“Do you know how to say empanada in English?” I posed to the class in Spanish. Some scratched their heads, some scrunched their lips, and one kid stuck a pencil up his nose, but no one could come up with an answer.

“Empanada!” I revealed and the boys roared with delight. This captive audience of munchkins was a welcome change from the sullen teenagers I normally cajole and regale and then, because the first two are generally unsuccessful, resort to tolerate. The class was off to a smashing start much to my great relief.

It has been one of those weeks—non-stop go go go and what feels like nary a moment to get my head straight. Buried somewhere under a mountain of meetings, rudimentary graphic design, algebra, taxes, evasive adolescents, heart-shaped balloons, and more meetings, lesson planning for English class got squeezed out of my reach.

With Thursday night edging ever closer, my subconscious fretted over what could not occupy the forefront of my mind. As I snoozed my morning alarm and mentally constructed a To-Do list for the day while still mostly asleep, I realized there was not going to be time to sit down with my ESL textbook and write out an action plan. So I simply decided to go with what I know.

Food. (Duh.)

Bust out the cooking class yo. And the empanadas, which, of course, in English is empanada.

(Excuse the poor quality of the photos. This room has the absolute worst lighting ever.)

English Class 001Répétez après moi.

English Class 007Cheeeeeeese grater.

English Class 011Sweet (and smart!) kiddos.

English Class 012Oldies and newbies.


Lost in Translation.

August 31, 2012

Last week, we had some new people show up for English classes, two of whom were placed in my Intermediate class. An understated M briefly introduced himself and then bubbly N enthusiastically gave us a complete rundown on her life. I swear they also said they were cousins.

But then this week, in the middle of a riveting discussion about summertime apparel and possessive pronouns, M started lovingly stroking N’s neck. It was all I could do in that awkward moment to hope to goodness they were no longer cousins, and continue refreshing the class of the term “flip-flops.” And later, N, who I thought was in her mid-30s, revealed she was only 24 years old.

So much being lost in translation (weird Bill Murray movie, by the way).

Here are some pictures from the interns’ first day of English classes:

I envy hips that shake out salsa moves and other such beats naturally. I’ve been saddled with the lot of trying to overcome my stiff, robotic Chinese girl movements and sub-par coordination for the rest of my life (not to say that every Chinese girl is a putz like me). Alas.

On that note, I think I often wrongly assume that since Paraguay is a Latin country, there are certain moves and rhythms that are just…inherent. Not so. Take, for example, the apparently not-so-simple tasking of clapping on time during Sunday morning worship. Cultural shock #3 when I moved here.

There is absolutely no regard for neither clapping on the dominant beat nor clapping in unison as a congregation. It is so dissonant and chaotic, it almost becomes melodic. Just kidding, I wish. It kills me every time. I have to forcibly shift my amazement each week so as not to get carried away in my distraction.

So. Imagine trying to teach a large grab bag group of English students, aged toddler to mature mother, a rhythm-based clapping game (not my idea). Yeah. It didn’t work. So we went with homemade lasagna and fruit punch instead.

Happy Winter Break! English School is out until August. Clap clap…clap.

Ugh. I hate the word “yummy.”

There is this terrible song B sings every time he hears the phrase “fruit salad.” In fact, he does it so frequently that every time I hear the phrase, the stinking melody pops into my head as well. Turns out, it’s from The WIGGLES.

Go ahead, judge him. I did.

In any case, there is a short-term team here from Orlando, Florida this week, and they sent two helpers to English classes last night, effectively giving me the night off from teaching. They covered a variety of fruit vocabulary and then taught our students how to assemble a fruit salad, American-style. Here in Paraguay, ensalada de fruta is finely (read: painstakingly) chopped pineapples, oranges, and apples with pixie stick juice powder and Sprite. It takes hours to make and is consumed like a liquid. The new American recipe was definitely a shocker.

Our students at rapt attention.

The guest instructors.

Fruit salad…choppy, choppy.

If I have to listen, so do you.