Category Archives: TGS Argentina

Taxi Travel Memoirs

AS WE CONTINUED TO EXPLORE how different styles of literature can shape our memories andcollective history, we had the opportunity to study Brian Winter’s Long After Midnight at the Niño Bien: A Yanqui’s Missteps in Argentina as a whole school read.41JUaI21TwL-1._

Unlike Borges, who created worlds of fiction to mirror the historical landscape, and other non-fiction authors who attempt to provide an unbiased overview of a situation, Winter, with his personal travel memoir, falls somewhere in the middle. He uses a true story from his life and time in Argentina and sprinkles it with historical facts, locations, and connections to his life and Tango but implements a strong use of personal voice throughout the narration.

There are points throughout the memoir that, although culturally insightful and true, may have been altered by his personal voice, through the use of hyperbole, allusion, imagery, or dialogue to make the novel more interesting and readable and to give readers a connection to their narrator.

As a class we explored the benefits and pitfalls of this style of literature for memorializing the past. We looked for examples where Winter may have used his personal voice for the benefit of his readers or his purpose. One of these passages that we examined closely was his comical ride in a taxi through the center of the city:

My god, it’s hot! The taxi driver moaned, furiously rolling down his window. An oppressive wind shot through the car as we flew down Avenida Corrientes, Buenos Aires’ Broadway. The blinking red, pink, and orange neon lights from the theatres made the heat even more intolerable. Girls in tank tops and high hells sauntered slowly down the sidewalk, their shoulders drooped.

‘Can you believe how hot it is? So hot. The Argentines invented the sensacion termica, the ‘heat index,’ did you know that?’

‘I don’t think that’s true.’ I mumbled.

‘…because it’s hotter here than anywhere else in the world. In any other city, in another life perhaps, we could go swim in the river and cool off. But this isn’t the Rio de la Plata, it’s the Rio de la Mierda. You stick your finger in the river, your finger melts off because of all the acid, the pollution! You know why it’s so dirty, the river? Because there’s so much corruption in this country. I heard that, soon, there won’t even be any fresh water left to wash dishes…’

As a class, we decided to practice using our own personal voice when recording our memories by going on our own taxi rides. Students, in groups of three or four, created a list of questions to ask their taxi drivers and get them talking. Then students were given a period of time to take two or three different taxi rides, ask their drivers questions, and take notes before molding those experiences into their own memoirs. Students took care to use some of the same techniques that Winter used to create his personal voice: hyperbole, imagery, allusion, dialogue, and syntax.

As you read some of the examples below, please notice how the individual narrator’s voice shines through their similar stories. Even though students had similar experiences, each memoir is personal, and readers can get an idea of who their narrator is, based on the way they reveal their voice through the telling of this experience.

Unexpected ride on a Sunday morning in Buenos Aires

by Linhan Z.

“Where are you from?” I asked him, hopefully I could recognize and complement him on something from his hometown, a common friend making technique.

“Paraguay, my friend.” he replied within a millisecond, as if he has been anticipating this question all the time. “I moved here for work and I’ve been here for, 8 years.” He added.

“Why?” I asked him, hoping that I could dump the questions onto him to make him keep talking.

“Why? I tell you why. Look, first Buenos Aires, beautiful city! Here we have beautiful Chicas and delicious steak. Where else would I want to go?”

Just like that, the ice is broke. Continue reading on Spot

Coffees, cupcakes, and cabbies…OH MY!

by Samhaoir R.

“There’s one!” I yelped before the cab could turn the corner. The cab drivers here were insanely fast and stopped for next to no one. Luckily, Sofia spoke fluent Spanish, and knew how to survive in a big city. Next to her, Alice and I were both clueless when it came to street smarts.

The taxi pulled up beside us as we filed in like ducks in a row. Sofia sounded rushed and panicked.

“What’s the address?” Alice gave a quick shrug and I struggled to remember the foreign wording.

“Well it’s Starbucks…”

“I know that stupid, but where is it? Hurry, the meter’s running!”

I faltered for a moment, gathering my bearings as I racked my brain. It was as if someone clicked a switch in my head.

