Wednesday, June 24, 2009


In other news, there isn't too much to report on the social front. I've been keeping a low profile in my attempts to catch up with my grading. The highlight of the past few weeks was probably making chocolate chip cookies with the two little children of a married couple I've gotten to know.

As far as another question everyone keeps asking, as far as gentlemen go...

Earlier in the year I got this message in an e-mail:

oh by the way i went to psychic with girls from work and she saw a baby in near future,i of course said no baby but i figure i'll warn all of you. how is love life going or not. i should warn brian i quess you never know???????

Anyways, no babies. No worries. Although, speaking of babies, baby mamas, and baby daddies, congrats to Jilly and Bob!

June 24th - Can one dot make a difference in a blogspot,that is the question of the century.

My first academic year of teaching in Cape Verde is coming to a rapid close. Overall I think the year has gone pretty smoothly, and I'm excited by the extent to which I feel involved at Uni-CV. I'm confident in my work and even though It was a busy semester, it was a really good semester. It might be out of necessity, but I'm happy with the amount of responsibility that was entrusted to me. I enjoyed the courses I taught this semester, and I enjoyed working with the fifth year students as a thesis advisor and supervisor for their student teaching.

It's come to my attention, yet again that my blog might give the impression that I'm not working as much as I'm living life to the fullest. I don't know why, but that perception bothers me. It might be my pride, but I feel the need to make it clear that the majority of my time and energy is spent working. Most of my posts are about special occasions like holidays or traveling to other islands, because they are new experiences. It's much harder for me to write about work, because when 10+ hours of your day is spent doing something, it becomes really hard to write about. It's really hard to differentiate any one thing that warrants a post. Especially this semester when it's harder than ever to keep up with the posts.

I think I've already written about my classes this semester, so I figure I should write a little about what I've been doing with the majority of my mornings. This semester I was asked to serve as an Estago Pedagogico supervisor. Estagio Pedagogico is the student teaching practicum that all fifth year students have to complete as part of the licenture. We have twenty-six fifth year students at four of the local high schools in Mindelo. My job was to visit the school and observe them teaching to provide critical feedback. Over the course of the semester I was able to see all but two teach, most of them multiple times. It was great to be back in high schools. I sometimes miss my students. Sure teens, can drive a sane person nuts, but they keep you on your toes. Most of the high schools here reminded me of the schools I worked in back home. The high schools here lack a good amount of basic materials (most don't have class sets of textbooks), but the classes aren't all that different than what you would find back home. One thing that really struck me is the amount of teacher authority here. If a student acts out in class, they are out. When I first arrived here I was shocked at the falta disciplina policy. If a student misbehaves, let's say they come to class more than 15 minutes late, the teacher has the right to remove the student from the classroom. I'm still not a hundred percent sure how I feel about that particular policy, but one thing I can say is that I think the level of discipline in the classrooms here are overall higher than in the states. Students have the opportunity to go to liberal arts high schools or vocational high schools. Granted, as in any ed. system, there are certain problems or shortcomings, but it made me realize that in the States I think we are too quick to give students too much power at the expense of teachers.

When I was teaching there were certain students I did not think belonged in a general education high school. Some of these students were kids that were known to be involved in gangs, bullied kids, didn't do work, would be suspended for cursing, yelling at a teacher, getting into fights, all that jazz. A few of them did all of the above, but continued to come to school to "flex their muscle". If they got in trouble, many of them would be back in school before you blinked an eye. We had no real discipline in the school I taught at. Teachers shouldered the responsibility of enforcing rules without the support of consequences. This is an age in which a growing number of people seem to believe that if the student is shown that the teacher cares, they will change their deviant ways. It completely undermines the reality of the situation in which a lot of these little "tuggies" need serious counseling and support that isn't possible in a class of 35. Some of the most serious offenses were found to be due to "emotional disturbances" and the kids were sent back into the classroom. Who do the policies today support? How is this helpful to the student who might be back in class, but poses a danger to himself/herself and others? How is it fair to the other students? How can we support or justify having schools that are unsafe? Which is more justifiable: failing the students that are seriously behind or causing major continuous disturbances, or do we risk the education of whole classes? What is so wrong with gifted programs? Why are vocational education programs often overlooked or not seen as a priority? What is so wrong with keeping students back? Should students that are reading at a second grade level be in the tenth grade class? Shouldn't they be kept back at an earlier age and given intensive tutoring? The fact that I had multiple students (we are talking double digit percentages) reading at a 4 grade level or lower in the tenth grade, seems absurd to me.

