Friday, October 31, 2008

The Verdict is In!

Drum roll, please . . .

Z Baby's a menina! We've got a girl!

We had another amazing ultrasound yesterday, and we were both grinning like donkeys eating briars the entire time we watched our little daughter on the screen. Everything measured and looked absolutely perfect (and those were the words of the doctor, not the mama, but I was already pretty certain my kid was perfect. She does have my genes after all. hehehe)

Head to hiney, she is 14 cm (5.5 in) long now, weighs in at roughly 100 gr (1/4 lb), and has a 10 cm (4 in) waist. Tall, thin, tiny little waist . . . taking after her mama some more here. ;)

And we apparently interrupted her daily calisthenics yesterday. She was quite the busy little thing stretching her legs all the way out and curling them back up against her chest/stretching out her arms, doing some bicep curls while bringing her thumb up to her mouth/rolling from side to side and doing some leg lifts/and in the right ultrasound picture above you can see she has her hands over her head, feet planted against the floor (or um, my uterus) and she is attempting a backbend - quite the little gymnast I tell ya! I'm just thinking that as soon as I start feeling her movements I am going to be in for one heck of a ride!

Eric and I are both beyond ecstatic. I'm looking forward to doing some serious pink shopping now, and the proud Papai (Daddy in Portuguese) is already showing his protective side: On his way out the door for work this morning I was instructed to take good care of his daughter while he was away. I think she's going to have him wrapped around her little finger before she even makes her grand appearance into the world next year!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Advancement of the Baby Bump

It's growing!

And wow, I've never been happier about low rise pants being in style. I mean if this were the 80's and we were all wearing tight rolled jeans that came up to our belly buttons . . . well, I'd be in major wardrode trouble these days.

We have an ultrasound scheduled for Thursday afternoon. If Z Baby decides to cooperate we should be able to find out if we're growing a boy or girl inside the ever expanding bump! Any guesses?

(I am without any great mother's intuition on this one. I have dreamed 3 or 4 times about it being a boy, for whatever that's worth. But I also had a crazy-real dream recently that we were at our second ultrasound and a second baby appeared on the screen and we were all shocked that we hadn't noticed baby number two during the first ultrasound - so we're now purposely not putting too much confidence in my dreams these days. hehehe)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Elections - Finally Over!

I haven't been overly involved in following the political scene in Brasil. But I have never been happier about an election season coming to an end.

Yesterday was the mayor run-off election and marked the termination of all the campaigning. As annoying as I've always found TV campaign commercials to be in the US, Brasil has opened my eyes to an even more obnoxious form of advertisement for those seeking public office. Imagine being pregnant and trying to enjoy a quick 30-minute nap (okay, maybe 60-minute)before you must get on a hot crowded city bus and ride for no less than 45 minutes across town to the school where you will be teaching until 8:30 at night. And just as you find a comfy position on the couch and you're just about to doze off to sleep, a VW van with the back-end full of large speakers with execrable sound quality and then a couple more loudspeakers strapped to the roof comes slowly creeping down your street blasting some horrendous campaign song and possibly joined with a ranting speech of some sort which is so loud that is causes every dog within a 2 mile radius to begin howling and activates the alarm of half the cars parked along the street. And while I was thoroughly awakened and annoyed by these middle of the day VW vans of torment, they didn't stop at sundown. Oh, no this could go on well past 10:00 at night interrupting everything from supper conversation with my Dearest to the latest episode of Desperate Housewives to a telephone conversation with family back home.

And I won't even get in to the parades which blocked traffic, the campaign flag-waving mobs of people hired by the candidates impeding my path through the park, or the gobs of flyers thrown out of car windows the night before election day leaving heaps of litter all over the streets in order to get their name out on election day despite the "no campaigning on election day" law.

I guess what I'm saying is that campaign season is pretty cruddy everywhere . . . and that I would have loved to have only been bombarded with TV commercials and the occasional annoying phone call soliciting my vote.

So last night we knew the announcing of the vote had taken place when we heard eruptions of cheering and chanting followed by a big truck full of speakers at an absurd volume slowly cruising down our street as the newly elected mayor gave a speech of some sort. It was so loud that despite having all of our shutters and windows closed, we were unable to continue the conversation we were having with Eric's Dad over the phone. With the volume turned all the way up, we couldn't hear a single word he was saying. I announced to Eric last night that I didn't know who won the election, but I already disliked the mayor (if only for disturbing my peace last night.)

