Saturday, December 3, 2011

The wisdom of Dr. Seuss

I keep wanting to update, and then it seems overwhelming, there is so much to catch up on and so little time, it seems.

On October 29th we completed our first entire year here. Can it really be a year?

Looking at the year in retrospect, can't really be done today. I have spent all week with a late-spring flu, horrible body pains on Monday and Tuesday, fever and chills and profuse sweating during two nights, then a cough that has kept we awake ALL frickin night for 3 nights in a row, and the cherry on top was waking up this morning with pink-eye. AWESOME!! There is no other word for it.

I also seem to be writhing in some kind of ... should I say it?... mild depression. There I said it... no worries though, everything is under control. Ok, that is not entirely true, but I'll be fine. I think.

I was reading Oh, the Places You'll Go! last night to the kids and a few stanzas stood out.

And when you're in a slump,
you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

and then...

I'm afraid that some times
you'll play lonely games too
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you.

and I think I got a little teary-eyed. That Dr. Seuss was one wise dude.

Speaking of the kids... they have adapted great. After their year in Kindergarten and pre-pre-school, immersed in Spanish, they speak almost like little natives. It has been amazing to see how they went from speaking a few isolated words to speaking in full sentences, telling stories. They don't speak perfectly, and sometimes they get genders wrong or I'll hear "Yo me gusta", which is not grammatically correct in Spanish, but it is somewhat consistent with English "like" structure... so interesting!

Now the kids even play with each other in Spanish and do some of their solitary-play-talk in Spanish, which is fascinating. We still speak English with them at home though.

They both still struggle a little with "saludos". Here in Chile, like in many Latin American countries, you greet and say your farewell with the cheek-to-cheek kiss. They do ok sometimes, but others, they just can't be bothered. Especially when saying good-bye, which they are normally not happy about, they don't want to kiss anyone. I can relate, though, so I don't push it. But it is interesting to think about how social norms, just like language, have to be acquired.

It has been great to see how they have developed bonds with family here. G has a cousin her age. They have such different personalities that it took a little time, I think, to learn how to negotiate that relationship, and since families spend a lot of time together, they were forced in some ways to deal with each other. But now it is so cool to see how they resolve conflict and how they join forces against "outside threats"

Nico: is it a stage? is it the age? is it because he is a boy? Dealing with him has been slightly complicated at times. He is so whiny and so needy; he is somewhat sullen; he is stubborn; he is defiant. I am afraid to report I often have less than sufficient reserves of patience to do something as simple (seemingly) as brushing teeth.

But he still looks just as edible when he is sleeping quietly.

Friday, September 30, 2011

This little llama takes after her mama

Her favorite sandwich is tomato, lettuce, and avocado... and in a certain order.

She is my kid for sure.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Happy 18th Chile!!!

September 18th is the date when Chile celebrates its independence. They celebrate "la chilenidad" (chilean-ness) all week--las fiestas patrias. It is the favorite holiday of many Chileans.

It means:

A long weekend. We are going here.

Fondas where you drink chicha, a sweet grape-based licquor and dance the Cueca, the traditional dance of Chile. Check out Margaret's photos from last year.

LOTS of empanadas (See Emily's photos here)


Here are my little kidlets in traditional garb for their pre-school independence day celebration, dancing traditional Chilean dances.

FELICES FIESTAS PATRIAS!! Have a long, lovely, safe, food-filled weekend!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lady Marmalade

I am finally finding time to cook a little again... for fun.

I took a few pounds of these:

and reduced them

and added some more stuff:white sugar, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, red wine and a few sprigs of thyme

and ended up with this:

Onion marmalade... quite delish!

I used this recipe here (but used butter/olive oil instead of bacon grease)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Just another English teacher

Most gringas (and gringos) who live or have lived in Chile, have at some point taught English.

My first job in Santiago, 15 years ago (good lord!) was teaching English. (I have also taught Spanish since then.) If you remember the "How we met" story, you know I met my husband teaching English.

Some do it because it is a good way of living abroad for a few years. Some do it because they found the love of their lives, who happens to be Chilean, and now they live here and whatever they studied has been rendered useless either because there are certain areas of study, take law for example, that don't "travel" well or because they are limited by a language they don't know--Spanish.

Some actually like teaching English... but there are many who would rather do something else, anything else. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard a gringa say: "I don't want to teach English, I want a real job."
Many gringas are also irritated beyond belief at the unfounded assumption that they are English teachers... in terms of annoyingness, it chalks up there with the unfounded assumption that all gringas are easy. We are not all easy and we are not, by the mere nature of our gringa-ness, all English teachers.

So, it is funny, in this context of opposition and the with the discourse of desiring a real occupation, to be a gringa who works in the English-teaching industry. It is not just because I am a native speaker, though that makes me more marketable here in some ways (though it is slightly illogical in other ways--because just being a native speaker in no way makes someone a better teacher). I am a language-related teacher because I love it; it is one of those unexplicable passions. I love language, I love how languages work, I love the random similarities and the baffling differences. I love talking about universal grammar and the critical period and minimal pairs. My doctorate degree is in language education. Teaching about language is what I do. It is what I have chosen to do.

I am actually not an English teacher per se... I am an English teacher-teacher. I prepare future English teachers. I try to help them step out of the box that they were taught in--"a fill-in-the-blank-worksheet is not an activity" and "how are you going to activate their previous knowledge?" I teach theories of second language acquisition and methodology courses.

But I can understand the irritation piqued by that unfounded assumption that if you are a gringa, you teach English. I get it.

Recently a woman I know told me that her (adult) son had asked her to ask me if I would give him English lessons. I sweetly (because she is sweet) said: "I wish I could, I just don't have time." (and I silently whine: "I have a 44-hour contract, I am expected to research and publish, I leave home at 7:30 am (because I live far), I get home some nights after 8:00 (because I live far), I love what I do, but I have two kids and a husband that I want to see and not enough time to read or run or watch movies, and you are asking me to spend my precious free time giving English lessons.")

When I meet people in the hall or bathroom at the university where I work and they ask what department I am in and I say Education and they say, nodding-- knowlingly, assumingly "Oh, you teach English." There is a little twitch in my brain and I politely say "I teach language pedagogy." (and I silently hiss to myself... "and I have a Ph.D. in the field"). But I don't say it out loud because I don't have to prove my worth to anyone and I am actually mostly uncomfortable talking about my Ph.D. (despite having mentioned it like 15 times in this post, but you guys already know!)

I have friends who, when we made public our plan to return to Chile, asked: "Are you going to teach at the institute again?" I reply politely, "No, I think I'll find a university job" (and I silently, sarcastically hiss to myself: "Dude, I just spent years finishing my doctorate degree so I could totally go back to what I was doing 10years ago!") But I don't say it out loud because I don't have to justify myself to anyone.

It is an odd space, feeling perfectly happy with my very real job, feeling like I don't have to justify what I do or why, but not wanting to be put in the gringa-English-teacher box that the other gringas complain about either.

ya know?