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culture (45)

Many forms of communication

     Going to a country that speaks a language foreign to your own can be an intimidating prospect, but it doesn’t have to be. Japan has been my first experience in a foreign-speaking country that is not specifically set up for foreigners (e.g. resorts).

      I came to Japan only knowing two sayings: konichiwa (hello) and sumimasen (excuse me). I had no idea how I was going to assimilate to a life in Japanese language but I anticipated that I would be relying heavily on my phone to help me through it all. Reflecting back on my experiences in Japan I have realized there are many ways to communicate with others that don’t require you to know all the words in each other’s vocabulary in order to have a positive interaction.

 Japanese-speaking using English

     I was grateful to learn that most Japanese-speaking people know at least a bit of English. Students in Japan start learning formal English in elementary school year 5. In prior years they will also learn different phrases or words in English and many students go to education centres to improve their English speaking skills outside of school. This greatly helped me in being able to communicate with them from my own language. It was also a useful tool for them as there are many Japanese-speaking people who want to improve their English so they enjoy practicing communicating with me.

 English-speaking using Japanese

     When I was in Sapporo, we had the opportunity to attend Japanese lessons to learn some useful terms and phrases for our time here in Japan. Our homestay families also aided in our ability to practice some of the Japanese we had learned. The phrases we learned to talk about were very helpful for being able to communicate a bit in Japanese while we are here. Japanese people are always so nice and compliment you on your use of Japanese, even if it is only saying a couple words. They are always surprised and impressed.

 Translators

     Some of the conversations we have had with others have had to be translated from one language to the other, mainly because of the complexity of the topic. I am very grateful to all the bilingual people who have been able to help us in our communication with others as they have been the key component to our deeper conversations with people from Japan. I am sure it is an exhausting task to do, especially for the lengthy conversations that can ensue.

 Technology

     The use of technology was definitely a huge aid in our ability to communicate with others. The best apps I used throughout my entire time in Japan were Google Translate and VoiceTra. While they are not perfect, they definitely helped to get the idea across, both ways. It is also beneficial to utilize pictures while talking with others helps to make sure that the content is clear and makes it easier for others to follow.

 Non-Verbal

     Some of my favourite interactions on this trip have been non-verbal or situations where translations could not be made but we were still able to make connections and understand one another. My homestay family had four children; they were aged 8, 6, 4, and 2 so none of them had begun their English language learning in school yet. I probably spent the most time with the youngest of the bunch, Sunao. We developed a close bond even though we did not know each other’s language. This first came to fruition when I was eating lunch one day. Sunao loves to eat, so while I was sitting outside with my food, he came out holding a bowl for himself expecting that I would share, and I did. It started a bond between us, whenever I was eating, he would come, and I would share my food with him (even though he already ate). It grew into non-verbal playing, laughter, and offerings of items (he would always bring me my water bottle). Some other ways I connected with the other kids was through games such as Othello and hand-clap varieties.

 Dance, Plays, and Cultural Events

     Some of the situations we were in that did not really have the opportunity for translation to occur were in the form of cultural events, plays, and dance. This led to the opportunity for us to use improvisation, pay attention to cues, and read the room – which I found I was able to do in many contexts to better help me understand. One unique thing that we did during our introductions to the different classes at our school visits was incorporated a dance activity where we taught the students how to do the chicken dance. This got the entire class involved, interacting with each other, and having fun with us, without language being a barrier. The students seemed to really enjoy the dance and even the principal and teachers would join in. It was evident that this activity really impacted the students as later that day, week, or at other functions, students would come up to us and just start doing the chicken dance. We attended a couple school plays and functions. Although we could not understand the Japanese dialogue, we were able to attend to some of the humour aspects based on the students’ ability to project emotions through their acting. We were very moved by their various acting, instrumental, and vocal talents expressed through many different forms during our visits.

      One other interesting aspect about learning Japanese that came as a surprise to me was how activating that part of my brain, caused previously practiced languages to resurface. I found that my French words kept emerging and my American Sign Language went hand in hand (no pun intended) with the use of my new Japanese words. It is really fascinating how the brain works with language!

 

Ja mata!

 

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Scooting/Motorbiking around Da Nang

So you are thinking of riding a motorbike/scooter to get around Da Nang, Vietnam. Bravo! Here are a few benefits that may sway your decision:

  • Most time/cost-efficient mode of travel
  • Very enjoyable
  • An authentic cultural experience
  • Cool as heck
  • Driving down the road during a thunderstorm, your poncho flapping behind you, feeling like a superhero (See the previous point)

 

Assuming you have obtained the essentials, (e.g. license/bike/helmet) here are the personal tips and anecdotes I have accumulated over my time there:

  • Da Nang traffic is much less chaotic than it seems. There is a method and order to the madness and chaos.
  • Viewing traffic from the perspective of a passenger is much more terrifying than driving in it yourself. (Especially your first few days there)
  • Always wear your helmet! Protective eyewear is also highly recommended. Getting hit by a bug at 50kmh+ stings. Loose debris and gravel is also a potential hazard.
  • Vehicles in the left lane, scooters/bikes in the right lane, passing in the middle.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Drivers may be going down the wrong side of the road out of convenience. Red lights are sometimes ignored.
  • You need to be assertive but not stupid. When it doubt, brake.
  • Honking/beeping indicates other drivers of your presence. Use it when entering an uncontrolled intersection, passing other drivers, or simply when in doubt.
  • Drive defensively and as if you do not exist. Don’t drive beside motor vehicles if you can help it, and minimize the time you spend in another vehicle’s blind spot.
  • When changing lanes, always shoulder check! Faster moving traffic might be looking to overtake you.
  • Brake gradually. Other bikers are often following close behind you.
  • Don’t play chicken with motor vehicles. If you get into a collision with one, the vehicle will always win. Yield!
  • With the previous point in mind, other drivers are mindful of this. Use this to your advantage when entering a traffic circle or a left turn.
  • Another traffic circle tip is move with the large crowd of motorbikes. Other drivers will more likely yield to several motorbike drivers than the one lone bike.

 

Happy trails, and safe driving!

 

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Same same, but different.

Same same, but different. This popular saying in Thailand and Vietnam recognizes the commonalities between two things despite the differences that may exist.

During my first six weeks here in Vietnam, I’ve come to appreciate the nuances that make this country so different from Canadian culture. After dwelling so long on these differences (i.e. no McDonalds, excessive sweating), I have now come to notice and enjoy the similarities between these two countries as well. Let’s explore a few of these similarities I’ve documented between the two cultures:

In the gym:

  • The struggle to look good while resisting the temptation of delicious food lingering around every corner….
  • The sense of community that develops in an environment of self-improvement.

In schools:

  • The inherent sense of play that resides in everyone, especially children.
  • The class troublemaker that keeps the class interesting and entertaining
  • The spike in student investment and engagement when a little competition is introduced
  • The friendship/camaraderie that develops among the students and among the teachers

More fun comparisons:

  • Tim Horton’s coffee <=> Vietnamese coffee/cà phê đá 
  • 7/11 <=> VinMart
  • Starbucks <=> Highlands Coffee

 

Same same, but different!

