Tuesday, July 29, 2014

It's the Start of Something New: Couchsurfing

As everyone in our house prepared to travel throughout the month on August, Jake and I decided to give Couchsurfing a chance. Over the past two months, we have opened our home on three different occasions for Couchsurfers. Now, we decided it was time to try surfing for ourselves. The process of just filling out requests was an experience in and of itself.

Two nights ago, we decided that the best option to get to Porto Alegre today was to stay in Pelotas last night. So, I sent out a couch request and had a response almost immediately. Unfortunately, the person could not host us at his house because he had owned a hostel and had been working a lot recently. However, he told us that he would like to host us in his hostel for the night, for free, and had already made a reservation. Jake and I were shocked, but grateful. 

Getting to the hostel was an adventure. We caught a bus to Pelotas, and at some point, I decided it might be a good idea to ask if anyone knew where the street of the hostel was. When I asked the bus driver, he said it was the stop he had just pulled away from, but that he would be returning to it. I wasn't exactly sure what he meant by that, but we stayed on the bus. When we arrived at the rodoviaria, he told us if we wanted a ride to the street, he would take us there.

Once on the correct street, we realized we were in the 400's and needed to be in the 900's. We didn't realize it was more than 5 blocks. Like 10 blocks and two parks later, we arrived. But just the comforters on each bed made it worth it. They were AMAZING! It was the first time I didn’t wake up cold in the middle of the night in a long time. Our host, another guest, and our host ate pizza that tasted like a coxina, and I thought it was great. The best part was that our conversations easily slide back and forth between Portuguese and English, and it was great!

Shameless Plug: For anyone looking for a hostel in Pelotas though, I would highly recommend staying at Hello Hostel. Everything about it is nice!

Now we are on our way to Curitiba…

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Murder Mystery

This semester, I taught a 12-week beginner English course. The idea for the class was that it was a conversational based course for student who had little to no English knowledge. When planning the course, I was not sure how I could encourage conversations if the students didn’t have the vocabulary or grammar knowledge in English. So, I decided that the final exam would be a Murder Mystery game, and worked back from there. In addition, I made it an activity based course to encourage conversations. For example, we did a photo scavenger hunt throughout campus one day (which was hilarious and the students loved it), in two teams the class created an imaginary town, etc. This class made me realize I thoroughly enjoy teaching at the university level, but not younger than that.  

Last week Wednesday was their final exam. It had been a three-week series. We had a professor, who had done his Master’s thesis on Sherlock Holmes, come in and talk about Sherlock Holmes, mystery literature, and common character personalities. Then, I told the students the premise of who died in relation to the final exam game, and they chose their characters from a list (the list consisted of relationships to the deceased, such as wife, child, co-worker, friend, etc). Afterwards, their homework was to create their character. Here is the worksheet they had to fill out:

Then, they needed to create a routine for their characters. Over the following few days, I tied all the characters, motives, etc. together into one complete story, with a few twists and turns. On the day of the exam, I gave each student a clue sheet divided into three parts: 1) what they can say to begin with, 2) after new evidence was found, what they could add to the story, and 3) an alibi.

My students also earned cupcakes if they dressed up for their part. (I have realized that baking in Brazil is extremely difficult because the oven is in Celsius, has a different range, is not always correct, ingredients are sometimes different, etc.) Anyway, here is what my students looked like:

Although there were a few kinks, the story was more or less:
Franklin P. Dolittle owned Dolittle’s Funeral Home. Tuesday night, his wife found him in a coffin, partially embalmed (thank outside help for that part…Catherine and Jake…). What had happened was Franklin’s brother-in-law happened to be head of the Italian Mafia, and when Franklin’s brother and brother-in-law wanted Franklin in on their new drug ring, money from the mafia went missing. The brother-in-law thought Franklin stole it, so he went to beat the info out of him. Franklin’s mother saw this happening and wanted to know what was going on, out of rage that all of her children were part of the mafia, she killed him and tried to frame the wife. The wife being a nurse would know how to embalm, kind of, so the mom did just that. But she heard a noise and fled. Franklin’s employee, came in and found him that way and moved him to the coffin.

Obviously, there was more than that to the story, but overall, it was amazing! Only the priest was able to guess that the mother did it. I am so excited to see how it goes next semester!

—Two weeks later—

By the way, I am doing other things as well, but this class always made my day. They were a great group of students, and most are continuing in a second level next semester with me. I did teach an American Culture and Academic Life course for those going abroad in August. After the class ended, we did an American BBQ.