Thursday, February 24, 2011

Squash falling from the sky!!!

I'm not saying that yesterday was an awful day, but if I were to say that both the child who cries pretty much everyday, and the teacher who cries every other day, met together on this day, that might paint a clearer picture for you.

All is not lost however.  At the pulperia (or small convenience store) for example, I have started to translate one fruit name in English a day.  Today was grape.  I have no idea how to say grape in Spanish.  I sure hope I was right.

Then later, while walking home from my host sister's house, I saw two bikes on the side of the road.  They were pretty small bikes, so I figured they were some of my students.  This was in fact the case, but who were they, and perhaps even more important, where were they?  So I kept walking up the hill and I saw this orange thing fall from a tree.  Oh, they're in the tree!  I see.  It was a pretty skinny tree and I was impressed to say the least. (Though you can ask anyone who knew me as a child, I have never been too adventurous when climbing trees.  We had an awesome tree in my yard as a child.  It was known as the "climbing tree."  Kids came from all over the neighborhood to marvel and climb.  I usually made it to the third branch, about two feet off the ground before I stopped.  These kids however would have put the whole neighborhood to shame.) 

So from in the tree I hear a bunch of mumbling, then "Teacher, Teacher!"  To which I respond, "Hola!"  Then there is more mumbling and a thud as another orange thing falls to the ground.  I move in a bit closer to investigate.  These orange things look a lot like squash, but why would kids climb up a tree to get squash?   It didn't make any sense.  So I asked, "What is that?"  The answer "Cacao." 

Wait, Cacao, that from which chocolate is made?  She answers, "No, you eat the seeds."  I have no idea what this is now.  I had just learned after all, what we think of as guava is guayaba in Spanish, but there is another long fruit known as guava in Spanish.  What it is, I do not know.   Therefore I took her word for it.  Ok.  Whatever, who knows what this awesome squash thing is.  Which by the way, I'm fairly certain they were stealing from another neighbor.  If this is ok or not, I do not know, but they did have a rather sheepish look on their faces when someone drove by on a motorcycle.

So I am gifted one of the "cacaos", if you will and was wondering how does one eat this thing?  I kind of asked, but I didn't understand the response.  I figured I would just take it home and ask my host Mom.  So we continue the walk into town and since they have bikes, I am carrying the loot if you will.  A bag full of squash, so I think.  We get to a fork in the road and they divide up the booty and one is still for me. Plus, the little boy picks out a small one that looks good and gives that to me.  Sweet, two squash stolen from the neighbor's yard.  I am unsure that I am presenting myself as a good example.

Later in the evening, I asked my host mother about these whatever they are.  They are cacao beans (or pods, if you will)!  They are what they make chocolate out of!  You do eat the seeds!  Kind of, I really just sucked the membrane off of the outside of the seeds (Or beans? Now I am terribly confused.).  I was told that the seeds were bitter (or tasted bad, I don't know the word for bitter.) and that they were the part that was dried in the sun and made into chocolate.  "Don't you want to eat it?" she asks.  Why yes I do, but first I photographed it.  Then I watched my host mom whack at the smaller pod with a big knife (I wouldn't go so far as to say machete.).  I should figure out how to make chocolate, there is another pod in the cupboard.

I have also found that the seeds have caffeine, as this is the fastest I have ever finished a blog.  Pura Vida.  Good Luck getting to sleep LeeAnn.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

This one is cheating, Don´t tell my students...

Turns out I am a lazy blogger.  Imagine that.  I have started about 4 more posts, with internet and in my journal.  Yet they have not been published.  I´ll put them up sometime I am sure.  In the meantime, here´s a little bit about my first few days of school.  It may look familiar to some of you.  I´m not going to say why in case it isn´t for all of you...

I had my first two days of classes last week.  Or I had my first two days of baby sitting while my director had
classes and I "got to know" the students.  The younger kids seemed to take to
me.  I was offered cold pizza some students had from the night before.  One said
"El pan es muy rico.  Quere, Teacher?" Or, the bread is really tasty.  Do you
want some teacher?  As he started to pull off a piece with his little grubby
hands. I considered, but how could I say no?  Then his brother followed suit and gave me a piece
of his, this one with cheese.  I think that's a good sign, right?  The older kids don't
seem to be as excited.  I tried to play a game with them and they looked at me
like I was a huge fool.  Sigh.  Then the next day, I asked them what game kids
their age liked to play and they said one that I had played the day before with
the little kids (the little kids are happy when Teacher plays with them) and I
was excited because it seemed like a fun game.  Turns out, Teacher was not
allowed to play because the teams would have been uneven.  Little brat sixth
grader.  I don't know why I agreed, but it meant that I stood with the REALLY
shy girl (she won't talk to anyone in English or Spanish).  Maybe the game is
fun to play, but it's not fun to watch for an hour.  I don't know about those
big kids.  They are too cool for school.  I guess I should just make class
really hard.  What pay back.  I can´t handle the stress of feeling like I´m in middle school.
I have to be the bigger person here, even though there are a few students taller than me... So
technically, no.  Adult, be an adult.

Altogether there are 22 (?) students.  The director told me there were only 20
and then there were more students on the first day.  It's nice that the previous
volunteer told me a little bit about the students, cause I know that they speak
more English than they let on.  Some kids do seem really excited to learn and to
be pleasing and polite.  If anyone has any tips on how to punish 6th graders... 
Man, they make me want to cry.

Speaking of crying, I did.  A lot.  While walking into my town from the bus
stop.  So the road is gravel and you know, along the side of a mountain...  I
was walking and doing ok, but it was the worst time to be walking in the sun at
this point along the equator.  I got right before this really steep part and
stopped to drink some water.  Seemed like a good idea.  Then I walked up the
really steep part, but turns out, though it's not as steep of an incline, right
after that part is a stretch that goes on forever.  I started to walk and took a
break in the shade for a minute.  Then I walked another 20 feet and stopped in
the shade.  I was trying not to cry during these breaks.  But people would
occasionally drive by and make no notice of the gringa having a heart attack on
the side of the road, so I felt pretty alone.  And I was thinking all of these
horrible things like "How come I can't make this walk when 5 year olds here can
make it?  When did I get so lazy?  What if my students don't like me?" and "Why
would I leave the comfort of my home, family and friends to do something so
hard?"  And I got to one shady spot and figured it was better to get it out.  So
I started to cry, then I pulled it together and moved on to the next shady spot
where I cried again.  And so went my first walk up the mountain.  All in all it
only took a little over an hour.  Pretty good time considering. I need to learn
not to book it inbetween shady spots.  That might help.  It takes about half an
hour to walk down to the bus stop, which is usually pretty peaceful and
uneventful though there are often times when I almost bite it.  Gravel is
slippery!  I haven't cried on the way down yet.  We'll see what happens when I