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(Strange) Cultural Traditions

For this blog post I will be sharing some of the strange but awesome and interesting pieces of culture I have experienced throughout my time here in Spain.

A strange obsession with poop (around Christmas)

The common Catalan christmas ornament “Caganer”. This tradition has existed since at least the 18th century. It is a very popular component of the Nativity scene in some parts of Spain. The original design was that of a peasant who was defecating, but you can find designs with political leaders and celebrities. I know at home some people who would be absolutely horrified if they were to find this in a Nativity scene, but in Catalonia this is the norm, and it has been for many generations.

Tió de Nadal is a tradition where a hollow log defecates small gifts around Christmas time. I originally came across this strange tradition when I was searching for things that children in Spain learn in schools. I saw a video on YouTube that showed children chanting around a log and then taking a stick and hitting a log. They would then lift up a blanket covering the back of the log and take the small gift. Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBsnLk0bGKA ;Because I couldn’t understand what was happening or the lyrics of the song I asked some students at my school to explain it to me. They told me how this is a very common thing to do at school and at home. The children are asked to take good care of the log. Then they sing songs and hit the log with a stick. Then they grab the treat (usually edible).

 

La Mercè

La Mercè is a 5 day festival which aims to say goodbye to the summer and welcomes in the start of autumn. It ends on September 24th which is the Roman Catholic feast day of Our Lady of Mercy. Throughout this festival I immersed myself in the activities as a local would. A few of my favourite activities were: Gigantes (the giants parade), Correfoc (the fire run), and Castellers (human-castle building).

Gigantes was interesting because people would go inside hollow structures usually two or so meters tall. They would dance side to side and spin in circles. I honestly found it a bit unsettling that the faces were painted on and the arms didn’t move. I’ve seen giant costumes before, but they have always had a mask and ability to move arms and legs. It was a bit strange, but it was really fun to see. Gigantes were in a parade but also met in the square right by my apartment where they walked/danced through the crowd. It was really fun to be among the crowd of families who came to watch this.

Castellers (human-castle building) was probably one of my favourite things I saw in my entire stay in Spain. Groups of 30-50 meet and stack themselves on top of one another to build a tower. Build up and take down is a complicated process, and it was obvious that careful planning and execution is required to successfully make a tower. Also the bigger people are at the bottom -not just age, but physical stature. What I thought was interesting was that there are groups from different communities around Barcelona i.e. Dressanes, Sangrada Familia, etc. and it is set up like a competition. The crowds cheer and applaud the best towers. I noticed that the groups sometimes built similar structures, and other times the “castles” were quite unique. The goal was always to have children climb to the top of the towers and salute/wave to the crowd. I was glad to see that the children wore foam helmets but I wished that everyone was required to do this. It’s very obvious how dangerous this activity is once you see it happening in front of you. People are climbing up several stories and they are relying on the people below them to hold them up. If anybody falls they have only the people below them to break their fall. There are no safety mats or padding below, only the cement of the street. I witnessed one tower fall and it was pretty scary. The group had successfully built the tower and the people on the base were shaking. They were able to get about half of the people down when the rest of the tower collapsed. People were screaming and I heard some crying once they fell. I figured they would clear the square and an ambulance would have to come in. However this was not the case - instead, the show went on. The remaining groups kept building and the crowd kept cheering. Overall it was an impressive sight, but I don’t think this kind of activity would ever be allowed/encouraged at home because of the inherent dangers/risks.

Correfoc was a really, really fun activity. Many people were dressed up as devils (colles de diables). They brought heavy-duty sparklers and firecrackers and danced along Via Laietana. It is highly recommended that spectators wear long sleeve shirts and pants because there is a high probability of being burnt by the sparklers. There were different groups of people that supplied their own music (marching band style) and continuously burning flames to help people re-light their fire sticks. I had such a fun time dancing in the street among locals. My favourite part was definitely seeing the different sculptures built to spray sparks. There were lots of dragons and scary looking animals. People would either be inside of the structures walking, or if they were heavy enough they would pull/push them along the street.

 

I have really enjoyed experiencing Spainish (and specifically Catalan) culture over the past couple of months. I have learned so many interesting things and a lot about the history of the region. 

Hasta luego!

 

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Até logo Brasil!

As I drink the first Sprite I have had in 2 months and I eat what can very well be my last serving of Pão de Queijo, I can’t stop thinking about all the things I am going to miss in Brazil and all the things I am looking forward to in Calgary. I am happy to see my family and friends, eat the most amazing home cooked meal from mom, and be able to fully understand everyone! However, I am also sad to leave behind what has become a happy, well balanced, life here in Brazil. Here are some of the things I will miss the most:  

  1. The people: The more I think about it, the more I know that the hardest thing to leave behind is all the people I have met. I am going to miss their welcoming and friendly “Ola, tudo bem?”, their overall appreciation of the little things, their generosity and their kindness. This is valid for my amazing friends and for all those people I met briefly. Not so long ago, I left my phone in an Uber. Worried that my Portuguese skills were not going to be enough to get my phone back, a family of Brazilians came to my rescue; they contacted the driver and told me he would be meeting me where he dropped me off. Unfortunately, the driver never showed up. I tried contacting him again with no success. At this point, I was in Salvador’s Basilica, and I asked a church official for help in contacting the driver one more time. We tried with no success. In little to no time, I had 3 church officials and 2 police officers trying to help me. Although we weren’t able to get my phone back, they were supportive and made me feel safe in a moment where I was feeling frustrated and useless. Brazilians are welcoming and always ready to help! I am glad to have met good people while in Brazil, and I can say that they all have a special place in my heart!  
  2. Açai in hot sunny days (or rainy ones): I cannot express how much I love Açai, especially with strawberries, bananas and granola on it! I was lucky enough to taste it in the Amazon for the first time and I immediately fell in love with it. I ate this amazing dessert when I felt the sun was going to melt me, and when it rained so hard in Goiania, that it reminded me of Manaus. It became such an important part of my daily life, that it will be hard to not have constant easy access to it!
  3. As Feiras: Goiania has many street markets, where you can find anything from food to clothes to puppies. Going to these markets became a fun, relaxing, Sunday afternoon activity. It was the place where I refined my bargain skills, and where I got to try the best brigadeiros, and acerola juice. I will miss simply walking around these street markets with friends, while appreciating the many great things vendors were offering.
  4. Muay Thai with my roommates: One of my roommates, practiced Muay Thai for years, when one of our friends from the liaison found out, he took us to a gym and introduced me to this cool sport! This became a fun way to exercise and meet Brazilians! It was a lot of fun, and I will miss trying to understand our teacher’s instructions, as I carefully watched his actions instead of hearing his explanations.
  5. My daily Portuguese class with Uber drivers: I loved how most of my Uber drivers were ready to spark conversation, even after I timidly told them “eu não falo muito Portuguese”. They are part responsible for my language learning improvement and my confidence while speaking. I am going to miss our little chats about anything and everything.
  6. Discovering new foods and places: One thing I realize as I leave Brazil is that I did not get to know half of Goiania in two months! I loved walking around my neighborhood and discovering shops, I had never seen before, even during the last week in Brazil! I loved that people would keep recommending new parks, bars, and restaurants! My favorite last-day visit was to Parque Areião, where I got to see some cute monkeys playing around and some beautiful birds hanging out by the lake. It is located right in the heart of the city and it’s a popular spot to go running. I liked it a lot, and this was discovered on my last day in the city. I am happy to have seen so much in such little time, and I will miss this amazing city that hosted me for 2 months!

