- Rotary InterCountry Teacher Exchange

Teacher from abroad informs area schools

By LES TRACEY of the Gazette Staff

Students are surprised at times to hear that in Mariana Garc'a's home country, life is close to what they consider "normal."

"We have e-mail, fax machines, all that," she told a Pleasant Grove High School Spanish class this week. "We have Burger Kings, McDonalds and Pizza Huts."

Garc'a, 26, is a teacher in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The country runs from central South America to the continent's southern tip.

She is in Texarkana for another week as part of a month-long teacher exchange program sponsored by Rotary International, and locally by the Sunrise Rotary Club.

During her stay she has visited Spanish programs and classrooms in nearly all local elementary, middle and high schools.

"I help out the teachers and talk about my country," she said. "I like that people here are (focusing) on the importance of Spanish and foreign language instruction. In Argentina, you have to learn English. It doesn't mean that everyone is fluent. But most people can carry on a conversation."

In Argentina, Garc'a teaches English to elementary students, and Spanish and literature to high school students.

She is currently on her summer vacation. In Argentina, the school year runs from March to December because the seasons are opposite in the Southern Hemisphere.

While in Texarkana she has shared the music, dance and other information about Argentina with students in all grades.

"(Students) want to know about everything," she said. "They ask about the food, sports, music, politics, the weather, geography, money."

All those subjects came up in the Spanish I class that Garc'a visited at Pleasant Grove High this week.

Students were incredulous to learn that Garc'a does not own a car or know how to drive and hasn't found it necessary up to now.

"I live in a big city," she told them. "I take the bus everywhere."

Buenos Aires-with about 16 million people-is one of the 10 largest cities in the world.

Garc'a said Texarkana is very different, but the teen-agers she met seemed to be like teen-agers in Argentina.

Other differences just don't translate well.

"The kids think it's weird that we don't have Dr Pepper," she said. "We have Coke, Sprite and all the rest, but not Dr Pepper. And they went on about how great it is. So I tried some, and I just don't like it. It's too sweet."

Then there's the question of sports.

Most of the high school students know that soccer-called footbol in Spanish-is popular in Latin American countries, but they still can't imagine life without the Super Bowl.

"We have soccer leagues, and there are two main teams that everyone likes," she said. "When they play, it's like a Super Bowl. But we don't call it that."

During her presentations, she also shows the students pictures of the landscape of Argentina and of her family and friends.

"My boyfriend has blondish hair and light skin, and everyone wants to know if he's American," she said. "But there are a lot of different types of people in Argentina, just like here."

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Last updated on 02-16-2001