Lens Shifting & Comparative Thinking
After being here for roughly a month and a half, the aspect of life that is most different for me is definitely transportation. In the U.S. I always had a car to get me where I needed to go, but here I have to rely on the public transportation system or catching rides with friends which can be difficult at times. I thought it would be easy to find a bike or a scooter that I could buy for relatively cheap here, but scooters are actually quite expensive and the bikes I’ve found are cheaply made and overpriced. I am still on the hunt for a good bicycle though! I do not like having to take the bus, so I would much prefer biking to work and school, or wherever I need to go. Another thing that is very different for me is that no one watches football here!! It’s the playoffs now, and in the United states, this would be a time to get together with friends and watch the games, but it’s not like that here. Luckily I can get some of the games on TV here, and this weekend I’m going to try and find a restaurant or bar that is playing the games.
I am starting to notice several cultural differences and similarities that are not apparent on the surface now that I have been immersed in the cultural for a month and a half. The two biggest differences that I’ve noticed are that time and deadlines are much more relative here. for example: in America that means my friend will be there at 3 or 3:10 at the latest. In La Paz that means they will probably get me anytime from 3-4:30 more or less. This causes things to happen much more slowly most of the time because no one is in a rush. This is slightly frustrating for me at times, because I’m used to being very prompt with football, school, work, and basically everything in my life. I’m getting used to it though. In my travels, it seems that most countries with a hot climate, have this outlook on time, and I want to live somewhere warm so it is something I should grow used to.
The other big difference I’ve noticed is strictness of parents. I have a friend that is 21 and she is only in La Paz for the holidays, and her father gives her very strict curfews and she has several rules. This is normal for girls here. Boys are given much more freedom. This is almost unheard of in America. After a person leaves for college and comes back for the holiday’s it is very uncommon for their parents to give them curfews or rules as if they were still in high school. Obviously strictness varies from family to family as with anywhere, but it is not uncommon for girls to have strict rules when at home no matter what age they are.
While I have noticed several differences in our cultures I have also come to realize that on a base level we are the same in more aspects than we are different. Some cultures may be very different from our own, but I feel that once we are able to accept the differences, we can begin to see how alike we all are. Now for some pictures
This is a picture of some friends and I at a little fiesta. Names from left to right are Irene, Pedro (one of my host brothers), Betty, and myself
This is a photo from a camping trip I returned from a couple days ago. We hiked to this secret beach and camped out for a couple days. It was beautiful and amazing!!
This is a picture I took from a boat tour I went on in Cabo San Lucas. The tour was a lot of fun, and the views were amazing!
A lot has happened since my last blog entry. Things are going really well here so far. I get along really well with my host family, and I love this city. The beaches are beautiful and the people are very friendly. My spanish has vastly improved in my three weeks here. At first it was a bit overwhelming and difficult for me to communicate, but after being immersed in the culture for three weeks it is becoming much easier, and I am much more comfortable communicating in Spanish.
My classes are going really well. Because I came late in the semester, I could not join a class that was already in progress. So my class is one on one with my professor Rocio Aramburo, which is excellent for me, and I am learning much faster, because we can focus completely on things that I want and need to learn to communicate effectively.
Taking the bus to school everyday has caused me slight issues a couple of times. I get on a bus that says UABCS on it and it drives right by the university, so I have to get up and tell the bus driver to stop. It’s not a big issue but it is kind of frustrating, and I’m still trying to figure out which buses to get on. I’m getting to know the city pretty well so I want to look into getting a scooter or at least a bike to get around in.
I’ve done quite a few fun things in my first three weeks, but I’m trying to pace myself because I am here for so long. My host brother David has taken me to a few parties, and showed me around downtown a few times. I went swimming with whale sharks last Wednesday, which was amazing!! I also got stung by a jellyfish during the whale shark excursion, which I say was all just part of the experience! (no I did not pee on where I was stung..) The best experiences for me so far however have been going to the sunday parties at Lu’s parents house. (Lu is Rocio’s husband) The second day I was here I went there and we talked and ate Carne Asada and drank. everything was outside under a hand made palapa, with hammocks and a grill. It was amazing. The second time I was invited to their house was with the entire family there. Three of the aunts and their grandpa all have birthdays this month, and Lu’s sister Belen and her husband Jay were heading back to Seattle Where Jay is from. So that is what the celebration was for. It was great meeting their family and talking with them. I am able to understand most of what everyone is talking about except for a few words here and there, and my vocabulary is improving so I am able to communicate back in spanish with a few english words sprinkled here and there.
Overall I have really enjoyed my first few weeks here in La Paz, and look forward to the rest of my time here. I have a lot of plans this week and next, so I look forward to telling you all about my adventures in my next blog!