I will keep all of these things close to my heart as they become memories. My time in Brazil has had its ups and downs, but ultimately this was a unique and beautiful experience! All I have left to say is Obri-thank-you to everyone involved and everyone who helped me while abroad!

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Unplanned Adventure

Boa tarde!

It is crazy how fast time is flying by here in Brazil! I will be back in Calgary three weeks from today! This past weekend, my group and I, went on an adventure to Chapada dos Veadeiros with a group of seven brasileiros. Chapada dos Veadeiros is a national park that has many different waterfalls that you can hike to and is located about a six-hour bus ride from our city, Goiânia. The only details we were told was to bring camping equipment and that it would be very cold at night so make sure to bring warm clothes and blankets.

 

 

Normally, when it comes to planning a trip, I am quite prepared. However, I thought I would take the Brazilian approach of “go with the flow” this time around. We met at the Praça Cívica (Civic Square) at 7pm sharp because that is what we were told, in order to take the bus at 8pm. Once we arrived, we noticed that there was no one from the Brazil group there. As more time passed, we got more and more nervous. Finally, about 7:40pm, they began to trickle in. Relieved to see them we packed our things on the bus and headed out for our six-hour drive to Chapada. We arrived at a camp site, that turned out to be gravel in between some brick walls, about 5am and began to set up our tents. By 7am we were buying food at the local market in order to keep us full until we returned at 4pm. We each brought one big and one little water bottle, which turned out not to be nearly enough for the Canadians. The Brazilians were totally fine on little water; however, we felt dehydrated and super-hot hiking in the 35-degree weather. And at night, all six of us squeezed into a tent that ended up being like a little furnace when the weather only dropped to 17-degrees, so all of our blankets were tossed asside. Even though it would've been good to know the weather temperature, where the campsite would be, and how far we were actually hiking, it was all totally worth it! The next day we explored the beautiful town and had some delicious meals! We didn't have cell service, so it was a great time to really enjoy the time we had together as a big group. This weekend was the perfect get away during a busy time of online projects and posts.

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, it was such a fantastic weekend full of unforgettable memories! Culturally, we learned that our definitions of cold were completely different, not to stress about time, and cell phone service free weekends are good for the soul! Also, we were able to practice Portuguese with all of our friends as well as, learn many new words and phrases. We learned so much this weekend and I will always be grateful to the people who helped get us here and taught us through language and culture.

Obri-thank you!

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Japan: Culture, activities and food!

So far, from being in Sapporo, Japan, I have been doing various activities here with my family and friends! There is lots to see, eat, and explore! First, lets talk about culture. Japanese culture is quite different than Canadians in many ways, such as the festivals/ceremonies, formality (bowing, greetings when you come home and when you leave), and few trash cans.

I had the opportunity to witness and participate in the practice of a tea ceremony. This ceremony takes place near the end of October, including November, from what I was told by my host mother. I was shown how to properly and traditionally make green tea, offer it and to drink it in a very formal manner. There is a specific ceremonial way of preparing tea and drinking the tea in a traditional tearoom with tatami mat floors. The tea ceremony practice is a very slow paced process with various and distinct instructions. From what I have witnessed, the process of preparing it took around 15-20 minutes. It was a very interesting experience! 

What I was not used to was how formal Japanese people are. They bow in in multiple situations, such as when they greet you, and saying goodbye, and when they say sorry, or thank you. It is a very formal gesture in order to be polite. I am very intrigued by it. It comes so naturally to me now whenever I greet someone, say goodbye, and say sorry or thank you. It feels very respectful and I enjoy doing it. Another formality is greeting your family when you come home and when you leave. It was something new to me as well since I don't normally do this at home. If you don't greet your family when you come home (Tadaima), then you will scare your parents if they find you suddenly in the house without them knowing. As well as saying (Itterashai), when you leave the house, so they know you will not be home. I have gotten used to this as well, and use it on a normal daily basis now. 

Another cultural difference is the trash can availability around Sapporo. There are not many trash cans present in many areas, and so it is common to hold onto your trash until you find one. Japan is all about reducing and reclying the amount of trash people have. I think this is a great option to have to be a more green country. I've had many instances where I had to carry my trash for a long time until I found a garbage can. This conept makes me more mindful of how much trash I will accumulate everywhere I go and try to reduce as much as I can. 

For activities, there is so much to see in Sapporo and I recently visited a place called, Otaru. I inserted a picture below. It was a beautiful place and filled with tourists, such as myself. It is a popular destination when visiting Sapporo, especially this beautiful canal. Otaru is known for this canal and is a must see destination. 

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Another place I visited was Mt. Moiwa. We hiked to the peak of the mountain and was invited to a beautiful city view of, Sapporo! I didn't realize how big Sapporo was until I was up there. The city is lined with many buildings that stretches very far. It was a beautiful view. It was a great hike with beautiful trees and a variety of different plants we don't see in Canada. The hike was also lined with 33 stones that you pray to on the way up. They each have numbers that indicates how far up you are until you reach the top. I will possibly be hiking this mountain again next month! I inserted a picture below:

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Finally, the food! I have had lots of homemade dishes from my host mom and they were all delicious! (Oishi)! When we go out, the food is always great, especally the presentation of them too. There is so much variety in different Japanese dishes, I haven't even had the chance to really eat everything yet. There is more that I need to consume! I guess it's not a surprise here, but Japan does not have that many international foods, except Mcdonalds, and a few indian restuarants that I have seen, but haven't gone into. I did have the opportunity to try a Mcdonald's here and it was interesting. The bun they use is different from what I am used to, including the sauces (its only a big mac sauce). My family members rarely, if even ever, eat international foods. However, I did cook for my host family! I made pho! They really enjoyed it and are wanting to make it themselves next time. It makes me happy that they are open to trying new foods and the fact that they loved pho. I am hoping to cook a Canadian dish for my next host family, so we will see how that goes!

