Sunday, April 13, 2008

A week is a long time in blogging. It's been a busy few days which is why I haven't updated my blog since last Tuesday - quite a long time for me. What have I been doing? Mostly, not sleeping too much (Nelson is waking up each night in a bit of a state, not sure why) and teaching private English lessons at no notice to a Jewish man (a rare thing in Brazil) who is a store manager (not such a rare thing) and watching countless...

Great Britain projects. Each year students of Cultura are encouraged to do a project. This year's theme is Great Britain. I'm finding it fascinating watching Brazilians give their opinions on my homeland. Part of the interest lies in their choice of what to do their project on - the traditional, "stereotypical" British things are well represented - the walls of the language school are plastered with posters of David Beckham, football, the Beatles, the Queen (both the monarch and the Rock band), tea drinking, London tourist attractions and fish'n'chips.

Other titles have included Mr.Bean, Sherlock Holmes, The X Factor and Harry Potter. The one project that so far actually taught me a lot about something I knew nothing about was an Advanced group's presentation of famous British fashion designers: Vivian Westwood, John Galiano and Stella McCartney. (You will notice that for many people here Great Britain = England. Despite encouraging my students to try and "think out the box" and maybe do something about Scotland they all stuck to what they knew. One project was entitled "Ireland" and talked about the Republic - an interesting political mishap out here in Brazil which would infuriate a significant percentage of the Irish population).

British pop music has featured highly in many presentations and it's a reminder to me how much British rock bands and singers have influenced the landscape of world music. The Rolling Stones, Amy Winehouse, McFly, Lily Allen, Oasis and Led Zep have all featured in students' projects. On one level I'm proud of British music - I enjoy it and a lot of it is good - but the students seem to emphasise the reputation for drug taking that many of these personalities have and that's a shame.

I especially enjoyed listening to an excellent presentation from Moyses and Leonardo (students of mine from last semester) who gave an adlib, blow by blow account of the history of Oasis beginning with how Kurt Cobain's death spelt the end of grunge and Oasis' first album the introduction of Britpop. They were followed by Raul and Daniel talking about the history of British music festivals - Reading/Leeds, V festival and Glastonbury. I had to hold my tongue from interjecting throughout with "I was there!" and "I went to that, it was ace!".

Afterwards, I spoke to the students and Leonardo asked me: "have you ever seen Oasis, teacher?". My reply, "Yes, I have - on the Be Here Now tour" led to raised eyebrows from the young chaps. I felt like the old timer at the home asked to retell his war stories or an astronaut recounting how he stepped on the moon. I maybe overdid it a bit, spouting forth with tales of being a teenager in mid-90s London but they all seemed generally awestruck. Leonardo's closing words to me were: "I hope to go to a concert one day". What was telling about his response was that it wasn't just that he wanted to go to an Oasis concert, he wanted to go to ONE concert... Natal is 3000 kms from Rio, the place anyone big would play if they toured South America. Leo's ambition to make it to ONE gig of a large international act was still a pretty big dream for a Natalense. If you're reading this in London you need to remember to thank the Lord in your prayers that you live in the centre of such a rich cultural world. Many people wish they could be there.

Things I miss about England #56: Going to Rock gigs. In view of the above, R.E.M. have announced their tour support and will be playing some European dates with the Editors (who are OK) and the Disciplines (who are ace). Akkk, I wish I could see them but I'm stuck in the middle of nowhere!

Things I love about Brazil #95: Radio Rede Hallelujah. It's helping me to learn Portuguese even if it's a bit cheesey. Rede Hallelujah is a Christian radio station and I have it on in the car at the moment.

(ps. I've lost count of where I'm up to on the things I miss / things I love list but it will be resolved this week).

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