Everybody TALKs

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Proof I’m doing some serious (teaching/training/communications) work: Snapshots of a Project TALk class.

Okay, first off, pardon the incoherence of this post.  I’m excessively exhausted, and also I ate way too much this weekend.  On Sunday, we went to Martigioni’s, this pizza place that serves rodizio, a sort of buffet-type package where the waiters come up to your table with different kinds of savory and sweet pizzas (and some standard pastas) and you sample everything.  Had maybe a million different slices, even if back home I loathe pizza.  Especially overindulged in the dessert pizzas, particularly when they featured strawberries and/or chocolate.  I am still bloated, so my brain isn’t functioning properly.  I think all blood flow has gone to my digestion.

Anyway, without further ado: ladies and gentlemen, the long-overdue post on Project TALK.

While CEEDer life has been absolutely terrifying–I’m still not completely used to going from classroom to classroom trying to get people to listen to me, much less like me–my role in Project TALK has become…almost routine.

Almost.

Okay, to be honest, I do still get stage fright when I do my presentations.  The challenge is keeping the energy up all the time (no mean feat when you do the same presentation three times in a row) and finding topics that can engage people.  Last week, Klára and I took a leaf out of Matthias and Ciarán’s playbook and did national stereotypes, which was interesting, but admittedly not half as engaging as I imagine the discussion on German vs. British stereotypes might have been.  See, the Brazilians know German and British stereotypes, but when it comes to the Czech Republic and the Philippines…

zilch.

Still, the discussions were quite funny, especially after one student brought up a little-known Czech historical event: The Prague Defenestrations.  Apparently at points in Czech history, groups of people were tossed out of the windows of Prague’s Town Hall.  Klára was surprised anyone knew about it.  I was surprised she hadn’t mentioned it sooner.  Thereafter, any mention of windows promptly sent the both of us into fits of giggles, which amused our students to no end.  (I think a few of them may have thought we had gone stark staring mad, though.)

Having Klára and I as partners on this particular topic proved to be an interesting study in contrasts, because Philippine culture and Czech culture (as told by Klára) seem to be polar opposites.  Filipino society is deeply religious/spiritual, family oriented, and relational.  On the other hand, Czech culture is apparently more individualistic (Klára used the word “suspicious.”), not as religious, and independent.  It’s funny how occasionally we’ll react visibly to each other’s discussions, such as my ability to cut food with a spoon, and Klára’s revelation that in the Czech Republic it’s common for older men (forties and up) to wear socks…with sandals.

*shudder*  Even Klára doesn’t understand why.

We also tried to strike up conversation regarding Brazilian stereotypes and stereotypes Brazilians have about other nations, or in our case regions (Asia and Eastern Europe).  Re: the former, many of our students mentioned the familiar refrain of Carnaval (Carnival), football, and sexy women, while some mentioned other things such as prostitution, people still living in jungles, and a general lack of modernization–things that are familiar to me as a citizen of a third world country.  Klára chimed in regularly with anecdotes on foreigners she’d met in her travels (and boy is that girl well-traveled) thinking she was easy (if you know what I mean) and also did not know how to operate modern appliances, such as a dishwasher.

(I guess now would not be a good time to reveal that I do not know how to use a dishwasher?)

In general, most discussions ended with the conclusion that the root of most of the stereotypes was Hollywood.  And TV shows.  You’d think mainstream media would have a budget for better research, right?

(Then again, Dan Brown got away with dubbing the basis for The Da Vinci Code as ‘Fact’ for quite a while…)

What I found was that our students were largely more curious about our perceptions of Brazil than the world’s perceptions of our own nations, though in Klára’s case there were a lot of questions mostly because of the proliferation of Russian Mafia movies and the association of the Czech Republic with the Soviet Union (Klára’s unofficial nickname has become “nice Soviet girl.”).  They asked us if we expected Brazil to be totally a jungle (no), if we saw it as a dangerous country (yes, but only because we were told so, and now we think differently), if our ideas of Brazil were Rio and Carnival and everybody doing the samba (yes on Klára’s part; more bossanova on my end), and if we were particularly “shocked” at the culture (yes, but only slightly, for the well-traveled Klára, and no for me because, as I would explain, Filipino culture is very Latin American, so things like doing beso-beso don’t faze me).  Also, I had to field several questions on how I see Brazilian men and women, and while I was really comfortable reporting that I find the women, in general, hot (They don’t prance around in bikinis all the time or look like Adriana Lima though, boys.), I didn’t feel as comfortable commenting on the men.  Maybe it’s my latent María Clara-esque shyness (yeah right), or maybe I was just afraid my male students would think I was hitting on the lot of them.

Another interesting question we got was if we found Brazil expensive.  On this point, Klára and I both had to agree.  For reference: a “cheap” t-shirt here is PhP. 300, and “budget” cafeteria meals are PhP. 200.  Also, their biggest note is the 100 Real bill, unlike the Philippines which goes up to 1,000–a fact that, for all of you budding Economists out there, should indicate the relative status of monetary value.  I’ve actually had to train myself to think in Reals because if I thought in the peso equivalents, I’d be unable to spend for anything.

We closed the week pretty much on a mid-to-high note, having being the most discussion we’d gotten out of a topic so far.  To celebrate, I ended up cooking bistek tagalog for Klára and my roomies.  While they were initially suspicious of my liberally dousing the beef in lemon, the food got good reviews in the end.  I’ve pretty much made it sort of a tradition that after my last class with a partner, I cook for them.

…Wonder what I’ll end up feeding Matthias?  (Obviously, anything to do with sausages is out of the question.)

Speaking of Matthias, I just finished my first two sessions with him today–our only two sessions this week as we’re set for a holiday starting Wednesday–and things have been looking up.  “Childhood,” our topic for this week, is getting just as good, if not better, reactions that “stereotypes,” especially when I start grilling people on their first crushes and playground boyfriends.  Matthias, on the other hand, tends to favor raving about theme parks and vacations, dismissing my fixation on the romantic aspects of growing up as “girly stuff.”

What can I say?  I’m a sucker for a good love story.

The banter has definitely been reinstated in full force.  I’m beginning to think that boy-girl pairings on this project are ideal because a “battle of the sexes” is always entertaining.  Matthias and I snark at each other almost as much as Ciarán and I did (and still do, on a regular basis), much to the enjoyment of everyone watching.  It’s all great fun, and the students seem to be really open to talking about personal stuff.  We have one more session tomorrow, then it’s off to Curitiba and Florianopolis for the loooooong holiday!

Can’t wait!

~ NC

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