Overall, my experiences here have been wonderful here and I can't wait to continue my journey of exploring more about their culture, visiting different destinations, and keep eating! :)

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First school visit

Over the past couple of weeks, I had the chance to experience the culture and history of Goiania in a very fun way. This includes dancing “the first myth” circular dance in a class for the elderly, trying Brigadeiros on my first day at the university and Galinhada during the school visit, attending a Geography field trip to the Pedro Ludovico Museum and the Goiania Art Museum, and attending my very first Capoeira class. I heard from a fellow teacher in the Brazilian school system that Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian dance/self-defence sport, is included in the physical education curriculum for elementary students. I think this is a very engaging way to incorporate culture and history in the physical education class, especially considering this dance was originally used by African slaves as a way to practice self-defence techniques. Brazil’s culture is very rich and I am very happy to be experiencing it as part of TAB.

As I have visited only one public school, I have a very general idea of how the school system works in Goiania. The school I visited hosts students from 16 to 60 years old who did not had the opportunity to finish or even go to school as kids. It serves as both an Elementary and High School, but they also have specialized Portuguese classes for newcomers.

We observed a Spanish class, where they were analyzing a small text. It was interesting to see the different ways in which the teacher engaged with an adult audience. As part of the visit, I learned that although the government funds public school, they are often in need of resources and are not able to pay teachers as much as they would want to. The school has a few students in need of differentiation and the host told me that they usually have meetings to discuss the creation of new supports for them. In one of the classes we visited, there was a teacher assigned to one student for support. If I understood correctly, he is a teacher there, but he also volunteers in order to help that student. Although the school is physically small, it is very complete in terms of classes and separating grade levels. The majority of people prefer private schools, as there is a big gap between the public and private school systems in terms of teaching quality. I now have a very general idea of the school system in Goiania, but I hope to learn more about their curriculum and pedagogical strategies.

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My Mississippi experience began the minute I boarded the plane from Houston to Memphis. I came through the cabin door, and looked up, realizing that nearly everyone on the plane was decked out from head to toe in Ole Miss gear. I immediately felt very out of place in my floral sweatpants! What I found out later was that there had been an away game in Houston; Texas Tech vs. Ole Miss. People down here are so crazy about football that it is not uncommon for them to travel several hours by plane or car to attend away games to support their team. Apparently there were about 4000 Ole Miss fans at the game in Houston. At this point I was beginning to suspect that football was an even bigger deal down here than I had expected.

I was fortunate to sit beside a very nice man named Hal on the plane. Hal is an Ole Miss alumni, and an avid football fan. He doesn’t even live in Oxford anymore, but he still has season tickets to Ole Miss football. We talked for the entire two hour flight, and I experienced Southern hospitality for the first time. After having known me for only an hour, Hal had invited me to join him and his family and friends at their tailgate tent before the upcoming home game, and he even offered the use of his season tickets to Ole Miss games whenever him and his family weren’t going to use them. Hal also told me about a current controversy concerning the Landshark, which is Ole Miss’ new mascot.

Traditionally, the Ole Miss Rebel’s mascot was Colonel Reb. The Colonel bears a striking resemblance to a Confederate Army soldier, which given the history of the Civil War in the South, is a pretty easy connection to make. Being a university town, Oxford is generally more liberal than other places in Mississippi, which I did not expect. In 2003, the university decided to rescind Colonel Reb as the official Ole Miss mascot. My understanding is that this decision reflected a growing desire to have the school mascot represent all students, and more importantly, for the mascot (and by extension the University) not to perpetuate the systemic racism that is so embedded in the South. I can only imagine how it might feel to be an African American student, attending a school where the mascot is a direct reminder of the Confederate Army, and all of the people who fought to maintain the institution of slavery.

In 2010, the mascot was changed via a student vote to be Rebel the Black Bear. The Black Bear never really caught on though, prompting another student vote in 2017 where voters chose between the Black Bear and the Landshark. The Landshark originated with an Ole Miss student named Tony Fein who played for the defensive line on the football team. Tony had served in Iraq as a member of the US army prior to attending Ole Miss. Following a successful play on the field, Tony would throw up his hand on top of his head in a “shark fin”. This was a symbol that he had brought back from his time in the army, where his patrol had nicknamed themselves the Landsharks. This “Fins Up” symbol was adopted by Ole Miss fans, and is widely used today, making Tony the Landshark a logical choice for a mascot.

The controversy lies in the fact that not everyone agrees with the change from Colonel Reb to Tony the Landshark. I listened to Hal and some other men behind us on the plane discussing the new mascot; saying how much they didn’t like it, and how it was not representative of Ole Miss fans. I chalked this up to a difference in age and culture. After all, Colonel Reb had been the mascot when Hal attended Ole Miss many years ago, and no doubt held personal significance for him. One woman we met at the university said that she fully supported the move to the Landshark, and the accompanying move towards inclusion. Imagine my surprise when I talked to another girl in her early twenties, who, when I brought up the land shark debate, declared that “Colonel Reb will always be my mascot”. It is interesting to note that Colonel Reb had been removed as the official mascot about fifteen years before this student had even come to Ole Miss. I had assumed that people my age here would be more informed, and more likely to support the change in mascots. I wonder if this girl simply didn’t know or understand the historical ramifications of Colonel Reb, or if she understood and didn’t care to think about the ramifications of that support. I still see Colonel Reb around campus on the odd banner or tshirt, but it’s clear that he is not a part of official branding any more. I am very curious to continue to meet new people here, and try to get a wider and more accurate idea of how many people still see Colonel Reb as their true mascot, and why.

 

 

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Japan Fall 2018

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Travelling internationally and independently is a big step out of your comfort zone. This was mine entirely. But, there are so many benefits that I hope to achieve from going on TAB. Primarily, I want to increase my confidence in taking new challenges out of my comfort zone that will allow me to also learn about myself, and grow as an individual. Travelling is perfect for me to achieve this confidence and learning. I have always wanted to travel somewhere far and by myself to try new things and stay open minded. With my previous experiences in travelling and the love for travel, I have progressively, over the years, grown an itch to keep going. And now here I am in Japan to embark on this journey!

Going to Japan has always been a bucket list country of mine to visit. Their culture is different from Canada's in many ways, and I wanted to immerse myself in their country and learn about them. By doing so, I hope to learn about Japan’s fascinating culture, people, values, and language. It would be interesting to see the relationship, according to similarities and differences, compared to our own. Maybe I will be able to pick up certain traits and values that are meaningful to me to hold on to, or need to learn and improve on about myself. 

Not only this, but it would also be a great experience to witness the classroom setting, the curriculum that is being taught and the school culture itself of Japan, such as what can we learn and strengthen in our classroom. I hope to learn the various teaching methods of Japan that will allow me to integrate new knowledge and skills into my own teaching career. Since Canada is a multicultural country, it would be beneficial for future teachers, such as myself, to be able to expand their teaching techniques that align with a diverse range of students.

Currently being in Japan already, there is so much to experience and learn. I am grateful for this opportunity to visit Japan and I will keep you all posted in the next few blogs!

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Waking up in Goiânia

Boa tarde!

Today is my first morning to wake up in Goiânia and it started off with açaí and granola, so pretty great if you ask me! I had my first experience in the grocery store trying to find produce to make my “normal” dishes. However, I quickly found that many of my usuals did not exist here. This gave me the opportunity to look for new produce and create a new goal for myself: learn how to cook some local cuisine.  