On a lighter, less crazy-prego-rant note, I have been entertained by the residents' of Belo Horizonte take on this whole election. The last week prior to the election turned into a huge mud-slinging match and the two candidates were described to me this way by one local: 'Well, we have one guy who has been convicted of stealing money while serving as an elected official. Not just accused of the crime, but actually tried and convicted. But the other choice isn't exactly all that much better. He's some crazy evangelical guy whose only concern is the state of the churches in BH.' Hmmm, now, like I said, I haven't been following the politics and have no idea how accurate that summary is, but it cracked me up. And have I mentioned that voting is mandatory if you are over 18 years old in Brasil? Voting is not a right, it is required by law. Although no one has been able to tell me exactly what the punishment is for not voting, I'm told that if you habitually skip out on going to the polls you'll have a heck of a hard time renewing your driver's license and taking care of other routine business. One person equated it to not filing income tax returns - it will eventually catch up with you and potentially get you in a whole heap o' trouble.

I was also thoroughly entertained by Eric's account of his conversation with a colleague this morning:

Eric: So who ended up winning the BH mayor election, was it number 40? (Note: Instead of having a ballot with everyone running for office listed on it, you enter in a candidate's election number into the electronic voting machine. So all the campaign banners and such have the person's picture and voting number on it. Sometimes, it will include their name too - or the name they've chosen to use for the election, like Elvis or Barack Obama or Jorge Bushi or Kung Fu Fatty.)

Colleague: Yes, Marcio won. Why?

Eric: Well, I figured it was him that won because there was a huge party going on really close to our apartment, and then after the results were finalized they had the giant speaker trucks driving down the streets blaring music and some speech. It was pretty ridiculous . . .

Eric: So which guy was this that won, the evangelist or the corrupt guy?

Colleague: I don’t believe it was the evangelist guy, but it wouldn’t matter because he is corrupt as well.

Eric: So why are two known corrupt guys even on the ballot for Mayor?

Colleague: Well it is sad, but there isn’t anybody else, because they are all corrupt.

Eric: Oh

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Christmas in October

Excitment filled the air last night around these parts. We received a surprise box in the mail from Eric's folks and we were like a couple kids on Christmas morning last night as we dug in to see what kind of good stuff we got.

All kinds of yummy chocolate for me, chips and salsa for Eric, and an adorable super soft blanket, teething ring, and cute ducky bib for Z Baby! It was such a thoughtful gesture and the food probably isn't going to last long around here. (Eric left this morning for an overnight business trip and threatened to take it all with him to ensure he gets to eat some of it - hehe)

So, if you'll excuse me now, I have a mini Milky Way bar (or 12) calling my name. We're four months into this pregnancy thing and I've gained less than 15% of my 9 kg up to this point . . . I've got some work to do. ;)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Doctor #2 Fits the Bill

Yea! It looks like we have found our obstetrician. She didn't immediately start discussing potential dates that we could schedule our c-section and never once did she direct me to not eat or not gain any weight, so I knew we were off to a better start than we were with doctor #1.

She seems really great and Eric and I were both quite comfortable with her. She spent every bit of 45 minutes with us asking lots of questions and getting to know us. And we took the opportunity to share some of our visions of the pregnancy/birth with her. She didn't seem too freaked out when I told her I wanted to go drug free and without medical intervention if at all possible. She was quick to tell us that Eric would be able to stay with me (which is not always the case here according to the birth stories of some of my friends) and wrote prescriptions for a prenatal vitamin (I have been taking one from the US, but she wants me to use one she knows) and a lotion to help protect against stretch marks. But in good Brasil fashion, she sternly warned me that if I eat too much and gain a bunch of weight that no lotion will ward off stretch marks and that if mother or baby shows signs of stress during the birth a c-section could always be necessary.

