Adventures in Geographical Shock Treatment

Posted from Los Gatos, California

The great American author Wallace Stegner once wrote: “Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.” While I cannot claim experience to the first part of his comment, I am certainly one of those “uprooted” who has come to understand even better the notion of home since leaving it for Brazil. I knew the U.S. was my home since I have lived here my whole life, but until leaving I’d not been able to see as many other reasons why. I came to greatly appreciate, in their absence, a number of things I might have overlooked otherwise, from holiday coffee drinks to awkward handshakes—yes, while I do love the opened-armed hug and kiss that define Brazilian greetings, I also found myself missing that particular type of earnest look and terse “hi” that come with a handshake.

Travel adventures - backcountry skiing at Mt. Hood in Oregon.

Travel adventures – backcountry skiing at Mt. Hood in Oregon.

I’m being a little silly—and there were lots of silly little Americanisms I missed—but let me give a better, real-life example. Cara and I had the pleasure of working closely with two American families, Baptist missionaries, to coordinate and realize our first English Camp. I was thrilled to meet these other Americans and shake their hands with an earnest look, and over the course of the camp I came to like them all very much and look forward to more company and collaboration in the future.

I wonder if I would have had the opportunity for this in the U.S. There are significant religious and political gulfs between me and my new American friends, gulfs that are hard to cross these days in such a polarized home country. But being outside that country gave me a chance to step back and appreciate what indefinable things make us all American in whatever ways we are. Some people I know talk about emigrating out of the U.S. if this-or-that happens in Washington. I wasn’t expecting that being in Brazil, where there is universal health care and better gun control and an extremely broad social welfare program—all with their faults—might make me a little more tolerant of my own country’s shortcomings and where we need to grow. As Stegner suggested, being uprooted from home allowed me to comprehend a little better exactly what my home is all about.

I recently exchanged a few emails with my friend Caiti about Stegner’s quotation, and she offered forth this little gem of her own: “How strange it is to aspire to uproot oneself.” It might sound like a judgment at first glance, but I don’t read it that way and I don’t believe she meant it that way. Rather, it is a frank acknowledgment that some of our greatest, truest aspirations can sometimes be—well, difficult. Uncomfortable. Even unpleasant at times. Leaving homes and families in New England and California, when it came down to it, seemed ludicrous to me in certain moments.

Home adventures - sharing the wishbone with Mom.

Home adventures – sharing the wishbone with Mom.

But an aspiration is not only a desire; it’s actually a goal. The process of achieving goals isn’t always pleasant, but the best goals simply are and must be, and can’t be escaped when the going gets tough. The aspiration to be uprooted from a comfortable environment is a particular kind of need to grow and change through geographical shock treatment. No matter how much I missed home, in both superficial and deep, cutting ways, it was worth every moment away to learn the perspective and independence that I gained from being uprooted. And when I embraced my uprootedness, my new Petrolina friends rooted me again, making a new family and a new home.

Another friend recently made an excellent point about leaving the places you call home. Often, the fear of leaving is a fear of change—losing touch with friends or family, or losing your place or status in an important community. But some kind of change is inevitable no matter how rooted you are. In light of that, perhaps an effective way to handle that inevitable change—especially when young and unattached—is to initiate some of it rather than watching it happen unwanted. As I sit in my parents’ house back in the States, I have no regrets about uprooting myself. In fact, I’m embracing it a bit longer—I’ll be back in Petrolina beginning in mid-February. Until then, I’m finding the last of the holiday coffee drinks and searching out as many earnest handshakes as possible.

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PIEF in the News

It has been two months since the first Petrolina International English Fair (PIEF), a C² + 3 –Jeziel, Laraine and the US Consulate– event that was called by some revolutionary in terms of English-Language education in the region.

To refresh our minds of all that the fair accomplished and, of course, to bask a little longer in our fame, we would like to share with you the local news coverage (thanks again to the dynamic staff at TV Grande Rio): before, during the first day and then on the final night of the event.

Before:

During:

Grand Finale:

Long live PIEF and here’s to a repeat performance!