Before arriving to Goiânia, I traveled a bit around Brazil and began to try and pick up as much Portuguese as possible. Speaking Spanish really helps, even though many words and verbs are different, there are also similarities that aide my learning. I learned how to order food, say excuse me, pay at a store, and most importantly how to say, “how cool!”.

Que massa! (which literally means pasta) or Que legal! (which literally means legal)

 

 

For my first week in Brazil, I traveled to the Lençois Maranhenses where there are sand dunes and lagoons that fill with rain water. I learned that even though some of the lagoons have names, such as "Logoa Bonita" and "Lagoa Azul", they are not permanent because the wind changes the lagoons each season. The sand dunes with the mix of blue and green lagoons were absolutely stunning! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapada Diamantina is where I spent my second week in the town of Lençois. The reason this national park has this name is because "Diamantina" means diamond and "Chapada" means plateaus, hills, and valleys. This is where mining for diamonds was worked on for many years. Fortunately, the search for diamonds in this area became illegal around 1994 and and has since become a main place for tourists. It is said that only 30% of the diamonds in the area has been unearthed, but there are still thousands beneath the surface. The damage to the rock formations is noticeable, but it was stopped before the true beauty was destroyed. Within the national park, there are massive caves, blue pools, lush waterfalls and plateaus overlooking the valleys. Not only is the park a true treasure, so are the people of Lençois. This town was full with happy people always willing to help. Any time I look lost or confused they offered a hand. This place is a true gem, in every sense of the word. 

 

 

 

 

 

A little about myself: I am passionate about languages and how people use them, experiencing diverse culture, and committing to life-long learning. While I am here in Brazil I hope to focus on learning Portuguese, delving into the local culture, learning how cook Brazilian cuisine, dance samba, and something. I could not be more grateful for the opportunity of this experience and will be sure to take advantage of every moment while I'm here!

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My first full day in Tokyo! Things got started nice and early, which was great for getting to see the city before rush hour hit but not so great for finding a restaurant that was open for breakfast. I settled on a small western café called Dean & DeLuca, whose menu was mostly in Japanese but which catered to more English speaking guests than I’d seen so far anywhere else. I had their tuna sandwich on “pecan bread” out in a small courtyard that sits between some of the underground pedestrian tunnels folks were using to get to work. That’s one thing I didn’t expect to find here: lots of green spaces that you can sneak away to for some quiet in the middle of the day.

TGMqzXO.jpg?profile=RESIZE_710xToday marked my first day taking the subway. Tokyo’s transit system is a bit confusing, but not nearly as confusing as it should be given the city’s size, the number of companies that run trains, subways, and buses, and the number of people who all know where they’re going when you do not. Instead it’s very well organized: there are colour-coded signs in Japanese and English all over the place, and the info maps are close enough together that if you get lost (like I did in JR’s Tokyo Station), you’ll get un-lost quickly enough.

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As a history teacher, I couldn’t pass up a chance to tour the Imperial Palace downtown. The palace, built where Edo castle once stood, has some stellar gardens and a handful of 17th century watchtowers that you can get pretty close to. Tours are free and offered in Japanese and English, and if you plan ahead of time you can download an audio guidebook for some extra tidbits as you walk around the grounds.

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After the palace I walked down to the National Diet (Japan’s legislature), which is also surrounded by a wide range of government buildings. It didn’t look like I could tour inside most of these, which was a shame, but they were nice to wander by and gave me a better sense of what the city feels like on a Friday afternoon.

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I stopped in for lunch at CoCo Ichibanya Curry House not too far from a Shinto shrine I wanted to visit. Most of the other guests were office workers on their lunch breaks. Mostly regulars, it seemed, but the waitress was very helpful and the menu had loads of options. I went with a seafood curry that had shrimp, octopus, and a couple other I-don’t-know-what-those-were-but-they-were-tasty.

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The Hie shrine sits at the top of a hill with a staircase (and escalator) leading down to the city below. Out front there are a number of lanterns set up for the Sanno Matsuri Festival, which is on until the 17th. I didn’t stick around for the festivities but the shrine itself was peaceful and worth visiting if you’re interested in history and culture.

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On the train back to the hotel I found out that my route was ending 1 station short of my hotel. Not a huge problem, save that this other station A) had 4 different exits and B) my phone has decided it does not like loading maps anymore because it takes joy in watching me struggle. Again Tokyo’s organization came to the rescue. Every few blocks there are info maps that outline where you are, where subway stations are, and where to find nearby landmarks (like that hotel you want to get back to).

That’s all for today! Next is dinner and a walk down to the park I can see from my room. See you tomorrow!

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Obrigada for eveything Brazil

 Now that the TAB experience is over, I'm looking ahead to my practicum. I am so excited to take what I have learned and experienced in Brazil and share my new perspective and realizations in my teaching. I have been making connections between my experiences in Brazil and what I have learned in Interdisciplinary and Indigenous classes and I am excited to put it all into practice with my partner teacher in my kindergarten classes. Stories, indigenous perspectives, building relationships and being able to relate to ELL students are just some of my main takeaways from my combined online courses/TAB experience. Brazil has more than one story or narrative and I was able to experience many different parts of Brazil – the flashy tourist beaches of Rio, everyday life in Goiania, homeless villages in Sao Paulo and many parts in between. Brazil has a very negative stigma attached to it because people tell one story, instead I am coming home with many stories of Brazil – some bad, but more so good. I met amazing people, traveled to different towns/cities, and learned some of the history. I learned about how the education system is working for the students and in the ways that it doesn’t. There is always room for improvement, even in Canada.

I came home with exactly what I set out to get – a new and different perspective to teaching and life in general.

As much as I miss Brazil, it is good to be home. Even with the snow and cold.

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Canada, home sweet home!

It's good to be home,

As I write this it is 5:30 am and minus 15 degrees in Calgary. I arrived home from Vietnam 3 days ago, thankful to have just barely flown out before a Typhoon hit the area. It’s bittersweet to be home. First of all, it’s freezing! I’ve barely worn socks in the past 5 months let alone winter wear. Secondly, I almost had a heart attack grocery shopping in this country again, I can see why people go to South East Asia and never leave. But overall, I am relieved and happy to be home. My first stop on the way home from the airport was Tim Horton's. I sent a picture of my coffee and a picture of the roads covered in snow to my new friends in Vietnam (two Canadian staples: timmies and snowy road conditions). I've been periodically checking updates on the typhoon that hit Vietnam shorty after I left. I was saddened to learn that it caused flooding in Hoi An, a magical town only 40 minutes from where we were staying. Hoi An is a touristy area that left a lasting impression on us. We returned multiple times to enjoy the shops, lanterns and relaxing atmosphere. It is disheartening to think of the damage caused by the flood.