The concern with weight gain during pregnancy seems a heck of a lot higher here than it is in the US. While all of my US pregnancy books stress healthy weight gain, adequate nutrition and debunking the "eating for two" myth, there is an entire section in my Brasilian pregnancy book on how to cut calories out of your meals and tips on how to avoid eating so much at parties and in social situations. I'm used to suggestions like eat white meat instead of red meat/never eat the skin of poultry/eat something light before going to a party so you don't overeat there/substitute egg whites for whole eggs/do something physical after eating because being sedentary leads to an accumulation of fat being tips for someone trying to lose weight. I mean, hey, I'm all for healthy eating and lifestyle habits among all people, pregnant or not. But in a society where women are constantly bombarded with skinny twig figures as the model for health and beauty, maybe pregnancy, when you're sort of supposed to get a big belly and extra fat reserves, isn't the time to lecture women on making low calorie choices in the name of not gaining weight. (And by "society" I am certainly referring to more than Brasil here . . . American woman have as many body image issues as anyone!) And I'm not just trying to justify the scoop of ice cream I just ate either. Well, not completely.

But anyway, despite the fact that my doctor informed me that 9 kg (19.8 lbs) is the maximum amount of weight she would want to see me gain, and the fact that one of my best friends in the US who is nearly identical to me in height/weight was told by her doctor that 25 - 35 pounds would be a healthy weight gain for someone her size, I am really happy to have her as my doctor. I think she is going to be supportive of my choices and wishes for the most part and not force me into a totally medical birth experience unless the situation warrants it.

Meanwhile, thanks to doctor #1, I still have to deal with Eric poking me in the ribs and/or belly and badgering me with "Não come!" (Don't eat!) every time I pick up my next snack. And I do dislike it so when he gets all badgerish-like.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Chemical Water

The advice and concern evoked from others when you are pregnant is always interesting. But I think being pregnant away from the country you grew up in makes it all the more fun!

I've gotten in trouble with students, friends, and other teachers for everything from bending over to pick up a dropped pencil, to moving a small classroom desk, to standing instead of taking a seat offered to me, and more. The most interesting lately though has been the concern over what I drink/don't drink.

Eric and I were with a group of 6 other Brasilians the other day at a gathering we were invited to. Not knowing what all would be available to drink and knowing that it would be a several hour affair, I took two large water bottles with a Crystal Light type of drink that I had mixed up. I usually just drink water at home, but water has to be ice cold for me to drink it. I do much better consuming liquids I carry with me if it has some sort of flavor.

Throughout the day I was repeatedly offered beer and wine and each time I declined the offer (mind you now that everyone here knows I prego.) Several times someone would go to grab the beer sitting somewhere in my vicinity, but first check to make sure it wasn't mine therefore ensuring that it was indeed their glass.

A little later on, they made some coffee. I was offered a cup and politely declined. The hostess then asked if I liked coffee or not. I told her that I enjoy coffee, but now that I was pregnant I had stopped drinking it. She gave me the most dumbfounded look and asked what pregnancy had to do with it. I mentioned that I had tried to cut out all the caffeine from what I drink, since there is some caffeine in plenty of the foods that I occasionally consume, like chocolate. She was still confused and asked everyone else there if they had ever heard of a pregnant woman not drinking coffee. Everyone agreed that was the strangest thing they had ever heard and then requested an explanation as to why I would want to cut out caffeine. As I explained that caffeine increases your heart rate and sometimes your blood pressure and would have the same effect on an unborn baby, everyone just looked at me like I was crazy and said that it must be an 'American thing'.

A bit later someone inquired into what I was drinking from my water bottle. Eric fielded that question for me and as he explained what it was everyone freaked out and couldn't believe that I was drinking "chemical water" while pregnant. And a lecture on how I should only drink natural stuff followed. These were the same people that had offered me Coca-Cola and Guaraná all day (not exactly all-natural, you know?), and not to mention the beer and wine (which I guess is natural, but still, um, alcohol!)

More than anything, it made Eric and I giggle that they called it "chemical water". And despite all the conversation being in Portuguese, they actually used the English term "chemical water". I thought it was the strangest thing. But then as I was teaching an English class to one of my individual students, I pulled a bottle of H2OH! out of my bag and took a sip. My student, a guy probably in his upper 40's, totally freaked out and asked what I was doing drinking "chemical water" while pregnant. Common terminology, apparently.