Petrolina is Calling You

… Pick up!

But seriously– come visit C² in Petrolina.

This Holiday season, I had the immense pleasure of hosting my dad, William, and twin brother, Nathaniel for a weekend.  As I approach year two of life in Petrolina, Pernambuco, they came to see what the hype was all about.  Should you, too, choose to venture into the Sertão, which I highly recommend you do, here are some places you may go and people you may see.

In the morning I'll make you breakfast and you can drink out of my special mug.

In the morning I’ll make you breakfast and you can drink out of my special mug.

We can head to the São Francisco river, where you will get your first introduction to bode, the Portuguese word for goat.

We can head to the São Francisco river, where you will get your first introduction to bode, the Portuguese word for goat.

We'll take a ferry boat to the rodeadouro island to spend the morning coolingeating delicious river fish.

We’ll take a ferry-boat to a near-by island, Rodeadouro, to spend the morning cooling off and eating delicious river fish.

... and sunning our you-know-whats.

… and sunning our you-know-whats.

In the afternoon we can have a churrasco, a Brazilian bbq, at my best friend Jeziel's lovely home.

In the afternoon we can have a churrasco, a Brazilian BBQ, at my best friend Jeziel’s (pictured here) lovely home.

You can meet some of my closest friends.

You can meet some of my closest friends.

And, if you are lucky, get a arrocha or forró-- two regional dances-- lessons with  Petrolina's finest!

And, if you are lucky, get an arrocha or forró— two regional dances– lessons with Petrolina’s finest teacher, Jessica!

The day after we could do a VIP tour with wine-specialist, Professor of viticulture, and very dear friend of mine -Ana Paula Barros at a vineyard where she worked called Ouro Verde (Green Gold).

The day after we could do a VIP tour with wine-specialist, Professor of Viticulture, and very dear friend of mine  – Ana Paula Barros at a vineyard where she worked called Ouro Verde (Green Gold) in the state of Bahia.

Here in Petrolina is the only place in the world where you will see a variety of grapes growing at all four stages at the same time.  Thirteen hours of sunlight and  the hot, dry, climate year-round allow up to four harvests per year.  The growth of grapes is at the complete whim of irrigation cycles creating, as my brother noted, the perfect conditions for science experiments.

Here in Petrolina is the only place in the world where you will see a variety of grapes growing with all four stages of development happening at the same time. Thirteen hours of sunlight and the  year-round hot, dry, climate allow up to four harvests per year. The growth of grapes is at the complete whim of irrigation cycles and pruning, creating, as my brother noted, the perfect conditions for science experiments.

Wine science... yummmm.

Wine science… yummmm.

Being with Ana Paula, we got to see the process every step of the way, from the growing to the aging...

Being with Ana Paula, we got to see the process every step of the way, from the growing to the aging…

Being with Ana Paula, we got to see the process every step of the way, from the growing to the bottling.

…to the bottling

To the best part, which is, of course, the tasting of innumerous distillates, liquors and wines all produced in the San Francisco Valley!

…to the best part, which is, of course, the tasting of innumerable distillates, liquors and wines all produced in the San Francisco Valley!

My personal favorite is the brandy, a distillate of wine, that uses the Spanish mark Osbourne, but is made right here in my back yard.

My personal Ouro Verde favorite is the brandy, a distillate of wine, that uses the Spanish mark Osborne, but is made right here in my back yard.

Quick stop at the hydroelectric damn in Sobradinho to see the impressive largest artificial lake in the Americas.

We make a quick stop at the hydroelectric dam in Sobradinho to see the impressive largest artificial lake in the Americas.

After a tiring day of wine drinking you will probably want to relax in my hammock with Chels' and my lovechild - Liverpool (and the mosquito racket handy).

Then home, where after a tiring day of wine drinking, you will probably want to relax in my hammock with Chels’ and my lovechild – Liverpool (and the mosquito racket handy).

Em fim, we can say our até logos (see you laters) to Petrolina by eating mouth-watering goat at the bodoromo (the goat drome).