As time gets closer for me to leave I am becoming increasingly excited and also a little stressed out. I’ve traveled a lot in my life, but never done anything like buying a one way ticket to a place that I have never been before, so it’s a little scary. I find myself wondering at times if this is even real. I am now at the airport and it is all sinking in.
I don’t know what to expect from this experience. I am trying to go into it as open minded as possible and not have to many expectations. I do have a few however. I expect amazing food, weather, and I expect to meet a lot of great people. I feel like these are all realistic expectations, and that I will not be disappointed in the slightest. I have to get on my plane now, so until next time!
Studying Shakespeare at the University of Cambridge has been a remarkable experience for a variety of different reasons. The first and most obvious would be the opportunity to interact with instructors who are at the top of their field. I find their depth of knowledge on the subjects to be consistently outstanding. Secondly, my peers are attending Cambridge for much the same reasons that I am and I have enjoyed the discussions that begin in the classroom, and then continue out into the streets and everywhere we go.
Studying abroad gave the opportunity to interact with other students from the United States, as well as students from Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Belgium, and Russia, all equally enthusiastic about learning and discussing Shakespeare the man, the works, and the cultural phenomena. Our classes, activities, and lectures have encompassed everything from a close comparison of the quartos and folios to modern texts, to looking at Shakespeare in magna comics, to attending a production of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, to typecasting and printing our own document on a wooden printing press.
It has been an amazing experience! I will be returning to VCSU with a greater understanding of Shakespeare. I hope other students take the opportunity to study abroad too.
Today is the last day of my travel abroad experience. What could be a better way to end the experience than to climb a mountain and go for a swim? That is exactly what I did! Early this morning my friend Betty and her two daughter, Alejandra and Ana Karen, brought me to the mountain near the Malecon and we hiked all the way to the tip-top! We took many photos and afterwards went for a dip in the sea. Today is full of mixed emotions. I am going to miss my Mexican family very much, and at the same time and ready to begin a new chapter of my life back in ND. I am very appreciative to have this experience and will take the memories and lessons learned with me when I go back. Thank you to everyone back home who has supported me in this journey and helped plan this experience. Thank you to my friends here in Mexico which have treated me like family, showed me the city, and made this trip one to always remember. Thank you for reading my blog posts, and please contact me if you would like to see photos or ask about my experience.
I didn’t talk about my last school visits! I went to a private elementary school for two days, and was able to see the differences between private and public elementary schools. I still stand by my statement that what is most important are the quality of the teachers, and not which schools have the most funding or advanced technology (although that can help). On Thursday, I attended a Montessori Kindergarten. The children were having a birthday party for one of the girls, and I noticed how polite and kind all of the students were! It was amazing to see how the Montessori education system works, and I agree with the constructivist approach that Montessori encourages. The students are free to discover learning, rather than it be a requirement. My experiences in the Mexican schools have enriched my knowledge of education and am very thankful to have been an observer, and participant, in many of the schools.
Overall, this study abroad experience has been a success, and I am very sad to leave this beautiful city of La Paz. I am packing my bags now and then will be attending a traditional folkloric concert for my last activity. Tomorrow, I will be flying over the peninsula and head back into the States to go home. Again, thank you reading and enjoy your summer!
Only six days remain until my study abroad trip is over. I am amazed by how quickly June has gone by. I have now spent one month in La Paz, MX, and will soon be going back home to North Dakota. I have been very blessed to have met so many wonderful people here in La Paz that have helped make this study abroad experience one to always remember. Looking back on the experience I have sampled excellent Mexican dishes, kayaked at Pichilingue, attended Spanish classes, met super cool people in the conversation club, visited a juvenile class, went to a middle school, put on a short music concert with the Normal School, had Octopus for the first time, attended a circus-themed Quinceañera, attended Catholic mass, tried my best to salsa at Zumba, spoke Spanglish with the Bettys, was given a tour of the Mexican Naval Academy, sampled authentic Mexican food with the conversation club, took the public bus for the first time, went to a Fiesta for the Saint of the church, did yoga on the beach, went to a Sushi party, gave a presentation in front of 43 teachers, attended several elementary schools, took a boat to the Isla Espiritu Santo, saw a whale, ate Sushi at CostaBaja, went to Tesoro and Balandra beach, almost touched a crab, went to three different movies (2 in Spanish), went to a Serpentario, had burgers at The Shack, had Mexican candy at Todos Santos, ate ice cream on the Malecon, have gotten ill twice, and have many more activities planned! All of that in a month – wow – and I didn’t even write everything. All of these experiences have been fulfilling in some way, and thank you to everyone who has made these possible.
