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My First Last Class March 8, 2009

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I had my first last class today. By that I mean that today was my last Saturday English class. Things here are rapping up and that is causing some mixed feelings.

I miss you (if you are reading this then it is more than likely true, unless I picked up a large audience of strangers). I want to be home, but that doesn´t mean that I want to leave. I started creating a slideshow using PowerPoint (some people might already know that I kinda enjoy that program) and I got really excited to share my experiences with the folks at home. I also got a bit nostalgic (if I can use that word when talking about pictures that are less than 2 months old and some I only took yesterday).

I feel like I have become a part of the school and of this community, but I am ready to go home too.

Saints and Sisters March 1, 2009

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This past week I became an honorary Saint, as in the Siena College Saints. I had a wonderful week with my new friends from Siena. They gave me more energy than I knew what to do with. I needed to be re-energized. They also helped give me some new perspectives. I suppose that I started thinking about all of this simply as a job. A few of my new friends remedied me of that.

I would like to say that when the Siena group left I locked myself in my room and cried, but that wouldn´t be true. What actually happened was Sister Jennifer and I went to the mall and ate ice cream. I hope that group from Siena expects to see me again because according to Mapquest.com it is a mere 4 hours and 7 minutes from my house.

This week also made me realize how much the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters have been a part of my life. I had my college education in a school founded by the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters and now I am teaching in another school founded by the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters. I have already recieved some birthday wishes from some of the sisters. Sister Florence even begged the “whole angelic choir” to sing happy birthday to me. I believe that if anyone could get an angelic choir to sing happy birthday it might be Sister Florence.

I live, eat, work, play and pray with the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters. I hope that they know that I count them all as friends and family.

The Field Trip and Crocodiles February 20, 2009

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Today we went on a field trip. We went to the first cathedral in the Americas, Diego Columbus´ house and a Museum. I think that the pictures will do the trip more justice than me trying to explain what it was like.

I will type this… It was a good time. We didn´t lose anybody. The students got to see some neat things in their city. It was a success.

On a side note…  I was talking with Sr. Valdiar today and she mentioned that the group from Siena College will be going to the same restaurant that the Alvernia group went to. I told her that the food in the mission center is better (this is true). She agreed and said that she doesn´t like any of the food at Conuco (that´s the name of the restaurant). I asked her if there were any restaurants in the city that she really liked thinking that she would tell me about a wonderful local place that only the locals know about. She said that there is a place right next to the cathedral that has hamburgers. The place that Sr. Valdiar likes is the Hard Rock Cafe.

Then she told me that there are crocodiles in one of the lakes at Tres Ojos. ¡Muy peligroso!

That Guy February 13, 2009

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Here is a hypothetical situation, you are a customer in need of some service. That isn´t to much of a stretch for anyones to imagine. You find the long 1-800 number, you call it and you wait for someone, an actual person, to answer your call. When you finally talk to someone you notice, without any difficulty, that this guy has an accent. Let´s assume this guy is from another country. Let´s say the Dominican Republic. This guy is very polite but despite his best efforts he cannot help you. I think that it is safe to assume that most everyone has had an experience similar to this one. Frustrating isn´t it?

That is one perspective. Here is another. This guy works a full shift, finishes late at night then wakes up early in the morning to get to class. He actually paid attention in his foreign language (English) class and taught himself the rest of what he knows. Now it is paying off. He is working hard and is studying for his future career. Sounds good, right?

Yes and yes, it sounds good, but it is still frustrating. My purpose here isn´t to somehow make over-the-phone customer service easy. If I could do that, I would and then I´d make a lot of money.

The next time that you are talking to an over-the-phone customer service representative I want you to, when you get a minute, maybe after you have been on hold for a half an hour, to think about this. That guy who is trying to help you may be a friend of mine and he is probably trying his best to help you; he told me he would.

A Cold Front February 9, 2009

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From what I hear, it is quite warm at 50 to almost 60 degrees in Pennsylvania. It has been chilly here. Today it barely reached 70 degrees. On Friday I saw a student wearing an honest-to-goodness winter coat. The weather still hasn´t fallen below 65 degrees.

This cold front started to give me the sniffles. ¿Ironic, isn´t it? The temperature dips a few degrees here, is still warmer than the heat wave at home, but I get a cold anyways. I guess with a new school comes a new batch of germs just like any other, plus I was getting used to the heat.

Anyhow, the sisters here know how to treat the “gripe” (literally means the flu but it is used more or less as umbrella term for colds and other little illnesses). First, they tell you that you need to eat more rice, beans and oranges. This is actually what they say all of the time, but if you have a cold they end their sentences with something like, “para el gripe” or, “for the cold”. Then they make you tea. Before I left the school sister Jennifer made me tea with passion fruit leaves, lemon, honey and garlic, yes, garlic. Then when I got back to the formation house sister Lourdes made me tea with garlic and honey. I know it sounds weird but they were both rather tasty.