Rested?  We can say our até logos (see you laters) to Petrolina by eating mouth-watering goat at the bodoromo (the goat drome).

So, tempted to sojourn? You should be.

I can’t wait for you to visit!

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Student Projects from Petrolina´s First English Immersion Camp

We waited to show our student´s creative and brilliant projects from the English Immersion Camp held back in October until the closing night of the Petrolina International English Fair.  Now that these films have been shown in Petrolina, they are ready for their international debut via ensinapetrolina.com.

The first are a compilation of songs:

And the second is a selection of skits about why English is important:

If we didn’t include your piece, it’s only because the sound was bad– all of your projects were amazing and we would have loved to share all of them.  Next time we will be sure to secure a less-windy location.

C² hopes you enjoyed watching as much as we enjoyed making!

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Upcoming TOEFL Tests in Petrolina

Please see the following dates and times for the upcoming TOEFL tests:

12-Jan-2013 09:00
18-Jan-2013 12:00
02-Feb-2013 09:00
15-Feb-2013 12:00
02-Mar-2013 09:00
08-Mar-2013 12:00

All seats were used during our last two TOEFL tests– so sign up ASAP by going to ets.org and registering.

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PIEF Thank Yous

Parabens to all who participated in Petrolina’s First International English Fair! Although there is a still lot of work to be done, the fair itself ended with a wonderful evening of music and presentations at the public amphitheater in the city center on Saturday, December 1, 2012.

The first of many posts about our event must be dedicated to thanking all the people who helped and collaborated.  Without everyone listed (and probably others who are not listed) this event would not have been possible.

Consul, Usha Pitts (center in black jacket) and participants after the opening ceremonies

Consul, Usha Pitts (center in black jacket) and participants after the opening ceremonies

Fabio Marcelino: Volunteer number 1 who did all of our design work for FREE–from making our logo, to designing the program, and crafting the posters from large to small.  We even had a billboard for the event!  All thanks to the fabulous Fabio.

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All of our event volunteers who worked 12 hours over 3 days, helping with everything from picking up trash to managing the stage and to our volunteer MC who opened the fair with grace and style—Karina.

Surprise Superstars – Eliane from the GRE and Ana Maria from UPE who worked thanklessly behind the scenes.  Eliana organized all the transportation, making sure students arrived, providing snacks for the teacher’s workshop and ensuring a lovely space at the GRE for our cocktail event on Thursday night.  Ana Maria created the two most beautiful stands– one with a chocolate fountain and the other with a Gothic themed tea party, complete with costumed students– representing UPE, the only University in Petrolina responsible for forming English Teachers!

Francisco: He built all the stands from scratch and made all three of our event locations aesthetically pleasing with just colored fabric and a lot of creativity.

English fellows: Avram Blum, Laura M.—our inspirational/informational lecturers with a special thanks to Laura for whipping together at the last-minute a games section.  Thanks to Scott for helping with the consulate stand!

Maria Snarski, Regional Language Officer for Brazil, with students trying, for the first time - the free English Language learning video game "Trace Effects" sponsored by the US State Department.

Maria Snarski, Regional Language Officer for Brazil, with students trying, for the first time – the free English Language learning video game “Trace Effects” sponsored by the US State Department.

American consulate in Recife and their fleet of Americans: Special shout out to Heidi for all her work and mentoring leading up to the event, the informative palestras, and the heartfelt speech during the round table and for all the time and energy at the consulate stand.  Heidi continues to be not only an inspiration for aspiring young women such as Chelsea and me, but also a good friend.  Thank you for everything, Heidi.   Maria, Brazil’s Regional Language Officer for honoring our fair to be the inaugural event of the Consulate’s Language-Learning computer game, Trace Effects and for her workshop on Saturday, which many said was the highlight of the event for them.  And finally to Usha Pitts, Consul for the North-Northeast who used the fair to visit Petrolina for the first time, opened the fair with a charming and sincere speech and interacted openly and with humility to all participants.  Usha never ceases to impress all who cross her path, and we thank you for bringing grace and prestige to our event.