            Being home still doesn’t feel completely real so I haven’t really begun to deeply reflect on the entire experience. I am still trying to catch my bearings in this winter situation. In Vietnam we joked about all the things that would feel weird about being back in Canada, such as the open spaces, the silence and using crosswalks. I haven’t really noticed that anything about Canadian culture feels weird though. It feels as though I never left (apart from the weather and the atrocious price of food). But I suppose that is because Canada is home, it will always feel just right.

As happy as I am to be back in Calgary, I am sad about leaving Vietnam. We met so many wonderful people who helped us along our journey. It’s funny how just as we are getting used to the culture we have to leave. I am so grateful for this trip. I think it's still too soon to fully grasp exactly how valuable this experience has been but I know It will be something that I look back on often.

 Since returning home, I have been thinking a lot about practicum and to be honest I am a little nervous. I had finally gotten used to teaching in Vietnamese schools and now it’s time to teach in Calgary again. The schools we taught at in DaNang were very standardized and simple. Teaching entailed a lot of lecturing and textbook reading, something I find very different from teaching in Calgary. It will also be very different and refreshing to have access to technology in the classroom again. Something that I really missed in Vietnam. 

I can't wait to see how this experience has affected my confidence and creativity as a teacher. I'm hoping I get the chance to share some of my photos and stories with my grade 2/3 practicum class, because it's really all I want to talk about right now. 

cảm ơn và tạm biệt!! 

(Thank you and Goodbye) 

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Tchau Tchau Brazil

The time has come to say goodbye to Brazil. Goodbye to flip flops everyday, plus 30 weather, sweating all the time, coconut water straight from a coconut and acai, just to name a few things.

The past 10 weeks have flown by and have been filled with lots of fun, adventure, challenges, experiences, memories and learning. We have met some amazing people and had an incredible trip.

Fun

-Rio

-Pirenópolis

-São Paulo

-everyday with Megan

-sitting by the pool.

Adventure

-hiking to the Christ Redeemer

-camping near waterfalls.

-hiking to many different waterfalls.

-jumping from too high into the pools beside the waterfalls

Experiences

-backpack stolen while on the beach in Rio (lost $, clothes, phones) trying to get help, stuck in our bathing suits all day.

-driving in Brazil and up one of the craziest bumpy sandy roads I have ever driven on.

-staying in the most beautiful open concept inside/outside space house.

-spending time in hammocks

-Paddle boarding in the ocean at Copacabana

-stumbling on to a night market with food and craft beer in Rio.

-sitting outside a bar while it poured rain harder than I have seen (getting wet because it was also windy, but laughing and loving it the whole time)

Challenges

-communicating

-finding help after our backpack was stolen

-getting used to 'Brazilian time', we were often referred to the prompt Canadians.

-traffic (pedestrians have little to no right of way)

-having no phone for most of the trip (challenge at the beginning, but a blessing really. I learned to disconnect and that I don't have to take pictures of everything, it's okay if it is just a memory.)

Memories

-Hostel owner picking us up, taking us for beer and pizza (still in our bathing suits..)

-watching the sunset up at Sugar loaf in Rio.

-swimming in the waterfall pools and underneath the waterfalls.

-interacting with the school children and all the schools we visited. (many drew us heart pictures) Children are children everywhere you go and laughter is universal.

-all the inside jokes with our new friend Matilde, the exchange student from Belgium.

-trying to learn how to dance to the funky music with our Brazilian friends.

Learning

-spending time in different public schools in Goiania. Seeing first hand what public education is like in Brazil, and how education is very political and far from standard.

-observing how English is taught as a second language and having the opportunity to teach a few lessons.

-Portuguese (according to Memorize I am up to about 70 words).

-Being in a place where I don't speak the language is very frustrating, but I learned a lot while struggling to order food, drinks, give directions ect. So many basic daily interactions I took for granted back home.

Special shout out to Rafael who was our main tutor and point of contact. He helped us get settled at the beginning and at the end of the trip invited us all out to his mother's house for a home cooked Brazilian lunch We spent one of our last days in Goiania hanging out in Andreza's backyard, eating delicious arroz com galinha and feijao tropeiro, drinking cerveja and visiting.

All in all, these past 10 weeks have been unforgettable and I am so thankful to have been apart of TAB -Brazil.

Tchau Tchau.

Our selfie with Andreza (she's the blonde in the light blue tank - can you believe she's is Rafael's mom (he's the one in the front)

Christ the Redeemer - worth the hike!

Me and my menina's

Sunset from Sugarloaf mountain in Rio

One of the many cachoeiras we visited.

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My time here in Spain is quickly coming to an end and I only have a couple more days in the classroom! I couldn’t be more grateful for

my experience here and I think it has ultimately helped me to become a better teacher. For my last week here in Spain, I am trying to soak up as much as I can before I head back home to Calgary. That includes getting as much beach and sun time as possible!

Today, November 1st, is All Saint’s Day (Todos los Santos) and a holiday here in Barcelona. Cemeteries are traditionally open for longer as it is a time for people to visit and remember their lost loved ones. It is also tradition to attend church services on this day. Schools are closed, as well as many other public services and stores.

I will definitely miss the food here, and I’ve been trying as many different restaurants as I can before I leave. There’s almost 10,000 restaurants in Barcelona, so that’s no small feat! Even though I have spent two months here, I feel as if there is so much still left to see and experience. Just the other day I learned that Creme Brulees (called Crema Catalana here, which are slightly different than the French version) most likely originated in Catalonia in the 14th century. The culture and history of Barcelona is very rich and vast, and it’s sometimes overwhelming to take it all in! There are still conflicts here regarding the independence movement, but for the most part, things have settled down (at least for now). There is still much uncertainty in the region, but new elections have been called for in Catalonia next month.


I am looking forward to my last couple days in the school here, although I am sure it will be bittersweet. 

 

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Boa tarde do brasil,

Where has the time gone? It seems like we only just arrived in Brazil. It is very hard to believe that in just over two weeks I will be back in Canada and cold weather. Some days its so hot here I can’t wait but then I remember I hate being cold. Our time in Brazil has been a mixture of keeping busy with our online classes, visiting language classes, taking Portuguese and exploring.

The last few weeks we have had the opportunity to observe in different levels of English language classes. The schedule they made for us had us rotating through three different classes but due to holidays and tests I have really only had the opportunity regularly visit one class. It is a juniors 6 class with about 12 students ranging in age from about 12-14. They are quite chatty and easily distracted but a fun class. I enjoyed having a few classes to observe the teacher, Fabiano, and his teaching style as while as brush up on my English grammar. The students were asking me what I was writing in my notebook and I told them I was learning along with them and they were amused by that. This week, I had the opportunity to teach a short lesson on interrupted past continuous and the difference between ‘when’ and ‘while’. I had to look it up to make sure I would teach it correctly. I decided to mix in a short lesson of Canadian vocab. It was fun to share some very Canadian things, places, and people with the students. We talked about Moose, elk, hockey, lacrosse, maple syrup, the RCMP and of course Ryan Gosling. We finished by played a game where they picked two actions and had to combine with ‘when’ or ‘while’ and incorporated some of the Canadian vocab. It was learning moment for me through out the whole lesson as I adjusted as I went and had to think on my feet to fix hiccups in my lesson. My biggest takeaway is that explain Canadian things is difficult and I need to speak slowly (always my problem).