Sounds like a trip of a lifetime, right? Yes, and there are many things I have not mentioned that I will take with me even after I have left Mexico. First of all the photos I have taken are excellent memoirs. I have been keeping a personal journal to record memories, thoughts, and feelings every day during this experience. And of course the friends I have made here who helped make this trip awesome. In my last blog post, I have been asked to discuss how this experience has prepared me for my “dream job”, whatever that may be.
To answer, my dream job is to be a teacher. An archeologist of dinosaur bones would be my first choice, but a teacher is a suitable position worth dreaming about. During this experience I have had a chance to look at education on an international level. What I have learned is that education for children is a much larger concept than what a country’s government can fit into a cookie cutter school society. Education is that which teaches a child the basics of knowledge and purpose of understanding the world around them. The structure in which schools decide to educate the children is not always the most important factor in the success of a child’s education. The proof of success is not measurable by standardized testing or how much funding a school receives, but I believe it is by the strength of the school’s teachers. I have observed outstanding teachers here in Mexico, and I have seen the delight on the children’s faces that respect and love that teacher so much that they want to learn whatever they can. Education is more than just knowing the core curriculum subjects like math, science, and social studies, but it is also learning how to become the person you want to be. It takes positive role models, like a coach, teacher, or parent, that functions in a society as a knowledgeable adult. For me, these people weren’t all teachers, but then again a teacher is fairly vague term. I consider a teacher as someone who helps another person learn something they didn’t know before. So, back to the question. How did this study abroad experience help prepare you for your dream job? This experience led me to the conclusion that teachers are needed everywhere. It doesn’t matter how large or small the school, how rich or poor, how technologically advantages or disadvantaged . . . children will always need someone to help guide the way to becoming a better adult.
And what’s more than just my career, I feel that this experience has taught me many things about being an adult. I am still not very good at it, and need some more direction before I could ever consider myself a teacher or a mentor. When I go back to the States I want to work hard on learning Spanish and taking classes so that I can soon fill the shoes of a the “dream teacher” I want to be.
Buenas tardes! The second half of my travel abroad experience is focused on observing elementary schools. For my elementary education major and ELL endorsement I am required to complete a 60-hour practicum, and thought Mexico would be the perfect place to do this! For this reason, I started my observations at local elementary schools here in La Paz on June 12th. Before then, I had the opportunity to also attend a juvenile school and a telesecundario (middle school).
On June 18th and 19th I was at Hugo Cesar Pineda primary school. On Monday morning I observed teacher Dora in her English classes. The English language program is only one year old at this particular school, and the English teachers travel to the Gen. Edu. classroom to teach their English block. I observed Dora in two 5th grades in the morning, then two sections of 6th grade in the afternoon. The students were comparing Mexican culture and United States culture, so I shared some of the foods I like and the holidays we celebrate. Many of the holidays are shared between the U.S. and Mexico, but with Spanish and English names. On Tuesday, I came back to the same primary school and observed teacher Camida and her English classes. I observed her 3rd grade at 8:00, the second section 3rd grade at 9:00, the 1st grade at 10:00, the 4th grade at 11:00, and the second 4th grade at 12:00.
During my observations, I introduce myself by stating my name and showing the students a map of North America to distinguish the United States, North Dakota (and how it borders Canada), and how far away I am from Mexico. I take any questions because many of students have learned how to ask simple questions in English. I.e.: What is your favorite color? Do you have a dog? What are your hobbies? Then, I have some lessons prepared for the class if the teacher would rather have me talk to the students or I sit back and record my observations in my little notebook.
Today, I was at a new school close to where I am staying in La Paz. The school is called Hugo Cervantes del Rio in La Fuente. I observed English teacher Isbeth’s two 5th grades in the morning, then English teacher Zita in the afternoon. The students were so eager to learn more about me, and I taught one lesson three times today! In the first class, I wrote and discussed United States holidays chronologically by month on the board. The students wanted to share with me their Mexican holidays, so each came up to the board and marked which ones were celebrated as the same holiday and added some new ones. We played a couple games of Holiday Tic Tac Toe. In the next class, I adjusted my lesson slightly by creating a VENN diagram of the holidays because then the students could see the differences and similarities. This was a collaborated effort because the students helped me with the Mexican holidays and another student was at the board with me. We played holiday hangmen before it was time to go.
I absolutely enjoyed my experience in the classrooms! The kiddos are so excited to meet someone who is from another country and have so much love to share. They are always sad to hear I won’t be their “new teacher” But, who knows? I might decide to live and work in another country when I finish with school. The English programs are still in its beginning stages here in La Paz, and I hope the program continues to be adapted into the curriculum in the education system.
