- Rotary InterCountry Teacher Exchange

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127th Year No. 03                                                                        Thursday, February 4, 1999

Argentine teachers visit Red River County

story by Wanda Bray

Their stay here will soon be over. They've had a good time. And so have those of us who have been fortunate enough to get to know them. Two ladies from thousands of miles away. They cam to teach us and to learn from us. All to enhance international good will and cultural exchange.

Norma Beatriz Fernandez and Ana Maria Brandone are visiting Clarksville from Buenos Ares, Argentina, for approximately one month Their sojourn is made possible through the Rotary Interdistrict Teacher Exchange (RITE) program between participating countries. They are sponsored by Rotary District 4890 in Argentina.

The Argentine teachers were given the opportunity to teach Spanish to students in Clarksville, Bogata, Avery, and Detroit school systems while here. They also have been teaching evening classes for the Clarksville Police Department and other adults who are interested in learning Conversational Spanish.

In return the ladies have also learned much about our why of life and culture from their students and their host families in the Clarksville Rotary Club. "They have had a pretty tough schedule since they got here," Rotarian Bill Rains said. "But they have been really good sports and have not complained once."

Ana Maria and Norma were among six teachers from Argentina to visit the United States Three teachers are visiting in Kansas and one is teaching her language in Fort Worth.

"We are having such fun here," Ms. Fernandez said. "We feel fortunate we chose to come to your small town.

"The other teachers cannot be having as much fun.   For instance, we did not know there were so many stars visible in the sky," Ms Brandone related. "In a big city with all the lights, one cannot see how beautiful the stars are."

"I think they hew even enjoyed listening to the coyotes late at night,"Nancy Rains said.

"We wanted a rural experience," Norma said. ~~If that includes coyotes... then we will listen."

Norms teaches English and is a Social Psychologist in Buenos Aires. She has three children: two sons ages 24 and 14, and a daughter, 18. "They are all old enough I could leave them with no difficulty." she said; "My 14 year old is staying with his grandparents while I am away.

"And my eight year old son is in scouting camp during my absence."Ana Maria, an attorney and English teacher in elementary and high school said. "This is our summer season in Argentina, so our schools are closed until March."

Both teachers have given up their summer vacation to participate in the exchange program and they also paid their own airfare for the trip.

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Ana Maria Brandone exchanging Rotary Club banners with President Lloyd Smith of Clarksville Rotaray Club.

"It was very important to us to do this." Norma explained. "We have learned so much about Americans, about Texans... and especially about people in Clarksville."

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Norma Beatriz Fernandez showing students a dance step.

"I think we have been able to teach the students about our culture, also," Ana Maria spoke slowly, mentally switching from Spanish to English "They seem to be enjoying the classes very much"

Argentina is the second largest country in South America. Only Brazil covers a greater area. "Bill Rains was trying to compare Argentina to Texas at the Rotary meeting today when he said Argentina was four limes the size of Texas," Norma, ever the teacher, laughed. "I hope he was not hurt when I corrected him. Argentina is a country made up of many provinces. Texas is a state within a country."

Argentina's name comes from the Latin word for silver, argentum. The first Spanish settlers came to Argentina during the 1500's in search of silver and gold. They found little of those precious metals but discovered the fertile sell of the Pampa, a plain which fans out around Buenos Aires. It extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Andes and covers about a fifth of Argentina. Most of the country's wealth comes from the Pampa, which has some of the world's richest topsoil. Wheat, corn, and alfalfa cover much of the land and large herds of cattle graze on the western Pampa

When questioned, Norma explained there are many similarities between lifestyles here and in Buenos Aires. The cost of living is comparable, and teachers are as poorly paid in my country as I have been told they are here," she said with an expressive Latin shrug.

"There are some differences, too," Ana Maria interjected. "Gas is $4 a gallon in Buenos Aires and a postage stamp is 73 cents. Beef is about $4 per pound from the supermarket."

Norma reported that drug use among teenagers is not yet a problem in Buenos Ares."Not so much drugs. but a problem with drinking, yes" She explained the legal age for drinking is 16. "That`s the reason we have a problem with drinking," she said.

Children in Argentina attend primary school through the age of 12."Then from 13 to 17 or 18 they attend secondary school," Ana Maria reported "Most go on the higher education.

"There is a lot of unemployment.., so education has become a priority. They must be well educated to compete.."

The two women first met when they began making plans and arrangements to come to the United States. "We did not know each other before," Ana Maria said. "We met through the program. But now... we have become goad friends I think we work well together

"Through Rotary we have made many friends," Norma added. "Ana Maria has been staying with Bill and Nancy, and I am visiting in the home of Toopie and Gary Wilkins."

They have been very helpful," Ana Maria said. "And made us feel at home They have anticipated our every need. Almost before we even think of something."

"They are wonderful," Norma added. "Everyone we have met has been wonderful. We will never forget our visit Clarksville. Or the new friends we have made."

Permission to reprint this article was given by Bill Rains in an e-mail on February 23, 1999.

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Last updated on 02-23-99