Sunday, September 1, 2019

Presenting At ConectaIFB, Diplomatic Meeting, and EdUSA Fair

Such a big and tiring day. Amanda (my co-worker) and I met up with professor Fabricio at the metro station at 9 am, and because of traffic we were a few minutes late to the roundtable discussion. Luckily, the last presentation had run over, so we got there just in time. There were about 10 presenters there, and a group of 25 audience members. I was shaking as I introduced myself and so scared. I apologized to everyone and mentioned my trembling and they all giggled. Some people loved to hog the microphone, then again Brasilians do love to talk. I got to say three quick comments throughout the presentation about language learning through immersion, Fulbright, and the ED USA Fair. We were already past the scheduled time to leave for our Fulbright meeting, but as we snuck off the stage we got asked to do an interview. It was my first presentation at a conference in Portuguese and first interview in Portuguese! I stumbled on both of them, but made it work. My students sent me a massive pile of love through photos and videos they took of us presenting and saying how proud they were. Fabricio drove us to the Fulbright Commission headquarters, which was in a hotel. We had to wait there for a bit, and they gave us yummy snacks. Finally, we had our meeting with past Fulbrights from Brasil, the commission, and Secretary Casagrande. We all did a small introduction of ourselves and talked about our projects. I expected there to be more conversation, but the whole time was utilized by this. One of the women there had worked at Emory University for the production of HIV prevention medicine, then integrated it into Brasil, and now works as the head of Medicine and Healthcare for Brasil (A similar name that -I can’t remember the exact name). We went to lunch at a restaurant for lunch and it was super fancy. I ate a salad, chicken parmigiana, and a torta Alema (cheesecake). Then, off to my final event of the day- the EdUSA fair. I got there super early and didn’t have anything to do in between, and I went over to the shop vendors who sell touristy trinkets, and just walked around by the TV Tower. By 5 pm I walked back to the Convention Center. I found some of the Access students I knew and members of the Embassy and RELO. The Access program students remembered me and how I had volunteered in their class with starting the presentations, since they were nervous, I offered to do one in Portuguese, and it felt very full circle. I was trying to find a place and way to volunteer at the fair, and one leader suggested that I sit in the front table and talk about Fulbright and fellowships. Just as the fair was starting they realized that two of their translators didn’t come and asked if I would be willing to step in for one. I was definitely nervous, but I agreed. I worked with the representative from UMass Amherst and talked about the English Language Intensive Program to students in Portuguese and translated back and forth. It was my first time translating, and I found it much less stressful than I had imagined- but more tiring.  I successfully worked for 3 hours translating! The international fair definitely gave me pings of saudades for when I worked for Admissions at SU and as a recruiter. I got home safely by 10 pm, and tired after a 13 hour full day.

The registration for the event

Introductions, and boy was I shaking

My first interview in Portuguese!

Probably laughing at my very bad Portuguese in my first Conference Presentation in Portuguese

Jennifer from RELO at the EdUSA Fair 

Very thankful for her mentorship and friendship while living in Brasil

The EdUSA fair had over 750 students sign up to attend!

