Saturday, 29 April 2017

Uruguay in less than 10 hours.

Tourist visas are like a transportation phoenix.  They live for three months then through the wonders of the internal combustion engine, they propel you into another country so that you can return with a fresh tourist visa.

Our first tourist visa was about to expire and we used this opportunity to do some border hopping and visit Colonia Del Sacramento in Uruguay.  This did entail a night in Buenos Aires before hand as the ferry leaves at 8:15 in the morning.  We purchased a supply of facturas the night before to help us make it to the ferry terminal.  We didn’t take into account that Indy’s teenage appetite was also travelling with us and a few facturas weren’t going to carry her to another country.  Luckily there was duty free shopping on board.  It’s 50 km from Buenos Aires to Colonia and you can see each city from the other port.  The hour fifteen journey passed quickly without any sightings of pirates, mermaids or facturas vendors.

Colonia’s written history dates back to the late 1600s and is one of the oldest settlements in Uruguay.  We walked the cobblestone streets marvelling at the structure that have seen generations of people walk past.  Roofs that were tiled long before aeroplanes could fly over them and walls that were originally illuminated by candlelight now have electricity bounce off them.

You have to be older than eight to be able to climb the faro (lighthouse) built in 1850s so Depp waited patiently with Talluah while the girls and I spiralled upwards for a better view of the city.

We rested at the old wharf before finding some lunch on Avenida Flores which offers a variety of typical food from Uruguay.

We arrived back in Buenos Aires around 9:40 pm and were ushered to the front of the taxi line due to Talluah having a half asleep Depp on her shoulder.  The first taxi wouldn’t take us because there were five of us.  After two months in 9 de Julio where we frequently see five people on one motor bike and seven people in sedans, we found this a little perplexing.  The next taxi said we had to pay an extra 30 pesos because of the added risk that if we were in an accident his insurance may not pay for the five of us.  I’m not sure how 30 pesos would help cover anything but we paid him the extra and dragged our tired little legs back to the hotel for much needed sleep.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Are these for sale?

Many areas in South America have plastic and glass bottles that are reusable.  A bottle of soft drink in a retornable bottle is generally 30 pesos.  When you return the bottle you are given 10 pesos off the price of the bottle you are buying.  You can’t take three empty bottles in and receive a free bottle of soft drink – it’s one for one.  I think the owner of the corner store was stuck in a rut.  I had one returnable bottle and was buying two new bottles of soft drink.

            You have two bottles but you’ve only returned one.
            Are you going to put one bottle back on the shelf?
No I want to buy both of them.
            But you have only returned one bottle.
Yes and I want to buy this one in exchange for the empty one and this one for full price.
            (Frustrated) Arrh – you don’t understand.
I understand you.  I’m returning one bottle and buying two.
            Do you have another empty bottle?
Did you take lessons from Basil Fawlty? 

She called the lady over from the veggie section for reinforcements and tried to explain how I didn’t understand the process.  I retold my story and the veggie lady was as dumbfounded as I was.  She told the lady on the checkout that I wanted to buy two bottles of soft drink.  Eventually my radical plan was understood and I was allowed to leave.  I may have thrown her world off its axis by a few degrees.

All the schools in 9 de Julio run a split shift system.  Children either attend classes in the morning from 8-12 or the afternoon from 1-5.  This means that the majority of children in 9 de Julio don’t even get to have lunch together.  Our school has a completely different model where they do curriculum in the morning and extra curriculum in the afternoon.    The afternoon activities consist of music, sport, English, vegetable gardening and literary workshops.  Truce came home and said she needed a kilo of rice, an old sock, some rope and duct tape for an afternoon workshop.  The plot thickens.  Was there a kidnapping workshop we had mistranslated?  The children are making their own hammers to learn how to hammer throw.  If we’d known that we would have bought long grain rice for an unfair advantage.   

Friday, 21 April 2017

Day light robbery.

Truce had a post card that she started writing in Chile some three months ago that she wanted to send.  Perhaps she was trying to redefine snail mail as Pangaea Post.  We also had a small present to post back to Australia.  When I say small, I mean 32 grams.  the postal worker ducked under the counter to put on his black and white stripped shirt and a black mask and then told me the price.  73 pesos for the postcard and 250 pesos for the package.  I asked if I could met the pilot who was going to hand deliver my letter.  73 pesos is roughly the equivalent of 30 minutes' pay.  You can buy four litres of milk for the same price.  Day light robbery I tell you.

Fame and fortune have come our way, well good fortune anyway.  The interview that we did the other night has been published in a local newspaper taking up the first three pages.  There is a link to the online version but it only contains the opening paragraphs.  If you want to read the whole story, you’ll have to pop over to one of our local stores and pick up a copy – it’s probably cheaper than us mailing a copy home.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Just speak into the microphone.

Part of my job is to float around different English classes so the children can interact with a native speaker.  The other day I was in Truce’s class and she called me over and showed me what they were working on and told me that she didn’t understand it.  They were working on the past simple tense (speaking about actions finished in the past with a known time period – very exciting if you’re a grammar nerd), something native speakers can do before their third birthday.  Truce is an adroit user of the English language and has found it interesting to learn about her mother tongue as a second language.  Things that she has done naturally she now has to deconstruct and compartmentalise as well as name.  EAL teaching identifies 12 active tenses and 12 passive tenses all taught at different stages of the students’ level of understanding.  You haven’t lived until you’ve explained the different uses for the past perfect and the past perfect continuous.  As for her second language, after only six weeks of immersion, where 80% of her lessons are delivered in Castellano, Truce says that she is surprised how much easier it is to understand what’s happening in the classroom and what is being said to her.

One of the high school parents runs a community radio programme with a weekly print supplement.  He came around to our place last night to interview us about our experience so far in 9 de Julio and ask us our reason for moving our family to South America for the year.  One of his questions was what differences have we noticed about schooling here compared to in Australia.    The main thing is the social distance between teachers, parents and students is very small here.  Something else is that every so often, a dog just wanders through the school looking for a meal then continues on its journey.

The days continue to grow colder and while we have a gas heater upstairs we are yet to receive our fist gas bill (they come every two months) and are unsure how often we should light the heater.  We’re a little uncertain how much we are in for with expenses like gas, water and electricity.  Talluah heated up a large rock in the oven the other day to put under her feet while she was studying.  This does give new meaning to the idea of stone soup.

Depp was feeling unwell and had the day off school.  He was told that he had to stay in bed all day, with no iPad as I had school lessons to prepare and Talluah had uni work to do.  By midmorning he started to realise just how boring a day at home can be.  Talluah invited him into our bed while she listened to one of her uni lectures.  A short time later he nodded off.  Later on when he was asked about having a sleep he said that the sound of the lecturer’s voice made him fall asleep.  Looks like he’ll be a great scholar when he’s older.