The GR TV, the radio shows (especially the dynamic Genival Ferreira) that helped get the word out about our event.

Thanks to the following institutions for their contributions: GRE – space for the cocktail, teachers workshop, print material, student presence and buses; IFSertão – buses, print materials and 3/5 of organizational committee, and the flooring performance at the opening ceremonies by the Symphony of the Sertão; UPE  – even when they cannot contribute with resources, they over compensated with talent- wonderful stands and 100% participation; UNIVASF -even though we would have liked more physical participation we thank them for being unafraid to put their name and we are grateful for Lucia Marisy´s faith and confidence in our abilities; SENAI – complete use of space and Lucienne and Paulo—two great helpers; and finally Gilmar Mello and Amazon Produce – for being a leader in corporate responsibility in the region, sponsoring the cocktail, graciously showing the diplomatic team around Petrolina and the genuine speech at the opening ceremony.

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Laraine: for her vision of a culminating event, the delicious meals to ease the pressure of meetings, the results she produced despite communication difficulties and most especially for her dedication to the teachers from the public schools, who made the event what it was… which brings us to…

Teachers:  Your projects and your presentations floored us.  We recognize that you do not do it for the money, but for the love of your students.  That love shone through the marvelous work you shared with Petrolina during the fair.

Students from 1- public schools: from far and wide came to post their work on imported science fair boards and present songs, dances, plays, etc. My most sincere thanks go to the students and their teachers from Cabrobo, who traveled 4 hours from the island where their indigenous tribe live to present work about their tribe (in English) and present a song a dance representing their tribe at the fair.  2- the universities: who made up our volunteers and enriched our lecture halls.  We hope that you were inspired—you certainly inspired us.

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PE Professors Filipe and Barto: They helped run the rugby workshops on Saturday morning.

Rafaela: MC for the closing ceremonies, writer of all eloquent Portuguese, mounter of the IF stand and contact with the private schools and institutions.

Finally – the most important person to C² – Jeziel.  Thank you for your dream, for your tireless and too often thankless efforts, for caring for us as people and treating us like family.  You inspire and push us everyday.

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From left to right – Heidi Arola, Jeziel Junior and Rafaela Carla

THANK YOU!

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Sneak peak into an English Fair project!

I’m excited to post a little preview of one of the Petrolina International English Fair student projects, produced by the second semester English students at UPE! Here’s what they have to tell you, written by themselves, about their stand:

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Hello, welcome to the English Fair!!

We English students of the second semester from UPE invite everybody to an amazing multicultural trip!

Our central objective is to present the irrigated fruticulture from Petrolina-PE to the world from the angle of the cultivation of the grape. We will be offering to the public a tasting of grapes, a chocolate waterfall with fruits, among another activities and games.

Searching to understand grape cultivation, the group counted on the support of Miguel Cappellaro, administrator, who showed us the way patiently during the visit, teaching us all the process of cultivation of the grapes, from plantation until harvest. We were fascinated with the plantation–it’s a lovely experience, one we recommend.

Miguel further told us about the importance of knowing English in the work market, which always needs a professional with this knowledge. In addition, learning another language can also help with personal growth.

Cappellaro Fruits, a company that has worked in the region for twenty two years, is formatted on a family base, contributing to development of the city generateing hundreds of job, making donations to the municipal nursery and also participating in the return of packaging recyclable and toxics.

Come visit the English Fair and let yourself take in this multicultural trip!

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Breaking News: PIEF Countown, 24 days!

C² is thrilled to announce our big hurrah for the end of this year:

the Petrolina International English Fair (PIEF)!

The event is the first of its kind in Petrolina: think science fair (with English instead of science), academic congress, and cultural festival all tied into one. The Fair has two main goals: to showcase the work of English students in Petrolina, particularly from the public high schools and universities, and to demonstrate the importance of English as an international language in an increasingly globalized world.

