“So what is your schedule like from day to day?”
Many of you have asked me the above question and I still don’t know of a good way to answer it. While I’m now well into my third week in the city of Rivera, everyday offers a new opportunity, whether through meeting new people, visiting a new place, or closing my eyes and biting into yet another part of a cow that I had never considered eating prior.
Outside the classroom this week I made several trips to el campo – the countryside – where I had the chance to see tunnels from an old gold mine and visit the remains of South America’s first hydroelectric dam. On Sunday, I attended a Formula One Truck race at a local in the pouring rain.
Just yesterday my inner gaucho emerged as I mounted a horse for the first time in 17 years. Fun fact: the horse belonged to the President of the Uruguayan House of Representatives – Dr. Gerardo Amarilla – whom I met.
Amarilla is a family friend, as his wife is a colleague of Sandra’s and his daughter was a classmate of Guillermo’s. Had I not been informed of his role in the government prior to meeting him, I’d have thought he was just your average José. Humble, welcoming, and conversational. Casually enjoying a Wednesday afternoon at his countryside home with family. I just can’t picture US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan riding a horse wearing a dirty tee shirt and sandals…
Dr. Amarilla leading me during my 15 minutes as a cowboy
With regards to teaching, since I last posted I have visited six different schools and presented to both high school kids and adults. Part of the reason why my day-to-day schedule varies so much is the school structure, which is different than what is typical in the United States in a number of ways:
- In Uruguay, students go to school in shifts, attending either the morning session or afternoon session of classes. The two sessions are separated by a 1-2 hour lunch period, in which everyone goes home to eat with family. (Many businesses close during this time, too. Think siesta in Spain!) As a result, students only attend classes for 5-6 hours per day.
- In the US, teachers have their own classroom and students come and go during the day (unless of course you’re my brother-in-law, Nick, who only just received a room of his own a couple years ago after teaching from a traveling cart for a number of years, but that’s another story…). In Uruguay, the students maintain their classrooms and teachers come and go during the day.
- Teachers contract their hours through a public establishment rather than with an individual school. As a result, teachers can work as few or as many hours as they desire and many teachers work in different schools throughout the day/week. This presents an added challenge scheduling classroom visits, as many of the teachers are in a different building each day.
- Technology is limited. Every classroom in every school has a whiteboard, but I’ve only had a projector to use in one school. Furthermore, teachers pay their own way with regards to materials, including copies! As a result, there are very few handouts and worksheets.
The changes might seem drastic, but the general atmosphere and environment of the schools I’ve worked in is similar to schools I’ve worked at in the Midwest. In addition to working at these public high schools, I also work at least a few hours each week at a local teacher-training facility called CeRP. In Uruguay, rather than attend a University, aspiring teachers attend a CeRP to get their licensure.
This past week I was involved in a campaign celebrating World Day of Physical Activity promoted by one of the high schools in Rivera: Liceo 7. It’s worth mentioning that the public schools are numbered, rather than named. Anyways, with the help of a Phy. Ed. teacher, we were able to have the first of what will hopefully be many Basketball Bilingüe meetings at a local high school. The program’s implementation got us a little press from the Fulbright Commission.
Moving forward, we will meet at least once a week so I can teach the rules and practice the fundamentals of basketball, which is somewhat popular here yet relatively unknown by many. In addition, the sessions will provide a place for supplemental English practice, as I try to speak in English as much as possible.
In our first “practice” we covered traveling and double-dribbling, and worked on passing, changing directions while dribbling, and jump-stopping. It reminds me of when I worked YMCA Basketball in Red Wing, because we’re pretty much starting from ground zero and I really have to water-down the language I use to make it comprehensible for them. While we were able to successfully complete the traditional 3 on 2, 2 on 1 drill, it’s safe to say that we’re a few weeks away from setting screens and taking charges!
Lastly, how unreal is this poster made by the school administration promoting the program??? Basketball and English with a North American. Outstanding.
This past weekend, we were pelted with rain, receiving over 26 cm (10″) in a 72 hour period. As a result, there has been horrendous flooding both in the department of Rivera and its’ northern neighbor Artigas. While the area where I live was largely unaffected due to the hills and elevation, well over 1,500 people have evacuated their homes due to flooding. I’d be curious to hear if anyone had seen or heard anything about it in the States considering it has been all over national news down here.
Despite the major flooding, life really hasn’t slowed down at all here… considering the pace of life is just a little bit slower in general. That’s not to say life is boring by any means. The atmosphere just seems much more relaxed than what we are accustomed to in the United States. For example, today is my 25th day in Uruguay and I am yet to hear someone say they are ocupado: busy. In fact, most often when I greet someone and ask them how they are doing, they’ll respond by asking, “¿Todo tranquilo?”
While it literally translates to, “Is everything calm?”, it’s a typical phrase that people use to say hello and I like it. The goal is tranquility. Or better yet, it’s “normal” to be calm, and so far I have no problem with keeping it tranquilo.
A las ordenes…
Algo bueno: Parque Salesiano – Where I go to feel like a kid! Any time of day there are people of all ages ready to play sports, practice their English, or just chat.
Algo malo: A rain-soaked weekend!
Algo curioso: Kite-flying is a common Riverense tradition around Easter time. I see dozens of them flying every single day.