09 May 2009


I'm officially more than halfway through my exchange now, but I still don't know exactly when I'm leaving due to a rather interesting circumstance.

Back in Wisconsin, I was my school's Model UN president. After I was already in Paraguay, Horlick Model UN was invited to a conference in CHINA! Considering what's normally our most distant conference is run by the University of Chicago, a whole two hours away, this is a pretty amazing opportunity for us. At first, I thought I wouldn't be able to go, seeing as the China trip leaves August 1st, and I wasn't scheduled to be back until the 6th, but I actually AM able to change my departure date, and it's looking more and more likely that I will be in China in August! The main obstacle, at this point, is fundraising for my group. They are all working their butts off back in Racine to try to raise the money, and I think everyone who was selected to go deserves the chance. It's a really great group and I feel bad about not being there selling donuts, serving spaghetti, and running rummage sales with them, so instead, I'm resuming my job as website editor. The Racine Journal Times actually ran an article about us/them a few weeks ago, which you can read here:

Next week, 14 May, is the Paraguayan independence day. There's going to be a huge parade, and every school has a band and colorguard. Inconveniently, they practice during school in the courtyard, making it more impossible than usual to get anything done. It wouldn't be so bad if it was cohesive music, but it's still disjointed snare drums and trumpets, combined with the school across the street's band doing the same thing for HOURS every morining. School is still basically impossible. I can understand most of the worksheets, but I can't understand the explanations, lectures, or notes because nearly everyone else in my class is too busy either screaming, fighting, running, arguing, complaining about nonexistant homework, throwing paper, laughing hysterically at someone else throwing paper, or some combination of the above. The level of the work isn't really a problem for me, it's the fact that A) It's in Spanish/Guaraní, and B) It's too loud to think. This is somewhat normal in Latin America, but in comparing experiences with my other exchange friends in Paraguay, my class seems to have taken it to a new level. I would love to switch, but I'm now being told that we have exams the first week of June, which is news to me, seeing as I've been told that they're in the middle of July, the beginning of August, or the end of June up until now. I don't think anyone really knows. If exams really are in three weeks, I'll basically be done with school work. If they're in August or the end of July, I won't even be in the country anymore. Aggh. Nobody knows answers, and I'm starting to think people make up answers when they don't know them.
The people in my class take tons of subjects (Math, Statistics, Logic, Spanish, Guaraní, English, Psychology, History & Geography, Philosophy, Geology, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Science, Religion, Arts, and Gym) but I'm only getting graded in 7 or so. It's an impressive-sounding list of classes, but most classes are only for an hour or two a week, so they are not very in-depth at all. The teaching methods here are also not very...effective. In most classes, the teacher copies from the state-required book onto the board, and the kids copy word-for-word, into their notebooks. I've actually had a teacher slightly upset because I used different punctuation than was in the book. If the teacher doesn't want to copy onto the board, sometimes they just read it outloud, slowly, and we have to copy. If the kids complain enough about having to write, the teacher gives us photocopies, which we have to pay for. The final exams are a supposedly big deal, but they have something like 4 or 5 chances to take them, so nobody even studies until the third or fourth time they're given. When I got here in February, most people were still taking exams from the school year that ended in November. If a kid fails, the parents assume it was the teacher's fault, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see someone openly buying a grade. Also, we have to underline everything with colors and put everything that's turned in (almost nothing) into pretty folders. If someone messes up on a word in notes or on an assignment, it HAS to be whited out, or if there's no white-out at hand because it's been either thrown at someone across the room, or used up writing on the walls, totally redone on a separate sheet of paper, which is ridiculously expensive here. This is one of the only things I flat-out refuse to do. I questioned a few teachers on why, and they had no idea. I think they might have actually stopped requiring that now...

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