“Alto Palermo, por favor.” I said to the driver as I stuck my tongue out at Sofia. Continue reading on Spot

She eats dogs

by Hannah C.

I leaned towards the driver, probably in his sixties with a large beer belly and unassuming eyes, and asked in tilted Spanish, “Can I ask you something?”

“Me?” rich and throaty, his voice rang through the taxi with a chuckle that seemed to pour from deep in his belly. “Si.”

The instant the words left my lips, I regretted it. Groaning and scolding myself in my head, I stuttered, awkwardly attempting different starts to my question. I couldn’t have been more unsure of his reaction and response! My chin quivering (almost as embarrassing as my nervous stammer), I managed to ask in a horribly squeaky and shaking voice, “Como piensas los Coreanos y los Chinos en Argentina? What do you think of the Koreans and Chinese in Argentina?”

A look of surprise and bemusement crossed his face. Silent and thoughtful, he stared at his hands, clenched on the wheel; I hadn’t the foggiest idea what was on his mind. Starting to panic, I lamely began pretend-texting, as if I were a middle-schooler at a school dance, hoping they might look as if they had somewhere better to be, or as if they weren’t on dance floor by choice. Continue reading on Spot

Another taxi ride memoir

by Yuan Yuan K.

“You’re interested in football!” He exclaimed with much enthusiasm. She shrugged a “yes” as I glanced her newly purchased River Plate shirt.

“La Boca?” He asked her expectantly, eyebrows raised. La Boca was a popular Argentine soccer team. I felt quite proud of myself that I knew this fact. I wasn’t much use in this conversation though. Sports – actually, pretty much any physical activity – are not my forte in the slightest.

“No!” She objected. I smiled at her animated reaction, and our driver chuckled.

“River Plate?” He confirmed.

“Yes!” She stated proudly. He responded, saying that River Plate was something none of us heard.

“Pardon?” I asked cautiously, asking him to repeat what he said. He started clucking frantically, as everyone in the cab burst into laughter.

This was the moment I realized how full of personality Argentines (from what we have seen so far) were. This man, who we later found out was named Luis, was charismatic enough to entertain us throughout the entire taxi ride. I truly wish him well through his endeavors, and am glad to have met such a character. Opinionated and humorous, some Argentines will meet you halfway if you try to get to know them; maybe even recommend some good local food. Me gusta mucho. Continue reading on Spot

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Argentine Culture and Homer’s Odyssey Combine to Create Argentine Epics

IN ENGLISH CLASS, we were able to further our study of how best to memorialize the past by comparing a literary classic, Homer’s The Odyssey, with Argentina’s cultural epic poem, Martin Fierro. The style of a cultural epic memorializes the past by capturing a snapshot of a culture’s habits and beliefs from a certain point in time. A short video of the beginning lines of the poem being read in its original spanish and accompanied by a guitar, as gauchesque poetry was traditionally shared and passed down orally, can be seen below.

While the Odyssey captured the values and norms of ancient Greek culture, we were able to debate, based on what they had learned in Global Studies class with Nick Martino, whether or not Martin Fierro appropriately captured the culture of Argentine gauchos during the early 20th century.

Additionally, we studied what Joseph Campbell termed the monomyth. Campbell, a pioneer in the field of mythology, was able to look at myths from cultures around the world and find common plot elements. Because these cultures had never interacted or shared their stories, Campbell determined that these were not separate stories with different plots but one plot engrained into our humanity (or the monomyth). Campbell believed so strongly in the power of myth that he was heard to have said:

Myth is much more important and true than history. History is just journalism and you know how reliable that is.

Campbell had his own unique view on how to memorialize history; to exemplify this philosophy, students wrote their own modern Argentine epics following the plot of the monomyth while exemplifying elements of current Argentine culture. Additionally, to engage in the epic poetry tradition of telling stories orally, students recorded and uploaded their epics as audio files online.

While you listen, see if you can determine the elements of the monomyth and pick out some key elements of Argentine culture.

