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Broadening Horizons

As the school year is ending, more and more educators are making decisions regarding their path for the upcoming scholastic year. Should they switch schools? Should they move into a different position? Should they leave the classroom and join an administrative team?
Slowly, via social media, teachers are sharing their news of their upcoming changes. Some are excited, some are nervous, some are  devastated (if it was a non-voluntary change or cut).

I am excited to be able to broaden my horizon and move on to a new country, culture, school and challenge. I  accepted the position of Academic Technology Coordinator at the Graded School, the American school of São Paulo, Brazil. My role will be similar to my current one, focusing on Graded’s Middle School . I was fortunate to have visited the school, when they hosted the Innovate Conference in January, and have met many of my new colleagues and administrators.

So, if you are reading this and your mind is already turning regarding the global connections, collaboration and possibilities with a school in South America….keep the Graded school and me in mind for your upcoming global collaboration plans. :)


The move to Brazil will take place in July…two months from now… The school is doing an excellent job for incoming faculty, by providing information about Brazil, the city, help with Visa procedures and a platform to connect  (a Ning) with administration and faculty already at the school.


On a personal level, I have started:

  • reading as many books about São Paulo and Brazil as I can get my hands on.
  • using apps (Duolingo, Accela Study) to help me learn Portuguese (Having the app readily available on my phone and iPad allows me to  practice regularly and frequently and in small chunks).
  • listening to vidcast and podcasts to learn about language and culture
  • pinning to my new Pinterest Board about Brazil
  • making a bucket list of new places to see
  • making a list of essentials we will need to bring on our move
  • taking inventory of the [American] things we can live without

Two months will go by in a flash. Many of my current colleagues at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School,  have told me, they will miss working with me (and I will miss working with them). I remind them though that our collaboration and being colleagues does not have to end with my move. It will be an authentic assessment if my work with them over the past few years has been successful.  If we indeed will be able to fluently “code switch” between being physical colleagues, who see each other daily face2face, to becoming virtual colleagues, dependent on our digital literacy to work with tools at our disposal that enable learning and collaboration across time and geographic distances.

Flood in Buenos Aires- Please Help

I just returned from visiting my mother in Buenos Aires. I spent beautiful days of late summer in my favorite city. The city of my growing up… the city that continues to tug at strings to bring me back as often as I am able to visit.

Below you will see images I took along my brief passing-through in order to capture the sights, smells, tastes and memories of the town I love…

The Colon theatre…


The Plaza San Martin…


Dancing Tango en Recoleta…




Riding the colectivo…


On my last day, before riding back to the airport, I took a picture (below) of my mother’s street in one of the neighborhoods of the capital. Little did I know that the same street was going to be fully inundated by torrential rain within the next 24 hours…


As I was flying back to the USA, rain was falling in record amount. According to the Buenos Aires Herald:

The rain had started on Monday night, but it reached its maximum peak at dawn yesterday, with various sources reporting that between 140-190 millimetres of rain fell in only two hours, a record rainfall not seen in the month of April in at least 100 years.

Once, I arrived, I heard my mother’s voice mail on my cell phone, that water had flooded her  building and had entered her ground floor apartment. The water rose to 1 meter high and as she descended from her second floor bedroom area in the early morning hours was greeted by floating chairs and other belongings. The power had gone out sometime during the night. Armed with a flashlight, she was able to signal one of her neighbors (and her young son) with only a ground floor apartment to come and join her on the second floor. The neighborhood’s stores, including the grocery stores, butcher, fruit stands, etc were all flooded. The cars parked on the streets were all flooded and some were floating.

It is impossible to send household goods or clothing to help the people affected  due to shipping costs as well as post office (non-)reliance. I am planning on sending my mother money to help people most in need from her neighborhood.

I know that Argentina and Buenos Aires, might just be names on a map for you, but the city and its people are close to my heart. If you enjoy(ed) the free content, I provide(d) on Langwitches, a donation (any amount)  would surely be appreciated.

Thank you so much in advance!

The following video (found on YouTube) was filmed in my mother’s neighborhood of Nunez.

