Sunday, May 31, 2009

Gravol is God!

Hola amigos!
Well, I have had an awesome few days. First, nobody told me that after class on Wednesday I was supposed to hand in all my grades. So, my last exam finished at 9:30 and I had to get all the marks in before 10 as well at be at the bus station by 10:15. I just love how nobody tells me anything. So, I worked really fast but I still had one class to do. I handed that one in yesterday. It takes a really long time to grade all the exams, calculate the average for the course for each student, count absences (more than 3 absences equals failure) and assign a letter grade. I hate having to give people with 82 % a D. It seems ridiculous to me. Rebekah (who is my collegue from Texas) took at taxi with me because it´s safer when the white girls stick together right? Maybe not though because we attracted a lot of negative attention. Luckily Rebekah has been here 2 years and speaks fluent Spanish so she told the men where to go. At the bus station we met Ray, Mercedes, Sarita, Geraldine, my roomate in Chiclayo, Delicia and her husband. When I had to board the bus I guess the lady asked me for my fingerprint but I had no idea what she was talking about, so she thought I was right idiot. She pointed to the page and I put my finger there but I didn´t have ink. Point two for me, she was shaking her head at my stupidity as I boarded the bus. The security is really tight, like at the airport, although you don´t generally have to give your fingerprint at the airport. So, the movie on the bus was Twilight which was pretty sweet, in Spanish with English subtitles. I didn´t watch much though because I felt sick. My third mistake was to eat the food they gave me, a sandwich and a muffin with sprite. For the 8 hours it took to get to Chiclayo I was sick constantly. When there was nothing left I was just puking up bile. It was disgusting and I´m sure you would rather not hear that, but the sad truth of this blog is that it´s the sad truth of everything. The first time I didn´t expect to puke, suddenly it just happened, a bizarre thing, so it went everywhere. !Dios mio¡ It was awful. Lukily my roomate who also sat next to me on the bus was safe from my sickness and she had lots of tissues. The bus attendant or whatever you call her gave me some kind of pill which didn´t help at all. Although, I was pretty triumphant because I managed to take it no problem. It´s actually the first time in my life I have ever been able to take a pill. It was useless. So, when we arrived at Chiclayo I was pretty woosy and ready to sleep for about 3 days. I needed to eat but my stomach was too unsettled for food. We squished 5 of us into the most tini taxi ever and whizzed off to the hotel. When we got there we had to give our passport numbers for our rooms. We need our passports for everything here. It was about 7:30 when we finally settled in. I had a shower, but there was no hot water. Well. So I did this weird dance thing because it was soooo freezing but I needed a shower to wash my hair because I was sick...
So, then I lay down for about an hour to try and get some sleep. We all had to be at ICPNA for 9 in the morning. Hahaha. Well, my roomate who is 32 and has 3 kids (just a little fact for you) went and knocked on the door of the girls next door (Mercedes and Geraldine). They weren´t ready so we said we´d wait. Well, they left without us. How rude! So, we arrived at about 9:20 but we weren´t last don´t worry. The Peruvian way is to be late. ICPNA Chiclayo is massive. It has it´s own building, which is blue. It has a library and massive office and a little place to eat and patio outside and even an auditorium. Totally different from the 8 2nd floor classrooms in a random building and tiny office in Cajamarca!
Our first session was all about blended/hybrid and internet learning. If the teachers follow the plan, they´re going to make themselves redundant. I don´t agree with a lot of what he was saying. Having taken a correspondance course in Spanish in Canada I think it´s really hard. Ýou have to be intrinsically motivated and it´s really hard when it comes to pronounciation. If you make a mistake, there is no teacher to correct you right away. I understand that people are busy and it´s easier for some people to learn online, but honestly learning a language takes time. I think the traditional way of classroom learning for languages is the best way to go. It´s all very well to study in books or on the computer but actually having the confidence to use the language when you are surrounded by people who speak it fluently is a whole other thing. Sometimes, it´s hard for me when I totally brutalize the Spanish language and it´s easy to get frustrated. I wish that in my Spanish class at Uni there was more conversation because in the end that´s really what you need to practice. Getting 100% on a written Spanish exam is wonderful but if you are too shy to say anything it´s useless. I am always telling my students here when I ask questions to a student and they don´t want to answer, that if they can´t speak to me in a class of their peers, they can´t travel and communicate with English speaking people. It might sound harsh but it´s true. I´m a very encouraging teacher and I don´t allow my students to make fun of each other so mostly they aren´t afraid to try. Most of the students here are learning English for travel or business. For me, if you go the online way, it´s on top of class. Class every day or every second day plus internet learning for extra practice I think is a wonderful idea. But really, for me I look at the faces of my students to assess their understanding. If they are sending me assignments on the internet or learning lessons on the internet how am I supposed to know how they are doing, or even if it is them who is completing the lesson. So, I wasn´t very impressed with this session but ICPNA seemed to want to implement it and with my one month of experience, what do I know? Oh, I also saw Miranda again and met Colleen so that was nice. I actually only saw them that day.
