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!
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