Update April 8, 2013:

Thank you to all who have contributed to the fund. I will be sending over $800 to Argentina into my mother’s care to distribute to neighbors in need due to the flood. It will directly help in paying for cleaning up, disinfecting walls, floors and furniture that is savable or go towards the purchase of beds, appliances and/or food. Thank you again for your generosity. Muchas gracias!

Picking Up Strangers

June 25, 2012 Culture, Personal 10 Comments

I am proud, so very proud of my mother…

Let me explain…

As a child growing up, I was not surprised to have my mother bring strangers to our house… Strangers she “picked” up at train stations or airports, like the two young American girls who were stranded in Heidelberg and did not speak German, nor had a hotel to go to…or the young Israeli who was backpacking through Europe and also had no place for the night. They all ended up spending a few nights and days with us.

All of them left behind something more than a letter of thank you or a souvenir, like the Star of David (made out of nails, that I still have today).

Later on in life, as my mother frequently traveled to visit me in the US, she seemed to develop an affinity for meeting and picking up fellow travelers on airplanes too. Last year, a  young girl from the US, traveling to study for a semester in Argentina, got stranded at the airport in Buenos Aires after a delayed arrival only to find out that her reservations had been cancelled. She ended up staying at my mother’s apartment for several weeks.

Now, some of you having grown up in a different era (The “Don’t talk to Strangers! era) or maybe from a different cultural background, might think how brave or how risky to pick up a stranger. Isn’t the young girl who is “going home” with this strange “grandmother” type woman in a foreign country playing with fire? Didn’t her parents teach her better not to talk to strangers?

If I wanted to trace the reason for her ability to find, pick up or rescue strangers in these situation, I would probably think of her own history of being a refugee during WWII. As a five year old, she was strapped on a sled and fled with her mother and brother from East Prussia towards the West. Along the way, they relied on the kindness and “humanity” of others to get them through and survive. Once in the West, my mother grew up feeling a harsh distinction between the refugees from the East, who lost their homes, their sense of belonging and possessions and the ones who didn’t.

My mother, as a child, played the leading role of a theater production of “Sterntaler” (The Star Talers) at her school, a fairy tale from the Brother’s Grimm.The short fairy tale always symbolized  my mother’s personality for me.

An orphan girl was so poor as to have no home; she had only her clothing and some bread. She gave a hungry man the bread, three cold children her cap, her jacket, and her dress, and in a forest where it was dark and she would not be seen, another begging child her shift. Then stars fell to earth before her. They became talers, and she found herself wearing a fine linen shift. She was rich thereafter.

Two days ago, my mother returned from yet another visit to the US back to Argentina. She was routed from Florida via Illinois to Newark, NJ, where her flight to Argentina was cancelled with the explanation of “weather”. She endured hours of waiting to speak to “customer service” until way into the morning of the next day. Fellow travelers in line lost their patience, got frustrated…”customer service” agents were rude, impatient and not caring.

Note: I know…since I was stranded at the same airport, not three days prior to her being there,  with 3 cancelled flights and the same service and chaos erupting everywhere around me with frustrated tired travelers left to fend for themselves.

My mother took the time in line to befriend a young girl ( the same age as one of my daughters) from India. Due to lucky circumstances ( or pity from the agent), my mother was the only one from the line to receive a voucher for a hotel to spend the rest of the night.

I was not surprised to hear when I called my mother the following morning, that she had the young Indian girl with her. That she had shared her room and had taken her under her wings. They returned to the airport a little while later and my mother made sure she got on her flight to India. A few hours later, my mother was also able to leave too with a rebooked flight for South America.

When she arrived the following email was waiting for her:

Dear Ms. Rosenthal,

Humanity is intact indeed! It’s about an incident that will stay in my memory forever.

I am Kanika’s mother, the girl you shared your room and support with, at Newark. She hasn’t arrived in India yet but allow me to pen down my thoughts. Am overwhelmed and wish to express how grateful I feel right now;I wonder how to convey that to you without being a verbose. A mere ‘thanks’ seems limp.

Apart from bailing out Kanika during a crisis, you have left a lasting impression of humane quality on her, which I hope she would emulate in future if circumstances demand.

With respect and gratitude

I am so very proud of my mother and with respect and gratitude I would like to say:

Thank you for having been and being such an amazing example!

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