So much time is wasted passing blame from one person or group to the other for the outcome of todays education system, that people seem to be losing sight of finding solutions. Are we raising generations of those whose overriding motivation is "entitlement"?

Anyways, I digress. Getting all heated and off topic, running off on tangents, is why I generally try to stick to writing about the silly side of life. Hikes to new spots on the island. Why I choose to drink the local beer, Strella, over the Portuguese beer, SuperBock, in an effort to support a CV industry rather than a Portuguese industry. The difference between "pssssssssssssssssst" and "psssst". Which is a catcall and which is a friend trying to get your attention. The really important things in life.

The last bit about teaching that I'll write for a while is that I'm really happy that I worked in the States before coming to work here in Cape Verde. I think my experiences there have allowed me to appreciate certain things that I otherwise might not have. Biggest example? Going home for lunch. Going home to cook lunch and relax (or do work but in the comfort of home) was not a possibility at any of the jobs I worked at post college. Here it's something that while I'm used to it, I try to remind myself to appreciate it. I think it's easier to take challenges or stressful situations here in stride. It also pushes me to use my time to get involved in as many things as possible and experience as much as I can while I'm here because there is a difference between a busy day working at home and a busy day working here. Sure it gets downright hectic here, there are days that are non-stop, but there is something fundamentally different that I can't really describe. If I figure it out, I'll blog about it. I do worry that I like it so much here, it's going to be one hell of an adjustment when I return to the States. In the meantime, I'm going to focus on the end of the year.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009




I had recently found out that I had been invited to help participate in PST 2009. Basically I would help the trainers and coordinators plan and facilitate the training activities for the incoming volunteers. We were originally told in an e-mail that the training was at the end of June, but on Tuesday we found out that the training was at the end of May, or two days away. Whoopsie daisy. Off to Praia we went.

The training was great. We worked with the technical trainers and LCF's (language teachers) to sequence the COTE and the different sessions. I hate to admit how shocked I was at how smoothly everything went. We even have the potential days for the TT sessions figured out. When there were disagreements, people offered really thoughtful responses to argue their opinions, and the group was able to negotiate agreements. The entire process felt productive. We even had the chance to check out the new site for the TT volunteers. Unfortunately they will not be staying in the same village I stayed in, but the new site looked like it will be a great place. The people there were really helpful and the volunteers can easily hook up with the youth association for some projects.

Aside from the obvious excitement at getting to see the staff and other volunteers, I also got to visit Tuga and my host family. Walking to Achada Galego most things looked the same, except now I could actually talk to people in my old stomping grounds. When I got to Tuga's and saw Yaya, I could actually make out a little bit of what she was saying. Granted it was only a slight bit, but if you heard Yaya talk you'd understand that a little bit is a huge amount. It's crazy how much the language has changed over the last few months. I still have time talking (apparently I pronounce things with a NY accent), and some conversations are easier to follow than others, but I feel like this weekend made me feel pretty confident with my Creole. A few months ago I would have never thought that I could sit and be able to hold a conversation for a few hours. Overall it was a great weekend.

One random thing that I absolutely have to share is that I saw a dog legit humping itself. It was standing over another dog, but since the other dog was laying down it couldn't reach it. Pretty sure it thinks it was though, not realizing it was just going to town on it's own belly. Hysterical. Now that's inbreeding for ya.


May 23rd - TOURISTS?

This has also been quite a week. Exams, classes, and so on. Staying busy, but loving having so much to do. After one class, I was invited to stay to watch a group of 2nd years perform Romeo and Juliet. They had to update a scene. It was an all male ensemble, all of whom have pretty strong personalities, so it was hysterical. Have I mentioned how much I enjoy my students? Each year is a bit different, but they are really great groups to work with.

