Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Career Day!

Hello excellent people,
     Today was our first "Career Day" event in Jalpa, and tomorrow we continue in La Palma. We had a great turnout, with the kids hearing presentations about banking, a dentistry, architecture, accounting, public relations and communications, beekeeping, and optometry. The students learned about these professions and what it takes to achieve them. We also spent the first part of the class taking about different careers and what the students would like to be when they grow up. We've got a few doctors, a few vets, several soldiers, a lot of FBI agents (?) one telenovela actress, and a future luchador named "El demonio en rojo".

     Tomorrow we have some different speakers coming out to La Palma, and hopefully we have as much success there. Catherine, Kiera and I will also be speaking. Kiera will be talking about health (her parents, who are both doctors, just visited and left a bunch of stethoscopes and mallets for the kids, which were a big hit). I'm going to be talking about working in a courthouse, and in an attempt to better explain what legal aid is I've written up very dramatic roles for each of the students, so we can do some mock interviews and they can see what kind of legal problems exist. I think I am going to give the incorrigibly fidgety Beni the role of a bank robber, or maybe of a senora with three kids. Catherine's presentation will probably be the most exciting, however - she is going to talk about working at the Toronto Zoo and show lots of amazing animal photos. I'm sure the kids will love it.

     Classes have been chugging along pretty well. We made some fake blood in Kiera's class on Tuesday and it was a little bit too exciting for the students, who were kind of off the wall that day. Full moon? In the secundaria we have continued to work on our ethical product commercials. One group is working on a made-in-Mexico clothing brand and the other on a massaging bed which also plays music and is made out of recycled materials in factories which pay their workers fair wages and give them - gasp! - lunch breaks. Honestly, sometimes I just nod and smile.

     The best news ever, though, is that not only have our new books arrived but also that Alderson Elementary school has raised almost a thousand dollars for our program! What an amazing bunch of kids and staff to have put all that together for us. We're going to use the money for new supplies like books, and maybe to help us pay for a field trip to Dolores Hidalgo with some of the primaria students. We are bringing the new books out to the sites tomorrow and I know the kids will be excited to read something fresh and not falling apart or with salsa stains all over it. 

     In other news, I've also been teaching yoga fairly often and I feel like I am maybe possibly starting to be able to tell my left from my right as a result! We also attended our first Mexican wedding on Saturday in La Palma. It was lovely and hilarious to see our grubby little monsters all dressed up in button-down shirts and the girls in sparkly dresses. My favourite part was when some students tried to set Catherine up with one of the mariachis...

Til next time,


Monday, February 18, 2013

Recent photos/Fotos recientes

Kiera and Catherine in the Charco

Ana Yessenia, giving an impassioned speech about the rights of the workers

Learning about the skeleton in Jalpa

A day at the presa with Lisett and Brayan

The lovely Mariela


Adrian, as usual in a world of his own...

Updates and whatnot

It's been a while since I posted anything  - A lot has happened over the past month! In Jalpa, we have started a new secundaria class which is so far going very well. Despite the lack of internet and electricity, we have been watching, analyzing, and discussing movies and music videos. Right now we are talking about stereotypes surrounding love and romance, a theme which got off to a good start on Valentine's Day. I had them write their own similes, but without using any of the cliched comparisons, like "stars" "moon" "ocean" "flower" "springtime", etc. They wrote some pretty cute similes, including, "My love is like chocolate because it is sweet" and "My love is like cow's milk because it is natural". The primaria class in Jalpa is going well too; last week Kiera's three-legged races were a big hit and of enormous comedy value for us teachers. Today, the students took us for a walk to the lake after class and got very, very muddy.

In La Palma, things have been high-energy but relatively smooth. Kiera's afternoon class have been excitable as usual, but have been enjoying the unit on exercise and food groups. She did an activity where they had to guess how much sugar was in various pops and juices. I was surprised by the amounts. The kids were just like, "Whoa, two cups of sugar? AWESOME! I love sugar!" My morning class has been doing some more theatre activities, as well as a community mapping project in which they did a photo scabenger hunt for different important places and items in their community and worked in teams to make their own maps, complete with printed photos. We've also written some more letters to send to our B.C. penpals.

The secundaria class has also been pretty good - the chocolate trading game we played last week (exploring themes of globalization, fair trade, and exploitation) was actually a big success! Things got a little heated, with students attempting to take over the bank (me), one very greedy factory owner, and some pretty dramatic speeches at our mock union conference. The image of Angela, a quiet, studious 13-year-old, shaking her fist at the "trabajadores ingratas", and of Mariana, an eye-rolling ninth-grader, making a case for the rights of small cocoa farmers, was pretty fantastic. This week, we'll be continuing with these themes as students create and film their own commercials for invented fair-trade products. We also had several birthdays last week, so on Thursday we had a Valentine's/birthday party, which quickly degenerated into a cake-fight.

Otherwise, things have been pretty excellent - I spent a lovely few days in Guanajuato last weekend and will probably be going camping next weekend out near Jalpa, hopefully with Catherine and Kiera in tow this time. The kids asked us to take them along too... after exchanging looks of panic, we said, "NO."

