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Aulas de inglês!

I’m teaching again! Yay!

Months ago, as soon as we moved in, a couple of our new friends showed me around as the prized foreigner in this small town. They were telling me that I should teach English, French or whatever else I wanted to. Seeing that I was willing, I was promptly introduced to two other young women of about my age (I will call us young as long as I can get away with it! — I now learned that one indeed my age and the other 10 years younger, ha!), the director of the local high school and her friend, a teacher as well. Unfortunately the position for an English teacher at the high school had already been filled, but they were telling me that it was badly paid anyway. Why would I want to slave away all week in that school, like themselves, when I could teach privately with much more flexibility in the schedule, teaching program, and eventually (if there were enough students) a better pay? They had a point, but how was I to organize such a venture in a country where I had never worked before?

“Teach here!”, they told me, “You can use the empty classrooms in the evening at no cost”. More importantly, they were both interested in having classes themselves, so that was already two students for my first group…

“It would still be better to have a small group of about 4 to 6 students”, I said.

“Let us speak around us and we’ll get back to you”, they replied.

I gave them my contact info and left it at that.

In the meantime, in one of the very few furniture store in town, the vendor heard that I was a foreigner and started chatting with me. He asked if I spoke English or French and if I could teach him. I explained that I was looking into it. We exchanged our contact info and parted ways on a friendly, “Let’s keep in touch!”. Surely this was A Sign!

An entire month came and went, but still no word…

I finally passed by the school one day to see what was up. Neither of the girls were there.

I thought then that what I had seen that very first day was yet again some fake Brazilian enthusiasm; a lot of fluff, but not necessarily having true premises. I told myself to forget the matter.

Then out of the blue, the store clerk remembered my name and contacted me on FB about those blasted language lessons. What’s up with the universe?! Was I supposed to do something about this or let it go?

So I went back to the school once again to inquire about the matter. Luckily the director was there that day. She seemed as happy to see me as the first time and assured me that she and her friend were still interested in learning English. So we agreed then and there on a day and time to start. I thought that even if we started with a small group of 3 students, I would do it anyway. Obviously not for the money (because with only 3 students that will be very little indeed), but because I simply love to teach! I like to spend hours planing a lesson, trying to find podcasts, songs or videos that will be interesting and build up my students vocabulary, hear their accents in English, recognize the difficulties, identify with them because I used to be them, and give suggestions to make some progress. Ah, it’s so fun!

The first lesson was yesterday evening. Ironically the boy who gave me the final incentive didn’t show up (hopefully he just missed the starting line?). It was only me and the two girls, but it went very well. I wasn’t sure how to prepare for the first lesson without knowing their level. They are not entirely beginners, because they’ve had some lessons a long time ago, but looked lost when it came to listening/understanding/speaking. They seemed genuinely eager to learn though, so that’s half the battle!

Let’s hope that the famous grapevine works in my favor. I wouldn’t mind earning a bit more than pocket money…

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Falando de escola…

Here is a follow up on the schooling saga: (here is the last time I spoke about that)

As you might remember, last year my boys were attending a private school in Rondônia. We were living downtown and the school was right next door. Very practical since they were attending the morning shift from 7:30AM to noon.

Since it was a “Lutheran” school which used to belong to (or be affiliated with) (I’m not sure of the technicalities) our church, our kids were offered free tuition. This was great because we couldn’t possibly afford tuition for the three of them (that would sum up to the equivalent of one entire minimum wage salary per month — not gonna happen). But although the tuition was free for us, there were very expensive apostilas (some sort of big exercise books with all the academic program) to buy every semester and you should have seen the school supplies list at the beginning of the year, it was as long as my arm! And that was for each one of my boys! And they are all in pre-school!!!

So, even if the private school was “free”, it wasn’t really.

I was constantly frustrated with the teachers. They would send homework that would be either full of spelling mistakes, hard to understand (I would often go to my husband to see if I had lost something in translation) or clearly way above our children’s comprehension: Once they were asked to complete a crossed word puzzle, but didn’t know yet how to spell!

The list of mind boggling shit that went on in that school goes on and on, but as a result of our experience and circumstances of our move, we decide to enroll them in the public school system this year.

So upon arrival in Goiás, hubby took care of finding out were would our children study. The public system here is either funded by the town (municipal), the state (estadual) or federal.

First surprise is that we were apparently following a new education law in Rondônia, but now have to follow an old law in Goiás regarding standard school age. So the twins (5) who were attending the last year of pre-school last year and were supposed to start first-year, are repeating the last pre-school year again. Not that it make much difference because I can’t say that they are advanced for their age (yes, they are bilingual, but that’s beside the point).

The school is downtown and we live much further from it. So it makes a much earlier rising and a short commute with the car. The morning shift here is from 7:00AM to 11:00AM… Ow. The building itself is clearly under funded (not a surprise), but it looks much cleaner than the private school in Rondônia. The teachers too seem to know what they are doing. My boys’ home works are typically pages and pages of letters and numbers to write, they have learned the vowels and are starting spelling with a B-A BA method that I remember well😉 , all of which was completely ignored last year!  I am finally starting to see some progress in their education. I am relieved.