For lunch on Thursday a group of us went to this little place. Most of them had ceviche but for me raw fish is a no thanks and my stomach needed something not too exotic to calm it down. So I did the most boring thing I have done in Peru ever and ordered chicken and chips. It was actually really good though because the chips were proper English type. I felt better afterwards. To drink I had some traditional Peruvian thing though so don´t worry I haven´t gone off trying new things. It took us about half an hour to work out how to pay for our bill. ICPNA gave all of us 20 soles, so about 6.50, for meals each day. In Canada it wouldn´t stretch but for here it´s average. They gave us our bill together and with stuff that we shared it was so complicated. Well, afterwards we went to the Plaza De Armas in Chiclayo, which is nowhere near as gorgeous as Cajamaraca, but it does have a nice Cathedral although it´s yellow. We went shopping down the main strip but nobody bought anything (as we are teachers at ICPNA and payday is once a month, next week I think, so we are all poor). Okay, that might not be the reason. I can´t remember what we did next!!! Oh! We went to the hotel to rest a little bit and shower etc.. Right, next we walked to Totos which was like a mile away. No, not really, but it was dangerous because the cars go everywhere in Chiclayo. I think that it is similar to Lima. I am so glad everybody ignored when I said I wanted to go to Chiclayo and sent me to Cajamarca instead. It´s about a million times better here. My roomie wanted to buy clothes for her kids. Afterwards, we went to the mall which was a bit of a sketchy walk because it was dark. I chatted to Geraldine a lot. It´s nice because she´s 18 too, actually a month younger than me and from the Phillipines. Her first language is pretty much English though because she doesn´t speak any Phillipinino as when she was 5 she moved to the U.S. and she has been here 6 years or something. Her Spanish isn´t great either. She´s a fun person and interesting. At the mall I bought a t-shirt because we were all planning on going dancing and I had nothing to wear at all that would be okay in a club. We all had ice cream for supper, I wasn´t hungry because I´ve grown accustomed to not eating supper here. The lunches are just so massive! At 10 Delicia and her husband came to the hotel and we all went to get ready (Geraldine did my hair etc because I´m not really into that stuff) and then at about 10:45 ish we went to the club. When we first arrived I thought it was pretty dead. After a while more people came though and it was awesome. They played Latin music and then a band came and played traditional Chiclayo folk music so nobody could really dance but they had these traditional dancers come in so that was good to see. We had Tequeños, which I love, yummy! After, they played more Spanish music and even a few songs in English and we danced. It was fun! We left at 1:30 though because we had to be at ICPNA for 9 the next day. We walked home from the club which I thought was a little stupid but the girls who were from Chiclayo said that this part of Chiclayo was safe at night. One of the others gave me her jacket because I didn´t have a sweater so that was much better. It actually seemed okay though because we didn´t really pass anybody.