This class also helps me with my Portuguese. I wish I could say that I was able to have basic conversations but alas, Portuguese had not come easy to me. I can say hello, greet for morning, afternoon, and night, say goodbye, how are you? And respond. But other than asking people their names, age, where they are from and what their profession is, I struggle. The students love when they can speak Portuguese to me at the end of the class since usually class is a no Portuguese zone, however they all get very excited and speak at the same time. Once they slow down and take turns it is beneficial for me – they love to help me. I usually can pick up a few words of what they ask me but overall, I struggle a lot. I able to read/recognize written text and words but I am struggling with the understanding and speaking. Our Portuguese teacher, Pedro has been wonderful and this week he took us along with the other exchange students to eat a traditional Brazilian dish called Pamonha. It is a corn based dish that is served in a corn husk, very hard to describe but very tasty. We also tried it deep fried and a corn based dessert that was like a pudding. Pedro helped us with ordering in Portuguese which is a skill I am still working on, it seems if your pronunciation isn't just right people don't seem to understand at all what you want or need. I am hoping in the next few weeks I can work on my clarity, pronunciation, and confidence in speaking Portuguese so at the very least I can order Acai with granola and condensed milk (my favourite) and not receive granola and banana instead. Small goals.

 We have used our weekends to see Goiânia and more recently a few places nearby. We were brave and rented a car to go to nearby Pirenópolis and it was both exhilarating and nerve racking at the same time. Brazil drivers are pretty crazy. We had a wonderful couple days exploring the town - touristic, charming, and full of great places to eat and shop. We also explored some nearby waterfalls and drove up one of the craziest, steep, bumpy sand road I have ever driven on.

The next weekend we went camping. We rented a FIAT Toro, which is a little truck, and off we went to Chapada dos Veirdos. We were a little under-prepared, who knew it got cold in Brazil? We spent our days sweltering in the heat while we hiked to amazing waterfalls and cascades and our nights were spent shivering in a tent. It was an experience I will never forget.

We have visited local breweries in Pirenópolis and in Goiânia and drank some amazing local cerveja (beer). We have had lots of cerveja both local and not. But I still need to try 'pequi' - it is a local fruit and apparently people either love it or hate it. You can't bite the fruit because it has tiny thorns that get stuck in your tongue and it has a very strong aroma. I am hoping to try it before we go just to say I have - we have tried cerveja with pequi flavour as well as a sauce.

 We have also used some of free time to visit more classes at the language centre at the request of some of the teachers. They say it is a great opportunity for them to practice their English and in turn we learn a little bit more about Goiania, Brazil, the education system and about the students. They love to ask questions about what we think of Brazil, what we like here, what we don’t – which is hard to answer. I love Brazil, but it so different from Canada. The biggest thing for me is the safety, everyone is always reminding us to be safe, and not walk anywhere at night. We are also able to share about ourselves, Calgary, and Canada with the students so it’s a win-win. Again, I always have to remember to speak slowly and use simple language so the students are able to understand me – I always want to say a lot in a small span of time.

 I am looking forward to seeing what our final weeks here have in store for us. Hoping to learn as much Portuguese as I can and soak up as much of the sun before heading back to Canada. Our time here is wrapping up so quickly it is hard to believe I will be teaching in a kindergarten class in just a few weeks.    

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Tchau for now!

 

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Japan is amazing!

Konnichiwa!

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Time has really flown by and it’s already the middle of the TAB experience! Japan continues to be amazing (although starting to get a tad cold) and contains new knowledge and information every day.

 School Festival

I had the opportunity to see a Junior High School festival and it was quite frankly, amazing. Students get two weeks to prepare entire skits, musicals and videos, in which the entire school must participate. Each student is invested because they get to choose what position they want to be in for the festival (i.e. lunchroom decoration, which performance, announcements, etc.). I was very shocked about the high quality and the effort that all the students put into everything, from the costumes to the dances, to the decorations to the food. Moreover, I appreciate how they help each other through switching off doing the lighting for certain scenes.

My most memorable experience was the Aladdin musical.  Although I cannot understand the language I believe even if I never saw the story before, I would still understand the story! The students' dances were synchronized, costumes were authentic and the singing was amazing.

The school cheers on everybody and this helped create a sense of community. 

School Visit

I have had the opportunity to visit three very different schools: a rural school (Shippu Elementary and Junior High school), Affiliated Junior high school, and Sapporo Asahigaoka high school (which is very prestigious). While all the visits contained pleasant surprises, the Asahigaoka high school was the most memorable for me because it was so different. Here, almost all the students will advance to post-secondary education, so the students design their own schedules (just like in University) to take courses they are interested in.

2039852?profile=RESIZE_180x180I struggle with the language barrier, as there are some many questions that I would like to ask the teachers but couldn’t. During this visit, I got to witness a Biology lab, a Chemistry lab, English class and Biology class. English class is a struggle, as students only take it for their University placement exam but they don’t actually see the application of what they are learning. The terminology they learn is difficult and in my opinion meant to impress instead of common day use. On the other hand, I got to meet a passionate Biology teacher, who is also in charge of the Biology club. In order to allow students to visualize the process of gestation and growth, they grew their own chickens from eggs (and I got to hold one!) Moreover, the classroom is full of alive and dead specimens and covered with student presentations about what they are learning/ investigating in Biology. Because of what he does, all the students love the subject and find use in what they are learning, which is the type of teacher I aspire to be! 

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School Placement

For this week, I am placed at the Affiliated Elementary School. On our first day, there was a school assembly for the students, where we (Heather and I) were introduced as University students from Calgary. We were expected to do a speech about ourselves, which we gave in Japanese and English. I think this was the right thing to do because the students and teachers really appreciated our effort to speak in Japanese. Moreover, they have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome, especially all the students who will say hello and good-bye whenever they see us.

I especially like how we get to eat lunch with the students. Students actually serve lunches to their own classmates by working as a class. During lunch, all the students wear an apron and hat, and then they rearrange the classroom to sit in groups for lunch. While some students hand out utensils, others are in charge of handing out various food items. At every meal we get a carton of milk (Sapporo is famous for their milk!) Students have a unique way of folding their milk cartons to conserve space, which I found interesting. What I really enjoyed is the scissors, rock, paper game (our version is known as rock, paper, scissors) to see who gets the last morsel of the school lunch. This is very entertaining! Then everyone helps clean the room before they are allowed to go play.

My experience has been absolutely amazing at the elementary school. I am excited to see what junior high school will be like! 

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Second Post!

Xin chào from some of the Vietnam crew!!