The Fair will take place November 29-December 1, 2012. For two full days, there will be lectures and free English mini-courses during the day, framed by a science-fair style demonstration of students’ English creations and a stage to show their performances. At night, we’ll have invited guest speakers and round-table discussions on how to improve English teaching and broaden access to English classes. Finally, Saturday will feature sports events and a teacher training workshop, and a big arts and culture festival in the amphitheater at the city’s center. (Check out our full program.)

It’s amazing to think back at where we were when we started this blog, and where we are now–collaborating with other visionary English teachers and local educational leaders to realize an event that highlights a crucial key to Petrolina’s future. The blog itself shows some of this change; we’ve moved to an official .com domain and we’ve temporarily rearranged the organization of the site to be the Fair’s online home base.

I don’t think we’ve linked this video before, but we use it all the time in class. Jay Walker’s brief TED Talk on English Mania succinctly and powerfully describes the drive for the world to learn English–and it isn’t because of hamburgers and Hollywood. We’re proud to be taking part in helping our students achieve their highest potential.

Thanks to the PIEF sponsors below: particularly the U.S. Consulate in Recife, the State of Pernambuco Secretariat of Education, the Petrolina Prefeitura, and UNIVASF for their support and resources.

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TOEFL Test 1- Success

The first TOEFL test in Petrolina was administered on Saturday, October 27, 2012.   It was a total success!

Be on the look-out for more dates to be set in December 2012.  There are only 14 seats available for every date, so make sure and get yours quickly!

Many thanks to Alexandre Correia, Computer Science Professor at the IF-Sertão, who helped with all the IT and graciously did all the preparatory tests, the set-up and the take down.

Congratulations to the students– Wandersson and Bruna– who took the test; you are now officially Petrolina TOEFL pioneers   🙂

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An English Immersion Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, a group of daring young students set out to master a foreign tongue on a magical island.

They departed from the kingdom of Petrolina, traveling merrily over land until arriving at the massive hydroelectric dam of Sobradinho, where the noble Noah boat awaited them.

Disembarking from their trusty transport, the travelers received their first surprise: a magic amulet, called a “rubber band,” which forbade the wearer from speaking his or her native tongue. Immersion in the foreign tongue, the most used language in all the world—English—had begun!

Armed with their challenge, the valiant voyagers boarded the Noah, where there was much merrymaking and singing.

By the time the sun was two hours lower in the sky, the boat full of adventurers scraped the sands of Treasure Island (Ilha do Tesouro in the local language). And there were treasures aplenty, just waiting to be discovered.

After settling in their cabins, appetites were worked up over tournaments of tetherball, volleyball and soccer until the first of many great feasts.

Bellies filled with American fare, the campers tackled group tasks for a great festival in their kingdom, whose goal is to share English with all the dwellers of the land (the Petrolina International English Fair).

Later, leaders helped the students climb new heights; daring was unburied from deep within.

As the weary travelers trooped back to their cabins, the first glimmers of all the riches to be had were fresh in their minds.

With the rising of the sun, the campers set off on a quest to explore the island.

Not only did they discover a beach full of gleaming crystals…

…but they also uncovered their own bravery and strength, hiking up mountains…

…jumping off cliffs and climbing up steep rocks.

Over the next few days, uncountable treasures were discovered. Participants explored the island as they explored their own daring, testing their abilities at kayaking, archery, zip lines, swimming, horseback riding and more—all while communicating in the strange sounds of English.

 

The linguistic conquerors showed their mastery of the foreign tongue by creating songs, dramatic works and dances (to be shown to all the townspeople during the great PIEF festival).

They even fell in love with the adventure of tasting strange new foods such as marshmellows and peanut butter!

Around a blazing fire on the beach during the last night, the adventurers bid their adieus over sweet melodious campfire songs and sweeter s’mores.

Merrymaking continued until the parting of ways, a day’s journey later. Just as diamonds are indestructible, the richness of getting to know new worlds and all that they entail (friendship, understanding, and a new language) will be forever with all those adventurous enough to take part in the First English Immersion Camp in the North-East Interior at Treasure Island!

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