I translated for about 100-200 of them! Very tiring

EducAmar Orientation and Second Volunteer Session Teaching Refugees

I was very nervous walking to the church for the EducAmar orientation. I walked right past the street and church twice, but I eventually found it. I got there and saw people in EducAmar t-shirts and they welcomed me with hugs and greeted me. Of course, right away, they asked if I was German and one of the leaders mentioned that my last name was very difficult to say and different. I grabbed some snacks and sat down to watch the slideshows and youtube videos they had playing on the screen. It was powerful to see the community that they go into and how many people that they impact. Unlike the orphanage group I volunteer with, this group has a very structured schedule of going in several days a week to offer classes in Portuguese, Math, practical skills for men and women, capoeira, jiu jitsu, ballet, violin, and miscellaneous projects. It was also very relieving to hear that although the project is based from one religion, they want anyone to participate no matter their religion. A tricky part I soon learned was that the week day events people normally arrive separately and don’t carpool, since they go after work, and it would be very tricky to get there. It was a three hour information meeting all in Portuguese, but I understood about 80 percent of it, although the leader was speaking pretty quickly and with slang. I was tired, but pretty satisfied with my understanding level. From no Porutguese at all in February 2018 to understanding long orientation meetings in Portuguese in August 2019. We took a pause after the meeting to all have lunch together-  delicious chicken stroganoff. I went to pay for the lunch and buy a t-shirt, and I was so nervous about being alone and have to stand there or sit there waiting, or try to awkwardly join a group… but this group of really nice people my age started talking to me after I bought my shirt, and they were asking me questions in English and Portuguese. I think that people with some English skills always have more confidence to start a conversation with me. Normally, I’ll switch the conversation to Portuguese and they realize that I’m partially somewhat ok with Portuguese and get relieved, but they make moves to initiate it instead of fearing me because I’m the Gringa and may know no Portuguese. I found out that some of them had been to the USA before on short exchange programs or traveling. We swapped back and forth in English and Portuguese and talked about food habits they noticed in the US and restaurants in our city. Some were from Aguas Claras as well! They were so incredibly kind and I thanked them for talking to me and accepting me so easily. I can’t wait to go to the Bazaar events and Feira do Denario event with them. So, those are the two events I signed up for. We get donations, and also provide donations of food once a month to host a food bazaar and the community members pay one real for each packet of food. They can then get their whole month worth of shopping done with 15 reais. It feels like a great way to empower the community, because they still need to buy food and it’s not a free handout, but it’s also very accessible and within a budget. It looks like I’ll probably only be volunteering with them about three times before I leave, since most of their events are on Saturdays and I already work with Refugees to teach Portuguese, but I was proud of myself for not overextending myself. I left the meeting and took the public transportation to Riacho Fundo for the Refugee class. The classes aren’t always consistent, so you never know who will come. It’s free and open to all community members. The first class I worked with two Pakistani men who also spoke English. This second class I worked again with Professora Wanessa, and we helped two people from Haiti who spoke French. I worked with the man who had more experience with Portuguese, and we skipped ahead to talking about Past Perfect and Present Continuous. I was getting frustrated trying to explain present continuous to him and he kept telling me the present indicative. I was showing him the difference of present indicative being more general and doesn’t need to be occurring in the moment, whereas present continuous is an action occurring presently. I googled the French equivalent and discovered… THEY DON’T HAVE ONE! Whhhatttt! The french language simply uses the present indicative for both. I was flabbergasted! It’s amazing learning new concepts and facts about other languages. It was definitely an interesting class, and it opened my eyes.

EducAmar orientation

Learning through Spanish with the Cubans

Working with the Haitians 

ConectaIFB Day 1 and EdUSA Cocktail Party

Our first day attending ConectaIFB. I was dressed in a fancy black romper to prepare for the EdUSA cocktail hour afterwards, but all of my students kept commenting how fancy I looked and I felt way overdressed. I spent about 7 hours at the conference event, so I listened to part of a roundtable discussion, watched an interesting dance performance with drums and two people acting to the music, hung out with my students and tried the passion-fruit ice cream, danced Just Dance twice with them and won both times, admired the puppies and cats up for adoption, and went into this huge bubble dome that was a Cell. I wanted to whack my students with the noodle and balls in there, but there was a professor inside, and the noodles were strapped down. Sad realization. I watched my friend Ana Julia present her poster research and then surprised her with a chocolate treat. The conference was a lot bigger than I had expected, and several floors and areas worth of presentations. I didn’t get to sign up for some of the cool hands-on presentations with foods and crafts, and I wish I had. I ubered with some students back towards the bus station and then I continued on to the hotel for the Cocktail event. There were about 20-25 people there, and most were University representatives and EdUSA members for the fair. It was lovely talking to some of the Embassy diplomats again and meeting the international recruiters. It did give me a ping of saudades for my recruiting days and we swapped stories. I met Secretary Caroline Casagrande and we talked for a few minutes about working for Fulbright and international travels. She is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Academic Programs in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). It was my first cocktail in Brasil, and it felt amazing to be invited to a working event like this! Adulting gone right.

My Program Manager and Co-worker on the IFB Brasilia Campus

They had a mini fair to walk around and buy goods

Ana Julia shortly before she presented her Thesis research

Yes, that is a chicken behind being used in one of the projects

Moments before Paulo tripped over a girl as she was taking a photo here

Stress Relief With Museu Mais Doce Do Mundo (Sweetest Museum In the World)

This week and next week are two of the busiest of the semester. Just a bit stressed. I took a break and went to the mall with Gabriela, because we had seen this candy event going on called Museu Mais Doce Do Mundo (Sweetest Museum In the World), and it was so cool! There were about 8 photo stations set up with statue gummy bears and ice pops and marshmallow foam pits and a tub with plastic balls. It yielded lots of cute photos. I love how Brasilian malls sometimes have these free pop-up events!


