run you down).

Anyway, I didn't even get into more details of what I've done the last month but it has generally been a great month of reflection for me.  I also want to talk about the Centro of Umbanda that we went to, which was very interesting and awesome.  If you haven't heard of Spiritism in Brazil, or Umbanda (which is not the 'black magic' one) check out the wikipedia def that I linked up above.

Other than that, my cats are lovely, my friends are lovely (Danielle and Alex's weekend here was GREAT GREAT GREAT), and JIM has totally made it possible for me to experience my first Sambodromo during Carnaval!  Woo!  2012 is looking fine!  (as long as the world doesn't end!) 

P.S. We aren't moving back to Canada any time soon but we have been doing some life planning which has got the question coming up in my mind... Never hurts to think about it. 

Does anyone else have the same fears about re-assimilating into your own culture?  Or have the experience of actually doing it? 

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