125 Days Later…the Strike Ends

Here is a link to the video I helped Dan the Fishguy put together a few months back regarding his research.  He needs to raise roughly $3,900 by Wednesday and I know even a small donation would make a big difference!

http://www.petridish.org/projects/tracking-arapaima-in-pursuit-of-management-and-conservation 

Dear Strike: Good Riddance

A. To laugh? B. To smile? C. To cry? D. All of the above? I’m not quite sure how to react to the end of 120 days of feckless negotiations that ultimately resulted in ZERO…ZILCH…NADA…gains for the strikers. Nonetheless, I can now report that as of last Tuesday the President and her minions stared the professors down and didn’t flinch.  Not. One. Bit. The massive disruption to the Brazilian school year was all for not and I’m now left to shake my head and wonder, WHY?

I think today I find myself more disappointed than anything else. It seems that the professors chose to not only sacrifice an entire semester of education to pursue salary improvements, but also couldn’t stick to their guns long enough to even make the sacrifices worth it.  Now universities all over Brazil are left to pick up the pieces and the academic year has been thrown completely out-of-whack. The word on the street at UFOPA is that students and professors will be left to finish out the final weeks of last semester through late-October. At that point, the powers-that-be will have to decide whether to start up this semester and have it take away all of the summer (we’re in the southern hemisphere…remember?) vacation or just cancel the semester and start fresh in 2013. Terrible options indeed. Although, given the fact that Brazilians aren’t generally keen on sacrificing vacation time, if I was a betting man I’d say that this semester won’t happen until the new year.

Andy’s Take: ?…?…?

…oh and apparently every bank and post office in Brazil are currently on strike…laugh…out…loud.

Getting’ my teaching on:

Well that’s more like it! Finally, after weeks of waiting and wondering Donovan and I got underway with our intermediate/advanced level English conversation sections. As I suggested in my blog post a couple of weeks back, we’ve opted for higher level students because neither of us our qualified to teach elementary level grammar and moreover we can make a much bigger difference with students who already have the basics down. That said, I have no hesitation calling our first week a consummate success.

Why? Well, for starters, our students can actually understand us when we speak in English. While there were still some blank stares (particularly in our Saturday afternoon section), overall our students’ English level was appropriately high to be speaking 100% in English during class.  I think one of the biggest challenges for English learners here in Santarém is that people almost never get an opportunity to practice the language in an English-only environment.  Thus, one of our goals is to create that environment for our students three hours per week.  At the very least, we want to give our students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the language and offer them some time to develop their functional linguistic abilities (i.e conversation, conversation, conversation).

Another wonderful component of our classes is that unlike “assisting” Valdenildo and the other professors, Donovan and I actually get to set the rules.  As you may or may not know, I do not have a particularly fond appreciation of classroom etiquette here in the Brazilian Amazon. Between the tardiness (45 minutes late to a 1.5 hour class), rampant cell phone/computer use, and constant side conversations, I have no trouble saying that I’ve been in more than a few classrooms here that shocked me. As you might have guessed, I’m not going to put up with that nonsense in my classes.  I think Donovan and I have set some solid guidelines that will create a safe environment of mutual respect for the students and that will hopefully contribute to some real English learning over the next 10 weeks.

More than anything else, I’m just uber excited to be doing something substantive with my time here. I arrived in Santarém some seven months ago expecting to be able to give presentations about American culture and host thought-provoking cross-cultural discussions.  Obviously, the situation on the ground at UFOPA wasn’t exactly conducive to that. Nonetheless, I finally have an opportunity to do some of those things and I feel that my ability to thrive as a teacher is actually being realized for the first time. Our discussion of American pop culture last week went quite well and I’m stoked to hear our students’ thoughts on issues such as gender relations, regionalism, race/ethnicity and more. It should be an interesting semester indeed!

Lights out!

The power has been going out around town almost daily of late. As the river continues to get lower, the ONE damn that supplies all of Santarém’s electricity has increasingly less water to consistently provide power to the city and outages have become a normal part of the day’s events. Although I’ve gotten quite good at just shrugging my shoulders when the power goes out, I’m just WAITING for that time when I’m headed up to my stomping grounds at the Paraíso…and I find myself in the elevator. That’ll make for a good blog post…I suppose…

Other happenings:

  • 47%: Mitt Romney…please get over yourself. I’m not sure what I find more curious…the fact that Romney is running to be President of ALL Americans and wrote off half the population…or that he some how failed to note that senior citizens (a major base of support) and military vets are within his “47%” of non-income tax payers.  I will tell you one thing for sure…with his gaffe prone style and asinine campaign strategy…I’m fairly confident he isn’t getting hired on November 6h…
  • Hats off to the UChicago Men’s Soccer team for a 5-1-1 start to the new campaign…dooooiiinngg work.
  • Watched the big UFC fight between Jon Jones (American, light-heavyweight champion) and Vitor Belfort (Brazilian) in a fairly crowded bar. Loved every minute of it. Everybody was pumped…until the fight actually started.  Took about 10 seconds to realize what a mismatch it actually was and the fact that Belfort had 0.0% chance of winning.  Thoroughly enjoyed throwing out a few “USA, USA, USA!” chants out there…particularly after all the flack I got when Silva smacked an American down a few months back.
  • I will be in Belém in less than two weeks…what, what?
  • Since when was it almost October?
  • It’s been about 1 million billion degrees the last few nights…the Amazonian dry season is fun…

That’s all I have for now. The end. Until next Monday…have a good week!

Amazonically,

Andy

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