Unfortunately, to illustrate the under-funded problem, the teachers were on strike a couple of weeks ago. They had not been paid their salaries since the beginning of the school year… Can you imagine? The story I’ve heard is that the current mayor had thought that nobody would notice if he took a little bit of money on the side… His lawyer and the teacher’s syndicate lawyer got involved, and as we say, the shit hit the fan!

Anyway, I understand that the teachers needed to go on strike, but on the mean time, I had no idea when would my kids go back to school… The Schmilblick went on for three weeks. There was no sign on the closed door of the school, no official note to the parents, nothing. I asked around and the apology that I would receive was along the lines of “Ah yes, that’s the way things are done here, you have to hear the news through the grapevine“. Well apparently unlike the rest of the moms, I am not plugged to the grapevine because I showed up many days with kids in tow at 7:00AM (I am rarely well awaken at that hour) to a closed door and nobody in sight…

Today the kids are back in school and will be for many Saturday mornings too, to catch up on the missed days.

Livreiros

My main criteria when looking for furniture is:

I want real wood. And by “real” wood I mean no MDF, MDP or other modified substances that include pressurized wood chips and glue. Those pieces of junk may look presentable when they are new, but said looks don’t last. The humidity in the air alone make it bloat, add some water action due to cleaning, or the accidental water spilling, or a bit of rain (shit happens), and you have very ugly bookshelves in your kitchen (applicable to all sort of ugly pieces of furniture that I’ve had over the years, including my digital piano that works fine but is starting to show its years — and its many moves).😦

Plus, let’s admit it, real wood looks so much better.

Unfortunately this criteria alone makes it very difficult to find what I’m looking for. Most stores where we used to live (and here too) are only carrying for the lowest budgets so I am given the choice between MDF, MDF and… MDP (maybe? — I’m still not sure of the difference between the two). Oh, and nobody has bookshelves. Who reads books nowadays, right?

So I’ve had to order online. The only problem with online shopping is that you rely on the description on the website, you can’t really check the quality of the product beforehand, and you need to wait between 4 to 8 weeks for delivery. Oh, the anxiety. After we came back from vacation back in November, and after 5 years of not seeing my books out of their boxes, I had finally decided not to wait any longer and ordered some bookshelves online.

A couple of weeks after the deed was done, we learned that we would be moving. (%$!”*&?!)

So I waited anxiously for our furniture to arrive, hopefully before our change of address. One of the three arrived on time, but after a couple more weeks of waiting, I was informed by email that the shipping  of the two other ones would be delayed due to “unplanned I-don’t-know-what“. So in the mean time I started packing and planning the logistics of our move.

… stress… pray… wait… (I can’t begin to tell how much I pray for silly ordinary stuff since I live in Brazil : please God, help all these guys to do their job the way they should. Amen).

One week before leaving, months after ordering my things, I received another email informing me that one bookshelf would finally be delivered THE SAME WEEK OF OUR MOVE and that the other one was simply discontinued. Argh!

Thankfully after some frantic emails the whole mess was settled : I was given vouchers for the same value to order the stuff again later from my new address. Phew.

(Brazilians keep saying that we need a lot of patience when something is not working out the way it should… I think they should have less patience with incompetence and do their jobs efficiently. Our daily lives here would be much less stressful!!!!)

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Isn’t she a beauty? *heart*

I found this cristaleira (china cabinet) in a store here. There wasn’t any choice in stain color or any other model, but I liked it so I bought it. It was delivered the same day. Miracles do happen. The next few days were spent oiling the wood and finally lovingly unpacking all of my books. Another miracle (pinch me I must be dreaming): they all fit in. The pretty books behind the glass doors on top, the not-so-pretty dictionaries and language manuals behind the wooden doors below.

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Top : Grove dictionary of Music (20 volumes) and Music History; Middle : English fiction; Bottom: French fiction + some Spanish and Portuguese fiction too.

In the days that followed its arrival, I was spending a few minutes every morning and before bed at night just looking at my shelves, rearranging, picking up a book, reading a few lines. Big sighs of happiness.

These two smaller ones were ordered online. The one with the door has the music books (voice, piano, theory) and the other one had the kids’ books (in Portuguese, Spanish, French, English and exercise books).

I realize that if we were living in Canada, we would probably frequent the Public Library. So I wonder if we would own more or less books at home. On the one hand there would be no need to own the books (the ones in English at least), but on the other hand books would be much more affordable, and I surely wouldn’t be able to control myself in the second hand bookstores. Over here there is no Public Library and bookstores are rare. I am so glad we have family and friends from North America and Europe who are always willing and wanting to send gifts for the children. (Books make much better gifts than toys or clothes, I always say).