With the controversy I've read about the safety of saccharin, and especially the fact that it crosses the placenta and collects in fetal tissue, I do avoid it like the plague - which is hard sometimes in Brasil since that is generally the sweetener of choice. I'll admit though that I occasionally have something with aspartame in it. But apparently I need to take my "chemical water" habit underground before I really start showing or else I risk giving all the Brasilians I encounter on a daily basis heart attacks!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

14 Weeks Down, 26 More to Go

This weekend marked Week 14 for me and Z Baby. According to my sources, the little one is roughly 4" long crown-to-rump now and weighs in at nearly an ounce. Meanwhile, the mommy has gained a bit more than an ounce - 2 whole pounds actually, right to the waist. I think it's official that I need to retire one pair of my 'skinny jeans' now and my little gut has me steering away from anything too clingy (you know, since I don't actually look prego yet, just like I have indulged in one too many scoops of ice cream!)

We have our next appointment on Wednesday morning (October 22) with our new highly recommended obstetrician, and within the next 6 weeks we should be able to find out if Z Baby is um menino or uma menina! And then the fun shopping can fully commence!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Comfy Hammocks, Big Fish, and Wormy Dogs

We were planning to go camping this weekend. But somehow that never happened and instead we ended up out at a sítio outside of Belo Horizonte on Saturday and in Sete Lagoas at a fazenda on Sunday.

Lots of people in Belo Horizonte have a little country weekend house, or sítio, outside of the city. One of my adult students invited Eric and me, along with some of her classmates and one of the other teachers out to the sítio that she and her husband own. Eric and I got out there around lunchtime on Saturday and were greeted with lots of yummy food: beef, chicken, rice, beans, cheesy potatoes, salad. We stuck around until past 10:00 when we finally convinced everyone to let us leave (everyone else came prepared to stay the night, but we hadn't). Not wanting to show up empty handed, but unsure as to what to take, I made a huge pan of brownies which everyone started off eating very hesitantly, but by the end of the night they invited us to come back anytime, and encouraged me to bring brownies again. That seems to be how it goes anytime I offer some of my "American" baking; everyone looks at it strange, has lots of questions, takes a itty bitty bite and hesitantly tries it, and I can't figure out if they are eating it out of politeness or if they actually like it. And then before I know it, the whole plate/pan/or whatever has disappeared. :)

Eric got word Thursday afternoon that he needed to be in Sete Lagoas (a city a little over an hour away from BH) for a meeting first thing Monday morning. Since yesterday and today are holidays for me and the language school is closed, we decided to go up Sunday morning and stay the night in Sete Lagoas. There is a place outside of the city that is pretty well known, Solar do Engenho, which is a hotel set on 500 acres in the country with horseback riding, fishing, and other outdoor activities. All the structures, furniture, etc. are built from demolition wood and made to look like something from the 1700's, but with modern comfort. It made for a totally relaxing Sunday! (And it sure didn't hurt that the first thing they asked us when we arrived is if we wanted massages . . . um, that would be a yes! It was going to be hard to have a bad time after starting our day off with massages!)

Looking back at the hotel and one of the ponds

Picture taken of the pool and swim-in sauna (what an awesome idea!) from the hotel's gigantic front porch

Our room wasn't too shabby either! It was very rustic but incredibly comfortable! We had the best Sunday afternoon nap ever in our in-room hammock (and I am quite the connoisseur of naps these days!)

I might have gotten spoiled with a nice relaxing bubble bath Sunday night too.

And to go with the "rustic" theme, they had the most awesome sink and gorgeous old wood everywhere.

We went down Sunday afternoon, prior to our nap, to the ponds and thought we'd do a little fishing. Eric was encouraged to see this guy wrangle in this hugamongous fish just as we were walking up.

So I got a little cane pole and Eric went for the real fishing pole and off we went. I got two fish, that weren't exactly record-breakers or anything.
But Eric got skunked and didn't catch anything except for a hard time from his wife about her superior fishing skills.
And what is that he is using for bait you ask? Only the best, my dear friend.
Yes, that would be a hot dog. All the big fish were being caught with hot dogs (and given that your choice of bait was hotdogs or these little pieces of fish food that looked like dog food . . .) And yes, those would be spaghetti noodles in said hotdog. You had to split the sausage to get it on the hook/line and then use little pieces of noodles to hold it all on there. It was quite the different experience from our usual crickets or worms or liver or minnows that we usually use as bait back home!

But meanwhile, I got the best food idea for a kids' Halloween party: "Wormy Dogs", push spaghetti noodles though hotdogs prior to boiling them so that you have these little worms dangling from the hotdog. How awesomely gross would that be? See, I'm going to be great at this whole "mom thing". ;)

Eric got up Monday morning and went to his meeting and I got to crawl back in bed after having breakfast with him, which was quite heavenly given my usual 7:30 am class routine these days.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Football in the South

There is one thing I miss more than any other this time of year: college football.

