Just a thought....
Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

All in a week's living

This has been one very intense week (understatement of the year). I'm sitting here trying to remember details from the beginning of the week and having trouble doing that.

Monday, I gave my students their test results. They failed dismally. Trouble is, they are lacking basic language skills and are being tested on intermediate understanding with questions like, "Which program sounds more polemic and is likely to attract many people? Why?" Now, 'polemic' is not a word taught to foreign language English students... teens at that. Polemic is the same in Portuguese, so basically, the students were being tested on their understanding of Portuguese, not their use of English and what teen uses the word 'polemic' anyway??? I walked away from that class feeling defeated.

That night, or was it the next day, Tat and I were in her room. She was trying to decide what to keep, take with, toss, donate, etc. We ended up going through old stored make up. There were some of my lipsticks from South Africa. What was I thinking? Other than the fact that they were good lipsticks at the time and had awesome colours. Well, as she was tossing, I was messing around, 'testing' each one. Uh.... I got a little carried away. We had a good laugh though. Note, I never usually wear makeup. I stop at lipstick and at a stretch, eyeliner and mascara (Tat insists) for special occasions. Ignore the frizzy hair... the current 'joy' of my life.

corrianne clown

Wednesday rolled along. We headed out to Poupa Tempo with huge optimism, armed with copies of more documents than any state department could ever want. First, we went to the orange desk. No, we can't give you your RG (Brazilian ID). Yes, we know you had one before. We argued about Tat's constitutional right to an RG and showed all the documents. Ok, said the lady behind the desk. Go and pay at the 'bank' and take the slip to the desk at the 4th door on the left. We paid and went to the 4th door, found the desk in question. There were a few people behind us, but no major queue. Nice. Tat went in. I wasn't allowed with her. People came and went. It's very quick, they said. I read a chapter of the book I brought. Quick? They said around 5 minutes. The people who were after us had left ages ago. Tat eventually came out, her face registering her disappointment and showed me where they had drawn lines on the local version of her birth certificate. The wording was wrong!

They packed us off to the cartorio. The 'cartorios' are notary offices. There, we'd have to pay a fee and get them to change the wording. Ok, we could deal with that... except they weren't very obliging. It turns out that because the document was drawn up at the wrong office - don't ask me... it's a mystery - when we first arrived, we need an attorney to start a legal process to claim Tat's right to a Brazilian RG. That, according to a cousin of Jorge's, is a very long, drawn out affair. We then waged war on the bank within Poupa Tempo for a refund of our fee, as it was 'not their policy' to give refunds and don't we know the fee can be held for us. Until when, was what I wanted to know? The aliens are coming in 2012 and I don't want to be dealing with that paperwork then. They 'made an exception' and gave us our refund. Hmph! My one student commented today and wanted to know why they call it 'burrocracia' or 'donkey-cratics' because donkeys are rather more intelligent.

So now we have to apply for a visa at the offices of the British consulate. They are in Rio de Janeiro and they're sooooo easy to get hold of. Methinks they're hiding from Brazilian bureaucracy. Not to mention the fact that it will cost us a fair penny to get a visa *sigh* I think it's a conspiracy. Do you know that on the visa application form, they actually ask straight out if you're a terrorist or support a terrorist organisation? Who the heck answers that truthfully if they are?

Thursday morning, I collected a package from the post office. Rather big for the book I was expecting. In it was no less than a tartan teddy, a few other bits and bobs, including mixed spice for hot cross buns, and First Light, which I've been waiting for with the eagerness of a child before Christmas. It was worth it! I'm so lucky I have a job that has me whiling away my time on public transport. First Light was written by my friend, Michelle Frost. I know and love her writing, but the book drew me in... totally. It is science fiction and yet, not. It spoke of another world, yet one we could recognise easily. Full of hidden twists, riddles, symbolism... it was a light read, but a meaty one. The end was satisfactory, while leaving me with plenty of food for thought. Hm... methinks I should write a proper review ; ) In short, if you want something different to read, this book comes highly recommended by me.

That leaves today, which I fully planned to spend most of the day checking out the blogs of my friends that I'd been neglecting, as I only had two students. Uh... let's just say the day has gone by and I've achieved little more than zilch.

I'm having a good chuckle here. As many of you know by now, Yahoo 360° is finally dying... again... next month. So Yahoo, in all it's wisdom, gave us a tool to download our blogs. Tat and I thought we'd give it a try, just for the heck of it. My archive turned out to be all of 32mb. When I clicked to download it, I got an error. Tat wasn't so lucky. Yafooey coughed up her 'archive', which included all her images and... wait for this... ALL her blogs in one text file, running into one, in html format!!


Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The potpourri of life

Today, our internet has been more down than up. I think it showed some life only when I went out to teach. I think it's hiding from me.