Wow! It feels like so much as happened since the last blog post. First, I want to discuss some of the experiences since the last post, then I have been asked to evaluate some of the goals I set in the very beginning and how I feel about these goals now.
I have 194 pictures since my last upload! On Thursday, I attended a state normal school called “Escuela Normal Urbana”. At the school, there are many applicants that apply, but only about 1/3 of the students are selected. I observed Profesora Letty’s class in the morning and the afternoon. The girls were so friendly (pictured below). They gave me a tour of the campus and let me participate in their mock music concert.
On Friday, I took a boat ride tour to the Isla Espirtu Santo. I took the bus from the Malecon to Pichilingue, then rode in a boat with 10 other tourists to see the beautiful island. I met three girls from Mexico City (pictured below). In the boat we saw massive rock structures of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Some towered to sky with a gap between to take the boat through! We also saw a whale rise from the water which is very rare to see in the summer. I went snorkeling with the sea lions and saw many colorful fish! At the beach we had civiche, my absolute new favorite food! I will be getting the recipe before I leave – that’s for sure. On the way back we saw the “Mask” in the rock structures and the symbol of La Paz or the “Mushroom Rock” in Bahia Balandra.
After a wonderful day of touring the Island (and one sunburn later) I went to the beautiful CostaBaja for Sushi. Today was spent on Tesoro beach in the sun and sand. The water temperature was perfect for swimming in contrast to the intense heat. The sun’s rays in Mexico are unlike any I have felt on even the hottest day in ND. At the beach we had more civiche – yum!
Thinking back to the goals I set for this study abroad experience before I left were to improve my spanish, learn more about Mexican culture, meet friends, and to observe elementary classrooms. Today marks the third week spent here in La Paz, and now I look forward to another two weeks before going back to the States. Have I accomplished my goals? Have I changed some goals or made adjustments since the first week?
The answer is yes to both of the questions. Before I arrived in Mexico, I had little to no idea of what to expect. I was a newcomer to international travel and my only knowledge of Mexico was represented by the news/media and family/friends. The media only portrays the hazards and devastation of certain areas in Mexico that are dealing with intense poverty and drug-related violence. The truth is that poverty and violence exists in every area of the world, but unfortunately, many people are only familiar with the problems of a country than the communities or economies that are thriving. Baja California Sur is essentially doing very well economically because of the support of ecotourism at the Sea of Cortez (among other factors). La Paz is a very safe community to live and travel to, and it took meeting the people and traveling in the city to realize and be comfortable with this. Not knowing what to expect in the beginning, I set my expectations rather low.
Adjusting my expectations has been the fun part:) Driving through the city, going to the beach, attending traditional Mexican parties, and meeting people from the city has allowed me to absorb so much culture and language. I didn’t realize how closely culture is related to language. Even though my Spanish-speaking skills are no where near perfect, I believe my listening skills have improved since I have been hearing natives speak every day here. In the past few weeks, I have become very frustrated with ability to learn a new language, and have adjusted my expectations about that, too. It will take more than five weeks to speak Spanish fluently, but I do believe I have experienced a quick emergence into the language to help me with classes at VCSU.
The elementary school observations have been more than I expected! I never expected to have an opportunity to visit an English class in a juvenile school – thanks Micheal! I also didn’t anticipate how the students would react to an American girl in their classrooms. So far, I have gotten so many hugs and smiles from the kids. All of the love the students have for their teachers, and teachers towards their students, is amazing! I believe this kind of physical affection in the classroom fosters a positive environment for students to learn and grow, especially at the elementary schools.
With two weeks left my goals include:
1) Improving my Spanish by listening and having more confident to speak.
2) Take every opportunity to learn more about Mexican culture – yes, this means more food!
3) Make connections with the people and take in as much information about the elementary schools as possible.
Thank you for following my blog posts, and stay connected for more!
Also, question of the day: Why do Americans make lemonade with the yellow fruit? If you haven’t tried before, make limonada with the green “limes” . . . muy rica!