Growing up in the south and being part of a family where practically everyone holds a degree from the University of Georgia, a love of SEC football, and more specifically the Georgia Bulldogs, was just about as inevitable as a tendency to use y'all, m'am, and sir and cravings for grits, fried okra, and cornbread (not necessarily all together, mind you).

So you can imagine my horror and dismay when the occasional Brasilian tells me that they have watched some American football, that they do actually like it, and then go on to talk about their favorite NFL team or player. Oh, now, goodness gracious! That is not football people! I then start in on my spiel about how college football is so much better, especially Southeastern Conference (SEC) football. My ramblings are usually met with a confused look and audible "Oi?"

And then I have to try and explain the concept of college sports which is so completely foreign that I have a really hard time getting it all across clearly. (Take the passion of the professional soccer fans and subtract things like fireworks in the stands and everyone taking their shirt off and swinging it over their head and instead put the women in cute red and black dresses - remember, this is Georgia we're talking about - but apply it to something sort of like the club teams here, but um, yeah, not exactly really.) And then I have to get into the whole thing where it varies a lot in different parts of the nation too. While college football is plenty big other places, it is taken pretty much as seriously and given about as much devotion as religion in the south. And then I have to explain the whole "Bible belt" concept to get across just how big of a deal that is. And then somehow that leads me to telling them about laws like not being able to buy alcohol on Sunday in Georgia and how some counties are dry and then all that just thoroughly the confuses the heck out of them. And I am left with this human standing in front of me looking at me as though I am completely out of my mind and they leave shaking their head and mumbling something about "Americanos são muito estranhos" or "Americana louca" or something along those lines. Which I guess basically just makes it another normal day for me. But that is beside the point.

The thing is, however hard I ever thought it was to explain to Eric how different football is in Georgia compared to, let's say, Iowa, it is about a bazillion times more complicated to get across the whole concept to people from another country while speaking a foreign language. And for those who sadly don't know what is different about college football in the south versus elsewhere, let me give you an illustration:

It was my first fall living in Iowa (September 2006, to be exact). Eric was all excited because he was going to take me to the Iowa/Iowa State game in Iowa City. For weeks he is talking it up, telling me all the fun we're going to have. For weeks I am contemplating what I should wear. The week of the game I laid out a couple of way-cute dress and adorable shoes options I was considering and asked Eric for his opinion. His face became all distorted and he asked me if I understood that we were going to a football game. Upon assuring him I was aware of our destination, he then asked me, "Um, okay then, where are your jeans and t-shirt?" I think it was right about then that I fainted. Go tailgating and to a game in jeans AND A T-SHIRT!?! What about the skirts, what about the dresses, what about the perfectly coordinated shoes and accessories? We finally compromised with a jean skirt, nice shirt, and cute flipflops - and I was still rather over dressed for that crowd! And we won't even go into the conversation we had earlier that week as I sat surrounded by all my best cookbooks asking Eric what all he thought I should prepare for the tailgate. There is an entire discussion in one of my good southern cookbooks about planning, preparation, and menu ideas for tailgating. While I had a good enough time at the game, the atmosphere was, in my opinion, much more high school football game than college football game. It just wasn't nearly as much of an affair, nor did it have the energy that I was expecting.

It's just different in the south. And I was once again reminded of that when two of my good friends emailed me this picture this week.

I can only assume this photo was taken after the devestating loss to Alabama two weekends ago which dropped us from a #3 in the country ranking to #10.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Special Request

Dear Internet Users:

For the love of all that is good and holy, please, please, please let's not make mention of things like Krispy Kreme for the remaining 27 weeks of my pregnancy, okay? Fellow blogger, excellent photographer, mommy to some adorable munchkins, and girlie I used to go to church with for a bit while I was in college, Amber, decided to post some photos and stories about her family's Krispy Kreme outing on her blog last week. Over the course of the subsequent 5 days, all I could think about was a hot, soft, sweet, tantalizing doughnut melting in my mouth with all of it's sugary goodness.

I have received lots of questions lately about whether or not I've had any cravings. And usually my answer is that I have not for anything too particular, anyway. But the doughnuts, oh how the doughnuts changed all that!

