Thursday, September 2, 2010

First Day of School

Hillbilly in Brazil Edition:

     Yesterday was my first day in school which meant that I had to set my first alarm to 6am to make sure that I was up at 6:30am (somehow that makes sense to me). Ana, still decked out in PJ's and eyes still half closed gave me a ride to school which is more or less in the middle of the Santos I think. Look I can't find shit when awake in Santos much less half asleep with no coffee.

The drive made me realize there are two kinds of "not morning people" in this world:
A: Grouchy and not really firing on all cylinders or
B: Zombies

     I am A Type, wake me up too early and I want to punch a kitten in the face and set an orphanage on fire. Ana is more B Type I realized as we floated down streets in bumper car traffic as if in some kind of trance. Her silver Peugeot getting close to the other silver and black cars but never touching them which is a testament to her driving skill. Ana decked out in sunglasses, uncombed hair and near conscious like state. Thinking back on it, all that was missing was a long thin cigarette thrust between her lips and an empty martini glass clutched in one hand and it would have been picture perfect.
     My arrival was well timed I got there with plenty of time to spare before the classes started to hook up with my connection Claudinei. Claudinei teaches grade school English which is a requirement at this Private School that I am attending. When I say "Private School" I don't mean something that requires ties and blazers so get that Ivy League motif out of your head. Think more along the lines of when Beaver Dam Baptist Church decided to started an educational program for kids K-8. Take that idea and squeeze all the Jesus Juice and Hellfire Sauce out of it and bump it up to K-Graduation and there you have it. Ana even told me that one private school was created by just a bunch of teachers that wanted to set there own rules and curriculum that is kind of neat, never happen in the States though without Jesus.
     So I was lead to the teachers lounge which just looked like a place that screamed for cigarette smoke even though it was proibido. I guess I was having a flashback to when I was a kid and walked past the lounge to see huge plumes of smoke coming up from teachers. Strange memories of Southern Elementary, all the Brazilian Teacher's Lounge needed was a an old green couch and a wall stocked full of Red Puke Sawdust and I would have felt right at home.
      Claudinei lead me to our first class which was a 6th grade class. I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be maybe due to being so early in the morning or because it was something I really wanted to do. I remember the first time I walked into Sumitomo in 1994 and the only thought in my head was "GET OUT, GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE" which was also what my brain was telling me the first time I walked into DIACEL 14 years later. Don't get me wrong, I was nervous but not balls in stomach flat out run nervous.
     I was introduced to the first set of kids who were 6th graders. I sat down with a few kids that knew some English and so started the theme of the rest of my school day. Justin Beiber. It started out slow, just a trickle of  "Do you like Justin Beiber?" but this was only the first class and still early in the morning. The little girl next to me had a stack of playing cards that had photos of Pop Stars, mostly Justin Beiber but also Lady Gaga and more Justin Beiber.
     The second set of kids were definitely more awake and interested in my opinions of all things "Justin Beiber" and "Hannah Montana" related. Actually it would start out with "What's your name?" being asked about five or six times even though Claudinei just told them five minutes ago but Shawn for some reason isn't an easy name to say in Brazil and it usually turns into John. Ana's mom Mara called me Johnny for the longest time. The name and where I from questions wouldn't last long and it would all fall apart into "justinbeiber, justinbeiber, justinbeiber,justinbeiber...." until Claudinei would break it up.
     I should point out that in Brazil that English class is a little looser and freer than any classes in the States, the kids are always jumping up and wondering around the room. Constantly sharpening pencils and throwing something away, way different than the US. The work load seemed to be about the same but I haven't been in grade school for years. I was thinking back to all the mean spirited teachers from my elementary school and thought half these kids would have been flogged to death by now for half of what they were doing.
     The kids were doing a lesson with words that were positive, neutral or negative such as Super, Awful, Rubbish, Cool and OK. Then there was a lesson afterwards where you had to make a sentence with a list of actors and musicians using the words from the previous exercise. Claudinei made the mistake of saying you can work in groups or with a partner, guessed what happened. If you said 25 kids rushed over to my corner to be my partner in this assignment you would be right. I was also asked about Justin Beiber during this mad rush to my corner of the room a few times plus which was my favorite soccer team.
     Let's just get that straight now, the girls would all ask about justinbeiber and the boys would as about soccer. Santos, great soccer team or the greatest. I know about as much about soccer as I do about the stock market or poker. I know some of the rules and what is involved but I am lost when it comes down to the fine details.
     This went on until the last class which was a 4th grade class when I basically made the statement at the beginning that no I didn't like Justin Beiber. Then some little girl looked at me from her seat with big eyes behind glasses and asked what I thought about Hannah the fate of her enitre life depended on my correct answer to this most important of all questions. I said "no, not really" and failed the test crushing her hopes and dreams of finding an American that liked Hannah Montana. So you would have thought from the reaction I got but it did stop the questions. I might add that all the boys in the class whooped in approval when I said no which scares me to think that somehow I am still an 8 year old boy. It isn't that I don't like these corporate made musicians it is just that I have seen them before, I remember when Justin Beiber was an entire band called "New Kids on The Block" and Hannah Montana was called "Tiffany" or "Debbie Gibson". Sorry kids, been there done that way before you were even an itch in your parents genitals.

     Left at 12 with all the kids, kids go to school from 7:30 to 12 here and that is there day and yet they still cram everything in somehow. I saw one kids report card and it was loaded just like ours are, but they get it all done in 4 and a half hours. History, Math, Portuguese, English, Spanish, Geography, Art and Computers and these kids are already learning about finding percentages and Pi in math class. I think we were still counting in 6th grade when I left.
     Ana was late picking me up but she was awake and made up, no cigarette or martini glass in this part of the day nothing but sun, beauty and smiles. Went to lunch, said the word "Chaka*" about a million times to annoy Ana mostly for being late and also because it amused me to no end. We went to a cake place so she could decide on a birthday cake for Friday night then back to school for my one on one lessons with Claudinei. Learned numbers and days of the week and the months and wouldn't you know it on the elevator down I got a homework assignment. I have to write all the numbers up to 100 on paper in Portuguese that is what I get for annoying Ana.

     Other good news is for Sam, I finally found a group of girls that is interested in Pop culture as much as you are maybe even more so. Bad news is they are all under 12.

*watch Land of the Lost and it will make more sense

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