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Memory, Making Meaning, and Appositive Phrases with Borges

Borges 1“To think is to forget differences, generalize, make abstractions.” – Jorge Luis Borges

It is with this quote, and this particular lens on memory, that we began our first major assignment in English class. The quote comes from the short story, “Funes the Memorious,” by Jorge Luis Borges. Bores, a staple of Argentine culture, is famous for being a pioneer of magical realism, a truly South American genre of literature, where he explored the themes of memory, dreams, and infinity.

The goal of this lesson had two parts. The first was to help students truly understand Borges complex theme where the thought process of a character with a perfect memory is explored through conversation. The character, whose memory is so perfect, he can create new symbols for every number, learn languages perfectly from simply reading a book, and reconstruct entire days perfectly in his mind. However, after much conversation, it becomes apparent that, according to our narrator, “he [was] not very capable of thought. To think is to forget differences, generalize, make abstractions.”

 

 

Borges 2In true Borges fashion, the perfection, memory, becomes an infinite perfection, leading the reader to ponder the many possibilities and tragedies associated with an infinite memory. In doing so, Borges leads readers to consider how we should remember our pasts, with what type of lens and with what level of perfection. This question is one that we will constantly reconsider as we learn about Argentine culture and past through literature.

“My memory, sir, is like a garbage heap.”

The second goal was to help students become better readers and writers of complex sentences. Borges used very complex sentence structures throughout his work to emphasize his themes and create tone, and although these sentences make his work difficult to read, they created a perfect learning opportunity for us.

To achieve these learning goals we set about to write our own Borges style stories, stories where a narrator comes into contact with a character with an ironically tragic perfection. Additionally, to prove their mastery of complex sentence structures, students were required to include examples of sentences using appositive phrases.

 

Borges 3Lucky for us, the actual café where Borges used to write is only four blocks from our school! How could we pass up an opportunity to write our stories in the same setting as the famous author himself. The café, La Biella, even has a life-size statue of Borges himself sitting in the café.

We began our first day at the café with a conversation on why Borges may have used so many long sentences in his work. Students were able to determine that it must have something to do with his theme. They worked through the first paragraph noticing that he uses repetition of the word “memory,” a work that he states, he “has to right to utter.” Why would he repeat this? After throwing around some ideas and gaining to input from me, they were able to conclude that he does it to reveal that the narrator has been affected in some way by his meeting with Funes, the character with perfect memory. The narrator is attempting to capture Funes’ style of memory within his own narration of this meeting. Also, the narrator uses long sentences with appositive phrases as a structure to include as many details as possible, similarly to the way in which Funes may have remembered events. Additionally, students noted that Borges creates a “dramatic” tone with his constant use of punctuation to break the sentences’ flow.

Borges 4After some practice with appositive phrases, we set about to work on our own stories, stories that began, as Borges did with, “I                                    him (I have no right to utter this sacred verb, only one man on earth had that right and he is dead),” and ending by revealing the tragedy of this perfection by stating, “I suspect though, he was not very capable of               .”

Below you will find links to the original in addition to the student voted, best stories form the 9th and 10th grade classes. In their own way, the students themselves are doing as Borges suggests, by forgetting his original story and molding their own stories to fit his format, they are thinking. They are forgetting the original and making a new meaning from the memory of his work.  I hope you like them as much as I did.

“Funes the Memorious” by Jorge Luis Borges

10th Grade:

Yuan Yuan – “The Dreamer; The Invention of Heaven”

Alejandro – “Listen”

Hannah – “Maurice the Imaginary”

9th Grade: 

       Paul – “Guillermo the Calculator”

       Cameron – “Caleb”

       Sydney  – “Plato the Brave”

 

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First Days, Team Building, IB Learner Traits, and English Class in the Park

These first few days at TGS have been some of the most rewarding days I have experienced as a teacher. I’m so proud of both classes for the work they have put in, and the positive impression they have made on me within the first week. While I would love to carry on, rant, and rave about how the below picture represents what I believe to be some of the best English class learning moments, I know that the students voices will be both more entertaining and provide a greater insight into what they gained from this experience. Below you will find a compilation of student voices taken from the 9th and 10th grade English forums.