Given that I've never seen a doughnut in Brasil, much less a HOT doughnuts NOW sign illuminated over the mecca that is Krispy Kreme, I finally decided to take matters into my own hands. Because it was either that or eat everything I could find containing yeast, flour, and sugar for the next 27 weeks trying to find a fix for this Krispy Kreme calling.

I scoured the internet for a recipe that could produce something comparable to the Krispy Kreme goodness I enjoyed throughout my childhood. I finally found it, a recipe called Crispy and Creamy Doughnuts. Oh yes, nice . . . very nice.

Yesterday evening, I got to work on my masterpiece. I changed the icing from the suggested butter-filled recipe given to just a simple sugar, vanilla, and hot water glaze. (I like to be healthy and all, you know.)

And one nice big messy, greasy, sticky kitchen and 26 hot, steamy, glazed doughnuts later, I had this . . .

Hey, I said there were 26 doughnuts. Please stop trying to count them, okay? I mean there really were 26 doughnuts (despite the recipe only promising me 18 of them!) And I'm not sure why there are less than 15 in my refrigerator right now.

I am totally going to blame it on this guy though.

But hey, anyway, what I'm trying to say is that until I find a pregnant-American-woman-living-in-Brasil filter for online content, let's try to keep the food-I-can't-easily-gain-access-to talk to a minimum. Can we all agree to that please? And that's going to include Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I like real, homemade mac n cheese, not the boxed stuff; but for some reason here lately I've wanted it unlike anything else . . . except for maybe Krispy Kreme.

Thanks so much for your cooperation,
Emily . . . the soon to be whale

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sobrinha #3

Eric and I are excited to announce the arrival of our third sobrinha (niece) yesterday!

Hannah Joy was born October 2 and weighed in at 7 pounds 12 ounces. Eric spoke to Tanya (his sister) around noon yesterday, less than 2 hours after the birth. She sounded peppy and perfectly normal - you'd never have known she had been at the hospital in labor since three in the morning and had a baby just a couple hours earlier. (I keep telling her she is a bad example for Eric - he thinks all pregnant and just-gave-birth women are as pleasant and easy-going as her! hehehe) Mommy and baby are doing great, the proud father of three girls was very excited when we talked to him last night, and big sisters Madison and Kaylee are in love with the new baby.

And Tio Eric and Tia Emily couldn't be happier! We just wish we were there to meet little Miss Hannah! I have sent stern instructions though that she isn't to grow or change a bit until we get there in December . . . we'll see how that all works out.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Excuse me sir, but your bananas are poking me

Pregnancy hormones have rendered me with zero patience these days, and several things that I either had gotten accustomed to or had just accepted are now bugging me all over again. Personal space, or the lack of it, is one of those things.

There are several cultural differences that I love here with regards to people's personal little bubble. Like, for example, I think it's great to greet friends with a hug and cheek kisses. I have no problem with people I know standing, sitting, or speaking a little closer to me than I, as am American, am used too. And I even understand when folks are pressed up against me on a crowded city bus.

It's mostly the standing in lines with strangers that gets to me the most these days. Yesterday at the grocery store was a very typical experience for me lately:

I am standing in line to check out, with four or five small things in my hands. I leave an American norm, probably 2-person, space between me and the person in front of me. As I patiently wait my turn in the long line, a man holding a large bunch of bananas comes up and steps right in front of me. Being accustomed to this routine, I wait about three seconds. The guys then turns to me and politely, but looking a little surprised, asks if I was in line. I smile and inform him I was; he apologizes and steps behind me to get in the back of the line. And when I say he steps behind me, I mean right behind me. I can feel his breath on the back of my neck. I take a half step forward to put a little distance between us. He proceeds to take a full step up. His bunch of bananas are ever so slightly brushing my back with each breath he takes. (I know this because I can still feel his breath on my neck.)

There is still some space between me and the next person in line, so I try my luck again and take another half-step forward, hoping he doesn't notice this time. The man behind me once again takes a full step forward, along with all the people now behind him in line. Now his bananas are poking firmly into the small of my back and I am all but sitting on the shoulders of the lady in front of me. And wouldn't you know the cashier was taking forever! Now, I probably was in this situation for less than 5 minutes, but man, oh man, it seemed like a lot longer. I told myself to take some deep breaths and relax. But each time I inhaled, my chest would expand and my boobs would touch the head of the woman in front of me (she was quite short, and I was very close to her by this time.) When I exhaled, the bananas would dig further into my back. I couldn't move to either side because there were shelves to my left and then someone had left a buggy just to my right between me and the other set of shelves. I was thoroughly stuck.