In the morning we had breakfast in the hotel, eggs and bread and jam, and the office people in Cajamarca had arrived along with Mirtha, another teacher. We all went to ICPNA and had a session entirely in Spanish about Psycology. This was fine until she started asking questions. Luckily my roomate told me what the questions were so I didn´t look like a total idiot. I got the gist of some of what was going on, the problem is that in psycology there are complicated words. The session was long but we had a break which is shown in the picture above. There was juice and turkey sandwiches yummy. Then, at the end of the session she said we were going to write an exam in the afternoon. In Spanish! Good grief. Nobody told me about this. I was rather panicking because I thought it was like really serious. For lunch most of us went to a cute restaurant. It was nice to chat with my collegues and get to know them as people not just the other teachers. After lunch it was really hot!! We took some photos in the Plaza and then Pilar, Ray, Juan, my roomie and I went shopping again. I don´t think anyone bought anything. After we relaxed in the hotel and then went back to ICPNA for the exam. I was allowed to use my Spanish-English dictionary which helped, but the exam was not that serious. It was more like a personality test but it was really long. It took me about 3 hours to write the entire exam. After the written part we had to draw a person, house, and tree and then the same but in colours. This is supposed to tell us something about ourselves. So, if I did badly in the first part those of you who know my drawing skills can tell that it wouldn´t help much. However, everyone liked my tree and asked if the person I drew was my boyfriend. It wasn´t, which someone said was fortunate for him. Which was true because my drawings were awful except for my tree. After this there was another written part which I didn´t understand at all but did my best on. When we walked back to the hotel I was looking at the sky wondering where the stars were (smog covered) and I fell into a small hole. So, everybody was laughing including me and asking why I was looking at the sky and not the sidewalk. I am clumsy.
After the exam, the same 5 of us went shopping again and then out for supper and to the Plaza. When I told them about my travel sickness we went to the Pharmacy to buy Gravol for like, 30 cents haha. I didn´t buy anything because I really have no money, plus I didn´t see anything that said Chiclayo. Oh well. We arrived back at the hotel at like 10, and had 20 minutes to pack and leave for the bus. Everyone was very impressed that I only brought one bag. Really, it was only 2 days! Gravol is God. I wasn´t sick once on the bus and I just fell asleep. It was so nice! Pilar sat next to me and we chatted a bit with my limited Spanish and her limited English.
We arrived back here at like 7 yesterday morning. When I got off the bus I stood up and hit my head on the roof because you´re supposed to duck. Everybody thought that was pretty funny too. Oh dear. I took a taxi here alone (for the first time) and actually managed to say directions to my house in Spanish and end up here. Yay! I got changed and quickly finished marking my exam and then ran to ICPNA for my 8:00 class. I returned for lunch at about 1, which was fish, yucca (carb), a mountain of white rice (carb)and potatoes (carb). I think that my spaghetti rice pasta pie would go down well here. I used lots of ketchup for some flavour. I quickly planned my class for the afternoon at then returned at about 3:15 to open the doors (I have a key now) and teach my class. The exams went pretty well. It´s so rewarding with this class because they didn´t speak one word of English and now they can introduce themselves and talk basic English. It´s cool to think that I helped with that. I had a student score 100 and lots of 90s and 80s in that class and then I had one 34. This was really depressing for me. I must have really failed to help her somewhere. In my favourite class I had about 5 students ace the exam, which is set by the office to keep a standard. I was pretty happy. All in all, I only had to fail (and by fail I mean less than 80%) 5 students in all my classes this cycle, 2 of whom never came to class or wrote the exam so I don´t feel bad about failing them. Yesterday I got my schedule for tomorrow. This cycle I have 5 classes, 6-10 every night and then 8-12:30 and 3:30-8:00 on Saturday. No little kids, thank goodness, but one juniors beginner class (that´s 12 year olds) which will be interesting. It´s a good schedule because there´s a lot of planning to do during the day and I will have a bit of time to myself, plus I can still go to the gym and I don´t have any classes at 7 in the morning. Yippee!
I had a student email me and thank me for my help and said that the 100% was for me because I am a good teacher. So I was pretty happy but I don´t have a big head because I am so angry with myself for letting a student fail so badly. But I really appreciate that a student would say that to me.
Today I am meeting a friend for lunch. I slept in until 9 this morning. I know, I am lazy but I was shattered after work yesterday.
Good grief, I have written a short novel, but I´m sure I´ve missed out so much.
Thanks so much for all your emails!!
Okay, take care, greetings from Peru!
Un abrazo, Gemma
Ps. the other pic is Geraldine and I

1 comment:

  1. Gemma, this is awesome! I agree...GRAVOL is GOD! I am never ever ever without it! The fact that your students can now speak english is just partly because of you, it IS because of you! I love your novel.