With our time in Teresina nearly over, I have a few hours to process what an incredible and uplifting experience this week has been. Throughout the week, Jennifer and I often laughed when asked the question “What do you think of the weather in Teresina?” We laughed because it is a known fact that the city of Teresina can be unbearably hot at all times, and eveyone knows it. It would be like asking, “What do you think of the traffic in New York?” But, the weather in Teresina is a good metaphor for the people; warm and sunny all the time.
We have also, often been asked, “What is your favorite thing about Teresina?” Here again, it is no suprise that it has been the people; the teachers and students at Centro de Linguas, and everyone else we have had the good fortune of being introduced to in this city, have all made us feel like we were right at home. We have shared so many memories and laughs with them these last few days, I feel like I have gained a whole new set of life-long friends:)
Here are the highlights from the last few days.
After visiting and co-teaching in the school again Wednesday morning, we had a little rest before we headed to the University of Piaui to speak with English language students and teachers. On a number of occassions, Brazilian teachers expressed frustration at not having ample opportunities for their students to speak and practice English. There were also many questions and comments about the state of education in America, and how it compared to Brazil. Much like if you were to fill a small auditorium with American teachers, there was little agreement on many of the issues.
After the event was formally over, we were bum-rushed by the participants who wanted to ask us more questions, but mostly who wanted to get their picture taken with us. For a brief 15 minutes, I think we both understood what it meant to feel like a rockstar. Perhaps the most endearing moment was when one of the women, who spoke very little English, ran over to us to show Jennifer what she had clearly took careful time to translate and write on her hand…”You are like Princess Diana”.
Yesterday, we were scheduled to observe more lessons in the morning, but we have quickly learned that this does not mean sitting in the back of a room and observing, but rather fielding questions from around the room about everything from our favorite movies to what do we think about Barack Obama? Yesterday also happened to be Jennifer's birthday, and the students and teachers helped her to celebrate with some singing and dancing in the faculty lounge that morning.
Thursday evening, we headed back to Centro de Linguas for the last time (tear-wipe), to conduct another workshop for teachers on strategies to teach English. Again, the participants were all wonderful, and made the presentation fun and exciting. What we have found, at the end of every presentation, is that the teachers are alway so appreciative of our being there. We often have a giant photo-shoot, followed by many thanks, and welcomes, and hugs.
After the session, we were taken to the Music Project for All; a community project where poor students can learn how to play a variety of instruments for free. The head of the program took us on an orientation tour of the building, popping in and out of classrooms to witness students of all ages playing guitar, cello, violin, drums, etc. I stopped in the hallway to chat with a student for a brief moment, and the next thing I knew, Jen was playing the drums. Two rooms later, we became part of a 7 piece band, along with the principal of CCL, and the head of the music for all program. Great fun!
As the tour winded to an end, and we admired a state-of-the-art auditorium, we suddenly found ourselves being interviewed in Portuguese (with Joselia translating on the side). With a camera and microphone held to our faces, we were asked to express our thoughts about Brazilian culture and music. While Jennifer was articulate and diplomatic as usual, I barely managed to blurt out the profound statement, “I like drums. I like the beat” A total I carried a watermelon moment.
Last evening was our last night in Teresina, and a very special one at that. We wound up right back where we started, just one short week before, at Seu Boteco. Gildo, one of the amazing teachers at CCL was performing with his band, so Joselia arranged to have our farewell party there. For those of you that know me, the soundtrack of the evening could not have been more perfect; a wide selection of 80s dance, rock, and pop. There was even a little Bon Jovi:)
Throughout the evening, we danced, sang, exchanged presents, and just enjoyed each others' company. By the end of the night, we were all very sad to saygood bye to one another, but promised to keep in touch.
While talking with Alex in the faculty room yesterday, expressing how much we loved how fun, loud, crazy, and friendly all our experiences with the Centro de Linguas school have been this week, he responded with a light-hearted chuckle, stating “Yes, weird things happen here.”
Weird things do happen here, but wonderful things happen too. The way the teachers interact with their students, the way they interacted with us, the way they welcomed us into their lives as if we have known them forever, the way the principal warmly welcomed us into his school with his smiling eyes and enthusiastic thumb-ups everyday ,the way the students eagerly hung on everyword we said. But, most importantly, the way our wonderful, funny, generous, caring, strong, and gregarious host, Joselia, has taken care of us all week; I will always have a special place in my heart for her, her city of Teresina, and all the teachers at the Centro Cultural de Linguas.