I am rather lucky that I can usually keep up appearances and maintain a nice pleasant exterior regardless of what is going on inside. And yesterday was no exception, but internally I kept repeating to myself, "calma, calma, calma . . ." because a real large part of me wanted to scream "everyone just back off already - alright!?!"

Yes, it appears that some days I still like my personal space bubble. Yesterday was obviously one of those days. And Eric is lucky he worked late last night. Had he come home immediately after my arrival back from the grocery store, I'm not sure how I would have responded to his 'Honey I'm home' hug and kiss!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

She isn't even a teacher!

There are some days when I absolutely love teaching English. And then there are others when I ask myself why the heck I am doing this.

One of the latter came earlier this semester. I was at one of the school branches where I teach several classes and also a few individual students. (I should add that some of the branches are franchises and make all their own decisions with regards to who they hire to teach, etc. While I work mainly at several of the schools operated by the main branch, I was invited and then hired to also teach at this particular franchise.) One night early in the semester, the owner of this branch asked to speak with me. She explained that some students from one of my adult classes had made some comment along the lines of "Emily's not even a teacher". She then went on to question me about my degree, what I did in the US before coming to Brasil, and other things that we had discussed when she hired me. And then she asked if I had ever told this particular class that I wasn't a teacher.

Now, it seems sort of silly to me to even ask that question. I have been teaching since April (which hardly makes me a veteran or anything, but still . . .) I spent two months prior to that attending trainings, observing experienced teachers, and everyday since then studying up on my English grammar rules and teaching techniques so that I could be an effective ESL/EFL teacher. Now, why on earth would I undermine all my work by announcing to a class that "Hi, my name is Emily. I'll be your teacher this semester, but I am not actually a teacher"? I brought this up but also added that if the class had ever asked me what my degree was in or what type of work I did in the US, then I would have been quite candid with them. But never would I make the statement, "I am not a teacher."

Our little conversation ended by it being suggested that I tell a "little lie" in the future when asked about things like my degree or background. I was told it would be best if I answered those type of questions simply with, "I have been teaching here for 2-3 years" and just leave it at that. Now, don't ask me how in the heck I am supposed to explain my lack of fluency in Portuguese if I've been here 3 years . . .

I thought it was one of the most nonconstructive pieces of criticism I've ever received. Express concern over my teaching techniques, tell me I need to do a better job of explaining grammar, you can even insist that I become better at translating from English to Portuguese if you'd like. But it is not exactly helpful to be told that I'm "not a teacher" and then be told to just lie about it.

One of the other teachers had overheard our conversation and she and I still joke about me "not being a teacher", or how I've "been here 2-3 years", and how I'm just some random native speaker they found on the street and invited in to teach the class . . . you know, since I'm obviously not a teacher or anything! My teacher friend has jokingly suggested too that I stop attending teachers' meetings, since I am apparently not qualified to be there and all. (And I must admit that part doesn't sound half bad.)

I have always taken a pretty firm stance in agreeing with the idea that speaking a language doesn't make you qualified to teach it. But, man, I've really worked hard to do a good job at this by making sure I know my stuff and am able to transfer my knowledge to students. I was so annoyed by being hired with full knowledge of my qualifications, or lack thereof I suppose, but then later instead of defending me in front of students, or asking if they had any specific complaints about me, just telling me I need to lie in the future.

But alas, today made up for any doubts, insecurities, or frustrations I had still lingering from that day a couple months ago. I had substituted for an adult class on two previous occasions this semester and last week I got a call asking if I could take on teaching the class permanently one day per week. Apparently a couple students had gone to the coordinator and told her what a good teacher I was and how much they enjoyed the classes I taught. They expressed interest in having me as one of their teachers on a permanent basis and today was my first day as such. The class meets at 7:30 in the morning, so I can't say I was completely pumped to be at school that early this morning. But when I was met by smiling faces and adult students (much older than me, none the less) telling me repeatedly throughout class that I was a really good teacher and they were really happy to have classes with me, well, it made me fall in love with my new profession all over again.

I mean, who knows, maybe I really am a teacher after all!