Check out some recent photos, and thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Recent photos

Dan's first planking experience
Christmas day in San Miguel

Dad trying to turn on the stove

Annie at the capilla

Catherine and Kiera in Jalpa, our first day back

New Semester

Hey lovely people,

     Here I am again, after a much-needed rest and excellent Christmas holidays. The break was relaxing and involved drinking a lot of wine, watching a lot of movies, and enjoying a visit from my family over New Year's. The new semester started on Monday, and our first week back went pretty well. New intern Kiera did an amazing job of jumping right in with the afternoon class in La Palma and the primaria is Jalpa. Her interests in public health led to a pretty hilarious activity called "Guacala!", or "Gross!" Kids wrote stories about the most disgusting, dirty, unsanitary activities they could possibly imagine, and had a lot of fun out-grossing one another. I was personally very impressed by their... creativity.

     In my classes this semester, I've decided to do more theatre-based work. It was fun watching the shy morning class come out of their shells when we played trust games and did other theatre warm-ups focused on encouraging teamwork and building confidence. We also finally received letters from our Canadian kindergarten penpals, and the students liked reading their adorable and often non-sensical letters. I especially liked the kid who wrote, "I like pretending about birthdays. I also like rocks." We are now working on learning some new vocabulary so that we can send letters back about our own communities, and we plan on taking some photos of important places in La Palma as well.

     I had missed the secundaria kids a lot over the break - I had spent over three weeks without seeing a single eye-roll or one of those looks that says, "OMG this is SO dumb, she is SO weird." We played some trust games with the middle-schoolers, and as anticipated there was much giggling on the part of the girls and much (fake) reluctance on the part of the boys. We are going to be working with some ideas and techniques from Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed, using drama to animate discussion about social and cultural issues. We're also going to be writing our own short plays/films, and taking weekly short film classes from Dan. We watched our first film on Thursday, a Mexican short called "La leche y el agua" ("The Milk and the Water"). I was expecting a bit of boredom but they loved it! We followed it up with a computer class about research skills, where they had to search for information about the film. It took me a while to figure out what they meant by "Gogg-lay". Finally I realized they were asking if they should use Google.

     Although things are already crazy busy, it's nice to be back with the kids again. And to be receiving lunch from the La Palma mothers - it's been really cold the last few days, and on Thursday they brought us apple cider. We're also trying to start a new secundaria program in Jalpa, and this coming Wednesday will (hopefully) be our first class. Wish us luck!


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Recent photos/fotos recientes

Decorating the tree in Jalpa / Adornando el arbol en Jalpa

Perla and Lolita, the presents, make their costumes for our play / perla y Lolita, los regalos, hacen sus disfrazes para la obra de teatro.

Oscar's extremely well-decorated cookies / Las galletas bien adornadas de Oscar

Me and the lovely Naomy at her 15th birthday party / Yo y la bonita Naomy en su quinceaños  

Camping at the presa in Santa Rosa / Acampando en la presa de Santa Rosa

Leaving the campsite, Dan poses for the camera / Saliendo de Santa Rosa, Dan posa por la cámara

Christmas in San Miguel

     So it looks very much like I've survived not only the first semester of teaching at the Rural Education Institute of Mexico, but also the prophesied End of the World As We Know It. Guess the Mayans screwed up. Or, you know, something written a thousand years ago was - gasp! - misinterpreted.

     The semester finished up pretty well, with the Christmas concert coming off as smoothly as could be expected. The middle-schoolers sang quietly but well, and the primary class plays were hilarious. Arturo, the world's biggest space cadet, played the part of the sad Christmas tree whose ornaments are fighting over their respective places on his branches. He was covered in tinsel, painted green, wrapped in lights and actually plugged in. Although we told him many times, "Arturo, once you're plugged in, you CANNOT MOVE", he insisted on shuffling forward to the microphone cautiously and painfully slowly every time he had to recite a line. He was a big hit. The middle-school media projects also went over well. One of the girls in the pollution group even recited her speech in English, which I think impressed both the guests and the parents a fair amount. Another highlight of the evening was the gift I received from Fernanda, a quirky and outgoing little girl. It was nicely wrapped up in pink tissue paper - and it was a marshmallow.

     Finally, after having been at the school for almost twelve hours - teaching three classes, mopping floors, filling home-made piñatas, scraping paper-mache from the tables, organizing sixty kids, greeting guests, and setting up and taking down decorations, someone made us a stiff drink and fed us and drove us home. It was around ten o'clock but it felt like three in the morning. And although I think it was a pretty decent success, I am very, very glad to be on vacation! Already I've spent a couple nights camping and attended one of my students' quinceanera party. Now it's time to relax and get into the Christmas spirit. Though I'll miss my amazing, un-frazzle-able co-teacher Erin and our "fearless leader" Catherine this Christmas, I hope they're having a wonderful time in California/Oregon and Toronto. If you guys are reading this, please enjoy the colder weather for me and Catherine for the love of god eat some sushi!

     Merry Christmas, Happy holidays, Feliz Navidad, Happy New Year, or whatever floats your boat to everyone. Que la pasen muy bien!