My one blog friend, Susan, is a music teacher in China. I love when she posts snippets from her classrooms. This was my early morning smile today:

Later in the hour, I allowed them to come to the piano and "create" a song. On the spot. This was interesting ~ and showed so many different aspects to the personalities in this class. For some, it was a way to transcend their struggle with learning a new language. For others, it was a way to show off what they already knew, what they've already been studying in private piano lessons. And for others ~ it was simply impossible to do. They were too shy, too new to a very foreign place from native lands such as Sudan, Yemen, and Finland. They need to watch and wait awhile.

One little boy from Germany confidently approached the piano with a knowing, expectant smile and played a lovely, sensitive piece he was obviously making up. I knew he doesn't take piano lessons ~ and what the piece lacked in musical structure was compensated for in emotion and peace.

As he walked away from the piano, I said, "Justus, how did you think of such beautiful notes to play?"

His bright blue eyes sparkled with light and life, "I looked at myself in the wood of the piano. I saw my heart. I saw my brain. And then the music came."

I've been a little quiet here. I had, on top of my other students, a new student who wants daily, sometimes twice daily classes on Skype, Monday through to Saturday. She suggested Sunday too, but... ! Each class is an hour and half long. It has been a juggle trying to fit her in and boy, is she hard work! Her English is fairly basic, but she needs advanced business English for some deals she's trying to pull off with an American company owned by Chinese business men who communicate in English. If you've ever heard the Chinese speak English, you may realise the challenge. Of course, not all Chinese speak challenging English, but my experience of them is that their English is hard to understand, especially for those not familiar with it. I have more options for students through Skype. I'm going to encourage it.

I spoke to my mom. It sounds like such a simple thing to do. The last time I spoke to her was briefly in 1994 when my gran died and I called to inform her and before that only in 1988 at the time of Ceinwen's funeral. She sounds old. Apparently she's not being cared for, not that it surprises me. She's stubborn too and refuses to go into a place where she can be cared for. I had so many questions to ask her. Perhaps I'll try when I call her again. Her speech, at times, was hard to understand. She's wheelchair bound now with Parkinsons. I don't know much about Parkinsons. My brother says she'll still probably outlive us. I'm half inclined to believe that is true. She's one tough old lady. My sister... it is so weird thinking of her as a woman. My mental image of her is as a innocent child of 7 or 8. She sounds confident in herself. I am now on a self-appointed mission to find her two kids. As my brother pointed out... "so there are more van der Merwes wandering around out there."

Tat has a student, a child, 7 years old. Her mother takes her Barbie dolls away because she messes the dolls' hair up. Some people are just odd.

My one friend wrote a very beautiful poem some years back. She put it on the net. It is now all over. Sadly, people have been passing it on without her name attached. Many are distributed as 'Author unknown'. Now someone has published a book with her poem in it as 'Author unknown'. The book has a massive copyright blurb in the front, but they took someone's poem without getting permission. Sad and so unfair.


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Monday, 11 May 2009

Make a wish

Tat duchess

I feel your tears, my child
Washing your heartbreak
A flood in my heart

Look! An eyelash fell
Make a wish, my child
I'll blow it to the stars

I feel your joy, my child
Giggles bursting like bubbles
Sparkling in the sun

Look! An eyelash fell
Make a wish, my child
I'll blow it to the stars

I see you grow, my child
A time of turbulent decisions
Your future laden with dreams

Look! An eyelash fell
Think of dreams, my child
The stars know them all

Tint ©

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Sunday, 10 May 2009

The writer

old hands

~ * ~

parchment hands
pale, a web of fine wrinkles
powder dry
long elegant fingers
now crooked
once held a pen
writing so easily
the words are still there
behind faded blue eyes

Tint ©


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Teaching is an odd job

Well, teaching is an odd job if you teach the way I do.

Yesterday, the unit I was working on for this school had an exercise based on advertising. What advert do they give? Depilating cream. The picture was a crude sketch of a woman's legs and the text waxed lyrical about how it beats shaving and will leave your legs silky smooth. My student: "Huh?" To elaborate... my student is a Brazilian male, an accountant. Now, in Brazil, no one uses creams to depilate. They wax. Brazil is about wax. Then there's the fact that he's a single guy. What do single guys know about women's hair removal processes? I spent, I think, half the lesson getting him to understand what the lesson was about before we could get into the English part of the lesson.

A couple of weeks ago, my delinquent teens (ages 14 - 18), as I fondly refer to them, had to do a lesson on marriage and whether or not your love will last longer if you are friends first. The only girl clammed up and the guys muttered and looked awkward.