    Issues at home will seem forever trivial after this. Every bathroom trip here I think: Will there be toilet paper? Will there be a hose? Will it work? Will I have to use a squatty potty? Will there be water to manually flush the toilet? Is there going to be a bucket to transfer the water? (Because I lifted a giant garbage can full of water in order to flush due to a lack of bucket!) Will there be hand soap? More often than not the answer to all these questions is no! Nevertheless it is a beautiful place.

            That being said, I love being here. I am enjoying having to figure things out, and the overwhelming culture shock has settled into a deep appreciation of the way they live their lives here. I am finding that I deeply regret not learning more Vietnamese words, as the few I did learn are not nearly enough! As a side note, I am truly dreading coming back to Canada where we wipe our dirty behinds with toilet paper instead of neatly cleaning ourselves off with water first!

            In Vietnam we are going to a primary school and a high school. After experiencing some classroom experience in both, I feel amused to realize how much more I am looking forward to teaching the high school class versus the primary.

            The primary school we are going to starts at 7am. Though I could not believe it when I heard it then ends at 4:15pm, it makes sense in hindsight because we learned the children nap for about 3 hours a day. This surprised me at first, but it makes sense! Like many other places that are incredibly hot, siestas, for example are common and necessary! Our correspondent at the school we call Jade. That is what her Vietnamese name means. She is such a wonderful person, and has expressed to us so genuinely multiple times her passion for teaching English. I love learning about her life story (having gone to air/piloting school, and working at an airline in security for years), and learning about how she became the passionate teacher she is today. Jade has treated us so well, and has already taken us to the well known Han Market to help us get our Vietnam áo dài’s (a tad unsure of the spelling still!) made to wear when teaching. It is funny to me, because like in Canada, Jade wears lovely colours and adorable outfits at the elementary school, and we kept this in mind when we were with her buying our outfits. However, we then learned at the high school that the teaching outfits are moving towards being more simple in colours, as to not make the teachers stand out. Though in all fairness, all 5 of us stand out basically wherever we go, so I suppose it does not make much difference! I hope they are proud that we have gotten them, and I am eager to see everyone’s reactions when we come to class wearing them. All in all, the primary school is not what I expected, though I am embarrassed to admit that. In hindsight, I should have realized that the young children are not yet fluent in English, thus making explaining anything to them incredibly difficult. I am trying to learn some Vietnamese to help this, though it usually just results in them hysterically laughing at me, and the teacher (who occasionally is not in the room) having to save me from being completely lost in translation! Our experience at the primary school has been incredibly overwhelming, but I am still loving every moment of it. There seems to be some miscommunication between the teachers and Jade, and she has tried to clear that up for us. The Vietnamese culture seems to purport a ‘sink or swim’ sort of mindsight, which has taken some time to adjust to. Nevertheless, the children adore us all, and help make it worth it. Jade is so appreciative of us, despite me feeling like sometimes we are just a hindrance during this busy beginning time of year. Here in Vietnam we had quite a bit of trouble accessing D2L at first, and were very behind due to this struggle. After letting Jade know, she was incredibly accommodating and ensured that we had some days off to catch back up.

            The high school experience for me so far has been wonderful. The high school we are placed in is a prestige school, requiring the students to take an extensive exam in order to get in. All of the students are incredibly smart, though the subjects they major in does differ. Due to the unfortunate unforeseen events that occurred here, I have taken on working with two different teachers. Therefore, I am teaching 4 high school classes a week. The problem with that is, though I could use the same lesson for all classes, they differ in majors. Therefore, the English majoring students are much more fluent in English than the other two classes I teach. The other class majors in Math, and the other class is an IT class. I found it fascinating that the high school teachers warned me about the differences between these classes, though I did appreciate it. I am noticing that the differences are not quite as large as the teachers let them out to be. However, the eagerness in learning English does seem to differ a tad more. Though I truly think it is not an attitude problem, and more so a fear of speaking a language they are not as good at. The below picture is a shot from the high school hallway that I found incredibly amusing.

            Before I ramble far too much, I will point out that living in Da Nang has been wonderful so far. I was a tad concerned when we were in Ha Noi prior to arriving here, as it is a very different place. I wonder if the comparison is similar to living in the centre of New York, versus the smaller cities that surround the area and are less face paced. We are so lucky here; we live in a beautiful residential neighbourhood and am incredibly close to a large mall where we are able to get groceries. The life is very different, and there are an endless list of things that have taken some getting used to; fires of garbage being burned in the streets at night, a ritualistic drumming ceremony that seems to happen randomly throughout the city almost every night, non existent traffic rules, the list goes on! But I am so grateful to be here, and have been treated well here overall.

            Today I was explaining to my teacher why I sent my lesson plan in so late (after 5pm on Sunday for a late morning class on Monday) and she was surprised to hear I have University classes on the side. She said, “How are you meant to experience the life here in Da Nang?” I replied, “Well, I am not too sure yet!” Though I am sure it will be quite an adventure!

Not to copy Sam or anything…but PS. Jade suggested I buy some different tops so that the vast amount of sweat I am sweating out everyday is less visible. Ha! And the picture of the fans doesn't explain enough, as I couldn't get all the other 6 fans that are on the side walls in the picture!

“Teacher Jenny” (as they call me here!)

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Two Weeks of Teaching in Vietnam

We began our teaching adventure in Da Nang about two weeks ago. So far, we have settled into our Da Nang home and have already begun teaching. First, we started at the primary school, where we’ve been going 3-4 times a week. I started teaching at the high school today and will go every Monday for two periods. It has been a very busy and exciting couple of weeks.

            The primary school we teach at is very different from Canadian elementary schools. The instruction is traditional and the class sizes are huge. I counted 46 students in a grade 4 English class that Sunaira and I taught for one period. The school days are also long. School starts at 7am and ends at 4:15 pm. The day also includes a long nap period for all grades (1-5). When we aren’t teaching English classes we help with English Club. English Club is voluntary and the students who attend are passionate about learning the language. Something I found interesting about English Club is that members of the club must choose an English name for themselves.

            The high school we teach at is a school for gifted students. I teach two grade 11 English periods on Mondays. Most of the students speak English quite well. I complimented a student on his English and told him I hear a bit of a British accent in his pronunciation. He laughed and told me he watches a lot of British television. The teacher I am working with would like the students to practice listening and speaking with me. We decided that my lessons will focus on Canadian and North American culture (the students love to discuss this) and I will incorporate many opportunities for them to practice their speaking and listening skills. Many of the older students in Da Nang aspire to leave Vietnam and attend University in The United States, so they have many questions for me about North American Culture. Today a student asked me why Canadians have a reputation for being “push-overs,” which I found quite humorous. I was also asked if it is normal to kiss someone on the cheek when saying hello in Canada.

I was surprised with how much respect and admiration I was shown by the high school students. They seem to truly love practicing English with an English speaker. I allowed them to vote on next weeks cultural topic and they decided on Canadian slang and social norms. I am excited to create a fun filled lesson that gives them plenty of practice.

 

P.S: Neither school has air-conditioning and today a girl got up during my lesson to point a fan at me.

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