First Time To Volunteer At the Children's Orphanage

I woke up nice and early due to jitters. I met Ana Julia and Gabi at the metro station around 8:30 am, then we picked up Camila, and headed to Ceilandia for the children's orphanage. I had passed by the area before going to the Sao Joao Festival, but I had never been into the interior part of the city really. We knocked on the metal gate door and heard children playing and yelling. We got inside and there was an array of about 10 children between the ages of 2 and 9 running around. The moment I spoke they knew that I was a foreigner. They tried to say my name and had a really tough time, and they especially thought that my Polish last name was funny. I started asking some questions about the dolls that they girls had, and the next thing I knew there was a circle of five kids around me and asking questions. I tried to understand what they were saying, but I only honestly got about 50% of it. I would sometimes ask them to repeat, but if that still failed then I did the classic nod my head and hoped it satisfied as a response. The nine year old girls were very intelligent and especially loving when it came to braiding hair. One girl tried to introduce me to someone else and said I was from Rio, and another girl corrected her and said the USA, but I giggled and pretended I had the Rio accent for a few phrases. The kids were so loving, and didn’t care about my background, but just wanted to be seen and heard and have fun. They called all of the volunteers Tia. It was enduring and made my heart happy. Ana Julia had brought flowers and plants for them to replant in vases that they decorated. It was a mess with dirt all over, and some children eating the dirt, but the children seemed really proud of what they had done. We spent about there hours there and left when they were having lunch. I can't wait to go back and see the kids next. I joined the group and they go about every other week!

First Time Teaching Refugees

I got to Riacho Fundo a little early for the refugee class, as I normally do, but of course everyone else was Brasilian customary late. I got some time to talk to Wanessa, who is one of the Brasilian volunteer professors. She is doing a degree in International Relations and speaks English very well. We worked with two men from Pakistan and I jumped right into teaching. I had expected to spend the first day observing and seeing how they teach, but I couldn't help myself and pulled out a notebook to write down examples, charts, and information. Even though I’m not the best at Portuguese, I still have the teacher thing down and I found it pretty easy to explain the basics. We went over concepts like estar vs ser, how to conjugate the present indicative regular verbs, and some vocabulary of places around town. It was nerve-wrecking teaching a foreign language, but also very great to team-work with Wanessa since she is a native speaker and she would explain a lot of the concepts more in depth and give examples. There were also three guys from Cuba there, but they worked with Professor Eduardo. It was really fun talking to the two professors after the class as we waited for the bus, and they’re about my age. I was nervous going in, but it ended up being so fulfilling. It feels like part of my experience in Brasil has come full circle- I started my time in Brasil in 2018 by learning Portuguese in a class with refugees, and a year later I'm giving back by teaching Portuguese classes to refugees. You can follow more of my adventures teaching refugees on the Instagram account- Odireitoshumanos

A Tuesday In My Life As A Fulbright

This first event is a little special. My housemate found a deal to get 8 massages for a total of 30 reais (about $8usd) from students doing their massage therapy internship. So, I went for a back massage and had my two favorite massage therapists who use pressure and it was glorious. I brought 3 musketeer candies for them all and they enjoyed the sweets. One masseuse joked that he should get two. I hurried home to prepare for my work day. While home I sent an email to EdUSA to try and volunteer for their Brasilia fair next week, and I heard back quickly. They had some national fairs planned to have representatives from US universities talk to students about scholarships, application processes, and programs. I got invited to a cocktail hour with head people of the program on the 27th and volunteering with the fair the 28th. It was exciting to hear back so quickly and make plans to help out (and I'm glad I didn't miss the date of the event). At the university, I went to help with Newton’s two Phonetic and Phonology classes. He hosts the same subject twice during the day, for group A and B. The first one I was absolutely useless because I didn’t know any of the info. The students were flabbergasted that I didn't need to take this course for my degree. At the end of the first class he explained the answers and I took notes and then I was able to go around and assist the groups and explain different reasons for the next class. Teaching truly is one of the best ways to learn. We talked about consonants and their manner and place of articulation. I have the locations down pat now, but still working towards knowing the difference of affricate and fricative. I had a conversation club after classes and seven people came. We talked about dialects across the USA, and some of the different wording really confused them. For example- sneakers versus tennis shoes. At the and they asked me to “teach them hillbilly”, so I did some sample sentences of the Southern draw and challenged them to practice a sentence and surprise me on campus with it. I took the bus home and got back by 9 pm exhausted.

Presenting At ConectaIFB, Diplomatic Meeting, and EdUSA Fair

Such a big and tiring day. Amanda (my co-worker) and I met up with professor Fabricio at the metro station at 9 am, and because of traffic w...