The moral of the story is that I have the sniffles, but I am being well taken care of.

Halfway February 8, 2009

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I haven´t bothered to count the days exactly, but I think that I have reached the halfway point of my Dominican expereince. Some of me is thinking, “hey, I´m just starting to get the hang of this, I can´t leave now” and then some of me is thinking that it will be good to be home again. Either way, things are still good here. “Paz y bien” to all you on the home front.

Mosquitoes February 4, 2009

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My last post was mostly about my not understanding Spanish and in many cases I still don´t understand, but I´d like to focus on what I do understand this time around. Some Spanish words are starting to have meanings of there own or meanings outside of simply having an English counterpart. For example, “sientese” is what I say when I want a student to sit down. I don´t have to translate it before I say it. I don´t think that any teacher who is reading this is going to be particularly surprised that that is one of the first words that has been truly ingrained into my vocabulary. Likewise, “subame” is what the kindergartners say when they want me to pick them up and put them on the jungle-gym. I think that I am on the verge of “thinking in Spanish”.

Another thing that is changing, when I would hear people talking to other people it used to be just white noise. Sister Brigid warned me about this. I am starting to pick out words, not enough words to understand what they are saying, but enough to occupy my thoughts.  I might get to the point that I can actually eavesdrop before I leave.  

I am still never found without my Spanish/English Dictionary too far out of reach. Speaking of which (or rather, writing or typing of which) it will be donated and replaced with a much more comprehensive dictionary. I have looked for too many words that were not there.

OK, so I know that I mentioned that the sisters that I am living with are originally from Brazil and Spanish is their second language as well. I am going to be barbecuingon Sunday and I wanted to know if the sisters had skewers for sish-kabobs. I didn´t know the Spanish word for “skewers” so I looked it up and asked if they had any. The sisters here also didn´t know the Spanish word for “skewers” so they looked it up in their Spanish/Portuguese dictionary. Anyways, that seemingly simple question took close to fifteen minutes to ask and answer.

On an unrelated note, I hate mosquitoes. I would like to know exactly how many I have killed so that I can compare that number to how many have bitten me. Both numbers are not small numbers.

Sometimes I Smile Because I Have No Idea What Is Going On January 29, 2009

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Sometimes I smile because I have no idea what is going on. I have to admit that I am learning Spanish, but here is the thing with languages; they are huge. Sometimes despite my greatest efforts I just can´t figure out what people are trying to tell me. Some of my students don´t quite understand that I don´t understand what they are telling me. One little boy in particular, Brayan (pronounced like my name), talks to me like I´ve mastered his language ten times over. I haven´t.

I think that I understand why babies will cry and carry on like they do. They can´t express themselves. I can tell people that I am hungry and when I have to use the bathroom which gives me a one up on babies, but I still have some dificulty in expressing myself sometimes. Not being able to express yourself is frustrating.

The expression that I am writing about isn´t the kind of expression of ones innermost soul, the kind that can only come from highly overpriced abstract art or music that bursts out of suburban garages and irritates neighbors. I simply mean that am stuck using primitave Spanish to say whatever I want to say. If I want to share a thought that includes an important word that I don´t know in Spanish then that means that that thought might need to go unsaid. That is frustrating and so I smile.

 

Hola, St. Ignatious fourth graders

Going To The Beach With Nuns January 25, 2009

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Wednesday I went to the beach. It was very nice. I went with six nuns and three laypeople. I am sometime surprised at how surprised I am when I realize that nuns are people too. Some people like going to the beach and that includes nuns.

In elementary school we never thought that our teachers had lives outside of school. They may have told us that they had families or hobbies, but we never really believed them. I guess that we all thought that after school all of our teachers get sucked into a limbo where they correct homework and grade tests until the beginning of school the next morning. That is until we saw them at the grocery store or any place other than school for that matter. Nuns are like that. Some nuns like to sing, play the guitar, tell jokes, go to the beach, play games or do any number of “normal” things just like “normal” people.

This being said, it is still kinda weird sometimes living in a convent.

The Language Known as English January 24, 2009

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After another week of attempting to teach English. I am even more astounded as to the strangeness of the English language. I know that every language has its quirks, but right now I am seeing the English ones. How many different sounds does each letter in the English language have. Think about the letter “A”. It has two sounds, right?: Short A as in apple and long A as in train, but that´s not all. What about “boat” where there is a letter “A”, but it has know sound at all. Or what about the word “what”? That has a completely different sound. That is only the first letter of the alphabet and I am sure that I am missing a few sounds. I won´t even get started with “ph” or “gh”.

Please, reply with some other pronunciation quirks from the English language to help me prove my point and, perhaps to prepare me for teaching more of these oddities.

Ha, phonics, my eye.