Thank you for reading my travel blog! I have appreciated all of the comments and feedback from family and friends in North Dakota and here in La Paz. The blog post have been very few in the past week because of a busy schedule of activities and classes. This last weekend I was invited to a sushi party at Betty’s house. It was described to me that Mexican fiestas are filled with food, drinks, dancing, laughter, and possibly balloons! This was no Mexican fiesta, but there was much food and fun to be had! Satomi, a Japanese exchange student, prepared the sushi and instructed us how to make it. It was “muy rico”! After having a fun-filled weekend, I presented a speech about the U.S. Educational System in the UABCS conference room. There were 43 people in attendance! Most all of the people were teachers and professors at elementary schools and the university. After the presentation there were several questions and I was able to talk to some teachers about the presentation and my experience here. I was invited to attend a rally in a kindergarten class next Friday. Today, I began my elementary school observation at Carlos A. Carillo. At 8:00, I was briefed about the school by maestro Ruben who teaches English at the elementary school. He introduced to me the 6th grade class at 9:00 and we were joined by Philippe, an exchange student from the U.K. The class responded very well to the energy of the teacher and seemed very eager to meet me and talk more to Philippe. The teacher explained the differences between Philippe to clarify that because we look similar does not mean we come from the country. The teacher encouraged the students to speak English in front of the class and also enforced classroom rules about respect when a student shares in front of the class. As an observer, I learned many things about teaching English as a second language, responding to cultural differences, and adapting to new situations. I will have many experiences from these observations which I will take with me into teaching. I am learning more about the teacher I want to become, and ways to foster the kind of classroom environment I believe is safe and engaging for students to share their ideas and to express themselves. Tomorrow, I will be in the same school once again except observing the Gen. Educ. teacher rather than the English teacher. The night ended with a perfectly wonderful yoga session on the beach. I led a “class” of about 8 people while the sun was setting on the water. The hot days are perfect for mild evenings here. There is something wonderful about hearing the actual waves crash against the shore during my practice than the waves of a yoga DVD. Please feel free to post comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!
In this blog, I am going to reflect on some cultural differences between my home country and my host country. My first week spent here in La Paz may have been comparative to that of a tourist’s experience. I have done many things here, such as kayaking, sight-seeing, shopping, dining out, going to the movies, touring the campus, and even attending a Zumba class! But many of these activities are things people who live here in La Paz do not get to experience all in one week. Now, with a month of study abroad ahead, I am gaining more perspective about how people live their everyday lives in La Paz. Of course, there are obvious differences between my home in the United States and my host country here in Mexico. Some noticeable differences are the types of food, the meal times, the language, the holidays, the government, the houses, the transportation systems, the currency, the businesses, the climate, and the physical environment. All of these I have seen, experienced, or was told about in the past week and a half. Mexico is in its election year, which has impacted the entire country as well as my temporary stay in Mexico. The voting for the next president and local positions is on July 1st (which is also the day I leave). All of the media is broadcasting the upcoming election – the television, the streets, the billboards, the buses, and the newspapers. It is exciting to be a witness to all of the events taking place in Mexico, and learning certain aspects about Mexico’s government which is different and comparative to the U.S. government. Slowly, more nuanced differences are presenting themselves, and are primarily cultural differences that are less noticeable to a foreigner or a tourist. A more subtle difference is the culture’s view on time. In the U.S., I am familiar with receiving a time or schedule for an event, say a birthday party, and arriving at the given time or perhaps 15 minutes before. The same is for classes – on my first day of school at VCSU I arrived to all of my morning classes 25 minutes before the scheduled class time. This is probably more my personality than part of U.S. culture, but it is still relevant because in my family arriving on time is late. Now, I arrive to class about 5 minutes before the class begins, but at that time most or all of the students are in their seats and ready to begin. At the university in La Paz, I notice that many of the professors arrive minutes before class and the students arrive all at different times. My observance may be inaccurate, because I have only been to two classes which are very few in numbers. Another example of appropriate timing is special events. My host family was invited to a Quinceañera at 8:00 p.m. It was explained to me that in Mexico it is socially acceptable to arrive to a party 40 minutes past the scheduled time. We arrived to the fiesta at 8:45, but the birthday girl did not attend her party until roughly 9:30! Another observance is that many rooms do not have clocks. It is very common in the U.S. to see clocks on every wall in the homes, businesses, schools, and public places. In my home, we even have clocks in the bathrooms! No one country is doing it right or doing it wrong. This is simply a cultural difference that reflects how time is valued in each culture. To tell the truth, I have found it very relaxing to not know what time it is at every moment of the day. I notice I spend less time rushing from place to place to get things done, and I spend more time chatting with people in the hallways or in the home. I now feel as if I have more time in a day when I am not constantly checking the time. I still have a schedule of events, but the time is flexible as long as everyone involved can attend. Reflecting upon this difference, I have learned that time should not be restricting and allowing, but rather a more arbitrary measurement used to bring people together.
Here, I am quoting the lyrics from “Time Flies” by Porcupine Tree. Your welcome, Josh!
“How does time break down
with no marker, things slow down. . .
But after a while, you realize that time flies
and the best thing that you can do
is take whatever comes to you
Cuz’ time flies.”