 

park 1In short: we learned that English class is “The Bomb” and is clearly beneficial for our future lives. – Isaac

Our English 10 class started off with a bang! (Well, more or less – it was a Kurt Hahn quote.)
“Expeditions can greatly contribute towards building strength of character.” We quickly connected ‘strength of character’ to the IB Learner Traits (full list: http://spot.thinkglobalschool.com/blog/view/76338/ib-learner-traits), and defined expeditions as anything outside your comfort zone. – Hannah

This trip was to a park where we explored our understandings of Mr. Austen’s class. By throwing our goals out of reach. Literally. – Rebecca

Today we furthered ourselves to this goal by going on an expedition and using teamwork to help one another literally reach our goals. A vital IB trait for such an adventure is to be balanced. We worked together to help each other reach our goals that were thrown from the

circle. Amongst us we thought of creative and effective ways to help our friends reach their goals; however we did not only help others. We were also helped by others to reach our own goal. We had to give attention in order to receive attention, yet we also had to take risks. Together we had to think outside of the box to learn ways to reach our goals. – Sydney

After discussing and brainstorming in groups, I’ve noticed that some of the IB student traits are perfect to enforce during World Literature class. For me English class represents much more than an average class, it’s a challenge. Therefore, I have to be able to take chances and not be afraid of failure. Being a risk taker in this class will give me opportunities to explore different ideas and by experimenting with my second language also understand more about it. – Alejandro

As we continued on to the next day, Mr. Austen continued his explanation on how English class is beneficial for life while incorporating all the IB learner profile traits. Communication, although easy to talk about (pardon the pun) is still a prevalent and key part to English class and life in-general. Communication is through body language, eye contact and verbal speaking. We concluded that communication was one of the most important things these days because of technology and because it is how respect is gained and maintained. – Rebecca

Reflection is also a prominent part of English class. Written reflections, of course, are obvious examples. However, we reflect without even knowing it during class. We are constantly trying to do things better by referring to what we did previously. During the team building exercise on the first day, we would see which ideas worked, and which didn’t work as well and make future decisions based on that. Having grading rubrics greatly assist in helping us grow by giving us comments on what areas we succeeded in. – Yuan Yuan

 

park 2One other trait that I think is emphasized in English class is open minded and confidence. Although these are two traits, I feel that they are jointly accentuated (by both parties in this case) by one thing that we are obligated to do during class in order to be heard and to improve. When an idea is shared, the rest of the students are being open minded and accepting of the fact that there are other ideas while simultaneously, the speaker is opening him or herself to criticism showing that they have enough confidence in their ideas to share them with people. This allows them to take in the feed back so that they can do better the next time around. As this continues to happen, it helps build confidence in the people who are sharing and also helps the listeners analyze ideas in order to give better feedback and constructive criticism. – Gawa

Opinions differ greatly on the topic of literature. Some people will love a certain book or poem, while others may dislike it greatly. As a class we must keep an open mind to interpretation and listen to others opinions on works of literature rather than just voicing our own opinion and blocking out others. Keeping an open mind in English class allows us to grow as a person and discover different viewpoints on a work of literature that we may not have noticed if we didn’t listen to others. – Samhaior

Being open minded is important for discovering new things about life; when meeting new people and cultures and being able to try out new things. This could result in new happenings and relationships in life. “If you want to have something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done” is a quote that I like, and that’s what risk taking and being open minded is all about. Sometimes the result might not turn out great, but at least you would have gained one new experience in life. – Liisa

Principled: As ethic is a basic need for a good human being, English class will help develop this trait by helping us to be more open to things, be more confident, respect others voices, know what’s right from wrong and groom us into not only an educated person but literate, ethical, good human beings.  – Yodsel

English class helps us expanding our knowledge a lot. For instance, when we are learning about different cultures by reading books or by discussing in class. In addition, we learn a lot about our classmates and their culture, their believes and thoughts during English classes. – Paul

The outcome of this discussion was to see the value of the lessons that will be learned in the 10th grade English class. Such lessons will become tools that assist us in surviving the rest of our lives. – Isaac

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