09 April 2011

My not-so-secret aspiration.

So you know how everyone has these secret aspirations? If I was more daring, I would become a lounge singer. I secretly think I could be a great film director. I wanna be an astronaut. Or, in the words of Alex from "Everything is Illuminated" (its a good movie, you should watch it) "I write too, but I think I was born to be an accountant."

Well, my secret aspiration involves me being a restaurant co-owner. And not just any restaurant co-owner.

I want to make pies.

I love pies. I love making them,  I love eating them (although I love making them more, which is probably a good thing.) I like the creativity of arranging a restaurant and themeifying it. I like the idea of having an industrial sized oven and going home with flour in my hair. I like the idea of working with Elika, even if its 14 hour days.

And until this year, this dream has been kind of a random ambiguous type aspiration. But now I'm kind of thinking, why not? I like baking, I make tolerably delicious desserts, I'm a fair head with numbers, and UAF* has both culinary arts and business classes. (I mean, I'm still wanting to take foreign languages...but I can do both, right?)

Another sign that made me think Hey, this could actually work! is that in a secondhand store today, I found waitress outfits.

So this is me in my head, thinking about my future:

And this is the dress I got for Elika, just in case (and if the whole restaurant thing doesn't work out, we could always be the waitress sidekick from the delicious movie "The Waitress"):

So my secret aspiration: unveiled to the world (although everyone who reads this proabably knows it anyway). See you in 10 years: possibly as a translator, possibly as a bum on the other side of the world, and possibly as a foreign traveling piemakeress (think Vianne in Chocolat, only with pie), possibly in Anytown, USA, with a cheery smile and a menu.

*Oh yeah, that's where I'll be next year, if I didn't tell you. Go Nanooks!

07 April 2011

The Blame

I was reading an article (a good one! Read it!) here about Greece's economical reality and its underlying emotional and psychological causes, and I saw a lot of similarities between that culture and Ecuadorian culture. This sentence particularly stood out:

"So as people who feel powerless frequently do, the population blames everyone but themselves for their current situation..."

Something I've noticed about the culture here is blame. When I admonish a student for any reason, the reply that comes is "es que..." (it's just that...) He hit me first. (and someone has a pencil scratch on their cheek) She was bothering me. (and I have two blubbering 3 year olds) I have to go to the bathroom. (getting up and leaving in the middle of a class) I wasn't in class. (after missing class for a week without notice or asking for any work, and wondering why they had a bad grade). Even within the administration, I see blame instead of taking responsibility. It's all blame blame blame!

And reading the above quote made me think about the causes of this inevitable "it wasn't my fault" attitude. Is it because they feel powerless? I can understand that feeling. Don't I feel powerless when my students get consistently low grades on my test despite my best efforts to teach? Of course, and that leads me to blaming the book, my lack of training, my student's lack of engagement. And despite those all being contributing factors, I can't just shove the blame onto those reasons.

Another thing that brought Ecuador to mind in the article was this attitude of "too cool for school". To some extent, I think this is present in every school. But I see it so much here, and it makes me so sad. To idolize someone who skids through high school, getting horrible grades with a careless attitude is so counterproductive. Especially compared to the opposite ideal: Work hard, and use school as an opportunity to better yourself (and possibly accept that the things teachers ask you to do are for your own learning and they don't need to ARGUE everything!).

This attitude isn't omnipotent here. Julian and Cristina come to mind: they study when they need to study. They do their homework, learn from it (gasp!) and as a result are looked upon as geniuses (genii?) by their fellow students. And they both are intelligent. But their good grades comes from honest work and commitment.

The worst part for me is that a lot of my students don't see the connection between working hard and success (weather it manifests itself by good grades, going to university, or speaking English). My students will haphazardly copy their homework throughout the entire unit, not pay attention, and then be ostentatiously upset with their test score. Sometimes I just want to scream at them "DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND THAT YOU CAN TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR OWN FUTURE?"

But of course that would just be even more counterproductive.

The second-worse part for me (or maybe the worst. Actually, they're tied for the worst) is that I don't see the school community stepping up to the challenge of high-achieving students. I see them giving punishments to those who are "malcriado" (which is a word I absolutely hate and refuse to use. It literally means "created badly") and threatening to call their parents. I see them giving sanctions and unhappy ultimatums. What I don't see, and what I want to see so much, is a set of clear expectations. I want to see consistent consequences. I want to see an actual process for dealing with misbehaving students! Because in the 7 months I've been here, I have seen how the culture of punishment contributes to the culture of uncaring, and how it just leads to a downward spiral.

This was a gripey blog post. Truly, I love the school. I love the students and their random sayings. I love how my routine bus ride home has become a story-telling time for two of my students, wide eyed as I retell in broken Spanish Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I love that students call me by my first name, and sometimes use the "Ud." (formal) tense and sometimes the "tĂș" (informal) tense with me. I love how the class I have once a week asks me, throughout the week, what we will do for those 40 minutes I'm with them. I love that sometimes, they have school wide days like today, where each class cooks a food and researches the nutritional facts behind it, and its like Costco samples but with fresh corn on the cob, pumpkin puree, cheese empanadas, and morocho.

I love Ecuador. But I would love it even more if blame was exchanged with responsibility.

Table Manners

Another change, that I don't particularly mind but I do think that it will be an adjustment coming home.

Table manners. They don't really exist here.

Mom, when I come home, you probably shouldn't watch me eat for about 2 weeks when I get home...

Mystery Fruits! The

So here's the almost-latest episode of MYSTERY FRUITS!!! Thanks to Emily* for putting it up.

* If you don't get Emily's blog, you should get it here because she's a very insightful girl with really good blog posts!