This week I made plans to start to help out at an animal shelter. I want to help by taking dogs for walks. I started on Friday and took a few dogs out one at a time. The last dog I took out was a three legged little guy that was ten times faster than the other two. Fiesty little guy. Anways, went to bring this little guy back to the shelter and as I'm leading him through the door two others run out. The dog I was walking got off the chain and ran off two. Suddenly I'm running around the streets of Mindelo chasing three legged dogs. Eventually I was able to catch them all and get them back safely, but I honestly didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I'm pretty sure they will not want me around the dogs again anytime soon.

To celebrate a birthday and a despidida we had a visit from almost all of the S. Antao volunteers this weekend. I had invited a few of the volunteers to talk to my class. The class went really well. I think Friday night classes would be hard for anyone, anywhere. I think the students asked some really great questions, including "Do you find working for the Peace Corps to be gratifying?", and the conversation was really great.

On Saturday we rented a van and toured the island as a last big to do for the second year volunteers. Definitely not a typical weekend day, but it was fun. We went to the beaches outside of the city. I finally got to see what the resort over on Sao Pedro looks like. It's bizarre.

We made a pact to finally make it out to one of the discos. Out of about 10 or 11 of us, 3 of us made it out. Fun times, but getting home at 8 am, is never a good feeling.

I am a true believer that nothing good happens after 2 am.

I went for a walk with one volunteer before sleeping for a nice extended time. It was a really nice, indulgent weekend, but it's about time to get back to work. Monographias are due in three weeks, so it's the finally push for the students and us advisors.

May 16th - FESTA DE CERVEJA - not joking at all.

Work has been very busy. Generally in the morning I've been running around to the secondary schools to try to observe our student teachers. It's a race against the clock because in a few weeks exams and national tests will be given. It's also quite a task to coordinate which schools to go to and when. I've really enjoyed having the opportunity to visit all the S.Vicente high schools and see the students in action.

Classes are still going well and keeping me busy in the afternoon and some evenings. The semester is flying by and whereas so far I've been able to keep everything working, sometimes I get worried at how much is coming up as the end of the semester gets closer and closer.

Today there was a celebration of the local radio so there was a concert down by the beach. Afterwards, I went to a "beer fest" fundraiser that my students arranged. It was really nice to get to just pal around with my students. It was really laid-back and fun. I've never seen the different years together, so it was nice in it's somewhat randomness. Although I thoroughly enjoy my students, when I go out at night I generally try to avoid going out with students. I know some volunteers, esp. at the university level, become good friends with their students, but I'm still trying to figure out where I want to draw the professional line. I do meet a few of my students for language exchange, and have seen some of them out, but I'm trying to keep it PC.

On Sunday I finally went on another hike. This time we went out to Calhou and climbed the craters. It was probably the steepest climb we've done so far, and there were a few points where I had to tell myself "don't look down, don't loook down", but getting to the top was worth it. Afterwards I met up with a co-worker or two at the beach and hung out with them and their kids. I figure getting out and doing things is important. Generally it's just work during the week, so I'm trying to take advantage of the weekends to meet up with people and explore the island.

May 9th - KIDS ONLY

This weekend I went to my friend Amelia's birthday party. I realized that being at a party here is somewhat like being a little kid at a party. Generally when people talk to me, I sometimes get a little confused and have to resort to simple nods of the head and yes/no responses. Whereas all the "adults" are wearing heels and fancy clothes, I opt for jeans and flip-flops. I always get asked to dance, but the novelty soon wears off after my partner realizes I cannot dance. People constantly pass you food and even if your full and not at all hungry, you don't have much of a choice other than to just eat it.

I promise to bring the camera out more... I wish I had pics of this night...


Wait for it.... wait for it...

May 1st - SANTA CRUZ

Cochuli had it's town fest, "Santa Cruz" this weekend, so I made the trek to Santo Antao. The pictures will speak volumes once I get my hands on some of them. Here's one to wet your appetite in the meantime... If you look closely you can see some horse racing. Yes, I'm serious.