Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.
So here I am! After 9 days in Brazil to enjoy the sun and some vacation time, I flew to Argentina to start my English teaching contract. Our coordinator recommended an hostel downtown Buenos Aires for us to stay upon our arrival. They picked me up at the airport and took me to the hostel for the night, and all the teachers got picked up from the hostel early in the morning by bus. There is 45 of us this semester, which is the biggest cohort they had so far. The program has been running since 1988 and they offer English Immersion camps for Argentine students, English teaching placements in Argentina, English trips in Ireland and the UK for Argentine students, and still growing!
The first part of our program is a 2 weeks orientation at their main camp venue, The Borough. The camp is located in Mercedes, a suburban area of Buenos Aires. We arrived early afternoon on the first day and had “a free day”, where we discovered that we had an outdoor pool and all the props we need to play soccer, volleyball, badminton, etc. Turns out 2 of us brought our ukulele, and 4 others brought their guitar. We are up for some serious jamming sessions in the next little while!
So that’s about 20 Irish, 20 British, 1 American, 1 Australian and 2 Canadians, mixed with our Argentine coordinators and the staff (cooks, etc.). On our first night we were treated to some wood fire grilled Asado meat, which was a great start to showcase the amazing food we will be getting in the next 2 weeks (and reminding me I probably won’t fit in the only pair of jeans I brought in my bags). During the 2 weeks we will have general instructions about CII Teach Argentina and how the program works, a TESOL workshop over 2 days, a 7 days Spanish immersion camp (no English allowed) as well as a training camp to get us ready to teach in our respective placements.
Our days are actually pretty packed – breakfast is served at 8:30AM, and right after we start with the workshops until lunch at 12:30PM. We have workshop again in the afternoon until tea time at 5:30PM and work or have a bit of free time until dinner (served between 8:30 or 9PM). The beauty of this camp is that we have absolutely zero food to prepare… but we are completely spoiled with local home-made Argentine cooking (especially fell in love with the meat grilled near or on the fire outside…).
As the time goes by in the training camp, there is absolutely no English allowed at this point (although we definitely do cheat, otherwise I think our mind would explode from all the Spanish. The toughest part for us is that the Argentine Spanish is quite different from everywhere else in the world – they actually have a different pronunciation for a few letters and also have a specific conjugation for the second person singular… which I believe they are the only ones to be using. Plus the Italian influence in Argentina is huge and they use a few Italian words and expressions. I will definitely need a few weeks to get used to it (if not the entire length of my trip!).
The activities of the Spanish camp are very varied – we learned some typical Argentine dances such as the chacarera and tango (my favorites!), created a payada (which is a typical gaucho music battle), cooked empanadas and tortillas fritas, watch some movies in Spanish in the evenings, had a soccer tournament and presented English legends to groups of local students. That is on top of our theory classes (1-2hrs/day) – needless to say, doing all of this doesn’t give us much alone time.
I started getting more information about my placement, which will be in a secondary school in Viedma, in Northeast Patagonia. I will have a week off to renew my Visa in May, and I will do my best to go as South as I can (if you have any tips about travelling to South Patagonia at the end of fall or beginning of winter, please let me know!).
I will keep updating as the week goes on – the Wifi is very limited here and when 50 teachers try access it at the same time, it doesn’t work very well! I will also upload some photos when the speed of the wifi allows it (most likely once I am out of the training camp!).