This morning, I had to do an exercise on stereotypes. The country of choice? America. The students had to justify the 'common' stereotypes related to America and a list was given.
1.   boastful and arrogant
2.   disrespectful of authority
3.   drunkard
4.   extravagant
5.   laid back
6.   ignorant of other countries and cultures
7.   informal
8.   insensitive
9.   lazy
10. loud and obnoxious
11. promiscuous
12. racist
13. wealthy
14. rude and immature
15. snobbish
16. stingy
17. think they know everything
18. uninformed about politics
19. always in a hurry
20. think every country should imitate the US
I found myself getting angrier and angrier as the list went on. No wonder they have such a low opinion of Americans if this kind of thing is reinforced in schools! The fact that the list came from an American university that interviewed foreigners doesn't help, in my opinion. I had one student who emphatically agreed with every statement until I asked her how many Americans she personally knows, that she can judge these things for herself. I then spoke about prejudice. Ugh... I'm meant to be teaching English!

I spent a longer than usual lesson this afternoon talking about dialects within the city, class distinction, ethnos-mixes, and the Brazilian constitution.

Yesterday I found my first student here in Brazil, or rather, Facebook found her for me. I started teaching two weeks after landing in Brazil. Patricia was a star student with excellent English she wanted to perfect, so that she could immigrate. She was a veritable sponge and would greedily lap up any and all information and correction I gave. She achieved her dream of immigration in 2004. Sadly, she's back in Brazil with major health problems. The curveballs life throws are sometimes really harsh.


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Saturday, 09 May 2009



I really wouldn't mind becoming a hermit... perhaps in the above location.

This morning, I found a large poodle wandering in the road. It was clean, well fed, tagged and collared. I called the number. No one answered. The dog was old. It had that milky film over the eyes. I stopped it going onto the main road. This was around peak hour traffic with loads of cars and buses. I asked many people if they knew which house the dog belonged to. No one knew. I eventually had to leave it, as I was already late for work. When I got home, I called the number again. "Oh," says the woman, "we always let him out for a walk. He goes for his walk and comes home again." This dog was nearly hit by two cars. Luckily they swerved. I was livid. How irresponsible! This isn't a quiet country lane! Grr! People!

When out, I love to stop and admire the gardens of some of the houses, even those with just a rose bush. One house has a larger garden area than most. It has been sad to see how they've ripped up the garden, cut down the trees and shrubs and put concrete. Today, I saw a patch of grass on the one side of the property and a bunny! I was standing gazing at the bunny with a stupid grin on my face. There was a 6 foot, heavily chained, gate between myself and the bunny. I was startled to hear, "Oi! Oi!" being yelled from the back of the property. Behind yet another gate stood a woman yelling at me. "What do you want?" She yelled very abruptly. I replied that I was just admiring the bunny. I live surrounded by concrete. Bunnies are not common. She continued to yell. I just shook my head and said not to worry... I wasn't about to steal the bunny.  *sigh*

We watched 'Ring of bright water' tonight. It was beautiful... and sad... and happy. I saw it as a young girl. I wanted to see it again and it's Tat's kind of movie too.

I made sausage rolls for supper! We haven't had sausage rolls since leaving South Africa. I made a mock boerewors (a South African farmer's sausage) to fill the sausage rolls. I had to finely chop some pork, as they don't mince pork here at all.

Not my photo... borrowed from Taste.com in Australia. The recipe looks interesting. Nothing I can cook if I want my husband to eat.

I've added another student to my 'collection', an unusual situation. She wants daily classes.... every day, but Sunday! I'm going to be teaching her using Skype. This is totally new and strange for me. I feel a little self-conscious teaching in front of Jorge and Tat and fitting this girl in is going to be a mission, but I get to sit at my pc and earn... less than I would by going out, but still fair.

Och aye... I finish teaching at around 4pm tomorrow, then it's weekend. That will be good : )


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Wednesday, 06 May 2009

Random access memory


All the computer boffs will think I'm going to talk about my pc, but it's really just my memory... the one I access randomly for randomly unimportant and occasionally important stuff. I started this blog yesterday. My pc shut down on me (ok, so there's the pc bit) and I lost it all. I didn't have time to go back and redo it. Aren't you lucky?

I miss my friends. I see and talk to more people now, but nothing replaces talking to my friends.

Luckily I'm too busy to let it get to me too much.I'm loving my birthday present... a book on reflexology I've wanted for a long time. Transit time is perfect for study.

Having no secrets from the past to haunt me is freeing. Ok, we all keep one or two secrets, but, for the most part, nothing is hidden anymore.

A note to someone who is very important to my very existence... where you are is defined by the people in your life, whether you see them daily or whether you talk to them long distance. A friendship over thousands of miles can be just as fulfilling and real, possibly even more so, than a friendship with someone you see regularly. You are loved.

I'm going to advertise. Then I will be busier. That is probably good.

On Saturday, Tat and I went to one of the newer shopping centers, Shopping Bourbon. Snazzy! It even has a Starbucks. Laugh if you like. I've never seen one before. To give you an idea, most shopping centers have benches. This shopping center has leather armchairs. Cushy! Drool-worthy stores too.

I seem to have a perpetual blocked nose and sore throat from the pollution now.

The photo is a random one from my archives, taken at São Paulo zoo. I've forgotten what the camera looks like. I'm missing my little point and shoot all the more now.


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