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Monday, September 26, 2011

Getting rid of cultural misconceptions.

Being a middle school teacher has never been on my plans. The thought that comes along withboys and girls all together in the same room at the time in which their puberty is expellinghormones and drama has been enough to make me disregard that career option completely.Still, I thought it would be interesting to volunteer and teach Spanish for a day, especiallybecause that meant me having the opportunity to visit a new city called Tijucas, have free mealsworth 20 reales instead of the 6 reales meals I am accustomed to, free transportation and hotel, and did I mention being worshipped by kids because you are a foreigner?
I know that last one may win most people over, some people really find it appealing to be idolized by 12 to 15 year olds and then having your facebook invaded by numerous friend requests and making it necessary to block your wall due to the constant postings from them. But that was not the reason why I loved volunteering at a middle school. No, I am not that conceited... although I am mentioning it in here so maybe I am just a little. Instead, the reason why I loved volunteering so much was because it gave me the chance to learn about the kid's perspective on foreign cultures and learn about their own culture as well by listening to their everyday issues. It was interesting to understand their concept of Americans and Mexicans and how they are not that closed minded about what goes on outside Brazil. In fact, I was a little bit embarrassed when I realized that the 13 year-olds were actually more knowledgeable about political, economic and cultural issues in the US compared to what I knew about Brazil's issues before I came here, maybe the tremendous and constant influence that American media has here makes it harder to avoid them, but then again they seemed to have lost all stereotypical judgements about Americans and simply got informed about these issues and were genuinely interested in these.
It was a great experience to talk with Brazilian kids about how they see their own country and to just be able to talk to them about anything they wanted to without having any formal barrier in between our conversations. And I was shocked when I was being asked questions about sex and drugs and the teacher would just say, "It's fine, they're just curious and so am I," again... these kids were 12-15 years old and some of these answers I learned a year ago.
In conclusion, the bus ride was very comfortable, food was amazing, the hotel experience was horrifying, but in the end all that I brought back with me was knowing that I was able to inform kids about the world they don't know or have experienced, but what I do know for sure is that I learned a whole lot more from these kids than from my Brazilian culture class here. Which is why I am doing it again this weekend at a city called Rio do Sul. I realized that if I want to learn about this country, I am going to have to do it on my own by talking to people and traveling and not so much siting in my classroom being taught anthropology by a teacher that can barely speak English and misses class every other day.
I may not want to become a full time teacher, but I sure do want to volunteer a whole lot more and hopefully in different countries so I can loose my own misconceptions about foreign cultures and attempt to get rid of cultural barriers. Because if there is something I have learned in my two month stay here is that by knowing the places and people of another culture you learnt to loose all stereotypes and cultural misconceptions. The world is bigger than we believe it is and there are different people from us with different world views and all of them are right in their own way and when trying to change something into something that is not the solution to create a neighborly world becomes harder to attain.